Silver Linings Playbook - poster artSilver Linings Playbook should have won nothing at the Independent Spirit Awards last night. Beyond the fact that this movie just is not that good (my review) with glaring fundamental issues in tone hidden by saccharine sentimentality, this movie practically swept the ceremony despite breaking the number 2 rule of the awards. If you had not heard, Silver Linings Playbook was allowed into competition despite being over budget by $1 million. The limit is $20 million. Here is a link to the PDF of rules, note number 2 under rules and eligibility: Independent Spirit Awards Submission Information). According to Box Office Mojo, note the film’s budget: Silver Linings Playbook on Box Office Mojo. That is plain enough.

But there is no denying the power of the man behind the studio that released the film, Harvey Weinstein. The film, chock full of adorable actors precious to star gazers (the film even has every acting category covered at tonight’s Oscars®), had the momentum ever since coming out of Sundance last year. I was even intrigued back then. However, the flimsiness in the film’s tone and the derivative story of another crazy trying to adjust to the outside world never moved this viewer. In fact, the humor seemed downright appalling if not condescending. But Weinstein knows what movie to get behind to get the gold, as he’s proven for many years. Here is a terrific article in the “Wall Street Journal” exploring his campaign for SLP: Read Merissa Marr’s article “Inside the Oscar Playbooks.”

It just goes to show it’s about playing a game and not about celebrating art. As time goes on I grow more cynical about awards ceremonies. It should not surprise me that the Independent Spirit Awards would go this way, as well (heck, the things I have heard about tiny, regional film festivals and their awards should have long left me jaded). But I had thought the Independent Spirit Awards was small enough and independent enough, but lo… If you care to see the full list of winners, here they are (Note: I was not entirely disappointed, fine choices for wins include best foreign film Amour [my review], documentary the Invisible War, cinematography for Beasts of the Southern Wild and finally some recognition for the underrated Safety Not Guaranteed. But Starlet’s recognition also left me surprised, seeing as that was one of the more flimsy films of the year for this writer, as well [my review]. Just call me disenchanted by this whole thing):

Full list of winners:

BEST FEATURE

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

BEST SCREENPLAY

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST FIRST FEATURE

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Safety Not Guaranteed

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

Middle of Nowhere

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 CINEMATOGRAPHY

Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST DOCUMENTARY

The Invisible War

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

Amour

16th ANNUAL PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

Mynette Louie

19th ANNUAL SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

Adam Leon, Gimme the Loot

STELLA ARTOIS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD

Peter Nicks, The Waiting Room

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD

Starlet

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Joaquin Phoenix in 'The-Master.' Image courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.There were many great film experiences for me this year. I had more access than ever thanks to the Florida Film Critics Circle, a group of professional film writers who welcomed me into their group in 2011. We voted on many films for several categories. The results of these winners was posted and discussed a bit here.

However, as the critic motivated to celebrate the independent ethos of creators of art, my votes for best films and their components often steer toward another direction. Well-made films are not always easy to understand (though they must first be well-made: smart, writing, illuminating pacing, surprising cinematography,  an eye for miseen-scène, great soundtracks and powerful acting performances can all be found in the films listed below). If I learned one thing while completing my MA thesis on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is that the depiction of the sublime should never seem literal. I would blame Ang Lee’s Life of Pi for something like that. It is also well and good that a film have entertainment value. I won’t deny that I enjoyed Ben Affleck’s Argo, but was it something more than thrilling jingoistic entertainment? It was not. Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty does a little better, as it explores the slipperiness of the notion of truth. It’s a subtle thing, overshadowed by lots of dramatic violence, including 20 long opening minutes of torture, explosions and a climactic ambush attack whose results are no spoiler (review to come sometime next week).

Though one of the better film experiences of the year, Zero Dark Thirty still does not enter my top 10 (it may enter my top 20— that list to come in February). My top 10 are for those looking for something even deeper. It starts with a gut feeling that is hard to explain, but even if you cannot understand the film at first glance, there is something in it that makes you feel you saw something different. These films often warrant and reward repeat viewings (or a lengthy review on my part). Several of the films listed below I did see more than once this year. Here are my top 10 films of 2012, as of Dec. 31 (with links to my original reviews were appropriate. Note: all titles are links that will re-direct you to the title’s Blu-ray version on Amazon. By buying the item through that link, you support the Independent Ethos with a commission at no extra charge to you):

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1. The Master

(read my full review)

The Turin Horse - poster art

2. The Turin Horse

(read my full review)

Holy Motors - poster art. Image courtesy of Indomina Releasing

3. Holy Motors

(read my full review)

'This Is Not a Film' poster art

4. This is Not a Film

(read my full review)

Amour - poster art

5. Amour

(read my full review)

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6. Take This Waltz

(This film was not reviewed on Independent Ethos)

'In the Family' Poster art. Image courtesy of In the Family LLC

7. In the Family

(read my full review)

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8. Beasts of the Southern Wild

(This film was not reviewed on Independent Ethos)

Moonrise Kingdom - poster art

9. Moonrise Kingdom

(read my full review)

cosmopolis_poster

10. Cosmopolis

(read my full review)

Now, why “as of Dec. 31” or the “so far” in this post’s title? As noted in a similar post for 2011, based on my experience as a film critic in Miami, many great foreign films of the year do not make it to my area until the early part of the following year. Amour saw its debut in Cannes at the start of this year, but will not see official release in Miami until the end of January. Thanks to my membership in the FFCC I had a chance to see this movie way in advance. However, I still have not had the opportunity to see much praised foreign works like Miguel Gomes’ Tabu, Christian Petzold’s Barbara and Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills. I also have some catching up to do. I have yet to see Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds and Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone. So there is still time for the top 10 to shift. In order to make up for the shift and allow for some text to explain my top 10 (the under-appreciated and often superficially understood Take This Waltz especially merits some explaining). In February, I plan to do what I did for my favorite films of 2011 with this post and this post. So here’s to looking forward to what 2013 has to bring. Happy New Year, indeed!

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Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)