AFI Movie of the Year Citations

One of the highlights of the annual awards pageant, for me, are the nicely-worded tributes written for the American Film Institute’s 10 Movies of the Year. The citations read yesterday are no exception.

AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR

ARGO cracks the code between fiction and truth – and uses both to deliver a rousing Hollywood adventure through a harrowing time in history. Director Ben Affleck drops audiences deep inside the Iran hostage crisis, and then skillfully leads an escape that marshals the forces of American film – including a masterful screenplay by Chris Terrio and an all-star cast that inspires laughs and cheers amidst heart-pounding suspense. Ultimately, the film is a wry meditation on the movies and the high stakes of storytelling in politics and beyond. And to those who doubt this is one of the best films of the year, “ARGO fuck yourself.”

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD roars with the strength of a people who wish to live and die in a world a wonder with adversity. At the center of this poetic storm stands Hushpuppy, a tiny heroine who towers among the toughest of the year. Hers is a triumphant tale of the mind and of the power of fantasy and folklore to carry us forward. In Hushpuppy, director Benh Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar capture the spirit of an unsung America with a commanding reminder from a small but strong voice – that all of us are “a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.”

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES leaves the superhero genre forever changed – broken down and reborn with a maturity to match its heroic purpose. With this bruising conclusion to his Batman trilogy, writer/director Christopher Nolan elevates and enshrines one of pop culture’s most iconic modern mythologies and, in the process, lifts the blockbuster spectacle to the level of art. Complex and unrelenting, the result is a towering achievement – a testament to the ambition of the film’s creative ensemble, which not only delivers an adventure worthy of its hero, but also captures the Zeitgeist of a world that needs Batman now more than ever.

DJANGO UNCHAINED explodes America’s shameful past in a brilliant, bloody reckoning that is part Sergio Leone, part Mel Brooks – and all Quentin Tarantino. Hearts racing and jaws agape, movie lovers will revel in the cathartic effects of this modern master at play. With his work underscored by the year’s most eclectic soundtrack, Tarantino rounds up a posse of powerhouse performers, including Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington, who together light the fuse of this dynamite film – one that ignites the screen with equal parts originality and “Oh no, they didn’t!”

LES MISÉRABLES dreams a dream of epic ambition and fully realizes its place in the grand and glorious tradition of great American film musicals. Director Tom Hooper invites audiences to soar above the boards as he enlists a stellar creative ensemble to carry the flag of Victor Hugo’s timeless tale into a new generation. Inhabiting the sweeping grandeur that only cinema allows, profoundly intimate performances from Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe embody the spirit of revolution and imbue LES MISÉRABLES with its beating heart.

LIFE OF PI is an immersion into the world of imagination – one so powerful, so deeply transformational, that it stands as a cinematic monument to the power of storytelling. Navigating Yann Martel’s beloved novel with David Magee’s script as guiding star, director Ang Lee proves himself a virtuoso of the versatile in a world so rich and so real that only the miracle of 3D in the hands of a master could put it all into proper perspective. At journey’s end, audiences are left to ponder an adventure so life-affirming and a reality so true that they would never dare doubt Dorothy ever left Kansas.

LINCOLN belongs to the ages. Steven Spielberg’s landmark motion picture enriches the American canon – freeing the Great Emancipator from his tintype image and exploring the wit and wisdom that made the man. Daniel Day-Lewis is instantly iconic, demonstrating an immersion into character that is as honest as it is immediate. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and an extraordinary acting ensemble breathe humanity into history, while Tony Kushner’s brilliant screenplay illustrates the power of words to dazzle above the most special of effects. Film legends D.W. Griffith and John Ford each depicted their versions of America’s sixteenth president, and Spielberg’s now stands beside them with this telling for our time – and for all time.

MOONRISE KINGDOM exquisitely imagines the bubble of a 1965 New England summer, meticulously capturing a delicate world where operatic emotion underscores an orphan’s journey. Director and co-writer Wes Anderson earns his merit badge as an American original, a storyteller whose loyal community of artists exposes the deepest of feelings with the most deadpan of deliveries. This complexity, combined with a needlepoint detail that has become signature, ensures MOONRISE KINGDOM a seat in the glow of the campfire – where great movies find a way to look back as time goes by.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is crazy good – a jagged romance that finds a path ever upward from the darkest, loneliest corners of one’s mind. Lighting the way with equal parts wit and pathos, writer/director David O. Russell choreographs a dysfunctional dance between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, both with extraordinary star turns that capture the danger and the delicacy of devotion. This fractured love story is also a reflection on the fortitude of the American family, with unbreakable bonds married by the performances of Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, who again proves his place in the pantheon.

