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September Film Favorites

going to be updating this post. but js wanted to get my top ten out before 2013!*

1. Amour


See my review of Amour here

2. Zero Dark Thirty


3. The Invisible War


Check out my review of The Invisible War here

4. Wreak it Ralph


I knew immediately after watching the trailer that I had to see this. The concept was so fantastical and fresh. This is Rich Moore's first animated feature film since working on Futurama and The Simpsons and what a way to start off in the film business. I honestly never had so much fun in the theaters, BY MYSELF. A

5. Chronicle


Chronicle
 is one of those indie gems that only comes every few years or so that has the capacity to mesmerize and stun the audience by the sheer force of a simple yet powerful story. When there is a character within the film that needs a reason to shoot everything with a camera, the concept can get old but integrating a story of self-discovery and self-disintegration can be a deadly combination that needs to be recognized. Newcomer Dane DeHaan's sinister look pierces hearts as he takes full and unrelenting advantage of his newfound power. A

6. The Grey



The Grey was advertised as an intense action flick starring the unstoppable Liam Neeson. What the audience got was definitely more than they bargained for. A intelligent and emotional journey of the aftermath of a plane crash in Alaska. The survivors have to fend for themselves as wild wolves are on the hunt. The Grey was the most underrated film of 2012. And the very few people that did see it were blown away. My friend called me immediately to discuss the film's ending and the possible alternative ending. IT WAS THAT INTENSE! A

7. Jiro Dreams of Sushi



8. 21 Jump Street


9. The Master



10. Beast of Southern Wild


Unlike last year top ten list, I'm more proud to say that this year was a smashing year for film!  2012 was a tough year to beat and so, I'm even more excited, yet skeptical to see what 2013 will bring. Other runner ups were Life of Pi, Silver Lining Playbook, Anna Karenina, Skyfall, The Avengers. Sadly, I haven't seen Holy Motors, The Sessions, Cosmopolis, Killer Joe, Arbitrage, Rust and Bone, This is Not a Film, to say the least that have been inundating some 2012 lists.

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(2012, Kathryn Bigelow)

Grade: A
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Zero Dark Thirty (2012, Kathryn Bigelow)

Maya: "I'm the motherfucker that found this place."
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(2012, Christopher McQuarrie)

Grade: C+
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My fellow blogger friend, Whoopi from Whoop This, and I decided that it would be grand idea to do a Christmas vlog together. What ensues is a bunch of wackiness and just plain fun. Feel free to intrude in our rambunctious discussions or excuse them altogether. 
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(2012, Quentin Tarantino)

Grade: B
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The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly released a list of 25 films to see before Oscar night. I will be continuously updating this because I haven't seen 1/4 of these films just yet! *I will update this as I see the films.



1. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)



As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves. 


Although I do think it is another one of Spielberg's Oscar bait (ahem, War Horse), it was incredibly thorough in their screenwriting by Tony Kushner, gorgeous cinematography, and always top-notch acting by Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field. But considering the story is about the emancipation of slaves that mostly takes place in court, Spielberg can only do so much to make old white men and that kind of setting any more exciting than it is. B+ 

2. Les Miserables (Tom Hooper)


In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.

3. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)




A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.

4. Argo (Ben Affleck)


A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.


I'm progressively starting to think of Ben Affleck as a filmmaker and a good one at that. Gone Baby Gone and The Town was a superb start to his prolific film career. And although Argo is an about an incredible piece of history, the fabrication of intensity and dramatization was entirely superficial. He doesn't even care to share the perspective of the Iranians and instead it is just another propaganda of how much Middle Easterners are the "terrorist" even in their own home. B+

5. Silver Lining Playbook (David O. Russel)


After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.


This isn't exactly a holiday kind of movie but can be categorized as a dark feel good movie, if that even makes sense. There isn't any targeted demographic for this kind of film that entails in simplistic terms, a psychopath and a slut. But after I saw the trailer, I knew I had to watch it. It was so refreshing, strange, and awesome. It surely will be nominated for the Oscars in the Comedy/Musical category but as we all know the Academy loves regurgitation of old stories like Les Mis. Check out my review of Playbook here. A

6. Life of Pi (Ang Lee)

A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor ... a fearsome Bengal tiger.


