Tuesday, February 26, 2013

THE 85TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS



I was looking forward to enjoying one of my favorite shows of the year, The Oscars where I can gleefully soak up all of the glitz and glamour as it celebrates all of the outstanding films of the previous year. Instead, what I got felt like an overly long, more-bizarre-than-usual episode of "Family Guy". First the host, Seth MacFarlane (the creator of that show) comes out and does a few lame, tasteless and somewhat hostile jokes before William Shatner pops on screen playing Captain Kirk with a warning from the future that he will be labeled "The Worst Oscar Host Ever". Determined to change his fate, Mr MacFarlane proceeds to sing and dance with some not-so-bad, soft-shoe assistance from the unlikely team of Charlize Theron, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. For a moment, I thought Snow White was going to make a return singing appearance to the show (which actually might have saved this skit) but soon this lengthy opening was over and did nothing more than eat up good portion of time (although I have to admit the part involving nominee, Sally Field and the "Flight" sock reenactment was pretty funny).

I don't think Mr.MacFarlane managed to avoid that future headline as he seemed a little nervous and uncomfortable, which really isn't surprising, but as he tried to stay true to his edgy, comic vision while attempting to entertain a global audience, it seemed like a battle he couldn't nor wouldn't win, which usually tends to be the case with many who attempt the thankless job of hosting The Oscars.

Hey, I'm all for change and moving with the times but a certain amount of class needs to be maintained and Mr MacFarlane's style of juvenile, potty humor is better suited for the MTV Awards than the Academy Awards. The show's producers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan wanted to be seen as hip with his selection but clearly admired the Johnny Carson-era of The Oscars with the theme of this show was dedicated to the film musicals or more accurately, the late 90's musicals. This misguided sequence featured recreations of numbers from "Chicago", "Dreamgirls" and "Les Misérables" but would have been much better served to feature more of an overall look at the musical, touching on the long, rich history of singing and dancing in the movies. The inclusion of Shirely Bassey singing "Goldfinger" during the James Bond segment or Barbra Streisand performing "The Way We Were" as a tribute to the late composer of the song, Marvin Hamlisch certainly added to that dated feeling. While I really loved their appearance (as did the audience) but it's not going to exactly lure the youth that is so desperately coveted.

Overall, it was a pretty weird show with the unsuccessful attempt to merge classic Hollywood with the new version of it along with Seth MacFarlane's spastic energy not helping matters.

As for the awards themselves, the prizes were spread around without one particular film dominating with "Life of Pi" winning the most at four. The winners went pretty much as expected with possible exception being Christoph Waltz's win for "Django Unchained", the Best Director prize going to a very deserving Ang Lee and the rare tie in the Best Sound Editing category with the major one still being the Best Actress tie in 1968 between Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn.

Here are the complete list of winners from the 85th Annual Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE
"Argo"

BEST DIRECTOR
Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"

BEST ACTOR
Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"

BEST ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Chris Terrio, "Argo"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"

BEST ANIMATED FILM
"Brave"

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
"Amour"

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"Skyfall", Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Mychael Danna, "Life of Pi"

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Rick Carter & Jim Erickson, "Lincoln"

BEST FILM EDITING
William Goldenberg, "Argo"

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Claudio Miranda, "Life of Pi"

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
"Searching for Sugar Man"

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
"Inocente"

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
"Paperman"

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
"Curfew"

BEST MAKEUP
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, "Les Miserables"

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Jacqueline Durran, "Anna Karenina"

BEST SOUND EDITING
"Skyfall"
"Zero Dark Thirty" (Tie)

BEST SOUND MIXING
"Les Miserables"

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
"Life of Pi"




Sunday, February 24, 2013

"SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK' SWEEPS THE INDEPENDENT SPIRIT FILM AWARDS


Director David O. Russell and his quirky romantic-comedy, "Silver Linings Playbook" made a big impression at this year's Independent Spirit Awards as it won four of the major awards including Best Feature. Although the rules state that for a film to qualify, it must not cost more than twenty million dollars to produce and "Playbook" actually cost twenty-one million but the jury can bend that rule at their discretion. Some of my other favs from the previous year won which include "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" for Best First Feature and the amazing performances of Helen Hunt and John Hawkes (who was robbed of an Oscar nomination) for their work in "The Sessions".

