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Published: Friday, 12/14/2012

‘Silver Linings Playbook' should reap gold

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK

David O. Russell should be pleased.

The Detroit Films Critics Society, of which I'm a member, announced its Best of 2012 today, and Silver Linings Playbook was the big winner.

Russell's brilliant dark comedy-drama of two emotionally crippled people who find love and coping mechanisms, took Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (Russell), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence, who has now won two DFCS nods for Actress, including 2010's Winter's Bone), and Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro).

Silver Linings Playbook is the awkward struggle of Pat (The Hangover's Bradley Cooper), a husband broken by his wife's affair, who has a violent breakdown, is institutionalized, and is attempting to resurrect the life he had, including restoring his marriage. To accomplish his goal, Pat enlists the help of another woman, Tiffany (Lawrence), with issues of her own. DeNiro plays Pat's Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed father. It's an engaging and funny film, with some wonderful dramatic twists. The cast, which includes Jacki Weaver and a surprisingly good Chris Tucker, is exceptional at every turn, and was deserving of its nomination for Best Ensemble. Cooper was also a nominee for Best Actor. Both nominees, though, were bested by Steven Spielberg's Civil War epic Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis winning Best Actor for his as-expected towering performance as the 16th U.S. President.

Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress for her haunting turn as the tragic Fantine in Les Miserables, in what I have to believe was a close race between she and Helen Hunt for her brave (an adjective critics must use anytime an actress bares all on screen) performance in The Sessions. Hunt plays a gentle sex surrogate hired to help an immobile man (Best Actor nominee John Hawkes) who lives most of his life in an iron lung.

Breakthrough was awarded to Zoe Kazan for her wonderfully fresh script and funny-turned-heartbreaking performance in Ruby Sparks of a woman literally written into being, and Best Documentary went to Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the enchanting appreciation of an 85-year-old culinary artist who has devoted his life to making sushi.

The Detroit Film Critics Society was founded in 2007, and consists of 17 film critics who write or broadcast in the Detroit area, as well as other major cities throughout Michigan and, in my case, northwest Ohio. Each critic submitted his top five picks in the 10 categories. Our Best Picture nominees were Argo, The Impossible, Silver Linings Playbook, Take This Waltz, and Zero Dark Thirty. And of those five films, only one, Argo, played in local theaters.

Which brings up: when or if these movies will be shown locally. Count on Silver Linings Playbook to open in Toledo, possibly by Christmas. Also riding a wave of critical laurels, Zero Dark Thirty, the gripping behind-the-scenes story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, opens in wide release mid-January, and that should include Toledo.

The fate of The Impossible is a little more fuzzy. The wrenching true story of a family's fight to survive the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and its chaotic aftermath, The Impossible received only one Golden Globe nomination: Naomi Watts for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama; costar Ewan McGregor was a surprising shut out. I'd give this at best a 50-50 shot at playing in local theaters. Take This Waltz, though, is available on DVD-Blu-ray. While I wasn't enamored with writer-director Sarah Polley's film, Michelle Williams' wrenching performance of a wife smitten by a handsome artist neighbor, who's willing to risk the love she has for the life she craves, makes the film a must-see.

As for my personal favorite films of 2012, look for that in The Blade on Dec. 30.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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