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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Another Movie Post... Best Movies of 2012

My Apologies to friends and family that receive email updates from
this blog hoping to read about our experiences serving with the Peace
Corps in Botswana, and instead end of getting articles about movies!
This post is an article that a friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer
wrote together to document our choices for the best movies of 2012.

Actual posts about our experiences during our 2nd year in the Peace
Corps are in the works and we hope to share them soon. We recently
completed an enormous project putting together a Leadership Camp
called Girls Leading Our World (GLOW). It involved bring together 30
girls from different schools across the southern district of Botswana
in which we are stationed. The camp was a big success for the girls
but it involved an inordinate amount of challenges with regards to
transportation because the Botswana Government office charged with
handling transportation in or district is nothing short of broken.
But, with the hard work of our fellow volunteers and local
counterparts we were able to persevere and give the attending girls
some much needed caring attention and life skills education.

And so with that brief update (more to follow soon), here is my
co-written article about the best movies we saw from the year 2012.

- Michael

The Best Films of 2012
By Brandon Lawson and Michael Stolzle (Bots 11)

A Message from Brandon:
I have really experienced hardships putting this list together.
Watching 2 to 3 movies every night (instead of 1-2) is very taxing. I
am like Julie from "Julie and Julia" except I prefer Quentin Tarantino
over Julia Childs. 2012 has brought us amazing special effects films
like "Life of Pi" and "The Hobbit" but bare budget Indie films like
"This is not a film" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" show you that
filmmakers can still find new and exciting ways to tell stories.

A Message from Michael:
In a year that saw Spielberg directing Day-Lewis in a biopic about
Lincoln, not many films stood a chance in competing with a project
that is guaranteed at least half of the year's Oscar awards. Granted,
Lincoln is one of the best movies of the year there were many other
films that deserve to stand in the Lincoln crew's spotlight too. What
follows is a compilation of each of our top five movies of the year.
It's a broad selection of dramas and comedies that each have something
important to say and go about telling their stories in ways that
continue to push the boundaries of film forward.

OVERALL TOP 10 (in no particular order)

Brandon (Best Picture): A Peace Corps film. One person believing in
something is not enough. Only through strategy, collaboration, and
sheer force of will was Lincoln able to pass the 13th amendment. It
also does a wonderful job of humanizing a man that is more myth than
man; my favorite scene is Lincoln telling a group of staff members a
dirty joke about George Washington.

Michael (Obligatory Best Picture): A film helmed by Spielberg staring
a myriad of the best actors of our time who all seem to have a great
time relishing in their characters. It provides an intimate look into
the work of Lincoln during the final days of the Civil War and his
efforts to get the 13th Amendment passed before the war ended. It
provides a great history lesson while entertaining its audience with
amazing performances and a detailed depiction of life in the 1800's.
It's a great movie with an inspiring message.

Moonrise Kingdom
Brandon (Most fun movie of the year): I have already watched it three
times. Wes Anderson's point of view and storytelling makes him the
most consistently excellent director working today. Everyone I have
shared this movie with has loved it.

Michael (Best meaningful and fun film): Not my favorite Wes Anderson
film, but this one is his all-around best film yet. It tackles the
complexities of childhood relationships and parenting with the
intentional awkwardness of all Anderson's movies. But this one has a
cast of amazing and complex characters set in a picturesque world that
is held up by a great story with the perfect balance of depth and

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Brandon: I am usually not a fan of child actors but Quvenzhane Wallis
steals the show. I would place all my money on her in next year's
"Hunger Games." Director Behn Zetlin walks the line between fantasy
and reality

Michael: A lot of debate about this film has centered on its portrayal
of gender, racial, and social issues in a small isolated community off
the coast of New Orleans as it endures the flood waters of hurricane
Katrina. Ultimately, however, you will see what you want to see
because the film is very metaphorical and open to interpretation. For
me, it was a moving film with some drawbacks but its emotional
performances and realist-fantasy touches won me over.

Holy Motors
Brandon: Really weird and wonderful. My guess is that only a handful
of you will actually like this movie. But if you don't mind a little
avant-garde (or a lot) please give this film a shot. Little sneak
peak: 10 minute accordion jam, a troll that kidnaps super models, and
dragon motion capture sex scene…

Michael: Broken up into 11 segments in which the main character, an
actor playing an actor, rides in a limo from assignment to assignment.
The catch is that his assignments are to be different people in
various real world scenarios… Its commentaries range from social
issues to film theory. You just have to experience it.