Here is the complete list of winners:

Best Feature: "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Director: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Screenplay: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Female Lead: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Male Lead: John Hawkes, "The Sessions"
Best Supporting Female: Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Best Supporting Male: Matthew McConaughey, "Magic Mike"
Best First Feature: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Best First Screenplay: Derek Connolly, "Safety Not Guaranteed"



Best Cinematography: Ben Richardson, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Best Documentary: "The Invisible War"



Best International Film: "Amour," Michael Haneke
John Cassavetes Award (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000): "Middle of Nowhere"
Robert Altman Award (Given to one film's director, casting director, and its ensemble cast): "Starlet" Director: Sean Baker Casting Director: Julia Kim Ensemble Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone



Piaget Producers Award: "Stones in the Sun," Mynette Louie
Someone to Watch Award: "Gimme the Loot," Adam Leon
Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction Award: "The Waiting Room," Peter Nicks
Jameson Find Your Audience Award: "Breakfast With Curtis," Laura Colella

Saturday, February 23, 2013

From Shawshank to Skyfall, How Master Cinematographer Roger Deakins Got These Ten Shots



Roger Deakins, the greatly admired British cinematographer is up this weekend with his tenth Academy Award nomination for his amazing work on "Skyfall". Let's keep those fingers crossed that he finally gets that well-deserved Oscar on Sunday. Mr. Deakins has worked with several top filmmakers over his lengthy career but he is best known for his collaboration with The Coen Brothers as he has done eleven of their films with him receiving nominations for five of them.

Kyle Buchanan of New York Magazine talked to the sixty-three year old to discuss how he achieved some of the amazing shots in ten of his most celebrated films:

From Shawshank to Skyfall, How Master Cinematographer Roger Deakins Got These Ten Shots

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

IDENTITY THIEF (2013)


Written by Craig Mazin


Directed by Seth Gordon


Where & When: Vista Theater, Los Angeles, CA.  February 9, 2013 9:45PM



The buddy comedy has been around since the early days of cinema from the slapstick teams of Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello and Martin & Lewis to the more edgy modern take of pairing two unlikely forces such as Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in "48 Hours" or Charles Grodin and Robert DeNiro in "Midnight Run". The latest entry, "Identity Thief" is an uneven road comedy that features the team of Jason Bateman and the inspired choice of Melissa McCarthy who takes full advantage of her first leading film role. Much like she did in the surprise hit, "Bridesmaids", Ms McCarthy effortlessly steals every moment she's on screen but the movie is not exactly worthy of her efforts nor gifts.The film gracelessly shifts from outrageous farce to a brief, violent thriller and back without warning and not much good effect.

Sandy Patterson (Bateman) is a happily married man living in Colorado with his wife (Amanda Peet) expecting their third child. On his way to work, he receives a call offering identity protection and all he has to do is provide his personal information. Unfortunately, the person on the line is a professional thief living in Florida who has just stolen his identification for their own financial gain. Diana (McCarthy) is a bubbly yet lonely full-figured woman who uses this new identity to try to impress people with money. After making fake ID's and credit cards under the name of "Sandy Patterson", she goes on a frenzied, shopping spree which includes a stop at a local bar, buying drinks for all the patrons. While hoping to make some new friends, all Diana managed to accomplish was to get very drunk and arrested for disorderly conduct.

It was only a matter of time before the real Sandy Patterson got wind of the fraud and the timing couldn't be worse as he just left his job to start a new company with other dissatisfied former employees lead by Daniel (John Cho). After the police detective (Morris Chestnut) informs him they can't do anything since the crime occurred out of state, Sandy decides to track the thief down himself, using a tip he received on their location, and bring them back to Colorado.

Shocked to discover that the crime was committed by a woman, Sandy is still determined to bring her to justice but the lady thief is far from cooperative, using a swift punch to the throat to get her point across. Eventually, he promises not to press charges against her if she comes back with him to clear his name. Thus begins a whirlwind of a road trip with danger not lurking far behind as two very attractive but deadly characters (Hip-hop musician, T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) are hot on their heels eager to put a bullet in Diana due to a bad business deal she made with their boss. A determined bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) is tracking them down to bring Diana in for skipping bail and after a stop at a hotel bar, Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet) wants to get her too but for more of a carnal nature.

