Counter-point - I hope Seth MacFarlane spends the rest of his life in prison

It's easy to make tit jokes when you're a guy. Even easier to then say 'lighten up' when no one laughs. Seth Macfarlane will never understand what it's like to be leered at by millions of people who ignore the context of the work being done. He may never experience this because he's the most unfunny 'comedian' on TV or in film, where he makes the same laddish bullshit non-jokes over and over again when he isn't pretending that mentioning celebrities is the same thing as writing. He has never made me laugh for any reason; he might someday, it's not impossible. Before the Oscars he was merely screamingly unfunny and obnoxious. Afterwards, he's the guy who whittled down the achievements of Mulholland Drive and Monsters Ball into tit jokes and how great it was that these women got naked for him. He could have sung a song about the likes of Michael Fassbender or Stephen Dorff, but dicks are gross, I guess? And who cares when so many are getting totally naked for him to laugh about and point at like a thirteen year old. After a night of coked-up objectification (the same people who counted the 'N' word in Django could probably tell you how many times he made fun of women for working and/or wanting to be taken seriously, I just know it fucking enough) and gently ribbing guys for dating younger women, is it so much to ask that Macfarlane be sent to Prison and strip-searched every day of his life as he lives in fear of the male gaze and what it might mean? Ricky Gervais may have offended some people for deflating celebrity at the Golden Globes, but his mean-spirited tone was directed entirely at the concept of celebrity and that the audience was unable to take a joke. His repeat visits speaks to the fact that they can, to an extent, for all their hemming and hawing. Who in Hollywood thinks women have too easy a time of being taken seriously? Point him out because if it turns out that I'm wrong and women rule everything, or if somewhere there's a legion of people who thought fratboys weren't seeing movies to look at naked women, then point taken. In the meantime, fuck the whole ceremony and fuck Seth Macfarlane, who crowned himself the Paul Ryan of famous people tonight. I won't say entertainer because he simply isn't entertaining. Never has been. Fuck this guy for having nothing better to do than make fun of talented women's weight on national television, cause that's in no way harmful or hideous, is it? I'm not saying the Oscars should be Billy Crystal (who set a new bar for laziness/creepiness last year), but this is unfuckingacceptable in 2013.

Side note: introducing yourself as the voice of a puppet doing more of the same schtick you've been doing all night reaches new heights of narcissism. Please go away you horrible man.

In Defense of Seth MacFarlane

The bar set for Seth MacFarlane was quite possibly the lowest set for any Oscar host in the last decade. Even Franco and Hathaway garnered some high hopes. But it seemed the world was all too eager to start booing MacFarlane before he even got on stage. So it’s no surprise that in the aftermath, most critics have been practically tearing their hair out with rage. But, I would argue that not only was MacFarlane charming and comfortable (he made Paul Rudd and Melisa McCarthy look like 9 year olds), he was actually a far better host than we’ve had in a while.

So, first up, the elephant boobs in the room: Sexism. This has been a common critique of Seth, and while it is certainly true of the Oscars and of the entertainment industry as a whole, I don’t think this one really falls on MacFarlane. First of all, The Quvenzhané Wallis/George Clooney remark, which has been rehashed as some attempt as sexualizing a 9 yearold. This was clearly a jab at George Clooney. It was at his expense. Seth even tossed the guy a drink. Secondly, the “We don’t know what they’re saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive,” this comment followed by the appearance of Salma Hayek (followed by her unfortunate mispronunciation) prompted another uproar of sexism, but if you actually listen to the joke, he mentions Penelope Cruz, JAVIER BARDEM, and Salma Hayek. His point is not about women but simply steamy foreigners. Finally, the boobs song. Out of context, I can’t deny, this one looks pretty bad. But let’s put this one in context for a moment.

The Oscars decided this was the year they would celebrate music in film. So, hiring MacFarlane, an accomplished comedian and disturbingly talented crooner, becomes sort of a no-brainer. And Seth proved that not only would he bring some funny jokes (my favorite being the Sound of Music reference), he’d also stick to the mission statement. So, while it’s easy to jump on the “Why the hell was Shatner there?” band wagon, take a closer look at what that segment actually accomplished. If the goal was to showcase the various uses of music in entertainment, they really did hit all the bases. Music can be a romantic affair (a la: a lovely Tatum/Theron number from Swing Time), a stodgy but harmless mess (the smarmy Radcliff Gordon-Levitt business), a clever joke (the not entirely awful “Be Our Guest” number), or a horribly tasteless ordeal ("Boobs"). Showing how music can be used to insult as well as compliment was relieving at an event filled with so much self-congratulating. In this context, the boobs song served its purpose as a truly intentionally tasteless song.

All of this really begins to call into question the very purpose of the Oscar presenter. So let’s be clear. The Oscar presenter is supposed to be a fool. He wants you to laugh at him, at yourselves, at those around you. His job it denigrate everyone, including himself in funny ways. That’s what he does. So maybe Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin denigrated everyone in ways that were less hurtful, who the fuck cares? These people are receiving gold statues from their peers after making millions of dollars; no one cares if a jackass in a suit knocks them down a few pegs. This is what the fool does. This is what he has done for centuries. In that sense, “We Saw Your Boobs” could be seen as a remarkably efficient attempt at ridiculing half the damn audience. At the end of the day, would I like to see MacFarlane sing a ditty called “We Saw Your Dick”? Absolutely. But, it just so happens that the MPAA doesn’t think I should be allowed to see Hugh Jackman’s penis. And shame on them for that.

