The Best of 2012 Part 1: The Almosts

This year I am going to do my best of a little differently. First off, instead of rushing it out before the new year I decided to wait until I saw everything I thought I would like to put on the list. This took a while.

Second, instead of just doing one, I decided to do a few and break them down in categories.

This is "The Two Movies That either almost, or could have, made my list. One of these films I really liked, but left off because of semantics, the other is one I really wanted to love and include in my best of, but just couldn't. Here you go.

Honorable Mention

ESPN 30 for 30: Broke


This is an honorable because it is a made for basic cable/direct to video film, so I don’t really class it the same as the others. Call me an elitist or classist, whatever. “Broke,” is another fantastic entry in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, which began as a series of 30 documentaries about sports stories that occurred during ESPN’s first 30 years on the air. It’s extending beyond that some, which I think is a good thing. I like sports and I like documentaries, so having a well made, film that gives me a new way to look at a story that I might be passingly familiar with is really cool.

“Broke” looks into one of the most puzzling phenomena in sports today. How does someone who ENTERS the labor market with a multi million dollar job go broke? It’s becoming surprisingly common. For every athlete who is smart with his money, who makes good investments and trust the right people to manage their wealth there are quite a few who go broke. This movie takes an even handed look at how that happens.

I like it because there is no big call for sympathy or pity for these men, but rather an even handed look at how it happens and how it can be avoided. People like Bernie Kosar, Andre Rison, Kurt Schilling, and Cliff Floyd tell how they went from millionaire to broke in a very straight forward way. They discuss the pitfalls of extravagance and mismanagement, from owning fleets of cars and mansions, to investing in real estate, steakhouses, and car washes.

This is something I’ve wondered about for years, being baffled by the stupidity and huburis that must go hand in hand with this type of business. But after seeing this and hearing the stories of these athletes presented in a “I really screwed up” kind of way, I realized that, were I in the same situation, I may not fare any better.

Not quite dishonorable, but just disappointing enough to merit a Mention

Les Miserables


I am a rarity in regard to this movie. Before seeing it, I knew nothing about it. I mean NOTHING. I knew the names Jean Valjean, Cosette, Fantine, Javert, and Eponie. I knew the song “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” I knew there was something about jail, stealing bread, an orphan, and revolution. If you know the story, you realize I went into this movie as clean a slate as humanly possible.

When it was announced, I didn’t really care. All I saw was another movie musical, and I am not a fan of movie musicals. Stage musicals, those I’m ok with. There is an energy and a spectacle to the live versions that just cannot be captured on film.

Then I heard about the live singing. For the first time ever an entire musical was going to be released that captured all the actors singing LIVE ON SET! This might not seem like much, but it is really quite significant. I mean, this could solve my main problem with this type of film.

So, does it work? Well... kind of. More to the point, it could have worked.

The concept is solid, but it lacks a solid execution. The story of Les Miserables, while interesting, isn’t the strength of the show. The strength is the music and, more precisely, the singing. On this front... the leads just didn’t deliver. Russell Crowe has a decent enough voice, just not for Javert. Hugh Jackman can sing and I was expecting him to knock it out of the park, but instead he sang everything in the high end of his range and ended up washing his vocals out.

The women faired much better though. Anne Hathaway was amazing, and Samantha Barks was brilliant (but she damned well should be, being that she’s played this character on stage for years.

The rest of the company was fine. I though Sasha Baron Coen did a fine job, as did Helena Bonham Carter (although she is just going through the motions with the same character she plays in everything now).

After seeing it something felt off. I went in wanting to see the spectacle and be blown away by it. I went home and watched a bunch of clips from various stage productions as well as the anniversary concerts. Then I realized what the problem was. How is it possible that watching clips on a four inch video player could give me chills and make me choke up, and this massive, expansive production could leave me flat.

The highlights, for me at least (Hathaway not withstanding), were the stage actors reprising their roles on screen. I don't understand why they didn't use more of them. I know some of the iconic performers are too old for their roles (otherwise we would have had Lea Solange), but the rest?

The live singing was great, and I think that in time it could lead to a renaissance of movie musicals. But the spectacle and power of the live stage show was completely absent. It wasn’t electric, and it should have been.

I’m not saying this is a bad movie or a failure, just a disappointment, and  made more disappointing by the potential that was not achieved.


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