ZERO DARK THIRTY is a fierce meditation on modern warfare – a film that keeps audiences breathless, even though the ending is history. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal chronicle the world’s greatest manhunt with the electric intensity of a glance, the politics of personality and the very real question of what it takes to find the truth. Jessica Chastain drives the story forward with an enormity of purpose, again demonstrating her place among today’s brightest talents. ZERO DARK THIRTY is a definitive tale of our times, where the battle waged is one of intellect over arms.

AFI Lists Top Ten Films of 2012

37 Comments

  1. Aragorn
    January 12, 2013

    Thanks Ryan,

    all is good but somehow my favorite citation is Lincoln’s. Yes, it belongs to ages.

  2. January 12, 2013

    Those tributes are nicely worded indeed.

  3. Aragorn
    January 12, 2013

    I wonder how many iterations does it take to finish those citations?

  4. January 12, 2013

    Pete Hammond quotes the closing statement from director Norman Jewison:

    “I sat here today and I watched these extraordinary pieces of work, extraordinary stories and I can tell you with some degree of authority that you people are crazy. That’s okay because we need you to entertain us yes, but also to give us some little insight into ourselves, our nation, our society and in the end to remind us that we’re all in this together. And to come together once a year without being called a winner or a loser is a gift and for that I really thank the American Film Institute… In the weeks to come you are all going to walk a mile of red carpet and you’ll shrug when somebody asks you ‘who really votes for the Golden Globe?’ and some of you will win something and some of you will not, but believe me none of that really matters. Just remember the stories and remember this moment when we come here together to remember how lucky we are to be in this crazy, mixed up family and to cheer one another and support one another as you have done today.”

  5. Unlikely hood
    January 12, 2013

    Yup. These are good. And I agree with every word about zero dark thirty.

  6. Jack Traven II
    January 12, 2013

    That’s a nice one, Ryan.

  7. allan
    January 12, 2013

    I’d love to see the citation for Amour.

  8. Nic Cage
    January 12, 2013

    The description under TDKR seems like it belongs with another movie.

    It really was not a great movie. How did this film, in particular, change the superhero genre forever? Oh, maybe the trilogy as a whole, or maybe it was just BB and TDK, but certainly not this one.

  9. January 12, 2013

    I love Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan so much. *sobs*

  10. JP
    January 12, 2013

    The Dark Knight not only changed the superhero film genre but changed another very traditional franchise: James Bond.

  11. Jack Traven II
    January 12, 2013

    I thought the new Bond was influenced by the Bourne series.

  12. Gregoire
    January 12, 2013

    Most of those are entirely over the top, very barely resembling the film it purports to discuss.

    “an immersion into the world of imagination – one so powerful, so deeply transformational, that it stands as a cinematic monument to the power of storytelling.” Really? The Life of Pi?

  13. January 12, 2013

    I’d have to disagree with AFI on their Dark Knight Rises blurb. If there’s any Batman movie that changed the superhero genre forever, its The Dark Knight, not TDKR. Rises was pretty much just a bigger, longer version of what Nolan already did with The Dark Knight. Not to say that’s a bad thing, just nothing new under the sun.

    Otherwise, great pieces!

  14. January 12, 2013

    “And to those who doubt this is one of the best films of the year, “ARGO fuck yourself.””

    And the rest is silence…

  15. Chris138
    January 12, 2013

    I think all three of Nolan’s Batman films changed the superhero genre and how it’s perceived. The sequels perhaps had a larger impact than the first one in terms of ambition, but I think all three are worthy of praise in different ways.

  16. Mel
    January 12, 2013

    The blurb for Beasts made me weep. I finally saw it last night. Beautiful. This film did to me what Hugo did last year. So completely moving.

  17. g
    January 12, 2013

    These were all wonderful! Thanks for posting, I can’t believe the globes are tomorrow! Woohoo!

  18. The Dude
    January 12, 2013

    “I thought the new Bond was influenced by the Bourne series.”

    No, Mendes admitted it was influenced by the Dark Knight.