It seems lame to blame the MPAA or prevalent societal sexism when MacFarlane is up there making jokes at Rihanna’s expense (which only RDJ seems to think are funny), but it’s not a fools job to give you a pep talk when you’ve fallen in the mud. That’s what self-help authors are for. If you’re tired of being offended by the Oscar host, we could always hire Oprah. Or Bob Ross. I hear he isn’t doing much these days.

Beyond The Hills and into something else

Peter Labuza, film critic, podcaster and professor, has lately been on the lookout for moments of pure cinema, where we leave behind the comfort of a screen and a light and enter the world of the film. Complete immersion a la William Hurt in Altered States. I had one for him that I'll repost here because I want the world to know how powerful the film in question is, but also as a reminder to all that Film can be so much more than light projecting images, than people playing characters, of people telling stories. At their best, they are something bigger than any of us.

Beyond The Hills
by Cristian Mungiu
I'm one of the biggest fans of the Romanian New Wave there is. I'll see anything from the nation's new crop of filmmakers and I believe they have discovered (invented/built upon) a cinematic language that the rest of the world can't speak as fluently. What many people call Slow Cinema, they speak with the rapid fire certainty of auctioneers or conmen. They can talk audiences into anything. Corneliu Porumboiu turned the every step of a detective into drama as fascinating as Jean-Pierre Melville's tales of crooked cops and doomed gangsters. Cristi Puiu turned death into the most tragic of circuses; all cheap spectacle and detached onlookers. Radu Muntean framed divorce as if it were ritualistic murder, every barb and agonizing second another twisting of the knife. And Cristian Mungiu has turned authority into a poison that kills bonds between young women. They all play by the same rules: Unbroken takes, lived-in presences, scenes framed as if seen through closed circuit surveillance, silence, the awkwardness of living with secrets. They are effective because they're only interest is in the truth of whatever moments they uncover.

Beyond The Hills is one of the first Romanian New Wave films to leave urban existence behind in favor of something that feels more deliberately cinematic. It's setting, a convent where technology is abandoned and the women present serve under a bearded priest they must treat like both a spokesman for their god, but also a father. Already, things are uncomfortable. Alina, an outsider to this lifestyle, still has the buzz of the city about her when she arrives. When the film follows her and old friend Voichita up to the convent, not only are we leaving behind the traditional realm of the New Wave potboiler, we are entering the past; the days that predate the revolution. The question is who's got it worse? The answer isn't easy or fair. As Mungiu has observed before, the best way to find an answer, a solution to the predicament that is living in Romania is to stop trying to avoid the truth. Every nun seems to have left behind some dirty secret, the sort the heroines of Mungiu's first masterpiece, 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days went to great pains to erase. Alina is Voichita's, and the environment openly rejects her presence. How can they live in ignorance with a reminder of the outside world sitting next to them at breakfast. She's the past and the future in one, and she's more terrifying than the order's vision of hell. She's what they escapes from and she pays dearly for staying.

After watching an incredibly restrained movie about an incredibly repressed shared lifestyle, the film hits a point that it cannot play by its own rules. Alina has come to get Voichita, her closest (only?) friend to leave the convent that's become her home. When that doesn't work, Alina tries to work herself into the fabric of this new life. When that doesn't work, something else takes over, something between epilepsy and incurable despair. The sisters of the convent, Voichita among them, try to tie Alina down to stop her from hurting herself or anyone else. Watching them tie this girl down and being aware of every single aspect of the situation and how quickly it could be fixed, suddenly I wasn't in the film anymore, I was on that board, bound with chains and gagged and unable to tell anyone that what she needs more than any exorcism or medicine is a hug from the last person on earth she feels love for. I suppose it's lucky for me the seats around me were vacant because I sat for those six minutes thrashing and making involuntary sounds of protest in Alice Tully Hall. I might have kicked someone by accident. I can't remember ever reacting that strongly to anything else in a theatre. I was completely unable to control my reaction to that unbearable scene. It struck me after I'd recovered and lay on my bed after the screening, grinning from ear to ear as I described it to my girlfriend: THAT is the power of cinema.


Last year we lost Ken Russell, one of the most singular and important talents cinema ever produced. He was never given credit for his huge body of work, his breathless style (he was the first person to truly run with his camera), his iconoclastic tearing away of convention and bastions of taste and political correct discourse, or his love of art. He was an artist who brought something to film and who paid tribute to the other artforms that made his life feel richer. Many people say he never surpassed his work at the BBC making films about the likes of Debussy and Isadora Duncan. While those films are fantastic and important, it wasn't until he discovered color film and had real money at his disposal that he could fully spread his wings. When he moved to major releases, he made one masterpiece after another: Women In Love, The Boyfriend, The Music Lovers, Savage Messiah, The Devils, Mahler and Lisztomania. Ken proved too flamboyant for most but it'd take someone willfully blind not to recognize that here was a talent unlike anything cinema had yet seen. Years in the wilderness following his last great success, Tommy, allowed everyone to ignore that he invented a new cinematic language and lit a fire under the british film industry.

