AFI AWARDS 2012

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MOVIES OF THE YEAR

ARGO cracks the code between fiction and truth – and uses both to deliver a rousing Hollywood adventure through a harrowing time in history. Director Ben Affleck drops audiences deep inside the Iran hostage crisis, and then skillfully leads an escape that marshals the forces of American film – including a masterful screenplay by Chris Terrio and an all-star cast that inspires laughs and cheers amidst heart-pounding suspense. Ultimately, the film is a wry meditation on the movies and the high stakes of storytelling in politics and beyond. And to those who doubt this is one of the best films of the year, "ARGO f*ck yourself." Read the AFI Catalog entry


BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD roars with the strength of a people who wish to live and die in a world a wonder with adversity. At the center of this poetic storm stands Hushpuppy, a tiny heroine who towers among the toughest of the year. Hers is a triumphant tale of the mind and of the power of fantasy and folklore to carry us forward. In Hushpuppy, director Benh Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar capture the spirit of an unsung America with a commanding reminder from a small but strong voice – that all of us are "a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right." Read the AFI Catalog entry


THE DARK KNIGHT RISES leaves the superhero genre forever changed – broken down and reborn with a maturity to match its heroic purpose. With this bruising conclusion to his Batman trilogy, writer/director Christopher Nolan elevates and enshrines one of pop culture's most iconic modern mythologies and, in the process, lifts the blockbuster spectacle to the level of art. Complex and unrelenting, the result is a towering achievement – a testament to the ambition of the film's creative ensemble, which not only delivers an adventure worthy of its hero, but also captures the Zeitgeist of a world that needs Batman now more than ever. Read the AFI Catalog entry


DJANGO UNCHAINED explodes America's shameful past in a brilliant, bloody reckoning that is part Sergio Leone, part Mel Brooks – and all Quentin Tarantino. Hearts racing and jaws agape, movie lovers will revel in the cathartic effects of this modern master at play. With his work underscored by the year's most eclectic soundtrack, Tarantino rounds up a posse of powerhouse performers, including Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington, who together light the fuse of this dynamite film – one that ignites the screen with equal parts originality and "Oh no, they didn't!" Read the AFI Catalog entry


LES MISÉRABLES dreams a dream of epic ambition and fully realizes its place in the grand and glorious tradition of great American film musicals. Director Tom Hooper invites audiences to soar above the boards as he enlists a stellar creative ensemble to carry the flag of Victor Hugo's timeless tale into a new generation. Inhabiting the sweeping grandeur that only cinema allows, profoundly intimate performances from Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe embody the spirit of revolution and imbue LES MISÉRABLES with its beating heart. Read the AFI Catalog entry


LIFE OF PI is an immersion into the world of imagination – one so powerful, so deeply transformational, that it stands as a cinematic monument to the power of storytelling. Navigating Yann Martel's beloved novel with David Magee's script as guiding star, director Ang Lee proves himself a virtuoso of the versatile in a world so rich and so real that only the miracle of 3D in the hands of a master could put it all into proper perspective. At journey's end, audiences are left to ponder an adventure so life-affirming and a reality so true that they would never dare doubt Dorothy ever left Kansas. Read the AFI Catalog entry


LINCOLN belongs to the ages. Steven Spielberg's landmark motion picture enriches the American canon – freeing the Great Emancipator from his tintype image and exploring the wit and wisdom that made the man. Daniel Day-Lewis is instantly iconic, demonstrating an immersion into character that is as honest as it is immediate. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and an extraordinary acting ensemble breathe humanity into history, while Tony Kushner's brilliant screenplay illustrates the power of words to dazzle above the most special of effects. Film legends D.W. Griffith and John Ford each depicted their versions of America's sixteenth president, and Spielberg's now stands beside them with this telling for our time – and for all time. Read the AFI Catalog entry


MOONRISE KINGDOM exquisitely imagines the bubble of a 1965 New England summer, meticulously capturing a delicate world where operatic emotion underscores an orphan's journey. Director and co-writer Wes Anderson earns his merit badge as an American original, a storyteller whose loyal community of artists exposes the deepest of feelings with the most deadpan of deliveries. This complexity, combined with a needlepoint detail that has become signature, ensures MOONRISE KINGDOM a seat in the glow of the campfire – where great movies find a way to look back as time goes by. Read the AFI Catalog entry


SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is crazy good – a jagged romance that finds a path ever upward from the darkest, loneliest corners of one's mind. Lighting the way with equal parts wit and pathos, writer/director David O. Russell choreographs a dysfunctional dance between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, both with extraordinary star turns that capture the danger and the delicacy of devotion. This fractured love story is also a reflection on the fortitude of the American family, with unbreakable bonds married by the performances of Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, who again proves his place in the pantheon. Read the AFI Catalog entry


ZERO DARK THIRTY is a fierce meditation on modern warfare – a film that keeps audiences breathless, even though the ending is history. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal chronicle the world's greatest manhunt with the electric intensity of a glance, the politics of personality and the very real question of what it takes to find the truth. Jessica Chastain drives the story forward with an enormity of purpose, again demonstrating her place among today's brightest talents. ZERO DARK THIRTY is a definitive tale of our times, where the battle waged is one of intellect over arms. Read the AFI Catalog entry



TELEVISION PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM electrocutes audiences with equal parts terror and awe-inspiring audacity. Creators/Producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have committed an insanely talented creative ensemble to tell these bloody tales – some of television's darkest hours, set beautifully aglow by the incandescent Jessica Lange.


BREAKING BAD crystallizes its place in the pantheon, as Vince Gilligan and his creative ensemble embrace the iconic imagery of the American west as a backdrop for the irreversible corrosion of Walter White's cancerous soul. Heart-pounding suspense and mixed-up moralities fuel the expert storytelling, which charges forward like a locomotive toward an explosive end.


GAME CHANGE shines a bright, sympathetic light on the difference between stardom and substance in the pressure-filled world of presidential politics. Director Jay Roach and writer Danny Strong moderate the debate between hubris and humanity in this story of Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, a portrayal embodied with "you betcha" certainty by Julianne Moore.


GAME OF THRONES could ascend to the heavens of epic fantasy through sheer spectacle alone, but David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and their army of artists have created a world where fully-realized characters and sharp dialogue make this human tale all the more magical. This story of seven kingdoms demands both an eager intellect and a screen large enough to fulfill the wizardry at work.


GIRLS heralds the arrival of a fearless new voice in television. Creator Lena Dunham stars, directs, produces and writes this wickedly funny comedy of bad manners – one raw, raunchy and real. Worlds away from sister story SEX AND THE CITY, GIRLS is an unblemished look at what it is to live and love at 20-something today.


HOMELAND raised the security alert to red in its second year by setting a sexual charge so deep that this unstoppable narrative thriller exploded with emotionally resonant truths. Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon's gripping drama now holds a mirror shattered, reflecting a fractured national identity embodied by those who fight the war on terror.


LOUIE is laughter on the scale of opera, played by a one-man band. Creator, producer, writer, director, editor and star Louis C.K. orchestrates each episode as a showcase of one man's unfiltered honesty. Genius springs from simplicity – comedy from drama – as each step forward in life threatens to trigger a trap door of humiliation and humor.


MAD MEN stands tall in the history of television, sealing the deal again in 2012 with its signature cocktail – one part seductive grace and two parts unbridled intellect. Matthew Weiner and his endlessly elegant ensemble shake and stir audiences with a mixture of narrative bravado and a visual flair that continues to make the dark side of the American Dream endlessly intoxicating.


MODERN FAMILY embraces the avant-garde of the everyday – turning the oft-bashed subject of family into weekly affirmations of unabashed affection. Creators Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd and their creative ensemble have adopted audiences' devotion by providing a world free from cynicism and grafting a family tree that blossoms with love and laughter.


THE WALKING DEAD consumes audiences by imagining the unimaginable – a world overrun by ravenous zombies, where, in fact, the humans may be the true monsters. A compelling study of the fragility of community, the pulse of power and the horrible cost of fear, this genre classic reaches beyond the conventions of horror to find terror in living.


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