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2012: Midday Movies Looks Back On The Best And Worst

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" wins a top spot on film critic Beth Accomando's year end list.
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"Beasts of the Southern Wild" wins a top spot on film critic Beth Accomando's year end list.

Critics Evaluate The Year In Film

2012: Midday Movies Look Back On The Best And Worst
GUESTS: Anders Wright, Film Critic for San Diego CityBeat and President of the San Diego Film Critics Society Beth Accomando, KPBS Arts Reporter and Author of the blog Cinema Junkie

ACCOMANDO: Anders, you're president of the San Diego film critic society. And the organization just announced its winners. Which film came out on top? WRIGHT: The best film of the year was Argo, Ben Affleck's new thriller about the Iran hostage situation in 1979. It's wracked up a lot of critics awards. But we were the first to give it a best picture this year. ACCOMANDO: Did you ever think we'd be giving awards to Ben Affleck for act something WRIGHT: No, no. Nobody did. But he has grown up! He's made three films, and they get better and better. Argo is really unique in that it's a very mass-appeal movie, it is, and it's slick, a slick piece of Hollywood film making, but it's extraordinarily entertaining. And it's well made and written, and Ben Affleck is pretty good in it as well. ACCOMANDO: Well, I really enjoyed the film. And I thought it was very well crafted, very tense. It's a really good procedural thriller to me. And although I thought it was very well done, it's probably not a film that's going to make my top-10 list because it didn't really excite me in terms of the film being innovative. But I agree, it's a very slick product that's very appealing and easy to sit through and watch and enjoy. WRIGHT: And I don't think he was going for innovative. I think he was going for entertaining. And that's exactly what he got. And the segments with John Goodman and Allen arcin are great. ACCOMANDO: That was a very Hollywood mainstream one. One of my favorites this year was beast of the southern wild. This was a film that I felt was truly fresh and original and it really had a sense for me of cinematic poetry. Did that impress you? WRIGHT: It really did. They did an awful lot with very, very little. And it's a movie that's had a lot of people talking this year. Fiwas doing top-15, it probably would have made my list this year. And what it's about isn't completely clear. It requires the viewer to use a lot of interpretation. And I appreciate anything that does that. ACCOMANDO: And I also appreciated the fact that it is showing the point of view of a young girl, and everything is pretty much from her perspective. And there are moments when it does have this kind of magic realism quality where you don't know what's really and what's not and you're caught in this magical place. WRIGHT: It taps into all of our feelings about Louisiana and New Orleans and Katrina and the way we as a country let that part of the country slide for a long time. And it taps into all of that through the point of view of a little girl who doesn't really understand the larger implications of what's going on around her. ACCOMANDO: And he's giving us these characters that don't have much, but there's no sense of them feeling sorry for themselves or the filmmaker kind of asking for you to feel sorry familiar them. These are people who are very proud of who they are, they're used to not having physical possessions because of where they live you tend to lose a lot of things like that. And I thought it was a really nice perspective on how they live and what makes them unique. WRIGHT: I interviewed the director. He told me the screen play had considerably more detail and told you much more of what it was really about. And he discovered that the more he took out in the editing room, the less he gave you, the more the movie came together. ACCOMANDO: Another film that's been popular with critics is "Zero Dark Thirty," this is Catherine big low's story about the hunt for Bin Laden. What impressed you about this film? WRIGHT: You called othero procedural, but I would say this is a strictly procedural film. It really is a straight story of how the CIA tracked down and eventually got the Navy seals to go in and kill Osama Bin Laden. It features what I consider to be an extraordinary performance from Jessica Chastain as Maya, who basically dedicates her entire life to this search. It's very well made, it's very tight, very focused, very, very smart. There is nothing in this movie that is wasted. ACCOMANDO: Having justice done a story on the torture exhibit, I was a little troubled by the film's depiction of torture. WRIGHT: It's been a controversial film too because there are scenes of torture very early on that are being carried out by the CIA, and people are talking about that in terms of whether or not it is or is not accurate or whether or not the scenes that they show did or did not produce information that led to the killing of Bin Laden. But at the end of the day, this is a movie. It's not a historical document in the same way Lincoln is not and Argo is not. And it seems as though if you're going to have the discussion about the hunt for Bin Laden, you've got to address the torture question. ACCOMANDO: I think the one thing that's commendable about the way they depicted the torture, it makes you very uncomfortable, and there's a point at which you start thinking is this really what I want my government to be doing? Even at a time of crisis. You still think maybe that's going too far. WRIGHT: Which I think is the idea. ACCOMANDO: The rave dedeposition. That's an Indonesian film, and it just kicks ASS. Did it make it on your list? WRIGHT: It didn't. But I think it qualifies. I liked it a lot. I don't know when the last time was that we saw an Indonesian film in the inside of a movie theatre in San Diego. I don't know if that's ever happened before. ACCOMANDO: One film we both agree on is Tarantino's latest film, Django Unchained. This is a German bounty hunter played by Kristoff waltz. And a slave played by Jamie Fox. What did you like about it? WRIGHT: Well, I'm a sucker for westerns in general. And the fact that Tarantino finally made his mark with one -- it is a western but it flips the concept on its head, are the idea that your protagonist would be a former slave trying to get his wife back from a man who fights slaves to the death. Nobody has the stones to do anything like that besides Tarantino. And then honestly Christoph Waltz was amazing in Inglourious Basterds. I think he's even better in this one. And for years, it was Samuel L. Jackson was the go-to go for Tarantino. He understood the language in ways that nobody else really seemed to. He's in this as well. And he's very good. ACCOMANDO: In a very different kind of role! WRIGHT: He's very, very funny. About you what you see been waltz and Tarantino is that these are two guys who are absolutely made to work together. He is able to bring something to Tarantino's words that no one else can do. And this is another character who really is sort of inhuman in a lot of ways. But in this particular case, he has a very human side. ACCOMANDO: He catches the cadence and rhythm of Tarantino's dialogue. He's been known for writing dialogue-laden scripts. But when it's being spoken by Christoph Waltz, it is a pleasure to listen to. WRIGHT: The movie is extraordinarily violent, very bloody, disturbingly so at times, and the word that is used most commonly is the N word. But it's also very, very funny. For fans of him and his work, this is yet another notch on the gunbelt. ACCOMANDO: And I think this is a very interesting companion piece to link in, because both films are set around the time of the civil war. And they both deal with slavery, they both deal with the old south. While Lincoln takes this self-important reverential somber tone, Tarantino mixes genres that you would not expect. And I think this does in a similar way what Inglourious Basterds did. The Jewish characters take their revenge on Hitler, and in this case you get to have a slave who serves as a bounty hunter and gets to kill white people and get paid for it. WRIGHT: And at the same time the movie is all in service of his trying to get his wife back. ACCOMANDO: Are there a few more titles that you want to highlight for people? WRIGHT: We've said for years that there are no good female roles out there. And what I thought about 2012 was that this was a year where there were a lot of terrific female roles, and that's so exciting to see. Jessica Chastain I think has a legitimate shot at taking the Oscar. Melanie Lynski, very, very good good Hello, I must be going. Michelle Williams is in this tiny Canadian film called take this waltz, married to Seth Rogan who falls in love with her neighbor and has to deal with how that impacts her neighbor and what sort of fallout that might be. And it's a really wonderful little film. Those are just some of the roles that are out there, and we gave the best actress award to Michelle Williams this year. ACCOMANDO: And I want to add a couple more genre films. The avengers to me was the best comic book movie in a long time. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice. He's a total comic book geek and understands what you need to put in those films. And I've been a longtime James bond fan, and Skyfall to me was a great way of moves homage to the Bond films that came before and moving the franchise forward in a great way. WRIGHT: Yeah, I had some issues with the big picture of it, but I like the fact that once again they're exploring the myth of Bond in ways no one else has done before and telling longtime fans of the franchise here's how it actually is, not what you've been thinking. Of the this is it. This is the truth about James Bond. Of ACCOMANDO: And then the last film I want to throw in is cabin in the woods, which for any fan of horror was just a brilliant, clever, delightful piece of film making. WRIGHT: I'm not a huge fan of horror in general, but I really liked cabin in the woods, a lot. It is smart and funny and just exceedingly well-done. It is a terrific joke that keeps on going. ACCOMANDO: Are there any films that people really need to avoid at all costs? Any worst film this year for you? WRIGHT: This was the year where I actually stayed away from a bunch of the movies that I knew I was not going to like. But there was one I caught earlier in the year, the Raven, the Edgar Allen Poe as action hero. ACCOMANDO: One of the worst for me was Cloud atlas. Multiple roles that really stretched Tom Hanks' talent beyond its limit. WRIGHT: I appreciate the ambition of it, but the pop psychology they tried to feed into the 3-hour epic, I don't think it rings true.