It's better to just ignore this plot, since it's nothing more than nonsense and focus on what really makes this screwball adventure chug along which are the talented lead performers. "Thief" perfectly utilizes their comedic gifts with the deadpan Bateman bringing his now trademark exasperated expressions mixed with the manic energy of Ms McCarthy makes for a deliciously hilarious combo that almost makes it worth the price of admission. While this film is much like the director, Seth Gordon's previous effort, "Horrible Bosses" that combined raunchy sitcom-styled humor with flashes of dark violence, "Identity Thief" amps up the mayhem to full speed, leaving the story to feel disjointed and out of control. Some of the gags surprisingly manages to be wildly unrestrained and too ridiculous to believe while the bloodshed feels completely out of place in such a broad comedy.

Lessons are learned and lives are changed by the time they reach their final destination but while "Identity Thief" does successfully deliver plenty of chuckles and even a few belly laughs, there isn't nearly enough clever wit to make it feel like it was worth the long, rambling trip.

Monday, February 11, 2013

PARKER (2013)


Written by John J. McLaughlin


Directed by Taylor Hackford


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. January 29. 2013, 7:30PM


Parker is a cold, professional thief who displays no remorse for his crimes in a series of novels written by Donald Westlake, under the pseudonym "Richard Stark", and made his first appearance in, "The Hunter" in 1962. Inevitably, Hollywood took notice and made the first film using the character in "Point Blank" starring Lee Marvin. Over the years, the character has reappeared in several films with an interesting collection of performers in the role from Mel Gibson, Jim Brown, Robert Duvall to even French actress, Anna Karina but none of them were ever called, "Parker". Now, Jason Statham takes on the criminal in the first film to actually use the name, "Parker". The film certainly offers plenty of action, thrills and star power in the sexy form of Jennifer Lopez but lacks anything to make it memorable.

Parker successfully pulls off an elaborate heist with a group of men, lead by Melander (Michael Chiklis) that he's never worked with before. Afterwards, he's informed that his cut of the money is expected to be invested for an even bigger payday in Palm Beach. Parker declines the offer but soon realizes that it's not optional. After engaging in a bloody battle, Parker is left for dead by the side of a road. He manages to survive which lead to his relentless, deeply focused pursuit to enact some serious hurting to his betrayers. With some help from his mentor, Hurley (Nick Nolte) and after making sure his girlfriend (Emma Booth), who also happens to be Hurley's daughter, is safe, Parker heads out to Florida.

Parker tears through the city in search while he strongly encourages anyone who might know their whereabouts to give him information. Melander is soon made aware that the assumed dead man is still among the living and hires a hit-man (Daniel Bernhardt) to take Parker out for good. After getting a tip on where they might be hiding out, Parker hires a hungry, real estate agent.to help him search through neighborhoods while posing as a rich Texan. Ms Lopez plays Leslie, a financially strapped, forty-something forced to live with her mother (Patti LuPone) and desperately needs the commission that this potential sale will bring. Soon after discovering that Parker is not the man he claims to be, Leslie winds up getting tangled in his dangerous revenge plot.

Taylor Hackford has always been a solid director crafting some fine entertainment such as the classic "An Officer and A Gentleman" and "Ray", the vibrant bio-pic on the r&b musician that earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Even his lesser works have managed to be superficially appealing and that certainly holds true for "Parker".  With a plot that is very straightforward and obligatory, "Parker" takes no risks and offers nothing that hasn't been seen before (or done better) yet still can't help to be swept up in to the adventure.

Mr. Statham has never been the most expressive of actors as he's a man of few words while allowing his fists to do most of the emoting. The British actor doesn't stray too far from his comfort zone as his attempt to put on a Texan accent is laughable but he knows what's expected of him and he doesn't fail to deliver. Ms Lopez's role seems like something she would have done at the start of her career as it's nothing more than a supporting part and not a particularly interesting one, at that. She manages to juice it up with her natural charm and sex appeal but you still can't escape the feeling that she's slumming.

Considering some of the talent involved in "Parker", what was expected was something in this action-thriller that is distinctive and uncommon but all that is delivered is banal and mediocre.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

MY LEAST FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012


Although 2012 was a pretty good year in cinema, there were still a few films, in my very humble opinion, that didn't quite work out for a variety of reasons with them ranging from being too formulaic to lacking in imagination to simply being downright terrible.

