If only I was a professional film critic, I’d be able to see all the movies and DVDs before year’s end to make my Top 10 list of the year. But I’m just an everyday schmuck like you who has to wait until the movies hit the theatre or come out on DVD to see them. Thus once again a delay this late in my Top 10 list. Maybe one year I’ll finally be an official film critic. You can always hope.
Anyways without further ado, many of you have already seen my lists of my Top 10’s from 2002 to 2010 and of 2011. Now I finally have my list out of the Top 10 of 2012 and five honorable mention picks:
MY TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2012
- Zero Dark Thirty
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Beasts Of The Southern Wild
- The Life of Pi
- Les Miserables
- The Master
- Searching For Sugar Man
- Django Unchained
- Moonrise Kingdom
- The Hunger Games
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Wreck-It Ralph
Last year I gave my analysis almost five weeks after the Oscars. This year, thanks to my slacking off, I do it six and a half weeks after the golden boys were given out. My hiatus however did give me a better example on how this year’s Academy Awards contenders fared at the box office.
Once again I’d like to thank Box Office Mojo for my charts of reference. Here are this year’s charts:
Remember how last year there was only one Best Picture nominee that made over $100 million? The Help? This year had a better turn of things as six of the nine Best Picture contenders had made over $100 million. This is the most in the four years since the Academy expanded their Best Picture nominations past five. This was one year where Oscar contention attracted people to the theatres rather than the opposite last year.
Before the Academy Awards nominations were announced, there were four films that had made more than $100 million: Lincoln, Django Unchained, Argo and Les Miserables. Movies that already completed their main theater run or their run was dying down were Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Argo. Beasts was a summer release and Argo was released back in October. All the other seven nominees were released between the beginning of November and just before New Year’s Eve. Lincoln was already the highest-grossing of the Best Picture nominees as it looked like the best bet to win. There was strong box-office buzz already not just for Lincoln but Django Unchained, Les Miserables and the Life Of Pi. There was however quiet but ever growing buzz surrounding Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty but neither had amassed even $40 million by nominations day.
Between the nominations and the wins, the strong buzz of Lincoln, Django Unchained, Les Miz and Life Of Pi continued but was rather calm as all four of those pre-awards buzzers grossed in between $20-50 million. Life Of Pi managed to gross enough to become the fifth Best Picture nominee this year to pass the $100 million mark. A reboost of Argo after it had already made $110 million before the nominations helped it acquire an additional $19 million before awards night. A re-release of Beasts Of The Southern Wild which had finished its original theater run by September helped it earn an additional $1.3 million.
However the two films that gained the most between nominations morning and awards night was Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty with both grossing an additional $71 million and $86 million respectively. Partly because of the Best Actress chances of both lead actresses. Also in part because of its own factors: Playbook because of Jennifer Lawrence’s growing stardom and Zero because of its apparent fearlessness in touching on the the search for Osama. Zero had the biggest gross between nominations and awards with $86 million but it’s not to say it didn’t have a bumpy road. During that time there were smear campaigns from some of Hollywood’s most outspoken liberals about its nonpartisan depiction of war torture. Some say Zero could have grossed more than $100 million during that time had it not been for the mudslinging.
The six Best Picture nominees that grossed $100 million or more this year all did it before Oscar night with Silver Linings Playbook becoming the sixth and last passing that mark just before Oscar weekend. The Oscar results did play in a bit in terms of each film’s post-awards gross. Life Of Pi which won four Oscars has grossed an additional $10.5 million, Silver Linings Playbook continued to go strong grossing an additional $22.7 million and Best Picture winner Argo also got a post-awards boost with an additional $6 million. Yeah, winning the Oscar can give an extra boost. Unfortunately none of the other movies were able to gross even $5 million after the awards. Most noticeably affected by the post-awards grosses were Lincoln which was a heavy favorite to win Best Picture and Zero Dark Thirty because of its win of only a single technical Oscar. To think Zero missed becoming the seventh Best Picture nominee to pass the $100 million mark by just a few million.
One thing also to take notice of is the gross of Amour. Yes, that was the one Best Picture nominee I had not yet touched upon. This was one of those rare years when a foreign language film earns a Best Picture nomination. Sometimes those films would earn a huge boost at the box office because of its Oscar buzz. It worked for Il Postino, Life Is Beautiful and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It didn’t work so well for Amour as it only grossed $6.7 million, less than the $7 million made by last year’s Best Foreign Language Film winner A Separation. Nevertheless the Oscar buzz for Amour’s five nominations did help in achieving a good gross for a foreign language film. Nothing out of the ordinary.