    And, come on:

    Skyfall- Wayne Mansion
    Kincaid- Alfred
    Silva- The Joker with some Ra’s Al Aghul thrown in.

  19. Nick
    January 12, 2013

    I can’t wait until I no longer have to hear “Argo Fuck Yourself” over and over again in conjunction with the movie. Talk about running a not-that-funny-in-the-first-place joke into the ground.

  20. moviewatcher
    January 13, 2013

    “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES leaves the superhero genre forever changed”?

    Nope, sorry. The Dark Knight did that. What an amazing film that is…

    TDKR’s last 20 minutes take it out of consideration for a “genre-changing” film.

  21. Jack Traven II
    January 13, 2013

    My bad, The Dude. I misinterpreted it. Therefore I was referring to the new type of Bond in general that started off with Casino Royale.

    And thanks for opening my eyes by enumerating the similarities. While having watched it, it never occurred to me that it might have been influenced by TDK. Not even afterwards. Since I didn’t know about Mendes’s intentions.

    But now that I know it, I think I might like Skyfall even less. Next time I see it. It’s not just that I still can’t stand Daniel Craig’s emotionless, mask-like facial expression, there’s this too now. Well, who knows?

    Anyways. In case there will be another uninspired …, well, that’s not true anymore (as I now know ;-)), … but unoriginal (as it still was, IMHO) Bond film I will hopefully and finally be able to bring myself to not seeing it. And as matters now stand I feel pretty optimistic about it. :-)

  22. Christophe
    January 13, 2013

    you should see the pictures, there’s one of them with Tom Hooper pretending to ignore Benh Zeitlin even though he’s standing right next to him. I wonder how the meeting between Benh Z. and Ben A. went down…

  23. steve50
    January 13, 2013

    Are the pics on the AFI site, Christophe?

    Actually, I think Affleck would have been very gracious – even enthusiastic and congratulatory- to Zeitlin. He doesn’t strike me as someone who would let his own disappointment spill over to the public or, especially, another nominee, unlike that embarassing fit that Tarantino threw during that interview he did.

  24. Christophe
    January 13, 2013

    all the links I’m posting don’t work! am i blocked or what?

  25. Christophe
    January 13, 2013

    just search “afi awards 2013″ in google images and there’s plenty to look at especially the infamous hooper-ignoring-zeitlin one but there’s another one with fake smiles.

  26. Christophe
    January 13, 2013

    here’s Anne Hathaway leaving the ceremony with two certificates, one for Les Mis and one for TDKR.

    http://www.gettyimages.fr/detail/photo-d%27actualit%c3%a9/actress-anne-hathaway-attends-the-13th-annual-afi-photo-dactualit%c3%a9/159320999

    I wonder where celebrities/industry types stock all that junk… I mean it’s fine to keep one or two oscars and a palme d’or on your mantelpiece but what do you with the dozens of less significant awards received every year??

  27. January 13, 2013

    To make things clear about Nolan’s trilogy.

    1) Batman Begins was fresh and dark, but hardly realistic. Its Gotham was clearly inspired by Lang’s Metropolis, and the last third featured things and characters placed too conveniently together by chance. **** out of 5.

    2) The Dark Knight is a damn masterpiece. But it isn’t a superhero film, it’s a noir with cool gadgets and a couple of colourful villains. ***** out of 5.

    3) The Dark Knight Rises is a well shot, well acted mess and pure fascist propaganda that vilifies the anti-system movement, specially the Occupy Wall Street. It’s a vile, stupid film full of cheats and plotholes. Entertaining, yes. Unvoluntary funny, and a perfect “drinking game” party subject. ** out of 5. Embarrassing for anyone with a conscience and criteria, and who can read manipulation, this one is even puerile. I am still torn, the more I think about it, if its Oscar campaign was laughable or downright outrageous. SO HAPPY Oscar didn’t bite this rotten apple. Skyfall or The Avengers were way more able options to put a franchise blockbuster up to BP.

  28. Dan
    January 13, 2013

    Wow Jesus! Between you and Nic Cage assigning political meaning to Nolan’s film, I truly fear for humanity. TDKR is no more anti system than it is anti capitalism. When both the far right and the far left have praised and condemned the film in equal measure you know Nolan did his work properly. A great conclusion that will only grow in appreciation as time passes when people recognize Nolan made the film he wanted, and not the film fanboys thought he should have made.