And now, a year after his death and nearly 40 years after Tommy comes Les Miserables. Ken Russell's mother used to have a rubric for films of interest to her. Was it 'A British Picture'? This meant stodgy, stiff and traditional; bad jokes; poorly functioning marriages, cross-dressing, Carry On, Noel Coward. One steered clear of a British picture. Les Miserables is a british picture. Every fan of Russells knows where those steadicam shots come from, where the mixture of high camp and prestige production value was born. And yet no one, least of all the director, seems aware that they're making a Ken Russell film. Imagine it. Or...well, I'm sure you don't have to as there seem fewer people on earth who haven't seen this movie than have. I'd wager more people have seen this than have seen a single Ken Russell movie. Which is why it's ok for most that Les Mis is just The Music Lovers by way of Tommy. Hooper, of course, seems to have forgotten to mention his debt to the onetime Enfant Terrible, presumably embarrassed that he'd stoop to something so low culture to make his big Oscar bait bash. And yet every poorly chosen angle and bull-in-a-china-shop tracking shot drips with his influence, even if he doesn't fully get why Ken did all that; a song shot entirely in Helena Bonham Carter's hair betrays his cluelessness. If he didn't study Russell's films, he's stolen by osmosis. But frankly considering that Russell Crowe is the only person capable of giving Oliver Reed's performance in Tommy for our times (He'd just done his best Reed or Richard Harris in The Man With The Iron Fists, after all), I find it laughable that Hooper has somehow avoided Ken's work. This is the sort of thing Ken went into directing to rebel against. Despite being set in France, only one actor even bothers with the right accent. Bad jokes spring up between tonally incoherent songs and the editing ranges from inappropriate to completely insane. The film moves at just as rapid a clip as Russell during his most lyrical passages (the whole film could be an extended riff on the opening scene or any of the big production numbers in The Music Lovers) yet never slows down to get to know the characters. Anne Hathaway is dead before you get to know her, so one can hardly be moved by her big song. It hardly qualifies as a show-stopper if the show is this tattered and weightless. The film is in a hurry to go nowhere. By the time the story has stopped spinning in circles (what in the world do some of these songs accomplish? "Master of the House" is a great song, but what purpose does it serve?) Hugh Jackman vanishes from the story and when he returns, the film doesn't seem to have a place for him anymore. Russell vanished into flights of song and dance or surreal asides to tell the story; to show the world of the characters. Hooper flits across it like a demented fairy surveying a world he doesn't seem to understand, cutting every 2 seconds to some other part of the world to show off the production design and make-up. 

Musicals typically get away with the oft-remarked problem of people simply bursting into song by being theatrical. No one in the world would mistake Guys & Dolls or Top Hat for reality; that was the point. If the Ginger Rogers or Marlon Brando brought depth to their characters, it sold the emotion and romance, not the world. You needn't buy their respective versions of Italy or New York, simply that Fred or Marlon would do whatever it takes to make good in the eyes of their leading ladies. Stripped of an overtly cinematic approach to its theatrical source and criminally featuring not a single dance number worthy of the name, it just sits there, even if the camera and editor can't help but jump all over the place like kids with espresso. The best it can manage is weirdly off-putting asides like the piccolo that plays whenever a child character sings, even if it's in the middle of an ostensibly dramatic scene. This doesn't help sell anything, it just fucks up the tone. A cardinal sin when the film pretends to be gripping historical drama, what with the shooting of children and whores having their teeth pulled out. Everyone sings angelically, acts enormously, feels deeply and smiles hugely. A haircut and dirt make-up are evidently choices enough to sell the sorrow of these characters because the filmmaking sure doesn't have anything to say on the subject. The singing is just a comforting blanket to audiences keen not to feel anything so distasteful as sorrow or discomfort. The ultimate alienation device. When the most sympathetic character in the film dies, it's very difficult to take her death seriously as no one has stops singing in the same indefatigably jaunty manner and they keep right on going when she's gone. After all, the dead routinely rise to sing big numbers, so how or why should we care who kicks the bucket?  The apparent joy of each character is irrepressible even when they're bleeding to death or throwing themselves in the Seine. And this is during the French revolution mind you. In a movie called Les Miserables! It doesn't have the decency to be eccentric; it wants to be heartbreakingly bold simply by implication, but won't fess up to its devices. Shooting a film of a musical about the death of thousands takes the sort of bravery Ken Russell had in spades. But having no ambition, to be content with making the most rote and by the numbers British film, with every expected beat sung instead of spoken, is far worse than if they'd gone out on a limb and failed. Nothing is risked, nothing is gained. Except Academy Awards. Rest in peace, Ken. We need you more than you could ever know. 

Rest In Peace

We lost two people recently who I know were crucial components of my life. They made the lives of so many people so much richer, and made so much art possible to experience.

Donald Richie's contribution to the world of cinema can't be understated. Those of us who know what we know, who love Kurosawa and samurai cinema, who study the Japanese New Wave, who've had the sublime experience of watching Seven Samurai or Ugetsu Monogatari, then you know how important Donald Richie is. I recommend any or all his books or any of his essays on Criterion's website.

We also lost Kevin Ayers, founder of the band the Soft Machine. He may be best known for that endeavor, but he had a long and interesting solo career. Anyone who has the pleasure of seeing Olivier Assayas' Something In The Air when it opens later this year, will hear his song "Decadence" close the film. Ayers wrote many, many good songs, but I owe him for a really shitty thing he did in 1974. While on tour with John Cale, that's Cale playing the viola on Ayers' song below, his name misspelled in the same way as John Huston's directorial credit on Wise Blood, he slept with the ex-Velvet's wife backstage. This sent Cale on a spiral into anger and resentment that resulted in Slow Dazzle, a rock and roll masterpiece. If there's even the slightest chance that Cale wouldn't have recorded the majority of his later body of work, including his many excellent soundtracks, if Ayers hadn't done him wrong, then I thank him for that, too. Two careers for the price of a marriage. Ayers was a bastard, but I'm glad as hell we had him for a little while.