We all know I'm lazy so I heard half of the book on audiotape mere weeks to the screening of Life of Pi. Visually, it quenched my thirst for a cinematically breathtaking experience. But as for the story, it lacked in many ways that couldn't fully translate the harrowing struggle of actually being shipwrecked, dehydrated, and utterly hopeless. Nonetheless, no one could've made this film with the incorporation of 3D better than Ang Lee did. And this is one experience, you will be sorry you missed. Check out my review of Pi here. B+

7. Amour (Michael Haneke)



Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.


There isn't a film I wasn't completely torn apart by Michael Haneke. He takes open ended stories to a whole another level and still makes you appreciate and contemplate about them for months after. Amour is a beautiful film that will break your heart again and again. Check out my review of Amour here. A


8. Flight (Robert Zemeckis) 



An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling.


Denzel Washington is an alcoholic, who drank before his flight, turns out there is something wrong with the plane, it is falling out of the sky, people are going to die, but Denzel the alcoholic saves everyone. Unlike Shame (2011) which chronicles addiction, Flight shows the effects of addiction and the dangerous responsibilities that come with it. Old ladies in the theatre were yelling out "Oh, come on!" angered by the fact that it is a waiting game till he hits rock bottom. And we are helplessly confronted with the letdowns time and time again. A-


9. The Impossible (Juan Antonio Bayona)



An account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.

10. Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard)





Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.

11. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)



A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.


This masterpiece by Paul Thomas Anderson is probably one of the only films this year that had the capacity to shake the living breath out of me. An unbelievably powerful film that about faith, control, imagination, and basically everything. I was hypnotized the entirely of the film by the music from Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead to the riveting performance by Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman alike. I also do hope that Amy Adams gets nominated because the mere minutes she was on screen, she was able to make an impression worthy of a squeeze ;D. Check out my review of The Master here. A

12. Moonrise Kingdom



A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.

I always like Wes Anderson's films but after a while, it seems a bit repetitive. Moonrise Kingdom was cute story about young love that was imaginative like always. But now that he has cemented his style, I want to see him one up himself in his craft. B+

13. Beasts of Southern Wild


Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.


From the beginning of 2012, film festival across the country were raving about Beast of Southern Wild. When I first saw it, I understood why it was an indie surprise especially with such great performances from Quvenzhane Wallis (Hushpuppy) and Dwight Henry. Despite it's fantasy filled ending that had a 50% chance of working, they pulled it off beautifully. 

14. Django Unchained


With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

Quentin Tarantino is so in love with the 70's grindhouse genre that he decided to base yet another film on it. It is a roller coaster of absurdity that blurs the lines of appropriateness and political correctness. There are many moments of hilarity, but unlike Inglourious Basterds (2009), Django gets lost the first half. The party doesn't really start till Leonardo DiCaprio enters the room who is ravishing even in his ultra racist limelight. Through it all, I will applaud the fact that when the film ended, the audience burst in applauds. B

15. The Sessions





A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.

16. Anna Karenina


Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.



I was oohing and awing while viewing Anna Karenina. I had no expectations and was completely blown away by the details and choreography of the whole spectacle. If there is one film to definitely see in 2012, it is Anna Karenina! See my review of Anna here B

17. Wreak-It Ralph

A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.



I know most trailers are designed to make the viewer want to watch every single film but when the Wreak-It Ralph trailer came out, I knew I had to watch it. The concept was so imaginative and interesting and boy, I was not disappointed. In a sea of snot-eating kids, I was gleefully attached to the entirety of the candy-colored and video games nostalgic film. I don't remember having so much fun in a theatre especially with kids! A

18. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.

19. The Dark Knight Rises

Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.



Of course, it was going to be an extremely arduous task to follow and one up it's predecessor, The Dark Knight (2008), but it just seemed like Christopher Nolan kind of just gave up on The Dark Knight Rises. I usually enjoy twists in some story-lines but in a comic book adaptation like this, I just felt cheated. He created one of the greatest superhero trilogy, only to ruin it with a twist ending. B+

20. Looper



In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.


I was completely blown away at Rian Johnson's third feature especially after he directed Brother's Bloom which was mediocre. I know a lot of people had intense debate over the time travel in this film considering how it was cheated and not according to the time travel guidelines. But I still thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it as it was inventive, well acted, and superbly directed. Read my review of Looper here. A


21. How to Survive a Plague



The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

22. Middle of Nowhere



When her husband is sentenced to 8 years in prison, Rudy drops out of med school in order to focus on her husband's well being while he's incarcerated - leading her on a journey of self-discovery in the process.

