Carrying on the site’s annual tradition of honoring the our very favorite accomplishments in the year of cinema, I am thrilled to announce Part One in our Three-Part roll-out of the 4th Annual Film Misery Awards! As we have done in years past, Film Misery has formulated a list representative of their favorite movies, performances, and technical achievements in the year, and split our awards into categories not unlike what is seen in the Academy Awards nominations. The key difference, of course, is that the Film Misery Awards is a far more reliable harbinger of quality cinema!
The way we went about determining the awards this year is quite different, and far more elaborate; While pressure was placed solely on Alex to select the Film Misery Awards for the first three years of this site’s existence, the entire writing staff has now gotten together to dole out prizes as a collective voting body.
An explanation of our voting process, for those interested parties, is detailed below. But for now, let’s get to announcing 2012′s winners of the Film Misery Awards! Or the FMA’s, if you will… Or the Mizzies… actually, we’ve not quite nailed the nickname yet.
Anyway, up first is Part I: The Technical Categories!
Best Art Direction
Not unlike the Academy itself, the Film Misery staff was most drawn to the set designs from the year’s best period films (Beasts of the Southern Wild being the only contemporary film that made our shortlist). Each of our selections, however, was intended to capture a very explicit sense of time and space, through means both lavish (Django Unchained) or Minimalist (The Turin Horse). The Master nabbed the top spot, though, both for its intricate reconstruction of an epoch of uncertainty, and because of a trending affection among staffers for the movie that just might hint at the results of subsequent categories!
1. The Master – WINNER!!!
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
3. Moonrise Kingdom
4. The Turin Horse
5. Django Unchained
I don’t think anybody can disagree that 2012 was a fantastic movie year for cinematography buffs. It was particularly difficult narrowing down our own list to a mere five (fifteen different films were officially considered in the voting process, more than in almost any other category), leaving out other great photography from Wuthering Heights to Lincoln. Again, The Master came up on top thanks to Mihai Malaimare Jr.’s ability to visually capture both Freddie’s feelings of disconnectedness and the hypnotic grandeur of shots like the run across the cabbage fields or that perfectly framed “processing” sequence. That The Master won even with so few of our staffers being able to catch the 70mm presentation speaks even more strongly to the film’s arresting visuals.
1. The Master – WINNER!!!
2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Skyfall (TIE)
4. Moonrise Kingdom
5. The Turin Horse
Best Costume Design
For Wes Anderson in particular, costuming is as significant a tool in defining his characters’ personas and affectations as dialogue or casting. The product of Anderson’s first-time collaboration with Designer Kasia Walicka Maimone, Moonrise Kingdom‘s costumes are stitched together with a gaudily romantic yet hip and subdued flair. At the same time, each piece of fabric donned by a character becomes an emblem of their respective personalities, be it the rigidly maintained decor of a fastidious troop leader’s uniform, the bland and slovenly garb of a lonely police captain, or the sleekly hard-edged look of a matronly government bureaucrat.
1. Moonrise Kingdom – WINNER!!!
2. Django Unchained
3. The Master
4. Mirror, Mirror
5. Anna Karenina
Best Film Editing
The torn reaction among Film Misery staffers may have resulted in Ben Affleck’s CIA thriller getting the shaft in most other categories, but there was at least no doubt of Argo‘s effectiveness as an agent of tension-ratcheting. By extension, it was impossible not to recognize William Goldenberg’s ability to wrack so many nerves, from in the opening assault on the U.S. Embassy to the climactic escape at the Tehran airport. Pepper in that near-unbearable drive through the market square and that masterful script-reading sequence (here’s what Duncan has to say about it), Goldenberg deserves as much recognition for Argo‘s success as Affleck himself.