KPBS Cinema Junkie's Beth Accomando and San Diego CityBeat's Anders Wright take a look at the films and performances from 2012.

Anders Wright's ten best came out yesterday and can be found at CityBeat. "Argo," "Django Unchained," and "Killing Them Softly" were among his top picks. Beth Accomando's year end review piece will come out on January 1 on Cinema Junkie. But at the top of her list are "Beasts of the Southern Wild," The Raid: Redemption," and "The Avengers."

Wright adds that it was a good year for actresses with Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty," Melanie Lynsky in "Hello I Must Be Going," and Michelle Williams in "Take This Waltz." Accomando cited genre films as high points with "Cabin in the Woods" and "Skyfall" deserving mention.


Accomando is also a voting member in the Broadcast Film Critics (awards to be telecast on January 10) and the Online Film Critics Society (awards to be announced on January 7).

The San Diego Film Critic award winners:

Best Picture: "Argo"

Best Director: Ben Affleck, "Argo"

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"


Best Actress: Michelle Williams, "Take This Waltz"

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"

Best Supporting Actress: Emma Watson, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

Best Original Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, "The Master"

Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, "Argo"

Best Foreign Language Film: "The Kid With a Bike"

Best Animated Film: "ParaNorman"

Best Documentary: "The Invisible War"

Best Ensemble: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, "Life of Pi"

Best Film Editing: William Goldenberg, "Argo"

Best Original Score: Jonny Greenwood, "The Master"

Best Production Design: Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch, "Cloud Atlas"

Body of Work Award: Greig Fraser, cinematographer, "Zero Dark Thirty," "Killing Them Softly" and "Snow White and the Huntsman"