Quick Review: Kung Fu Panda 3 (dir. by Jennifer Yuh & Alessandro Carloni)


imagesHaving become the Dragon Warrior and the Champion of the Valley of Peace on many occasions, Po (Jack Black) has reached a point where its time for him to train others. All of this becomes complicated when Kai (J.K. Simmons), a former enemy of Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) returns to the Valley to capture the Chi of the new Dragon Warrior and anyone else that stands in his way.

The Legend of Korra geek in me hears the character of Tenzin whenever Simmons speaks in this film, only it’s Evil Tenzin vs. The Dragon Warrior. That alone was awesome.

Picking right up from Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is reunited with his birth father (Bryan Cranston), and discovers there are also other Pandas in the world. This, of course, causes a bit of tension for Po’s Goose Dad (James Hong) who raised him up until now. Can Po find a way to stop Kai? The theme of this film seems to be dealing with self discovery (as did the other films), but this focuses more on what we consider our Identity. Are we the role we take on from day to day at work or the role we have at home, or even a little of both? There’s also a nice family element to it as Po discovers what Panda life is like and deals with his Dads. Really young audiences may not exactly catch on to the theme, but there’s enough action and playful moments to keep them occupied.

On a visual level, the animation is beautiful. If you get a chance to see it in 3D, the Spirit Realm is a treat, with rocks and buildings floating around. The action scenes also move in a comic strip format, with the screen split in different ways to catch different elements. If you’re quick enough, you can catch it all. It can be jarring to anyone not used to it, I’d imagine. The Furious Five don’t have too much screen time in this one, save for Angelina Jolie’s Tigress, though it’s cute when you realize that some of the panda children in the village are played by the Jolie-Pitt kids. That was a nice discovery in the credits.

Musically, just like The Dark Knight Rises, Hans Zimmer takes what was a dual scoring effort (at least in the 2nd film) and makes it his. Though he’s assisted by Lorne Balfe (13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi), and drummer Sheila E. (Who worked with him on the Man of Steel score), it’s all Zimmer, really. Kai is given a nice theme to work with, one I can only describe as “Jazz Badass with Kung-Fu Swagger” and I enjoyed the music for the Panda village.

The only problem I had with Kung Fu Panda 3 was that it didn’t feel particularly epic in scope for me. In the first film, Tai Lung wanted to harness the power of the Dragon Scroll. In the second, the Peacock Shen brought cannons to decimate the Valley. This one was more personal and I enjoyed that, but it also felt like it could have been one of the Legends of Awesomeness episodes on Nickelodeon. It moved that quickly. Though it clocks in at an hour and 35 minutes — the same as the other films — it really whizzed by. It’s not a terrible thing at all, really, but I think I wanted something a little more.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda is a fun treat for the kids. While I didn’t go blind out of exposure to sheer awesomeness this time around, it gave me some inner peace and smiles.

Lisa’s Homestate Reviews: Texas and Bernie


I recently realized something while I was working on my autobiography.  By the time I turned 12, I had really been around!

When I was growing up, my family moved around a lot.  By the time that my mom, my sisters, and I moved back to Texas for the final time, I had lived in a total of 6 states: Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Louisiana.  Whenever I’m asked which one of those six states was my favorite, I always say — without a moment of hesitation — Texas.  Don’t get me wrong — those other five states are all wonderful but I’m a Texas girl.  It’s where I was born, it’s where the majority of my family lives, and it’s where I attended and graduated from college.  I love traveling and I love seeing the world but, in my heart, I know that I’ll always return to Texas.

Unfortunately, the rest of America rarely seems to love my homestate as much as I do.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people — who have obviously never even been here! — consider themselves to be an expert on Texas.  They talk about George W. Bush.  They talk about the Kennedy assassination.  They talk about Rick Perry and Ted Cruz.  They talk about oil.  They talk about guns.  They talk about these things as if a state as huge and populous as Texas can be defined by only a few issues or citizens.  That may be true of a tiny state like Vermont but there’s a lot more variety to Texas than any outsider will ever be able to understand.

Movies rarely get Texas right.  I’ve lost count of the number of films that have tried to portray north Texas as being a desert or having mountains.  And don’t even get me started on how terrible most actors sound when they try to imitate our accent!  Fortunately, Texas has its own set of native filmmakers, true artists who are capable of making movies that both criticize and celebrate Texas without descending to the level of elitist caricature.  One of the best of them is Richard Linklater and 2012’s Bernie is one of his best films.