Side Effects

Taken as a movie, Side Effects takes a straightforward, very specifically 80s thriller/horror plot (Soderbergh cites Fatal Attraction as his primary influence, but Body Heat and Schrader's Cat People are distantly in its lineage) and outfits it with a moral/political dilemma audiences today can't help but recognize. Anybody with even a hint of awareness about the modern pharmaceutical industry will know the score as soon as the film starts, but the film exists beyond the big-pharma milieu. He's boldly of the moment in his craft, what with his up-to-the-minute digital equipment and tackling time-sensitive bird flu or pharmaceutical intrigue, but stylistically he's outside of time. Soderbergh doesn't make message movies; he makes genre films that can't function without subtext. He understands that if, for instance, you make a movie about male strippers you cannot help but mention the fact that it's an economic neccesity and that most anyone who falls into the line of work is using it as a placeholder. But for cinephiles, the reason to watch a Soderbergh film is because he acts as his own cinematographer and thus has a very intimate relationship to the image. Everything you see is at the forefront of how films can present familiar things. He's been taking advantage of new digital cameras to help reframe cinematic convention and things as basic as architecture and conversation. No one in modern American film, and certainly no one dealing with name actors like Channing Tatum, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta- Jones and product that will play multiplexes, takes the risks he does. He pushes his actors to far corners of the screen, he puts their faces in near total darkness while the backgrounds light up. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky called Magic Mike abstract, but I think it's something more purposeful. He uses the modern world as if it were a studio set from the 50s, and treats faces and bodies like pillars in a building plan. His films would be just at home in a museum, surrounded by beautiful, alienating white walls, treating this form of digital painting as a tool worth admiring on its own. From the deep greens and reds of Haywire to the pale gold of Magic Mike, he's inventing or building alongside camera innovation, testing the limits of lighting for digital, a format that lets him get away with murder, and framing in genre fare; what shapes and angles he can get away with before it becomes 'art' in the public's mind - Girlfriend Experience on one side, Side Effects on the other. Long after the issues in the film change, it will still be a fascinating and timeless look at a director with no real peers. He uses light like only Michael Mann before him (David Fincher uses darkness in the same way), works at a rate practically unique to Americans (Japanese director Takashi Miike, South Korea's Hong Sang-Soo and Brit Michael Winterbottom are his only competition), and none of his films look quite the same. It's only in their relationship to reality, the way that he's presenting the world as it feels, rather than as it looks, that they find commonality.

The 2012 Monsieur Oscars

Here are the nominees and winners of my alterative to the Academy Awards, which, as usual stay in a restrictive, nonsensical criteria. I tried sorting out my oddball favourites from real, once-a-year-if-we're-luck achievements and in some cases limited myself to the ridiculous 10-nominee limit of the Academy, but sometimes there were just too many great things to laud. So here are my choices for my ideal set of nominees for every category (official nominees excluded) and what might win, but frankly to me, these are all worth a statue. And more. Where I've felt necessary I've added a few words of praise. Some of these things just speak for themselves.

Best Fiction Film
1. Holy Motors
-This was the one film that takes great pains to say something bold and new at every chance. Nothing in this film feels ordinary or bound by tradition. If It's old-fashioned, that's because Carax lives and breathes cinema. No other film was this committed to both a dyed-in-the-wool cinephilia and exploding the rules and conventions of narrative filmmaking.

Deep Blue Sea
Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
The Master
Beyond The Hills
Wuthering Heights
Moonrise Kingdom
The Unspeakable Act

Best Non-Fiction Feature
Perhaps Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve - Masao Adachi


Patience (After Sebald)
Miners' Hymns
Crazy Horse
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present
Whores' Glory
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
This Is Not A Film
The Impostor

Best Short Film
Walker by Tsai Ming-Liang
-I'm afraid I saw only one new short film this year that really made an impression, but it's enough for a decade's worth of them. 

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master

-I think this one sort of speaks for itself. He directs the hell out of this film. It's the best argument for a director as artist and storyteller that came out this year.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan - Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
Leos Carax - Holy Motors
Terence Davies - The Deep Blue Sea
Agniezka Holland - In Darkness
Philippe Grandrieux - Perhaps Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve
Cristian Mungiu - Beyond The Hills
Miguel Gomes  - Tabu
Yiorgos Lanthimos - Alps
Cate Shortland - Lore
Andrea Arnold - Wuthering Heights
Peter Strickland - Berberian Sound Studio
Christoph Hochhäusler - One Minute of Darkness
Alistair Banks Griffin - Two Gates of Sleep
Rafi Pitts - The Hunter
Takashi Miike - Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and Ace Attorney
Christian Petzold - Beats Being Dead and Barbara
Andrew Dominik - Killing Them Softly
Rian Johnson - Looper
Andrew Stanton - John Carter
Ralph Fiennes - Coriolanus
Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg - Kon-Tiki
Andrew Stanton - John Carter
Andrey Zvyagintsev - Elena
William Friedkin - Killer Joe
David Cronenberg - Cosmopolis
Wes Anderson - Moonrise Kingdom
Ben Affleck - Argo
Kathryn Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor In A Leading Role
Denis Lavant - Holy Motors
-Lavant made his name turning Leos Carax's complex emotions and inner life into a bruisingly honest and quietly hilarious character. Their partnership is one of the most unique in history. Here Lavant is everything: beggar, thief, rich man, father, tinker, tailor, etc. etc. The more disguises he adopts, the closer he comes to discovering something about his art and his director. No other performance this year was this exhaustive and diverse. Close second to Joaquin Phoenix.