  29. Pat
    January 13, 2013

    Jesus thought Skyfall and TheAvengers was more deserving than TDKR? The former aped Nolan’s films to the point of becoming pastiche, and the latter was infinitely more ‘puerile’ and silly as just another CGI monstrosity that Hollywood churns out. The best of the trilogy? No, but still an excellent film that gets better with subsequent viewings.

  30. Jerry Grant
    January 13, 2013

    These are all superb.

    Except “Dark Knight Rises”… rather meaningless movie that happens to have a heavy-pounding score, a talented cast, and one or two original and inspired scenes.

  31. January 13, 2013

    Dan, TDKR, ANTISYSTEM?

    Pot is illegal, man (unless Dan comes from Danielle). Let me check out: the cops are the good guys, the people revolting are the bad guys, the people’s tribunal make a joke out of justice, Batman save the millionaire’s and corporation’s asses, while he’s a millionaire (with a conscience, however he behaves as a psycho) himself. Let’s not bring into consideration Nietzsche to the analysis – even thought is a given once we’re talking about “supermen” – and how Batman is better than all of us all. Remember folks, anarchy is BAD, and those people claiming for a change are the ones about to bring chaos and death to our society (not our drones, which are innocent as angels). But we could focus in the horrid screenplay in which Bruce Wayne – who’s better than anyone – not only has his spine broken, but switches continents with ease even without money or passport. Should I continue with Selina Kyle or why it took so many years for Bane and Ms. Al Ghul to have their revenge for the years of the early times of the Caped Crusader?

    Mmmmm… Well done crap is still crap, you know.

  32. January 13, 2013

    If we’re going to compare with Avengers, let’s focus on how the US agencies are portrayed on this one, having our heroes manipulated to serve the country, even if using a (not so sure it even happened, there are signs that Coulson isn’t actually dead, as the absence of the compulsory funeral scene) key character death to make ‘em a group and serve whatever Fury demands. But Avengers never tries to be any other thing than solid entertainment, which is perfect to me. TDKR is playing another game, and we saw in the Awards Season how differently both films have been conceived. WB went full steam to have Batman nom’d at Best Picture (and miserably failed at all cathegories) while Disney/Marvel thought b.o. and dvd-bluray sales and rentals, and the reviews where enough reward, themselves. Surprise Oscar nom – and likely win – for Visual FX.

    Skyfall is a great movie, Bond or not. You could rename the characters and would be equally brilliant. The triangle M – Silva – Bond is extremely well conceived and really well shot by Mendes – which isn’t one of my fave directors, by the way.

  33. January 13, 2013

    … and one last thing for those calling The Avengers “a mess”. Bear in mind that movie wasn’t made for film lovers, but for those who love those characters from the comic book (at last someone could transfer a “splash page” to the screen, which is no minor achievement). As Frank ‘N Furter said “I didn’t make him for YOU! I did make him for me!”.

  34. Dan
    January 13, 2013

    Sorry Jesus, you are wrong.
    1. People revolting are the prisoners from the prison break, not average Joe trapped in the city. These people disregard any sense of law and order, causing a drumhead court to lay down the ‘law’ in a swift bitter fashion.
    2. BW/Batman still worked in concert with uncurrupt police (Gordon, Blake, etc) and justice department (Dawes and Dent). Not once did he act as judge, jury, and executioner. He may have saved millionaires like Fox, but this was more the fact that he was a person being assaulted by the League of Shadows. He was doing this for all persons in the city regardless of monetary wealth.
    3. States repeatedly that ‘Batman’ is meant to act as symbol to inspire the city to stand against corruption. Note the quotation from A Tale of Two Cities, “I see a beautiful city city rising from the abyss.” Ideas exemplified by people inspire societal change, not individuals.
    4. Change isn’t bad, but Bane isn’t promoting social change for th better. His real motives are the destruction of the city as per his orginazation’s MO. Under the guise of revolution, he has the city descend into a state of nature sequel mode where everyone tears each other apart.
    5. BW doesn’t have his spin broken, but his vertebrae displaced (big difference). He is also in The Pit healing for over 4 months, not 4 days as some people seem to believe. It is alo assumed that he gets out 23 days prior to the bomb going off (as articulated by Fox in the scene taking place in Gotham prior to his escape). Lastly, his return to Gotham is hardly a stretch. BB showed he lived without a passport and money for 7 years. TDK showed him enter and exit Hong Kong undetected, and was able to modify all of the tech Fox gave him.
    6. Bane and Talia’s plan involved a collapse of Gotham’s very social structure, and the eventual destruction by an energy project funded by BW. Having all this happen takes planning and implementation-Years not days. Consider the passage of time between Bin Ladin’s two assaults on NY.
    7.Crap-No.