Zero Dark Thirty
Brandon: My bet to win "Best Picture" for this year's Oscars.
Wonderfully directed and very exciting throughout. Reminds me of
Titanic, you know what is going to happen in the end but 99% of the
story is still untold. Note: Most people don't know that the rest of
the movie Titanic actually happened.

Michael (Best Picture of the Year): Zero Dark Thirty is my choice for
best picture, even in the face of Lincoln, because it sums up so much
of the zeitgeist that surrounded America's last ten years in The War
on Terror, and it does this through an amazing lead performance from
Jessica Chastain as the CIA operative, Maya, that works tirelessly on
the case. What's more, her character in allowed to be portrayed as
capable and intelligent without nodding toward psychiatric disorders
to explain how she could be such a dedicated and effective operative
(ahem… Homeland). She's awesome, and so is the whole film.

Django Unchained
Brandon: My favorite director. My favorite film genre. Not my favorite
movie. It was good. Not great. Tarantino can still create tension in a
scene longer than any director in film history. (See dinner scene in
Django to confirm).

Michael (Best Original Screenplay): As has already been said, this is
not director Quentin Tarantino's best film but it is still one of the
year's best movies. Masterful performances from its main actors,
coupled with Tarantino's unique writing style and encyclopedic
knowledge of film history allow him to pay tribute to his influences
while creating an inimitable and engaging movie. This is a great
unofficial sequel in his investigation into the acceptable limits of
revenge. In Inglorious Basterds (2009) he delved into vengeance
against the Nazi's during WWII, and in Django Unchained he explores a
similar theme during America's slave era. Both films, however, should
not be viewed as glorifying extreme acts of violent revenge and
instead the scenes of these movies should be seen as representations
of extremes that ask us: How far can we go in the name of vengeance
before we have gone too far? He isn't providing answers, he is asking
us questions.

Rust and Bone
Brandon: This is the age old tale of the orca-trainer getting both her
legs amputated and falling in love with an underground street fighter.
Classic. Seriously I loved it. If Marion Cotillard could be in every
film I would be okay with it.

Michael: This is a great movie that relies on an intimate story with
very real characters to tell its "age old tale" as it portrays the ups
and downs of the two main characters that are isolated in their own

Brandon: Have not had a chance to see it yet.

Michael (Best Animated Film): The slightly morbid stop-motion
animation styling (in the same vein as Coraline and The Nightmare
Before Christmas) adds perfectly to this unique story. It's a film
about a boy who sees and can talk the dead. Given the risk of over
using the "I see dead people" bit from The Sixth Sense (1999), it
expertly walks a fine line between being both aware of its influences
(classic horror) and not being cliché.

The Sessions
Brandon: A true story of a 40 year old man who lives most of his life
from an iron lung after getting polio as a boy. The movie is about his
struggle to find physical and emotional love. It is good to see Helen
Hunt back on the screen and the cast features three actors from HBO's

Michael: Regrettably, I have not been able to see this movie. But I
happily take Brandon's word regarding the movie's powerful story, and
I look forward to seeing it soon!

Brandon: Really great story. If it wasn't for Daniel Day-Lewis, Denzel
would be getting another "Best Actor" Oscar. Think "Boogie Nights" in
a 747.

Michael: Not much to say about this film, except WOW. It drags its
audience through every up and down of the main character's addiction.
It is a great film. A must see.

The Next Few:
Looper – a mind-bending movie that mixes and matches time travel and
mob hitmen into a story that isn't overly sci-fi or noir-ish. It has
the perfect balance for a fun stylistic action movie starring Joseph
Gordon-Levitt as a young Bruce Willis (the prosthetic nose is a little
much, but it's forgivable).

Oslo, August 31st – A story about the attempt to reintegrate into your
old world after being away for a long time. The story follows a drug
addict's return from rehabilitation, but its story transcends the
boundaries of the typical story of this sort and creates an emotional

Argo – A crowd pleasing true story. I would bet that you won't hate
it. And it gives us another reason to like Canadians! Thanks for being
so nice.

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