Ebizo Ichikawa - Hara-Kiri - Death of a Samurai
-Miike has gotten good, outraged performances from many, many actors over the years, but none of such palpable sadness as Ebizo Ichikawa in Hara-Kiri. Ichikawa's tall, dark and handsome hero has a sad story to tell. While he sits before us telling the story an assembled group of cowardly murderers, he has got the same steely fearlessness and quiet menace as any of Miike's titular 13 Assassins. In the embedded storyline he's a proud father who watches his only daughter fall in love then into unending despair. Those big, gorgeous eyes of his showing the loss of hope in readable terms.

Michel Lonsdale - The Cardboard Village
-As long as I've been going to films, I've been aware of Michel Lonsdale. I first picked him out in Frankenheimer's Ronin and he communicated such age, warmth and wisdom that he must have seemed a hundred years old to me. Every film since then, I grew to appreciate his one-of-a-kind presence and charm. Now that he's finally gotten as old as he always seemed to me, I've come to see his every performance as a gift. I can't wait to see his next in Gebo And The Shadow by my personal lord and savior Manoel De Oliveira, living saint of cinema. In the meantime I have Lonsdale in The Cardboard Village doing heartrending work, fully committed to helplessness in a way I've never seen. Ermanno Olmi has said he won't make anymore films, that Cardboard was a parting gift. Thank heavens he's so generous. Not only did we get a tiny, complicated treat from one of Italy's masters, but one of the greatest and most humane performances Lonsdale's ever given.

Jeremy Renner - The Bourne Legacy
-Renner's performance seems to have been lost amidst a general eye-roll consensus about this film's relative merits. I enjoyed this movie considering it didn't need to exist and Renner's performance is bolder than it needed to be. For the first half of the movie he makes zero attempt at gaining audience sympathy, playing a drug-addicted killer with no friends or family with exactly the ferocity and brusque manner you'd expect from a person who's been through what he has. So it shouldn't be that by the end of the film you care deeply about him and what happens to him. And yet...

Sean Penn - This Must Be The Place
Let's see any actor of Penn's stature and record go for broke in quite such a splendidly queer fashion. Playing Robert Smith from The Cure, bird's nest hair, goth make-up and all, isn't an ordinary career move for an oscar winner, but Penn goes for it. My undying respect is his.

Iko Uwais - The Raid: Redemption
-Proving that to perform in a fight scene takes as much precision as any dance number, Uwais handles his dramatic moments with aplomb and stays in character while performing the most incredible, baroque fight choreography ever devised.

Jason Patric - Keyhole
-Endlessly winning performance from Patric, who too often is given roles that want for humour and grace, which he supplies here by the barrel-full.

Clarke Peters - Red Hook Summer
-Spike Lee, whatever else may be true, has directed some of the most eye-catching performances of the last 25 years. Red Hook Summer feels like a gentler, more welcoming Lee, anchored by Clarke Peters as an unflappable preacher who feels old and behind the times.

Gael Garcia Bernal - The Loneliest Planet
-A great, ego-less portrayal of a very specific kind of man under the worst imaginable conditions.

Channing Tatum - Magic Mike
Emile Hirsch and Matthew McConaughey - Killer Joe
Scoot McNairy - Killing Them Softly
Jamie Foxx - Django Unchained
Martin Freeman - The Hobbit
Toby Jones - Berberian Sound Studio
Keigo Kasuya - Caterpilar
Robert Pattinson - Cosmopolis
Raiph Fiennes - Coriolanus
Mads Mikkelsen - A Royal Affair
Sam Riley - On The Road
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Looper
Matthew Goode - Burning Man
Tomer Sisley - Sleepless Night
Lucas Pittaway and Daniel Henshall - Snowtown
Willem Dafoe - The Hunter
Constantin Cojocaru - Three Days Till Christmas

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Melanie Lynskey - Hello I Must Be Going
-There was no more compelling performance this year. I could not take my eyes off her for a moment. The most honest portrait of a woman in the midst of an everyday crisis. Not only does she get the anguish of loss of control right, she also gets the embarrassment you would feel in such a situation knowing how bad other people in the world have it.


Cocco - Kotoko
-This is a performance that deserves to be called fearless.

Ann Dowd - Compliance
Nadezhda Markina - Elena
Tallie Medel - The Unspeakable Act
Suzanne Clément - Laurence Anyways
Ellen Barkin - Shit Year
Saskia Rosendahl - Lore
Carlen Altman - The Color Wheel
Bojana Novakovic - Burning Man
Rachel Weisz - The Deep Blue Sea
Shinobu Terajima - Caterpillar
Rachel Mwanza - War Witch
Alicia Vikander - A Royal Affair
Stephanie Sigman - Miss Bala
Rachel Harris - Natural Selection
Mélanie Laurent - The Adopted
Victoria Cocias - Three Days Till Christmas

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Gina Gershon - Killer Joe


Juliet Binoche - Cosmopolis
Kate Lyn Shiel - The Comedy
Dreama Walker - Compliance
Vanessa Redgrave - Coriolanus
Isabella Rosselini - Keyhole
Blythe Danner - Hello I Must Be Going
Emily Blunt - Looper / Your Sister's Sister
Sophia Takal - The Zone
Isabelle Fuhrman - The Hunger Games
Jodelle Ferland - The Tall Man