Bernie tells the true story of Bernie Tiede.  In 1996, Bernie (played, quite well, by Jack Black) was perhaps the most popular citizen of Carthage, Texas.  Along with being the leader of the church choir (which is always an important position in small town Texas), Bernie was also an assistant funeral director who was known for always saying exactly the right thing to a grieving family.  As a 38 year-old bachelor, Bernie was also the center of a lot of small town gossip, especially after he became the constant companion of the town’s richest (and, some would say, meanest) woman, 81 year-old Marge Nugent (played, in the film, by Shirley MacClaine).

When Bernie announces that Marge has had a stroke and is currently away in a hospital, the people of Carthage have no reason to doubt him.  Since Marge was usually such an unpleasant person to be around, most are just fine with not having to deal with her personally.  They’re even happier when Bernie suddenly starts to donate large sums of money to his neighbors, local businesses, and the church.

However, Marge’s accountant has his doubts about Bernie’s claims.  With the help of Marge’s previously estranged family, he convinces the local police to search Marge’s house.  That’s where they discover Marge’s body in a freezer, dead as a result of being shot four times in the back with an armadillo gun.  A tearful Bernie confesses to the murder, saying that Marge was just so mean to him that he eventually snapped.

District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson (played by a hilariously slick Matthew McConaughey) charges Bernie with first degree murder but soon discovers that — despite the fact that Bernie has confessed — it might not be so easy to get a conviction.  The people of Carthage may have hated Marge but, even more importantly, they absolutely loved Bernie.  Danny Buck is forced to file a motion to move the trial to nearby San Augustine County (which is, as the film correctly points out, the squirrel-hunting capitol of the world) and the citizens of Carthage wait to see if their most beloved citizen is convicted of murder.

Bernie was one of my favorite films of 2012 but I have to admit that, when it came to write this review, I was a little worried about rewatching it.  If there’s anything that often suffers upon repeat viewing, it’s quirkiness and Bernie is nothing if not quirky.  However, I’m happy to say that Bernie was just as effective on a second viewing as it was on the first.  Jack Black’s performance remains the best of his career and, in the role of Marge, Shirley MacClaine deftly brought to life a type that should be familiar to anyone who has ever lived in a small town.  When I first saw the film, it seemed like Matthew McConaughey occasionally went a bit overboard in the role of Danny Buck Davidson but, on a second viewing, it was obvious that, as flamboyantly as McConaughey played the role, he never allowed Danny Buck to become a caricature.  The film’s unique structure — which is made up of a combination of scenes with actors and interviews with the actual citizens of Carthage — also held up surprisingly well.  Those interviews are the key to the film’s success because, otherwise, it’s doubtful that anyone would believe that this story actually happened.

But ultimately, I think the reason that Bernie worked the first time I saw it and why it continued to work when I watched it again is because Richard Linklater is from Texas.  Can you imagine if an outsider had come down here and tried to make a movie out of the story of Bernie Tiede?  It probably would have ended up being one of the most condescending movies ever made, full of actors from up north trying to sound Texan.  And that would have been a shame because Bernie is a uniquely Texan story and, as such, it’s a story that could only be properly told by someone who knows the state.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s definitely some pointed humor to be found in Bernie‘s portrayal of life in small town Texas.  The sequence where various citizens of Carthage are asked whether or not Bernie was gay (“That dog don’t hunt,” one woman says after explaining that Bernie couldn’t be gay because he led the church choir) is just one example.  But the difference between Linklater’s approach and the approach that one might expect from a non-Texan is that Linklater allows the citizens of Carthage to have their dignity even as he pokes some gentle fun at them.  As a native Texan, Linklater portrays our state — flaws and all — honestly, without any of the elitist posturing that we’ve come to expect from northern filmmakers.

And, as a result, Bernie is one of the best films ever made about both Texas and small town life.

As for the real life Bernie Tiede, he was released from prison in May of this year, under the condition that he live with Richard Linklater in Austin.

Bernie

Bernie and friends

What If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now seems like a good time to indulge in something I like to call “If Lisa Marie Had All The Power.”  Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

For those who are interested, you can check out my picks for 2010 by clicking on this sentence.

Meanwhile, my picks for last year can be seen by clicking on this sentence.

Best Picture

Best Picture

Anna Karenina

The Avengers

Bernie

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

The Master

Silver Linings Playbook

Skyfall

Ang Lee

Best Director

Drew Goddard for The Cabin In The Woods

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Richard Linklater for Bernie

Quinton Tarantino for Django Unchained

Joe Wright for Anna Karenina

master-trailer-joaquin-phoenix

Best Actor

Jack Black in Bernie

Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe.