1. Argo – WINNER!!!
2. The Master
3. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Chronicle and Silver Linings Playbook (TIE)
This year, with the possible exception of the #3 film in this category, Film Misery staffers paid credence not to the makeup artists who could conceal a beautiful face with caked-on goblin masks and curly wart-hairs, but to those who showed capacity to meaningfully transform the actors’ visage without obscuring their performances or asking them to over-compensate in their craft. Granted, Lincoln‘s makeup artist Joanna Johnston was fortunate enough to have a leading man likely capable of acting through even the most oversized prosthetic, but her team is skilled enough not to compound on him that added stress. Day-Lewis’ Honest Abe succeeds, partly, in thanks to Joanna Johnston’s efforts; not in spite of them.
1. Lincoln – WINNER!!!
3. Holy Motors
4. The Dark Knight Rises
5. The Impossible
Best Original Score
Of the many reasons film nerds were excited to see The Master this fall, among the most oft-mentioned was Paul Thomas Anderson’s re-teaming with Johnny Greenwood, whose There Will Be Blood score has become as crucial a component of that film’s singularity as anything else. For his collaboration in The Master, Greenwood disappoints not one iota. Playfully dissonant and appropriately attuned to what the film’s unnerved characters are feeling, Greenwood is also mercifully unafraid to make his voice heard within the soundscape of The Master, thus demonstrating that a great score needn’t always stay nestled in the viewer’s subconscious; nay, that it might actually play a performance as demonstrably critical as any of the work filmed in front of the camera.
1. The Master – WINNER!!!
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
5. Zero Dark Thirty
Best Original Song
Unlike any of its competition, the flagship song of the highest-grossing Bond movie ever was practically impossible to avoid. And while there’s certainly been a bit of backlash at the song’s expense (it didn’t quite make everybody’s list in our first round of voting), Paul Epworth’s distinctive yet familiar melody – coupled with Adele’s powerful vocals – actually justifies its own refusal to be ignored. For many, the song “Skyfall” was the highlight of what many are already considering a high point in the whole 007 film series, and it is likely to go down with “Goldfinger” and “Live and Let Die” as one of the all-time great Bond anthems.
1. ”Skyfall,” from Skyfall – WINNER!!!
2. ”100 Black Coffins,” from Damsels in Distress and “100 Black Coffins,” from Django Unchained (TIE)
4. “Song of the Lonely Mountains,” from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5. “The Enemy,” from Wuthering Heights
While we like to think the inclusion of The Grey and Once Upon A Time in Anatolia on our shortlist speaks to our ability to appreciate what can be done with silence, the Film Misery staff couldn’t help but favor some of the most elaborate and technically assured sound work of the movies this year. For us, The Dark Knight, er, rises to the top of our list for carrying on the trilogy’s reputation as one of the best-sounding, bombastic yet seldom overblown blockbuster franchises in recent memory (Michael Bay, take notes). Even the most controversial of the movie’s aural flourishes – the sometimes-indecipherable voice of Bane – exudes an ominous and unsettling je ne sais quoi, the utter boldness of which, at least, is worth commending.
1 – The Dark Knight Rises – WINNER!!!
2 – Zero Dark Thirty
3 – Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
4 – The Grey
5 – Chronicle
Best Visual Effects
Another technical category, another top spot occupied by a summer blockbuster that split the Film Misery crew in twain! While there are perhaps countless loose threads in Ridley Scott’s divisive Alien prequel from which one might yank, you are unlikely to find many of them when considering the film’s special effects. From the gorgeous moonscape of LV-223 to the eye-popping visual spectacle that is the Prometheus spacecraft, Scott’s effects team only ever works wonders for him. Even the film’s ugliest moments – like that aborted fetus from hell – are gorgeously rendered. So stunning are the visuals, that eight months later it seems to be the only part of Prometheus many find worth recollecting.
1 – Prometheus – WINNER!!!
2 – Looper
3 – Life of Pi
4 – John Carter
5 – The Avengers
That is Part 1 of the Fourth Annual Film Misery Awards! We will be posting Part 2 (Foreign, Docs, Ensemble, etc…) on Tuesday, and Part 3 (Acting, Directing, Best Picture) on Wednesday. Please give your thoughts below!