  35. Dan
    January 13, 2013

    The Avengers will win nothing. Life of Pi had VFX in the bag following the first trailer. As for the moving death of Coulson-BS. I’ve only seen Iron Man and Thor, but had no idea he’d been in the other films, as did the majority of the movie going public.

    Skyfall is good entertainment, nothing more. We are told and shown Bond is out of season, but has no problem coming out ahead of all his opponents in every scene save the pretitle sequence. He has no journey in the film. Silva just wants revenge and M is forced into retirement. There is nothing done to really connect those two characters beyond one scene. When he escapes and two of his henchmen dressed as police give him a uniform, showing it was all part of the plan, I wanted to walk out. That is beyond absurd.

  36. Pat
    January 13, 2013

    Other than the obvious typos, I agree with Dan. Also, Jesus, what was the relationship Silva had with Bond? I liked it much better in Goldeneye, or with the comparison between Bruce and Bane in TDKR. Also consider the following why TDKR’s Oscar Campaign fell apart. One: Auroa made any talk of the film following opening weekend seem in poor taste. The following week, the Olympics started. Two: Argo opened and WB focused their attention on that film as its awards prospects where much more obvious. Three: The Hobbit opening in December. As the big budget WBs film opening at the end of December, it was much fresher in people’s minds for tech categories. Four: Skyfall. Being a above average Bond film in the series’ 50th anniversary, Bondmania swept the Academy. Five: The vast majority of ‘Oscar movies’ not failing to deliver. It is much easier to award a film about Lincoln, the Iranian Hostage Situation, slavery, a famous musical, etc than a movie where the protagonist dresses like a bat.

  37. January 13, 2013

    Mmmm…

    1) How many prisoners, 3,000? 5,000, top? Gotham is shown to be a city of the size of NY and the “imprisoned” area by Bane is Manhattan – literally. 2 million people trapped by only 5,000 “bad guys”? Or did more people revolt? Didn’t Bane actually persuade to revolt against the system? Or did I watch a different film than yours?

    2) The film stablishes that Batman cooperates with the “good guys”. With government, with the system. You’re underlining my view.

    3) What changes in the film? Only the perception of Batman as a “bad guy” and his renaissance – through his sacrifice – as an hero. The system perpetuates, thanks to him.

    4) Again, you underline my point. They take the bad guy, pervert the people protesting and taking advantage of the situation. The film is a cautionary tale, not to embrace the fight to the stablishment. It is not even subliminal.

    5) Too many “ifs” and too much luck, don’t you think? We have, again, the theme of the “superman” who is, basically, better than the rest of us. Even thought he’s a psycho who never overcame his tragedy at childhood. His strenght comes from his hate, his need of a revenge that will never be fully satisfied. And who is not only a millionaire, but also plays vigilante, playing above the law, as he “knows better”. He’s not ridden by a sense of justice – as his Marvel improved version, Daredevil – but by pure anger. The film is never critic with the main character, even when it looks it is, it is just a cheat to underline later that he’s been right “all along”. I miss a character like the Joker, who truly puts all the Batman mithology and beliefs to test. All the Tibet experience and the time lapsed (plus travel) is asking for too much suspension of disbelief (why did Bane keep the cops alive? I mean, LOL!) and little loghic.

    6) Calling the Bin Laden factor to argument anything is calling a bad argument, with me. Wrong guy. I am not going to troll this discussing about what actually happened in 93 and 01 and 12, or London 07 and Madrid 04. Let’s just say I don’t believe in fairy tales and stop right there. And how stupid it is from Batman/Wayne to put that f*cking machine right under Gotham? He could have done it miles away, also under the river. That’s another cheat, another bad McGuffin by Nolan Bros. In what I would concede you on the Ben Laden comparison, is, that shit, it looks like almost the same screenplay! Did the Nolans help the “terrorists”?

    7) Crap indeed. Entertaining at some points, Hathaway is really good, nice technicals, solid actors and pretty much that’s it. Those are the only redeeming qualities of the film itself. ** out of *****

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