23. The Perks of Being a Wallflower




An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.


I was given this book to me by my then boyfriend when I was 15 years old. There were keen elements to the book that was so distinctly unique about the perspective of an outcast, it seemed almost like he gave it to me so I could understand him better in a way. It was an amazing book to read even with or without the subtext of emotional trauma. In the book, the "twist" ending was only one sentence and without any more elaboration, I surely missed it a few times. I'm so glad out of everyone, Stephen Chbosky, the writer of the book was the director of the film which translated to screen to perfection. The nostalgic feel of the 90's reminded me how Pretty in Pink was the embodiment of the 80's, and I couldn't help but smile. It's just one of those movies that I wish I saw when I was a teen. A-

24. Compliance



When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed. Based on true events.

It's not hard to be horrified at the synopsis alone and just makes you wonder how it all unfolds. Needless to say, It was one cinematic experience, I will never forget. Read my review of Compliance here. B+ 

25. Frankenweenie



Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.

It could be said that this is Tim Burton's most personal film. Although it was good, I would still have to say Wreak-It Ralph was my favorite animated film of 2012. Read my review of Frankenweenie here. A-


(Synopsis via imdb.com)
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It has already been three years since Derek Cianfrance teamed up with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling to show a harrowing portrait of first love, marriage, and heart-break in Blue Valentine (2010). Now, he reunites with Gosling for The Place Beyond the Pines. Gosling plays a professional motorcycler  that starts to rob banks in order to support his newborn son. He goes head to head with Bradley Cooper, a rookie police officer and a cat and mouse chase ensues. At first, this film seems like another crime movie but if I know anything about Cianfrance, he's going to put you through one of the most intense emotional rides ever. I'm starting to become really fond of Bradley Cooper, especially after Silver Lining Playbook. What do you guys think? It comes out March 29, 2013.
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2 Days in New York (2012, Julie Delpy)

Manu: Did anyone tell you that you look like Beyonce?
Elizabeth: Beyonce?
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Year: 2012
Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Country of Origin: France, Austria, Germany
Rating: PG-13
Time: 127 mins

When I hear about a Michael Haneke's film, thought bubbles of only evil acts, bad children, and violence comes to mind. But in his new film, Amour, he delivers a poignant and devastating portrait of love when confronted with the notion of death. An intimate look into the life of an old couple provides insight and reflection to love at an old age and life's end. The heart-wrenching performance by French veterans Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva's relationship shows delicacy and intimacy that brings a level of maturity in Haneke's work amongst his previous mentally disturbing collection.

Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trin) are a Parisian retired music teachers in their 80's living in a nicely furnished place in Paris. They are affectionate, active, and content as they live in the simplistic accompaniment of music and each other. But their lives take a tragic turning point when Anne suffers from a series of strokes, leaving the left side of her body paralyzed. Georges dedication and love for Anne is put to the ultimate test as he becomes her care taker to help her get up, walk, go to the bathroom, and eventually eat. Anne and Georges' different perspective to the now heart-breaking struggle of day to day life has isolating effects on both of them. Anne now paralyzed, cannot do the activities she once was able to do like play the piano or attend concerts. She feels the burden of being the helpless vegetable and wants to opt out. But the love for Anne is too great for Georges to let her die and he continues to provide her the relentless care she needs day in, day out.

The film mostly takes place in their lavish home, creating intimacy between the two couple while facing the challenges of growing old and nearing death. Although, the mood of the film is more emotionally powerfully than Haneke's usually mental draining, his filmic style persist with his long and static takes that let our emotions unravel with the characters. We witness Anne's excruistating pain of statically living that juxtaposes Georges' unrelenting love and commitment to Anne and her every need. The White Ribbon won the Palme d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and then his second win with Amour this year, putting him in an elite club of only seven other people who won the award twice including Francis Ford Coppola. There is no doubt in my mind that Amour won't sweep up Best Foreign Film at this year's Academy Awards. Indeed the title of the film is love but with the honest and beautiful display of love comes at a consequence of a harsh reality that cuts like a knife and leaves us to bleeding dry. A

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(2012, Peter Jackson)

Grade: B+
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