Here are my selections of least favorite from the previous year, in no particular order:

"MOONRISE KINGDOM"

The latest from Wes Anderson, "Moonrise Kingdom" has received plenty of critical praise, big box-office and award recognition including an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for the director and co-writer, Roman Coppola but it's apparent charms were lost on me. I have usually enjoyed his wonderfully eccentric films (with "The Royal Tenenbaums" as one of my all-time favorites) but this story, about a 12 year-old scout (Jared Gilman) who decides to run away with his pen-pal (Kara Hayward) to leave their unhappy homes and live in the New England wilderness, just felt too precious to me.


"THE PAPERBOY"

"The Paperboy", the follow-up to Lee Daniels' acclaimed, "Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire", is an overheated and demented murder mystery set in the deep South in the 1960's. A strong cast (Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey) jumped on board but probably realized too late that they were stuck in a directionless, trashy melodrama that was not worth their time or energy. This could possibly become a future camp classic but the film's ugly undercurrent will not encourage repeat viewings.

"DARK SHADOWS"

Director, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp both loved the late 1960's Gothic soap-opera, "Dark Shadows" so much that they decided to team up to make a feature film as a tribute. However, what they ended up making was a misguided mess that couldn't decide whether to be a comedic horror spoof or a more faithful dramatic retelling with the final results being a very sloppy combination. While the film certainly looks great, it seems like more time was spent getting the visuals and the period details just right than having a coherent script. The talents of an impressive cast which includes Michelle Pffeifer, Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter are utterly wasted. This version of "Dark Shadows" is simply an insult to the memory of this beloved cult program.

"CLOUD ATLAS"

"Cloud Atlas", an ambitious but clumsily executed big-budget art house film by three respected filmmakers, Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") and Lana & Andy Wachowski ("The Matrix") that is just too busy and unfocused. An all-star cast was assembled that features Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent playing multiple characters and wearing very distracting, unconvincing make-up (I can't decide whether Ms Berry as a white woman or Jim Sturgess as an Asian was the worst). As these actors kept popping up with different faces or in different races, it was a gimmick that wore out it's welcome real fast. I really wanted to like this but despite the almost three hour running time, there were just too many ideas trying to be crammed in to the film. Perhaps this might have worked better as a mini-series on HBO or something but as feature film, you just want "Cloud Atlas" to drift out of your memory.

"JOHN CARTER"

Last year, Taylor Kitsch was suppose to be the next big movie star as he headlined three major films with two being very-expensive, Hollywood blockbusters. While his film with Oliver Stone, "Savages" wasn't that bad and a modest success, those other two movies stank-up the theaters. I managed to avoid the summer misfire, "Battleship" (which I'm pretty sure would have found it's way on this list) but not so lucky with "John Carter". Based on the first novel by the creator of "Tarzan", John Carter was a confederate solider who is transported to the planet, Mars where he now has super-strength and gets involved in the battle between two warring cities. This character first appeared in 1917 and the world has changed quite a bit since then. It doesn't seem like anyone bothered to update "John Carter" in any relevant way as the plot, the visual effects and the Martians all feel creaky and out of date.

"ROCK OF AGES"

The box-office smash, "Les Misérables" wasn't the only Broadway musical that made it's way to the silver screen last year. Unfortunately, "Rock of Ages" made an appearance as well. This jukebox play that was built around the classic rock songs from the 1980's might have worked on the stage but as a film, it's just loud, obnoxious noise. Sherrie (Julianne Hough) is just a small town girl arriving in L.A. looking to become a famous singer. After meeting Drew (Diego Boneta), who also want to be a rock star, he helps her gets a job at The Bourbon Room, the famous rock palace run by an aging hippie (Alec Baldwin), while they both wait for their shot at music stardom. However, the bar has to contend with the conservative mayor and his wife (Bryan Cranston and Catherine Zeta-Jones) who want to shut the bar down. The numerous problems begin with two very bland leads and end with too many non-singers trying to sing. The only bright spot is Tom Cruise as rock god, Stacee Jaxx who is clearly having fun and has a surprisingly good singing voice. Alas, he alone can't save this rock & rock nightmare.