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Tom Hardy - The Dark Knight Rises
Jason Clarke - Lawless/Zero Dark Thirty
-I'd more or less sewn this up for Tom Hardy, especially considering he recieved no notice whatsoever for his portrayal as Bane, a villain for me, was the much more quotable, lovable and memorable villain than the joker. Perhaps I'm alone in this. And that's not to diminish Ledger's performance in anyway. It's just that Hardy's my guy and this is some of his most incredible work. But then I rewatched Lawless and saw Zero Dark and realized the guy next to Hardy in the former, the terrifying post-frat boy tormentor in the latter, was a completely mesmerizing force of his own. Whether as a moonshine-ruined bruiser, or a man whose blithe disregard for human life plays comes off like pledge-week entitlement, he has the subhuman game locked down. The best thing I can say for both performers: at their worst, you still want to see them succeed. 

Thomas Haden Church - Killer Joe
Bryan Cranston - Argo
Garrett Hedlund - On The Road
Robert Patrick - Jayne Mansfield's Car
Ray Stevenson - Jayne Mansfield's Car
Bruce Willis - Looper
Pierce Gagnon - Looper
Jason Mantzoukas - The Dictator
Gerard Butler - Coriolanus
Michael Fassbender - Prometheus
Tom Hiddleston - The Avengers/The Deep Blue Sea
Ben Chaplin - Twixt
James Gandolfini - Killing Them Softly / Not Fade Away / Zero Dark Thirty
Leonardo DiCaprio - Django Unchained
Will Forte - Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Jude Law - Anna Karenina
Matthew Macfadyen - Anna Karenina
Angus Scrimm - John Dies At The End
Thomas Jeffeson Byrd - Red Hook Summer
Jack Huston - Not Fade Away
Matthew McConaughey - Bernie / Magic Mike
Martin Short - Frankenweenie
Mathieu Amalric - Cosmopolis
Kevin Durand - Cosmopolis
Sam Rockwell - Seven Psychopaths

Best Ensemble Cast
Zero Dark Thirty


Lines of Wellington
The Master
The Dark Knight Rises
The Comedy
The Avengers
Jayne Mansfield's Car
Killing Them Softly
Django Unchained
Silver Linings Playbook
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Grey
Killer Joe
Seven Psychopaths
Damsels in Distress

Achievement in Cinematography
Gökhan Tiryaki - Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
Mihai Malaimare Jr. - The Master

Ron Fricke - Samsara

For illuminating the dark on the earth and in the mind. For turning every frame into a work of art.


Yves Cape - Hors Satan
Jolanta Dylewska - In Darkness
Steven Soderbergh - Magic Mike
André Szankowski - Lines of Wellington
Florian Hoffmeister - The Deep Blue Sea
Doug Emmett - Damsels in Distress
Robert D. YeomanMoonrise Kingdom
Mátyás Erdély - Tender Son - The Frankenstein Project
Dariusz Wolski - Prometheus
Robbie Ryan - Wuthering Heights
Benoît Delhomme - Faust
Philippe Grandrieux - Perhaps Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve - Masao Adachi
Eduard Grau - The Awakening
Garry Phillips - Burning Man
Anthony Dod Mantle - Dredd
Rodrigo Prieto - Argo
Christos Voudouris - Alps
Adam Arkapaw - Lore
Marco Onorato - Reality
Rasmus Videbæk - A Royal Affair
Nicolas Bolduc - War Witch
Mikhail Krichman - Elena
Aaron Platt - Shit Year

Best Original Screenplay
Alex Ross Perry and Carlen Altman - The Color Wheel
-No other script this year was this bold. Hand's down. Acidic and hateful from moment to moment, but invincible to its own machinations. Formally, it's beautiful, blissful anarchy. Perry and Altman have not only crafted some of the most incredibly, unbelievable dialogue, but they've turned narrative comedy into a weapon.


Mark Boal - Zero Dark Thirty
Dan Sallitt - The Unspeakable Act
Yorgos Lanthimos - Alps
Whit Stillman - Damsels In Distress 
Dominik Graf - Don't Follow Me Around
Nadav Lapid - Policeman
Olivier Assayas - Après Mai
Guy Maddin - Keyhole
Leos Carax - Holy Motors
Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master
Ugo Chiti, Maurizio Braucci, Matteo Garrone and Massimo Gaudioso - Reality
Tim Burton - Frankenweenie
Ebru Ceylan, Ercan Kesal and Nuri Bilge Ceylan - Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

Best Adapted Screenplay
David Cronenberg - Cosmopolis
-In short, Cronenberg was the only person who could have done this. He was born to adapt this novel for the screen and make it one of his collection of perfect little horrors. 

Tracey Letts - Killer Joe
Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon - John Carter
Tom Stoppard - Anna Karenina 
David F. Shamoon - In Darkness
Terence Davies - The Deep Blue Sea
John Logan - Coriolanus

Funniest Screenplays
Color Wheel
Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists
Damsels in Distress 
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Ace Attorney
Casa De Mi Padre
Silver Linings Playbook
Moonrise Kingdom
Seven Psychopaths
The Five Year Engagement

Achievement in Film Editing
Berberian Sound Studio

John Carter
In Darkness
Moonrise Kingdom
Patience (After Sebald)

Achievements in Special Visual Effects
John Carter

For making the impossible possible, without ever taking away from the grandeur of the story being told. For proving that anything is possible on screen.