So there you have it. The Oscars and its impact on the box office results. Last year’s Best Picture nominees were mostly the type to attract a modest sized crowd. This year’s were mostly the types to win well-sized crowds. Each year paints a different picture. Makes you wonder what picture 2013’s Best Picture nominees will paint.
As some of you have noticed over the year with my blog, I’ve been paying big attention to what has been happening at the box office in 2012. I’m sure those who’d want to see an increase in the annual box office total this year also would have paid such big attention. Anyways 2012 has ended and the movie year has ended on a positive note.
The reason for 2012’s big attention has to do with years past as I have pointed out in previous box office posts. 2009 not only set a box office record of almost $10.6 billion but became the first ever $10 billion year. The following years were not so impressive. 2010 just missed breaking the record by a measly $30 million but the bigger news was of the ticket sales being the lowest since 1996. 2011 was even more humbling by being over $400 million shy of 2009’s record and even less ticket sales than 2010.
For 2012, I was looking forward to see if it was going to break the record with both eagerness and nervousness. Eagerness because I wanted to see the new record set. Isn’t that the goal of every year to be the box office record-setter? Nervousness because if there was another dip in the box office or in ticket sales, who knows what that could mean for the future of movies? Especially in this multimedia universe?
January and February shows signs that the box office was improving. March and April showed the success to continue assuredly, if not spectacularly. May and June added to the promise of 2012 being the record breaking year. July to September showed the chance of finally breaking the record continuing well. With three months to go, 2012 was $240 million more than last year at that same time and $363 million more than the first nine months of 2009’s record-setting year.
October continued the steady success with continuation of Hotel Transylvania and the big opening of Taken 2. Success of the opening of Paranormal Activity 4 and the slow but steady building buzz of Argo also added to October’s success. October actually finished with $559.2 million: $13 million less than October 2011 and almost $60 million less than 2009. Not that much of a downer. November began with the big openings of Wreck-It Ralph and Flight. Further excitement came via the latest James Bond flick Skyfall opening at $88.3 million: the biggest opening weekend ever for a James Bond movie. However it was the opening of the final Twilight movie Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 and the steady climb of Lincoln that led November to a total gross of $1.423 billion to make it the highest-grossing November ever.
December however lacked the buzz. Excitement continued with the success of Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 but excitement was weak in the first weekend of December as the weekend of Breaking Dawn was only $17 million with Skyfall, Rise Of The Guardians, Lincoln and the Life Of Pi close behind. Further lack of excitement for an opener continued the following week as Skyfall found itself back at the top with a paltry $10.7 million. Excitement came back in the third weekend of December 2012 with the long awaited The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opening with $84 million. The Hobbit remained at the top of the box office until the end of 2012 despite challenges from opening from Jack Reacher, This Is 40, Django Unchained and Les Miserables. In the end, December 2012 ended rather weakly with a total gross of $988.5 million: the first December since 1999 to gross less than $1 billion.
Now that the year has ended, how does it all stack up for 2012? It actually stacks up quite well. 2012 had strong showings with excellent opening weekend including four opening weekends to rank in the all-time Top 10 and The Avengers setting the record with the first ever $200 million opening weekend. 2012 also produced two movies in the Top 10 list of all-time highest grossing movies with The Avengers at #3 with $623 million and The Dark Knight Rises at #7 with $448 million. The whole year brought a total record gross of $10.835 billion. Ticket sales were also the biggest in three year with a total of 1.364 billion sold.
Now that the record has been accomplished for 2012, this means a new challenge for 2013 to attempt to set a new record or sell more tickets. Will they do it? It all depends what the year has in store.
“Monthly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/monthly/
“Yearly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/
“So you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot without actually doing anything? You’ll fit right in.”
Argo is a story about an important moment in American History: The Iran Hostage Crisis. This focuses on the part that would be known as The Canadian Caper. What we get is more than just a reenactment of history.
The film starts in November of 1979. Iran has gone through its Islamic Revolution. The Shah had been dethroned. Ayatollah Khomeini was the figure of a revolution of Islam in the country and the people wanted justice. They wanted the Shah tried and hanged and were outraged he was housed in the United States, which was already denounced by Khomeini as ‘The Great Satan’. On November 4th, Iranians stormed the American embassy, captured at least 50 Americans and held them hostage. Some managed to escape and six were given refuge in the Canadian embassy under Ken Taylor.
More than ten weeks would pass and the Americans held hostage were still held captive facing an unknown fate with a kangaroo court of Iranian students. Those six in the Canadian embassy were still being sheltered with a future just as uncertain. Now it was a matter of finding them ways of getting them all out safe and sound. Some Americans thought military intervention and even a war was the thing to do but it would cause more bloodshed to the American and even could lead to the embassy being bombed. This was an embarrassment weighing heavily on the entire United States at the time. President Jimmy Carter made it clear he will not back down to terrorist demands. That left the CIA to decide what actions to pursue especially as time was running out and the fates of all were uncertain.