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

michelle-williams-take-this-waltz-trailer

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

Greta Gerwig in Damsels in Distress

Kiera Knightley in Anna Karenina

Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

django-jackson

Best Supporting Actor

Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master

Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained

Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths

Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Zoe-Kazan-in-Ruby-Sparks-e1348740167495

Best Supporting Actress

Rebecca De Mornay in Mother’s Day

Dame Judi Dench in Skyfall

Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

Zoe Kazan in Ruby Sparks

Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz

cabininthewoods_4

Best Original Screenplay

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

The Master

Ruby Sparks

Take This Waltz

Bernie Bearing Gifts

Best Adapted Screenplay

Anna Karenina

Argo

Bernie

Life of Pi

Silver Linings Playbook

"BRAVE"

Best Feature-Length Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

Paranorman

Pirates!  Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph

rustboen21

Best Foreign Language Film

Barbara

Headhunters

The Raid: Redemption

A Royal Affair

Rust and Bone

Ai Weiwei never sorry film

Best Documentary Feature

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

The Central Park Five

First Position

The Queen of Versailles

2016: Obama’s America

brave_movie--300x300

Best Original Score

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Brave

The Dark Knight Rises

For Greater Glory

The Master

the-raid-redemption-trailer_450x254

Best Original Song

“For You” from Act of Valor

“Yo No Se” from Casa De Mi Padre

“The Sambola! International Dance Craze” from Damsels in Distress

“Ancora Qui” from Django Unchained

“Abraham’s Daughter” from The Hunger Games

“The Baddest Man Alive” from The Man With The Iron Fists

“Razor’s Out” from The Raid: Redemption

“Big Machine” from Safety Not Guaranteed

“Skyfall” from Skyfall

“Anything Made Out of Paper” from West of Memphis

Les Miserables 

Best Sound Editing

Chronicle

The Dark Knight Rises

End of Watch

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Les Miserables2

Best Sound Mixing

Chronicle

End of Watch

Killing Them Softly

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Anna Karenina

Best Art Direction

Anna Karenina

The Avengers

The Cabin In The Woods

Cosmopolis

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Best Cinematography

The Hobbit

Lawless

Life of Pi

Moonrise Kingdom

Skyfall

looper

Best Makeup

The Hobbit

The Hunger Games

Les Miserables

Lincoln

Looper

wesandersonmoonrisekingdom

Best Costume Design

Anna Karenina

Django Unchained

The Hunger Games

Lincoln

Moonrise Kingdom

django-unchained-2

Best Film Editing

Anna Karenina

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

The Master

Silent House

Life of Pi

Best Visual Effects

The Avengers

The Dark Knight Rises

Life of Pi

Looper

Men In Black 3

List of Films By Number of Nominations

8 Nominations — Django Unchained

7 Nominations — Anna Karenina

6 Nominations — Les Miserables, Life of Pi, The Master, Skyfall

5 Nominations — The Cabin In The Woods, Silver Linings Playbook

4 Nominations — Bernie

3 Nominations — The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, Lincoln, Take This Waltz

2 Nominations — Brave, Chronicle, Damsels in Distress, End of Watch, Moonrise Kingdom, The Raid: Redemption, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone

1 Nomination —Act of Valor, Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Argo, Barbara,  Beasts of the Southern Wild, Casa De Mi Padre, The Central Park Five, Cosmopolis, First Position, For Greater Glory, Frankenweenie, Headhunters, Killer Joe, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Looper, The Man With The Iron Fists, Men In Black 3, Mother’s Day, The Pirates! Band of Misfits , The Queen of Versailles, A Royal Affair, Safety Not Guaranteed, Seven Psychopaths, Silent House, 2016: Obama’s America, West of Memphis, Wreck-It Ralph

List of Films By Oscars Won

2 Oscars — Anna Karenina, Brave, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi

1 Oscar — Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Bernie, The Cabin In the Woods, Looper, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, The Raid: Redemption, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone, Skyfall, Take This Waltz

I Got Your Golden Globes Right Here…


We’re halfway through Oscar season and that means that it’s time for the Golden Globes to weigh in.  To be honest, I think the Golden Globes are somewhat overrated as an Oscar precursor.  For the most part, the Golden Globes usually honors the films that are on everyone’s radar and then they come up with one or two nominations that nobody was expecting.  However, those surprise nominations rarely seem to translate into anything once it comes to time to announce the Oscar nominations.

So, while Salmon Fishing In The Yemen did receive a few surprise nominations (and those nominations were deserved, by the way), I doubt that we’ll see the movie mentioned on January 10th when the Oscar nominations are announced.

