Welcome to the First Annual Watched In Theater Awards (WIT)!
As Hollywood races from The Golden Globes to The Oscars, I’ve decided to create my own awards for the movies I’ve actually seen in the theater. While there are many high-quality films nominated for awards, and have one awards, I have seen a relative few. This is mostly due to my lack of spare time. While I enjoy films that push envelopes and pose deep questions about humanity and the human existence, I’d rather spend the few spare hours I have disappearing into a fun, escapist void. At the same time, the film has to appear via trailers and reviews to tell a good story, portray strong characters, and have enough substance to make me think.
The Judging Criteria:
- I’ve actually seen the film in a movie theater
Following the theory of a good friend of mine, “Would I buy it for my home collection?” To add to this, would I buy it, and then watch it enough times to memorize most of the film, or rewind to watch a certain scene over, and over again?
DISCLAIMER If we were to change the theory to another friends, which is: “Did it make me think when I left,?” or another, “Did it ignite my imagination?” this would be a very different list.
First Round: Movies I’ve seen in 2012 (In no particular order)
The Hunger Games
The Dark Knight Rises
Wreck It Ralph
Snow White and the Huntsman *DISCLAIMER* – Though I saw it during 2012, it doesn’t qualify because I saw it on DVD instead of in the theater.
Second Round: And the Nominees Are… (In other words, movies I would think about buying)
Batman! (I do have a soft spot for Batman.) As the conclusion of a great Batman trilogy, this film mostly lives up to the potential of the previous two films. While The Dark Knight is a better overall film, I left The Dark Knight Rises feeling much lighter, and having enjoyed it more. There is a sense of fun in the movie, even though it continues the saga of Dark Batman. Christian Bale, Michael Cane, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman all continue their excellent run as their characters. Anne Hathaway’s take on Selena Kyle is spot on, charming, and awesome. Any movie that features a good adaptation of Catwoman (even without the name), is worth a mention. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his run as MVP in any movie he’s in. Tom Hardy is intimidating and cool as Bane, capturing his aloof madness. Marion Cotliard’s role could be better, but she plays her part well. It’s not a perfect movie, and it has it’s flaws. However, it’s the only movie I’ve seen twice this year, and I enjoyed it both times.
Deep beneath my layers of sci-fi and fantasy nerdom is a theater/musical nerd. Les Miserables, written by Victor Hugo during in tumultuous 19th century France, is one of the greatest stories ever told. Having read the over 1,000 page novel (only once) and listened to the 10th anniversary concert far too many times, I enjoyed watching an adaptation that both remains true to the source material, while bringing a fresh perspective. It packs the whole novel and musical into 3 hours that go by quickly. While not a perfect film, it is well done, and enjoyable despite the mound of tissues I used during the theater. Although Russel Crowe and Amanda Seyfried are weak on the musicality front, they are well-matched to their characters. Many critics question the traditional epicness of this period piece, but I say there is nothing wrong with a traditionally epic period piece, especially one done this well.
Joss Whedon accomplished the impossible. He made a film epic enough, powerful enough, but with enough grounding to match the mightiness of the super-heroes fighting each other and together to save our world. Although, we should know better than to question the man who created a vampire-slaying cheerleader, and built a television show around her that successfully mixed the silly with the serious. I’m a much bigger Batman fan than Marvels/Avengers Fan, and the only movie leading up to this that I really enjoyed was Thor. However, this film had me invested in these characters I know little about. Did I mention it was really fun, too? That’s an accomplish many Big Action Movies tend to forget.
Speaking of fun… Why do I list the non-Kristen Stewart adaptation of Snow White from last year? Where Snow White and the Huntsman is serious and dark, Mirror Mirror is silly and light. Yes, much of the acting is over-done, and hammy, but it’s on purpose in this candy-colored, exquisitely costumed world. Julia Roberts purposefully overacts as the evil queen, while adding moments of gravitas that ground the movie. Nathan Lane fulfills his perpetual role of silly side-kick, as he’s done many times since voicing Timon in The Lion King. Lily Collins is sweet, innocent, and believable as a fairy-tale princess, and has chemistry with Armie Hammer. He is handsome, charming, while also fully committed to his role, even when under a spell that makes him act like a puppy. The seven dwarves are treated as individuals, and are a fun group. It closes with a musical number that is utterly ridiculous in the best way possible. Also (SPOILER ALERT), there’s a random cameo by Sean Bean. Anything is elevated once Sean Bean shows up.
Even without Adele’s theme song, this is a great movie. It combines the over-the-top spy world of older Bond films with the gritty realism of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Action packed, with grounding in Bond’s character arc and a bromance with M. Daniel Craig is a stellar Bond, and Judi Dench the best of Bond Girls. Javier Bardem is a mad, yet understandable villain. He captures just enough madness to be a Bond villain, combined with a frightening unpredictability, and wry humor. The only thing I’d change is the animated opening credits sequence. In a film this slick and cool, the sequence better fits a video game, like this.
And the Winner Is
While I love a good action movie full of explosions, tense plotting, and interesting characters, I’d rather have the light sorbet feeling I get from Mirror, Mirror. This movie falls under what I like to call “The Princess Bride” genre, and that’s a rare movie to find. These films Both Mirror, Mirror and The Princess Bride accomplish a perfect blend of humor, swashbuckling, and romance that is intelligent enough for adults and not too scary for older children. The Princess Bride is a better film (although, I may be prejudiced having grown up watching it. It’s a perfect sick day movie), but Mirror, Mirror is worth watching enough times with your eleven year old younger sister to memorize (I’m not there yet).
How about you? What movie from 2012 do you plan on buying and watching approximately 10,000 times? How do you decide what is a good movie?What movie(s) should I see from 2012 that aren’t on my list?
SIDE NOTE: I know a glaring omission on this list is The Hobbit. While I fully intended to see it soon after Christmas, I haven’t had time. At this point, I might wait until it gets into a 2nd run theater in town, and pay $3 instead of $10 for a 3.5 hour journey through Middle-Earth.