Enter CIA Tony Mendez. He hears about the six from people at the CIA table trying to devise rescue plans for the six. None come up as good ideas. It’s when he’s talking to his son from his failing marriage that his son’s talk of science fiction entertainment sparks an idea about a fake film production as the rescue mission. First: find the right Hollywood people for the idea. He finds it in makeup artist John Chambers and film producer Lester Siegel. Second: find the right movie title and subject line. Siegel finds it in a rejected script titled Argo. Third: give all those in refuge Canadian identities and a trial run through the local bazaar. Tony himself poses as the director. Fourth: know the ins and outs of how to make it out of Iran. One thing we’re reminded is there are guards at the airport who could arrest any American or even a citizen with an American name in their documents for possible connection to the Shah. It all sounds good but it’s not going to be easy. CIA may feel this mission is not as important as the main issues to deal with. Cooperation from the Canadian government would have to occur. President Carter giving the okay on the Swissair plane tickets to get them out would have to happen. The Hollywood people would have to be there whenever a guard questions Kevin, Tony’s guise. And this all has to be done before the Iranian people find out the secret of the hidden Americans and they eventually will. Will this mission succeed? History has already told us so. Nevertheless it’s all how it plays out in the film.
The best quality of the movie is not just its redirectioning of the events of the time but capturing the pressure of the moment. I was a child when the hostage crisis occurred and I knew that the six would all make it out alive. I knew the Shah would eventually be moved to Egypt where he’d spend his last months. I knew that all the other American hostages would be freed almost a full year after the six escaped. Nevertheless watching the movie made me forget all the facts I knew and made me wonder what will happen next? Will they succeed in their mission? Will something go wrong? It captures the sense of everything that was happening at the moment. It also captures the reasons why such an operation was necessary instead of an act of war. It captured the reasons why a war would only escalate the situation. This was not a simple political situation. This was a moment in history almost reminiscent to the French Revolution of 1789 where it was a revolution of the people consisting of a kangaroo court of trial, verdict and sentencing of even death. Anything more than the Canadian Caper would be disastrous and bloody. Anything less would be disastrous and humiliating.
Meanwhile it’s not just about a rescue mission. It’s also about people and what they mean to others. There’s Tony, a CIA agent who has the responsibility of these Americans in their hand. He’s also a father who values his time with his son even though it’s not often. There are the hostages who are fearing for their lives and nervous if this mission will fail. Especially the Lijeks, a married couple. There are all those involved in the mission–Tony, the six Americans, the film producers and the CIA–that feel the weight of this mission and know it’s can’t fail. Not with the eyes and hopes of all the USA watching. This was as much a human story as it was a thriller.
Often when a piece of history is reenacted on the big screen, it’s often a question if this moment is relevant today. I feel it is. Khomeini may have died in 1989 but anti-American sentiment is still present in many of the predominantly Muslim countries. The Iranian people have calmed down a lot since the Islamic Revolution of the late 70’s and have become somewhat more American-friendly, if imperfect. Nevertheless Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current President of Iran, is a man who idolizes Khomeini and his beliefs. We should keep in mind Ahmadinejad was 22 when the shah was overthrown and the Islamic Revolution began. Ahmadinejad has spoken narcissistically and even eccentrically about the ‘end of the American empire’ and has spoken openly about his nuclear ambitions. Most Iranians do not accept Ahmadinejad’s views but they’re either too afraid to speak or they’ve been punished criminally. This comes at a tense time as the US is trying to improve relations with the Muslim world. So I can see what happened in Argo quite possible to happen again now.
Ben Affleck did an excellent job in directing the movie. He took a smart script from Chris Terrio and directed an excellent movie out of it that was as much thought provoking as it was thrilling. He did a very good job of acting too. I liked how right during the very first scene I saw Ben play a role instead of coming across in typical Ben Affleck style. Mind you Ben was not the complete standout. Alan Arkin gave a great turn as Lester Siegel that stole the show many times. John Goodman was also a show stealer as John Chambers. Victor Garber also held his own as Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor.The script from Chris Terrio was also smart, funny at times, touching and thrilling. It also did a very good job of capturing the chaos of the times from the riots in the town to people being hanged from cranes. The inclusion of news footage added to the drama both before and after. Even hearing Jimmy carter speak during the credits added to the story and its significance in history. Other standout efforts are Rodrigo Prieto in cinematography and Alexandre Desplat in film scoring.
Argo is a movie about a piece of history that we often forget but is very relevant towards the poitical situation in the world now. Seeing it played out on screen does more than just retell history.