From the reaction that I’ve seen on the usual awards sites,  a lot of the usual suspects are upset that Beasts of the Southern Wild was completely snubbed.  Actually, they’re not just upset.  They’re about as outraged about this as they were when The Social Network lost best picture to King’s Speech.  The way they’re carrying on, you would think that someone had just informed them that David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a thoroughly unneccessary rehash of an already brilliant film.  Seriously, the facade of Stone has fallen and tears are being shed.

Myself, I’m more annoyed that neither The Cabin In The Woods nor Anna Karenina are getting the love that they deserve.

Anyway, with all that in mind, here are the Golden Globe nominations!

BEST DRAMA
“Argo”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST DRAMA ACTOR
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Richard Gere, “Arbitrage”
John Hawkes, “The Sessions”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”

BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone”
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Helen Mirren, “Hitchcock”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea”

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL PICTURE
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
“Les Miserables”
“Moonrise Kingdom”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL ACTOR
Jack Black, “Bernie”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook,”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
Ewan McGregor, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Bill Murray, “Hyde Park on Hudson”

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL ACTRESS
Emily Blunt, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Judi Dench, “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Maggie Smith, “Quartet”
Meryl Streep, “Hope Springs”

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR 
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Django Unchained”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy”

BEST DIRECTOR
Ben Affleck, “Argo”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST SCREENPLAY
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Argo”
“Django Unchained”
“Zero Dark Thirty”
“Lincoln”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
“Anna Karenina”
“Life of Pi”
“Argo”
“Lincoln”
“Cloud Atlas”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“For You” from “Act of Valor”
Music by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban Lyrics by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban

“Not Running Anymore” from “Stand Up Guys”
Music by: Jon Bon Jovi Lyrics by: Jon Bon Jovi

“Safe and Sound” from “The Hunger Games”
Music by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett Lyrics by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett

“Skyfall” form “Skyfall”
Music by: Adele, Paul Epworth Lyrics by: Adele, Paul Epworth

“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables”
Music by: Claude-Michel Schonberg Lyrics by: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg

BEST ANIMATED FILM 
“Brave”
“Frankenweenie”
“Wreck-it Ralph”
“Rise of the Guardians”
“Hotel Transylvania”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM 
“The Intouchables”
“Amour”
“A Royal Affair”
“Rust and Bone”
“Kon-Tiki”

And here are The Independent Spirit Nominations


The Gotham Awards aren’t the only awards regularly given to films that the majority of filmgoers will never get to see.  The Independent Spirit Nominations are also dedicated to recognizing the best of independent film and they tend to get a bit more attention than the Gothams.  With the early Oscar talk being dominated by mainstream studio films like Argo, Lincoln and Les Miserables, indie films like Bernie and Moonrise Kingdom are going to need all of the help that they can get.

BEST PICTURE

Bernie

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Keep The Lights On

Moonrise Kingdom

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR

Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom

Julia Loktev, The Loneliest Planet

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SCREENPLAY

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks

Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Fill the Void

Gimme the Loot

Safety Not Guaranteed

Sound of My Voice

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void

Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed

Christopher Ford, Robot & Frank

Rashida Jones & Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever

Jonathan Lisecki, Gayby

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – (for features under $500,000)

Breakfast with Curtis

Middle of Nowhere

Mosquita y Mari

Starlet

The Color Wheel

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Linda Cardellini, Return

Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed

BEST MALE LEAD

Jack Black, Bernie

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

John Hawkes, The Sessions

Thure Lindhardt, Keep the Lights On

Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe

Wendell Pierce, Four

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister

Ann Dowd, Compliance

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice

Lorraine Toussaint, Middle of Nowhere

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike

David Oyelowo, Middle of Nowhere

Michael Péna, End of Watch

Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths

Bruce Willis, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Yoni Brook, Valley of Saints

Lol Crawley, Here

Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Roman Vasyanov, End of Watch

Robert Yeoman, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST DOCUMENTARY

How to Survive a Plague

Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present

The Central Park Five

The Invisible War

The Waiting Room

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

Amour (France)

Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Turkey)

Rust And Bone (France/Belgium)

Sister (Switzerland)

War Witch (Democratic Republic of Congo)

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

Nobody Walks, Alicia Van Couvering

Prince Avalanche, Derrick Tseng

Stones in the Sun, Mynette Louie

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

Pincus, director David Fenster

Gimme the Loot, director Adam Leon

Electrick Children, director Rebecca Thomas

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD (given to emerging documentary filmmaker)

Leviathan, directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel

The Waiting Room, director Peter Nicks

Only the Young, directors Jason Tippet & Elizabeth Mims

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (for ensemble cast)

Starlet Director: Sean Baker Casting Director: Julia Kim Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone

It’s Time For The Annual Self-Important Post About The Year In Film So Far


For the entire past week, something has been nagging at me.  I knew that there was something that I needed to do but I couldn’t remember what it was.  Earlier today, however, I was reading the latest critical blathering about the state of cinema over at AwardsDaily.  As usual, that site’s editors were whining about the fact that the Social Network didn’t win best picture and also the fact that my generation is apparently the “WORST.  GENERATION.  EVER” and blah blah blah. 