The Dark Knight Rises
Cabin In The Woods
Killing Them Softly
The Woman In Black
Miss Bala
The Raid: Redemption
Kill List
Zero Dark Thirty
Jack & Diane - *Special mention: The Quay Brothers

Achievements in Sound Design/Editing
Berberian Sound Studio

Just The Wind
The Hunter
Killing them Softly
Wuthering Heights
Two Gates of Sleep
Perhaps Beauty
In Darkness

Best Original Score
Ryuichi Sakamoto - Hara-Kiri
Jonny Greenwood - The Master

For treating their scores with no less gravity or richness than they would a concerto or opera and still bringing out the best from the material they were provided.

Metric & Howard Shore - Cosmopolis
Max Richter - Lore
Nathan Johnson - Looper
Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight Rises
Fred Avril, Magnus Börjeson and Six Drummers - Sound of Noise
Michael Giacchino - John Carter
James Horner - Black Gold
David Byrne - This Must Be The Place
Christopher Young - Sinister

Best Original Song
"Who Were We?" - Holy Motors

"St. Valentine's Day Massacre" - Not Fade Away
"Misty Mountains" - Hobbit
And yeah I know Adele's going to get the oscar, but it's such a good song!
Bonus to Tabu for the use of "Be My Baby" by Les Surfs

Achievement in Art Direction
The Deep Blue Sea

For turning every element in the world of the film into an extension of the protagonists psychological and spiritual evolution and being at one with the story, the era, and the body of work of its creators.

Holy Motors
Laurence Anyways
On The Road
Not Fade Away
Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists
Ace Attorney
Sleepless Night
A Royal Affair
This Must Be The Place
Casa De Mi Padre
The Hobbit
Wrath of the Titans
The Master
Django Unchained

Achievement in Production Design

For evoking another era flawlessly, while creating a palpable, dream-like atmosphere completely at peace with its creators vision of the world, with limited means. 

The Deep Blue Sea
On The Road
Taste Of Money
Lines of Wellington
Killer Joe
Damsels In Distress
Après Mai
Shit Year
The Dark Knight Rises
A Royal Affair
Sound of Noise
The Woman In Black

Achievement in Make-up
Holy Motors

War Witch
Kill List
Ace Attorney
Moonrise Kingdom
The Woman In Black
Killing Them Softly

Achievement in Costume Design
Lines of Wellington

A Royal Affair
The Woman In Black
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai
The Master
Holy Motors
Après Mai
On The Road
Moonrise Kingdom
The Deep Blue Sea
Sound of Noise
The Awakening

The Call of the Siren - Screen Crushes of 2012

Lynn Collins in John Carter
Lola Créton in Goodbye First Love and Après Mai
Carlen Altman in The Color Wheel
Isolda Dychauk in Faust
Victória Guerra in Lines of Wellington
Carrie MacLemore in Damsels in Distress
Alicia Vikander in A Royal Affair and Anna Karenina
Kerry Bishé in Argo
Cosmina Stratan in Beyond the Hills
Sarah Gadon in Cosmopolis / The Moth Diaries

If I'd never encountered them before, I'd also say Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook and Melanie Lynskey in Hello I Must Be Going.

I didn't see an Animated film I didn't love, but the academy seems to have them covered. Anyway, Pirates gets my vote for artistry and wit, Frankenweenie for heart.

Best Genre Film
The Raid: Redemption
-For leaving no audience unsatisfied in its pursuit of old-school thrills. For being a competent and engaging work and leaving the audience begging for more glorious carnage. For taking its job as entertainment as seriously as possible, but never losing sight of its goals. And because it fucking kicks ass.

The Woman In Black
John Carter
The Tall Man
The Theatre Bizarre
Killing Them Softly
Killer Joe
Django Unchained
Sleepless Night
The Paperboy

Our Bloody Valentine

The real challenge in brit rock, specifically shoegazer music as we've come to call that style of sound painting from the late 80s and early 90s wasn't the second album, but the third. Ride's first album is an established masterpiece; its greatness is public record, so far as I see it. Their second was still great, if less so, because they tried, not without reason to branch out stylistically: be bigger, be louder, be more than they really were. Their third album was their last. Carnival of Light was the band at war with itself. No one much cared to see a band struggling in quite this way. Nor did the members themselves. It was over. Their fourth album came out posthumously. Slowdive got out three albums before realizing their ambitions lay elsewhere, specifically Mojave 3, and eventually to be roped in with Jack Johnson. The Catherine Wheel's third album was where their sound got harsher and they lost some of their early devotees. Chapterhouse's masterful debut gave way to an ugly, confused, and tellingly harsher second album. Then they were done. A third never arrived. My Bloody Valentine's story is familiar to anyone who's ever picked up a copy of spin or magnet. A good first album, a genius second album, then nothing. Twenty years of it. But they didn't break up, like the others. They just stopped. And so the curse was broken, because the world waited for that third album that never came, but seeminly could at any moment. And finally it did. 

