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Originally published December 27, 2012 at 3:02 PM | Page modified December 28, 2012 at 6:38 AM

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2012’s worst screen chemistry — and other dubious achievements in cinema

An irreverent look back at the year’s best and worst moments in moviegoing.

Seattle Times movie critic

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Long ago, my honored predecessor John Hartl began a tradition of wrapping up the movie year with a list of “Dubious Achievements.” Here we go, for 2012:

Best performance in a lost cause: Jane Fonda in “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding,” Christopher Walken in “Seven Psychopaths,” Jeremy Irons in “The Words,” Charlize Theron in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Viola Davis in “Won’t Back Down,” Johnny Depp in “Dark Shadows,” and pretty much everybody in “The Paperboy.”

Worst book-turned-movie idea: Who was it, exactly, who thought the pregnancy how-to manual “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” might make a jolly rom-com? (It didn’t.)

Best chemistry: Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in “The Sessions,” Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano in “Ruby Sparks,” Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in “Hope Springs,” Julie Delpy and Chris Rock in “Two Days in New York,” Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott in “Friends with Kids,” Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises,” and Emily Blunt with pretty much anyone she plays opposite (Mark Duplass in “Your Sister’s Sister,” Jason Segel in “The Five-Year Engagement,” Ewan McGregor in “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Looper”).

Worst chemistry: Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta in “Rock of Ages,” Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine and/or Tom Hardy in “This Means War,” Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline in“Darling Companion,” and everybody in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.”

Funniest chemistry: Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as mother and son in “The Guilt Trip,” Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black as, well, not mother and son in “Bernie.”

Best breakthrough performance: Daniel Radcliffe, showing that he can indeed lead a movie without his Harry Potter glasses in “The Woman in Black”; Melanie Lynskey, finally getting a lead role in “Hello I Must Be Going”; Alicia Vikander in “A Royal Affair” and “Anna Karenina”; Tom Hiddleston in “The Avengers” and “Deep Blue Sea”; Jamie Chung in “Eden.”

Best hair: Gerard Butler’s in “Playing For Keeps.” Somebody get it a better movie.

Best debut: Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Best kid performance: In addition to Wallis (above), kid-sized kudos to Zoé Héran in “Tomboy,” Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in “Moonrise Kingdom,” Isabelle Allen and Daniel Huttlestone in “Les Misérables,” and the young cast of “Wuthering Heights.”

Best popcorn movies: “The Avengers,” “Skyfall,” “Premium Rush,” “The Hunger Games,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Argo.”

Best superhero: All those Avengers were first-class, but this award goes to Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk, simply for his wonderfully mumbly delivery of the line, “The last time I was in New York, I kind of broke Harlem.”

Best sequel: Does “Skyfall” count? No? OK then: “Two Days in New York.”

Worst sequel: “Men in Black 3.” Please, let it be over.

Best sequel hint: If Christopher Nolan wanted to make another Batman movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as (spoiler alert, but I think everyone’s seen it by now) Robin — well, I wouldn’t want to stop him.

Worst sequel hint: The end of “Breaking Dawn, Part 2.” Please — enough with the imprinting already.

Best villains: Javier Bardem (“Skyfall”), Charlize Theron (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games”), Eva Green (“Dark Shadows”).

Most disappointing villain: All the pose-y Volturi in “Breaking Dawn: Part 2,” who mostly seem like they’re interrupting a Vogue photo shoot by having a staring contest.

Best movie that made you never want to get on a plane ever again: “Flight.”

Best evidence that the romantic comedy isn’t dead: “Ruby Sparks,” “Friends with Kids.”

Most convincing evidence that the romantic comedy is, indeed, dead: “Playing For Keeps,” “This Is War.”

Best stories you couldn’t make up: In a strong year for documentaries, these stood out: “The Imposter,” “Brooklyn Castle,” “Pina,” “Queen of Versailles,” “Central Park Five,” “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” “Undefeated,” “Searching for Sugar Man,” “First Position,” “The Invisible War.”

Slyest scene-stealing: Allison Janney (“Liberal Arts”), Helena Bonham Carter (“Les Misérables” and “Dark Shadows”), Richard Ayoade (“The Watch”), Matthew McFadyen (“Anna Karenina”), Tom Cruise (“Rock of Ages”).

Best costumes: “Anna Karenina,” “Dark Shadows,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Cloud Atlas.”

Best lack of costumes: “Magic Mike.”

Movie most worth a very long wait: “Margaret,” made in 2005 and held up for many years due to legal wrangling, was finally released here in January — and was one of the year’s best films.

Busiest bees: When Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt intersected in “Looper,” it seemed like a marvel of scheduling: The two actors were each in four films this year and were always terrific. (Gordon-Levitt was also in “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Premium Rush” and “Lincoln”; Blunt was in “The Five-Year Engagement,” “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” and “Your Sister’s Sister.” )

Most unexpectedly perfect voice-over casting: Hugh Grant, as a luxuriantly bearded and plummily toned pirate captain obsessed with winning the Pirate of the Year contest in “The Pirates: Band of Misfits.” (His character has only won for Best Anecdote About a Squid; what I wouldn’t give to hear Grant tell it.)

Best performance by an accessory: All that Chanel jewelry, sparkling like icy stars, worn by Keira Knightley in “Anna Karenina.” Runner-up: The dark cloak so expertly wrangled by John Cusack in “The Raven.”

Most uncanny depiction of a well-known person: Well, none of us really know what Honest Abe looked like, but we will from now on: He looked exactly like Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” right? Runner-up: Scarlett Johansson’s spot-on depiction of Janet Leigh in “Hitchcock.”

Saddest goodbye: Nora Ephron, gone too soon.

Best reason to look forward to 2013: Who’s excited for “The Great Gatsby,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” and “Man of Steel”? I am; see you at the movies.

Moira Macdonald: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2725.

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