Fortunately, however, reading that  post reminded me of what I had forgotten: We are now at the halfway mark as far as 2012 is concerned.  This is the time of year that self-important film critics (both online and elsewhere) tell their readers what type of year it’s been so far. 

So, without further ado — what type of year has 2012 been so far?

(By the way, you can also check out my thoughts from July of 2011 and July 2010 as well.)

(Also, please understand that the act of me posting this in no way guarantees that I won’t change my mind several times within the next hour.)

Best Film Of The Year (So Far): Cabin In The Woods. Compared to both 2010 and 2011, this has been a pretty slow year so far.  There really hasn’t been a Hanna or an Exit Through The Gift Shop type of film so far.  Instead, there’s been a handful of nice surprises, quite a few pleasant but somewhat forgettable films, and then quite a few films that i wish were forgettable.  Cabin In The Woods, however, was a nice little valentine to horror fans like me and it’s a film that actually gets even better with repeat viewings.  Runners up include Bernie, Damsels in Distress, Brave, The Hunger Games, Safety Not Guaranteed, Moonrise Kingdom, For Greater Glory, Jeff, Who Lives At Home, and the Avengers.

Best Male Performance Of The Year (So Far): Jack Black in Bernie.  Runners up include Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man and Jason Segal in Jeff, Who Lives At Home.

Best Female Performance of the Year (So Far): Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games.  Seriously, just try to imagine that film with someone else in the lead role.  Runners up include Susan Sarandon in Jeff, Who Lives At Home, Aubrey Plaza in Safety Not Guaranteed, and Greta Gerwig in Damsels in Distress.

Best Voice-Over Performance Of The Year (So Far): Kelly MacDonald in Brave.

Best Ending Of The Year (So Far): A 3-way tie between The Cabin In The Woods, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Jeff, Who Lives At Home.

Best Horror Film Of The Year (So Far): The Cabin In The Woods

Most Underrated Film Of The Year (So Far): The Five-Year Engagement, a sweet and funny movie that was just a tad bit too long.

Best Bad Film of the Year: Battleship.  Yes, the movie represented some of the worst impulses of big-budget filmmaking but I had a lot of fun watching it and Alexander Skarsgard was to die for in that white Navy uniform.

Worst Film Of The Year (So Far): The Wicker Tree.  I could make an argument for both Rock of Ages and The Devil Inside here but no…just no.  As the Trash Film Guru put it, “BURN THE WICKER TREE!”

Biggest Example Of A Missed Opportunity For This Year (So Far): Seeking a Friend For The End of the World.  A great performance from Steve Carrel can’t save a film that has no idea what it wants to be.

The Get Over It Already Award For The First Half of 2012: The Devil Inside, for being the most tedious example of a “found footage” horror film yet.  Coming in second: Rock of Ages, for reminding me that my parents had terrible taste in music.

The Trailer That Has Most Outgrown Its Welcome: The Perks of Being a Wall Flower.  “Be aggressive…passive aggressive…” Okay, shut up, already.

The Cameron/Fincher Bandwagon Trophy (Awarded To The Upcoming Film That, Regardless Of Quality, Will Probably Be So Violently Embraced By People Online That You’ll Be Putting Your Life In Danger If You Dare Offer Up The Slightest Amount Of Criticism): The Dark Knight Rises

The Ebert Award (Awarded to the upcoming film that will probably get  positive reviews based on the film’s political context as opposed to the film itself): Zero Dark Thirty

The Sasha Award (Awarded To The Film That I Am Predicting Will Be The Most Overrated Of The Year): Lincoln.

The Roland Emmerich/Rod Lurie Award For The Film That I’m Predicting Will Be The Worst Of 2012: Honestly, it’s really hard to imagine a worse film than The Wicker Tree (though, to be honest, Rock of Ages comes pretty close). 

Films I’m Looking Forward To Seeing In The Future (An incomplete list): On The Road, Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, Cosmopolis, Django Unchained, The Hobbit, The Great Gatsby, and especially The Master and Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina.

And there you have it.  2012 hasn’t been a great year so far but there’s still a lot of time left.

Unless, of course, the Mayans were correct.