The 11th Annual Anti-Oscars

Most Underrated: “Moonrise Kingdom”

In some ways, “Moonrise Kingdom” is the typical Wes Anderson film, featuring quirky characters who take their peculiar interests with total seriousness, a bright color palette and camera perspectives that constrain the characters, making them look like playthings scuttling around inside a dollhouse.

If this perfected formula has become boring to the average viewer, Anderson inflicts the deliberate theatricality of “Moonrise Kingdom” with whimsy and delight to revitalize his branch of magical realism. While “The Darjeeling Limited” may have felt too uncaring and prosaic, we are immediately sympathetic to Sam’s sense of isolation on his island home and spellbound as he runs away with his newfound romantic interest, Suzy.

“Moonrise Kingdom” revolves around this ecstatic engagement of young love. But the film never succumbs to melodrama or rom-com cheesiness. Instead of trying to dwarf our own experiences of love and isolation, Anderson presents a blueprint for how we remember both the conviction and awkwardness of childhood romance.

But it’s not obsessed with serious inquiry. With plenty of laughs (and Bill Murray to boot), “Moonrise” is the year’s most underrated film, full of wit, whimsy and understated poignancy.

— Dieter Joubert

The “Thank God, It’s Finally over” Award: The “Twilight” Saga

There was once a time, long ago in history, when vampires were feared, not fantasized. A time when they still dwelled in the horror genre among the likes of Dracula and Nosferatu and not in the romance section as glittery outlets for teenage angst and lust. That was before the great beast known as “Twilight” arose and laid waste to the American pop-culture landscape. This terrible creation came from the mind of a sexually frustrated Mormon housewife and proceeded to spread its terrible influence upon the youth, convincing teens that repeatedly committing suicide and then having your insides ripped apart by a demon fetus following coitus with a living corpse is what every teenage girl should aspire to do. Like parachute pants and pet rocks, “The Twilight Saga” is doomed to be the trendy faux pas of the century, one we will hopelessly try to justify to the children of the future, who will look back and ask, “What were they thinking?”

— Nick Yang

Most Bewildering Carnage: “Prometheus”

“Prometheus” was the widely hyped, Ridley Scott-directed, suspense-packed thriller that dominated the box office in early June, but what really stuck out about the movie was watching the main protagonist abort an alien fetus. Any hope of finishing popcorn or rounding second base with a date ended when the medical machine pulled a writhing squid-thing out of Noomi Rapace’s abdomen before surgically stapling her skin shut. Many other scenes throughout the movie are equally disturbing. In the least forgettable sci-fi death of the last year, one of the crew members decides to pet a phallic-looking alien snake-thing that he finds in a dark cave. Sounds like a good idea. Predictably, he dies a horrible death, letting out agonizing screams as the creature rips through his spacesuit, burrows under his skin and squirms through his body and out of his face. Given that the first movie in the “Alien” franchise famously had an alien erupt out of a man’s chest during a dinner scene, it’s good to see that Ridley Scott is back to doing what he does best.

— Kyle Somers

Worst Movie: “Cloud Atlas”

There’s a false sense of consolatory praise indebted to the filmmakers and actors involved with the monolithic disaster that was “Cloud Atlas.” Yes, it was bold to attempt an adaptation of David Mitchell’s hyper-complex, award-winning novel. But who honestly thought that the un-filmable parallel story arcs, calibrated intertwining motifs and subtle philosophical underpinnings would best be left in the hands of modern cinema’s least delicate directors? The same people who strapped Keanu Reeves to a wire-fighting harness and surrounded him with a couple hundred high-speed cameras did. If you’re looking for a way to confuse the hell out of your parents, there are plenty of other options that don’t involve several hours of Tom Hanks speaking in an invented pidgin dialect while sporting a tattered bathrobe.

— Ren Ebel

Worst Use of Liam Neeson: “Battleship” / “Taken 2” / “Wrath of the Titans”

We’re all big fans of Liam Neeson here at the Guardian. Who wouldn’t be? The man’s been a Jedi, lion Jesus and Zeus himself. Unfortunately, 2012 was not the best year for our favorite soft-spoken badass — out of the five movies he was in, only two (“The Grey” and “The Dark Knight Rises”) received positive reviews from critics. The rest — “Wrath of the Titans,” “Battleship” and “Taken 2,” were all varying degrees of bad.

The sequel to “Taken” mostly relegates Neeson to looking angry while running around yelling action lines and killing faceless bad guys. Even though he’s the focus of the film, and his acting remains committed, the lines he says are the worst kind of banal. “Wrath” is a slightly better flick, even though Neeson is kept on the bench for most of the movie. The film that combines both of these poor elements into one, however, is “Battleship.” The film is a masterwork of under-using your best actor. Neeson has 15 lines in the film — they’ve been counted. Mostly, he’s a caricature that spends the film on the sidelines waiting for the main character to do his job. It’s frustrating to see talent wasted like that, and the film is just so incredibly bland that there’s no doubt it deserves the Worst Use of Liam Neeson Award. Heck, make a movie entirely about his character in “Battleship,” and it would have been a better film. “Liam Neeson: Bland Alien Hunter.” Maybe we’d watch that.

— Nathan Cook

Biggest Fuck You to the Man: “Seven Psychopaths”

“Seven Psychopaths” defies conventional categorization. In fact, Martin McDonagh’s screenplay deliberately seeks out overdone movie tropes and violently, wonderfully murders them on screen. With interracial couples, gratuitous violence, a total lack of heroism and a protagonist overshadowed by his quirky, manic friend, “Seven Psychopaths” is as unpredictable as it is rousingly hilarious. Comedy comes paired with liberal use of blood and dares us to laugh at the sick and profane (and know we will).

What’s more, emotional and thought-provoking moments penetrate our core and resound through our bones, marrow, muscle and skin. These moments forcibly hold up a mirror to the viewer without condemning what is reflected. If “Seven Psychopaths” isn’t Oscar-worthy, who cares? If it isn’t a work of genius, it is a cult classic to all those who know that just a little insanity can go a long way. If not a cult classic, the film is a display of filmmaking that grabs at its scattered elements and arranges them into beautiful disorder. And if it is still not that, “Seven Psychopaths” is at least something different.

— Raquel Calderon

Most Awkward Movie to See With Your Dad: “For a Good Time, Call…”

If a girl wants quality father-daughter bonding time at the theater, “For a Good Time, Call…” is the worst possible selection. Yes, it is well known that the movie revolves entirely around two women running a phone sex line. However, nothing screams, “This is awkward!” like a film consisting of more raunchy noises than lines of dialogue. The girls start off as sworn enemies but magically become the best of friends as they quickly bond through the power of the pink telephone. The characters do not face enough challenges to keep the movie interesting, leaving the audience with blank stares. The film turns into a dreadfully painful hot mess of orgies, tight dresses, scandalous underwear and matching purses. And aren’t phone sex lines a little dated with all the new technology around these days? Watching this film is definitely not a good time — but rather an extremely terrible and uncomfortable one.

— Lauren Craig

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