"RUBY SPARKS", "LOLA VERSUS"

These two underwhelming, art-house romantic-comedies, "Ruby Sparks" and "Lola Versus" attempt to be wacky and clever but never rise above cloying and trite. "Ruby" is about a successful young novelist (Paul Dano) suffering from writer's block. After given a writing assignment by his therapist, he creates the idea woman on paper who magically comes to life. Zoe Kazan wrote the insufferable script and plays Ruby Sparks, the perfect girlfriend who will do whatever she is written to do.

Greta Gerwig, the latest indie darling, stars as the title character in "Lola" who is devastated after her fiance (Joel Kinnaman) calls off the wedding. She decides to get back in to the dating game but is apparently made more difficult now that she is approaching the very old age of thirty. I don't know what in this incredibly unfunny script, (written by director, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, who co-stars) appealed to this fine cast, which includes Bill Pullman and from "SNL", Jay Pharoah but what I'm most offended about was how "Lola" wastes the talent of the too-long absent from the screen, Debra Winger.




"SPARKLE", "TOTAL RECALL"

Every year, the theaters are littered with remakes of films that end up being uninventive and pointless. I usually try to avoid them but these two titles I couldn't resist. However, after seeing the results, I wish I had. "Sparkle" is the re-telling of the 1976 film about three teenage sisters seeking musical stardom and features the final film appearance of the late pop superstar, Whitney Houston as their stern mother. This film is watchable but unnecessary as there is not a moment that feels fresh or inspired as it even uses most of the music from the original film.

The remake of the 1990 film,"Total Recall" was off to a good start by casting Colin Farrell in the lead but things quickly go downhill from there. The inept script of this sci-fi adventure threw out what little character development there was in the original and simply ramped-up the action which leaves us with nothing more than endless chase sequences and flying punches. The only positive that can be said is that this version takes full advantage of the advancement in visual effects but beyond that, there was no reason for this film to have been made.

Friday, February 1, 2013

MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012

I think 2012 will be remembered as the year that featured such a wide assortment of exceptionally rich, thought-provoking, provocative, challenging and simply highly entertaining films. Perhaps it might just be my imagination but I really can't recall a recent time when a year had so many quality films in all genres of cinema to choose from. That is something to truly celebrate and here's hoping that 2013 could possibly top that.

So, here are my selections of favorite films of  2012, in no particular order:

"ZERO DARK THIRTY"

Ignore all of the nonsense about boycotting this because of the film's alleged implication that torture is what helped lead to taking out Osama bin Ladin, "Zero Dark Thirty" is a powerfully fascinating and complex thriller. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter, Mark Boal knew that this story would be controversial, challenging and disturbing but that is why it's so important as it sheds some much needed light on the difficult and morally ambiguous techniques used to achieve the final results. Oscar-nominated, Jessica Chastain heads an impressive cast and it's one film that should not be missed.

"SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK"

"Silver Linings Playbook" is writer/director David O. Russell's delightfully offbeat idea of a romantic-comedy. Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a mental heath facility to the care of his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver), determined to win back his ex-wife after a violent "misunderstanding". He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow and recovering sexual compulsive who promises to help him get back with his wife if he enters a dance contest with her. This hilariously sharp film has received plenty of well-deserved accolades including eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture.

"LIFE OF PI"

Ang Lee has made a wildly diverse collection of films ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Sense & Sensibility", "The Ice Storm", "Brokeback Mountain") during his career with great success and "Life of Pi" has proven, once and for all, that this great filmmaker can do absolutely anything he sets his mind to. He has taken a potentially unfilmable best-selling novel about a young boy (Suraj Sharma) who is shipwrecked and trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger and crafted one of the most touching and visually stunning films of this year. He has also brilliantly shown how 3D and computer-generated images can actually be used for dramas in an way that is not distracting and can be quite effective and moving.

"KEEP THE LIGHTS ON"

The semi-autobiographical film, "Keep The Lights On" by writer/director, Ira Sachs is about a Danish filmmaker (Thure Lindhardt) living in New York struggling to maintain his relationship with a closeted literary lawyer (Zachary Booth) who has a drug problem that is spiraling out of control. A tough look at a complicated love story that is, at times, shocking but honest and quite poignant.

