The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, a statewide group of professional film critics of which I am a founding member currently serving as secretary/treasurer, has announced its seventh annual list of awards for achievement in cinema, giving top honors to “Argo,” an unlikely but true story about government agents partnering with Hollywood to save American diplomats during the Iran Hostage Crisis.
“Argo” also earned two additional wins: for Ben Affleck in the best director category and Chris Terrio for best adapted screenplay.
Set during the early and unsettling weeks after the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the taking of American hostages, “Argo” tapped into the deep traditions of government intrigue found in the realistic dramas of the 1970s such as “All the President’s Men.” The film proved that it is still possible to maintain suspense even when the outcome is part of the historical record.
Like the second most-honored film in the list, Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo” proved that skillfully told stories about real people at the center of covert missions can capture imaginations just as effectively as fictional spy adventures.
“The vote went smoothly this time out, but believe me, the voting between those top two films was a nail-biter,” OFCC President George Lang said. “What I find fascinating about this process is how these votes reveal patterns in filmmaking, critical appreciation and audience enthusiasm. The events in ‘Argo’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ take place three decades apart, but they both achieve much of their storytelling success by centering on smart professionals putting their lives on the line.”
Rounding out the list of 10 best films of 2012 list are, in order, “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Django Unchained,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “The Master,” “Lincoln,” “Looper,” and “Les Miserables.”
Best actor honors went to Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln.”
His committed and cinematically nontraditional portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln delved into the thoughtful man of good humor and intellect whose political prowess resulted in the freeing of slaves in 1865.
Best actress honors went to Jessica Chastain for her captivating performance in “Zero Dark Thirty” as Maya, a CIA operative who leads the nearly decade-long mission to find Osama Bin Laden.
Anne Hathaway received votes for more than one performance this year, but earned the best supporting actress for her role as Fantine in “Les Miserables,” while Philip Seymour Hoffman won best supporting actor for his powerful and nuanced performance as new religion leader Lancaster Dodd in “The Master.”
“If there is a common denominator to these performances, it has to be deep, relatable humanity,” Lang said. “Day-Lewis made us see Lincoln as a real, flesh-and-blood man, which was a steep climb after nearly 150 years of dramatic depictions that created a solemn, almost godlike persona. With Chastain, Hoffman and Hathaway, what elevates each of them is a demonstrated ability to immerse themselves into a character. Their embodiment of their on-screen characters feels complete and utterly believable.”
While 2012 was a year of intelligent and entertaining films in all genres, it also was a year of disappointments and disasters. OFCC members selected Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy” as their “obviously worst” film of the year. Their nod to Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” a kind of “sideways sequel” to his “Alien” franchise, as the “not-so-obviously worst” film of the year suggests that, in space, no one can hear you disappoint millions of fans.
“Look, we spend so much of our lives watching bad movies that we can almost smell them coming,” Lang said. “The not-so-obviously worst film category is a different kind of animal. These are movies that had everything going for them and still could not get it together.”
Two new categories were added this year. The “best body of work” category honors actors, filmmakers, producers or technicians with multiple achievements in one year. This category was won by Joseph Gordon Levitt for his work in “Looper,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Lincoln.” Another new honor, “best guilty pleasure,” went to “21 Jump Street,” the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum reboot of the late-1980s cops-in-high-school television series that helped launch Johnny Depp’s career.
“Like so many of my OFCC colleagues, I went into ’21 Jump Street’ with zero expectations and then laughed until my face hurt,” Lang said. “I wish more comedies were as fearless as that one.”
OFCC members are Oklahoma-based movie critics who write for print, broadcast and online outlets that publish or post reviews of current film releases. Among the media outlets represented are The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Gazette, Tulsa World, Edmond Life & Leisure, This Land Press and Urban Tulsa. Also represented are television station KOKH FOX 25; radio station KJYO/Clear Channel; and the websites 411mania.com, ionOKmag.com, crosswalk.com, u-out.net and shadowcabaret.com.
Film buffs can find the complete list of awards on the OFCC website, ofccircle.org, as well as frequent postings on film-related items and links to reviews.
OFCC 2012 Film Awards:
Top 10 Films
2. “Zero Dark Thirty.”
3. “Moonrise Kingdom.”
4. “Django Unchained.”
5. “Silver Linings Playbook.”
6. “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
7. “The Master.”
10. “Les Miserables.”
Best Director: Ben Affleck, “Argo.”
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln.”
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Best Animated Film: “Wreck-It Ralph.”
Best Body of Work: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Looper,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Lincoln”)
Best Documentary: “Searching for Sugar Man.”
Best First Feature: “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Benh Zeitlin.
Best Foreign Language Film: “Amour.”
Best Guilty Pleasure: “21 Jump Street.”
Not-So-Obviously Worst Movie: “Prometheus.”
Obviously Worst Movie: “That’s My Boy.”
Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, “Argo.”
Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master.”
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables.”