Better titled, “Best Picture of September-December, 2012.” but of this lot and even stacked against the rest of the year, “Zero Dark Thirty” dominates. Under the guise of a jingoistic political-thriller, Bigelow’s magnum opus confronts audiences with stark images of torture and obsession, rippling long after the initial impact and raising necessary questions. It’s no longer a film just about Bin Laden. It’s a piercing character study of a woman, her country and the audience watching.
With Bigelow and Ben Affleck slighted and Wes Anderson, the most director-y director this side of Hitchcock, doomed to repeat disregard, it falls on Ang Lee to illustrate a singular style with potent results. Its CGI tigers, endless mirror seas and deep religious ponderings would mean nothing without a mature hand to guide the camera’s eye. The book was considered unfilmable and yet Ang Lee found a way to realize it and make it its own beast.
Daniel Day-Lewis will win and I won’t be disappointed to see it, but his meticulous character building finds perfect balance in Joaquin Phoenix’s walking raw nerve: the World War II vet led by impulse and libido. There are scenes with Phoenix’s face slumped, contorted, under such great pain the word “acting” flees one’s vocabulary and we’re left with something primal and immense. A landmark performance from a long-missed performer.
In an era of superlative child actors, Quvenzhané Wallis is the most surprising talent. Like Phoenix, she doesn’t act so much as stomp across the screen, demanding attention for who she is. Subtlety and nuance come across in that matter-of-factness that only a child can maintain. Is it innocence? I won’t go that far. But it’s a worldview alien to most audiences and worthy of their understanding.
Id? Meet your superego. Hoffman’s role as charismatic cult leader requires that he both tame the dragon in Phoenix’s character and expose his own duplicitous psyche. Of all the previous Oscar winners in the Supporting Actors section, no one has quite the chops to cover that range as Phillip Seymour Hoffman. One of the most diverse, insatiable artists working today.
I’m not saying this in celebration of Hathaway’s role — it’s basically Tortured Mother and Motivation for the Male Lead’s Struggle #260-something — or as repayment for the many tears shed at her weeping, singing image on screen. Hathaway’s deserving for all her work up to this point in her career and the astronomical effort needed to buy an astronomical failure like “Les Misérables.” Here’s hoping her next role has a little more respect for her character.
About time the kings of quirk receive some honor. It takes workmanship-level craft to build a world, fill it with colorful characters, and convey both through quiet, unaffected dialogue and succinct description. Anderson and Coppola succeed like they were barely even trying. The script’s ladleful of humanity helps make “Moonrise Kingdom” Wes Anderson’s most human film to date.