"MIDDLE OF NOWHERE"

Writer/director, Ava DuVernay won the directing prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival for this low-budgeted, little-seen gem, "Middle of Nowhere". The film tells the story of a wife (in a breakthrough performance by Emayatzy Corinealdi) who has put her life on hold while her husband serves time in prison. She soon must decide whether to simply continue waiting or begin her own journey of self-discovery. Let's hope this wonderful film will lead to more opportunities for the filmmaker as well as Ms Corinealdi




"BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD"

Set in a Louisiana bayou, "Beasts of The Southern Wild" tells a magical tale about a little girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her dying father, Wink (Dwight Henry) as they prepare for a major storm approaching that could wash away their ramshackle home. "Beasts" has collected top prizes at several film festivals including Cannes and Sundance while recently receiving four Oscar nominations including Best Picture. First-time filmmaker Benh Zeitlin has managed to make a passionate and mesmerizing film on a small budget while using non-professional actors and getting some amazing performances from Mr. Henry and the then, six-year old Ms Wallis who has become the youngest performer ever to receive an Academy Award nomination.

"DJANGO UNCHAINED"

The latest by Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained" is a deranged, ultra-violent, revenge fantasy involving slavery that has to be seen to believe. Jamie Foxx plays the title character, a slave who is freed by a German bounty hunter (Oscar nominee, Christoph Waltz) in exchange for helping him track down some wanted men. Together they set about freeing Django's wife (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of a slave owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) but the head house slave (Samuel L. Jackson) complicates the matter. It features everything that we expect and admire in a Tarantino film; clever dialogue, quirky humor, strong performances and plenty of gushing blood.

"THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER"

Based on his popular novel, Stephen Chbosky has written and directed the film version of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower". The story follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy freshman starting high school when he meets two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and her gay stepbrother, Patrick (Ezra Miller) who changes his life by introducing him to sex, drugs, and friendship. It's a shame this did not get a wider release as it's exceptionally well-made and these young actors are perfect, delivering heartfelt performances. This film touched me deeply as it took me back to those tough and scary times of  being a confused teenager.



"TED"

The raunchy humor of Seth MacFarlane is certainly an acquired taste but for his first feature film, "Ted", he's found a way to make it appealing to a wide audience. The story of a boy who wishes that his teddy bear would come to life, which he does but the talking bear becomes a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, trouble-maker. Ted stands in the way of the kid, now an adult (Mark Wahlberg) from growing up and settling down with his girlfriend (Mila Kunis). What I really liked about this very funny comedy is that there was an actual sweetness to be found in between all of the smutty jokes.


"THE AVENGERS", "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES', "SKYFALL"

This year had several highly entertaining popcorn flicks that delivered all of thrilling action that is expected yet offered thoughtful storytelling and solid acting without sacrificing any of the fun. "The Avengers" assembles a group of super-heroes (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc.), who had great success on their own, as they come together to (surprise, surprise) save the world, "The Dark Knight Rises" is the final chapter of the Batman trilogy that is a spectacular conclusion to Christopher Nolan's highly popular vision of the classic hero and Academy-Award winning director ("American Beauty"), Sam Mendes brought a fresh approach to James Bond in "Skyfall" (which also happens to be in the fiftieth year of the character's cinematic debut) and making this impressive film the most critically and commercially successful in the history of the series.

"HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE", "BULLY", "CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE", "DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL", "MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT"

There were plenty of fascinating documentaries out over the past year and these were some of my favorites: "How To Survive a Plague" plays as a reminder that before AIDS became a manageable disease, it was a certain death sentence. This documentary by David France details that the only reason this changed was due to relentless battle of the ACTUP activists demanding the U.S. government do something. "Bully" brings much needed attention to the problem of bullying in U.S. schools while trying to figure out a way to end it. These three films highlights the lives of some true originals; "Carol Channing; Larger Than Life" focuses on the still-working ninety-two year old musical theater legend, "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel" is about the life of the highly influential Vogue magazine fashion editor and "Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present" tells about the Serbian performance artist who uses her body as her art.




Honorable Mention: "Amour", "Anna Karenina", "Arbitrage", "Argo", "Brave", "Flight", "Jeff Who Lives At Home", "Lincoln", "Rust & Bone", "Salmon Fishing in The Yemen", "The Sessions"