But now that's over. And here it is. It's not a prank, not a copycat band's imitation, not a bootleg made up of snippets stolen over the years. It's the real thing. It could only be. Kevin Shields is the only guy alive who could have written those chord progressions, as David Bowie will tell you about The Man Who Sold The World. But more to the point, he's the only person with any right playing his guitar like that. That effect's been used in the years since Loveless, that perpetual bending of the bar while strumming, but no one in the world would do it for a whole album. Not unless they were in My Bloody Valentine. The rest of the musical world knows that this is sacred ground, not to be trod upon by pretenders. Many people will probably be more surprised that a legion of albums didn't come out in the wake of Kevin Shields expensive career killing, legendary album that attempted to fill the void, however feebly. But everyone knew that Shields and Co. were the only ones allowed to sound like this. 

So what does M B V actually sound like, other than utterly like the band playing it. In short: it's good, but not quite good enough. Isn't Anything was very clearly the band finding its songwriting and production style and sort of hitting it hard. Its minimal, brash and prickly. Not quite industrial, not quite pop. The genre hadn't really arrived, thus they were essentially experimental, even if in the somewhat safe confines of rock. Isn't Anything is the sound of a band very aggressively finding its feet. When they discovered that they could do much more they did and nearly got lost in the process, Loveless was Kevin Sheilds painting a carefully considered masterpiece. It very nearly became his Magnificent Ambersons. But Loveless is a record to study, to fall in love with; you bathe in Loveless. If it leaves you cold, it's going to, but it works not merely as music, but a document of music itself and the possibilities afforded a musician unafraid to try everything. If rock music weren't still the house around Shields, he might be living under a bridge in Dublin, or collaborating with Yoko Ono doing residencies at whatever MOMA's within a stone's throw. It's a boldly anarchic record, finding melody in entire cities of sound. No one else has had the balls to do anything like it. 

In the bands evolution, M B V makes perfect sense. They first discovered their sound, then perfected it, and here they take it to a number of different extremes. In other terms: they mixed the paint, they painted a masterpiece, and now they're coloring outside the lines. I don't think anyone expected the band to make Loveless 2; those who did are the kind of people who thought Chinese Democracy was going to outdo Use Your Illusion. Their sound here is perfectly fine, expected, even, but only if they'd released it on time.  If M B V is a dissapointment it's because it's only the Carnival of Light of My Bloody Valentine's development and not the record we all wished they'd been perfecting since 1993. The songcraft is most assuredly Shields, but without the sense of discovery, of a dystopian soundscape pouring out of headphones or car speakers, it sounds far too ordinary. Too tame. Loveless doesn't seem real, like it should have been given to us. M B V only makes sense. By the time "new you" arrives, and it's just a song, even a very catchy and pretty one, it feels like a massive comedown. Shields can build worlds so why should he be content building houses? The beats and riffs he chooses to punish in the album's last act are exciting and interesting, but not nuanced enough to warrant this much attention from him. It feels like there ought to be more. More layers, more harmony, more texture. But frankly we didn't have this record for twenty years, so what's a few rough spots. 

Which brings me to this: My Bloody Valentine are impervious to criticism. I'm as interested in music criticism as I am in music itself these days (or more, I'm as infuriated and beguiled by modern music criticism as I am entertained or captivated by most new albums) and what I'm anticipating now is the reaction. What will this mean to the band that no longer means anything tangible. They're legends now. Everyone in the world is preparing a review for this record, probably as I write this one. You'll hear people talking, they'll post it on facebook or twitter or tumblr. And that's just the point: Everyone's going to think they've discovered its meaning, or they'll feign indifference, or they'll simply say it's good or bad. But none of that will matter. A bad review won't diminish concert attendance because people want to say they were there. They saw My Bloody Valentine in concert. It's a right of passage. I would have paid Coachella prices to see Rage Against The Machine by themselves back in 2007; that LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Interpol, Rufus Wainwright and The Good, The Bad & The Queen were also playing was (admittedly insane, untouchable, unforgettable, some of the best concerts I've ever seen) silver lining next to that badge of honor. I forsee the album getting B+'s and A-'s by most reasonable, read music publications and I also know it won't make an iota of fucking difference. I want to see what this album, which is really more of an event, like a Tarantino film or a Pynchon novel. It will be consumed. So what I want to know was: how does a reputation like that affect the making of an album like this. 

Blur keep trying and failing to make new music, I think largely in part because they don't think see the point in adding to their stellar back catalog. How do you sound like yourself when you've all changed so much? My Bloody Valentine haven't exactly been busy since Loveless, so that begs the question: how organic was M B V? Was this the album that they felt they had to make? Or was this just what happened when they picked up their guitars again? Had Shields been saving all these ideas in a diary somewhere, waiting for the day he got his band in the same room again? It seems doubtful, doesn't it? But then, who's to say? We've been sitting around building them up every new week that an album hasn't come out. All they had to do was release an album, any album and it would become part of their legend. It had an entry on their wikipedia page before anyone had any real proof that the album existed. Myth moves at the speed of thought today. But were they aware of that? My Bloody Valentine were in the museum of modern art in our collective unconscious for so long that it might be too late to change the plaque beneath them reading "indefinite hiatus. Third album forthcoming but don't hold your fucking breath." Will this album or anything they ever do, bring them to life again? Do they even want it to? Can't give bad notices to something that, to shamelessly quote the band themselves, isn't anything at all. You can't converse with legends. To me, it still feels like they're more an idea or a memory than a band again. I suspect I'll always somewhere still be used to the idea that they're gone and beyond reproach or comment. They're still a myth. Nevermind that they're four people who just made an album. They've ensured their legacy, but they'll always be encased in amber because of it, even if they deafen people after today. And I suspect they'll always be someone willing to go deaf for My Bloody Valentine.