2012 is a good year for films. Believe it or not. There’s been a little something for everyone.
And for me, these were the stand-outs. Below is a semi-top-ten list, cheating a bit with number 8. I am on the fence about top lists, especially in a year like this because of so many good choices and, honestly, I might not feel this way forever. But for now, here goes!
10. Beasts of the Southern Wild – A wonderful fairytale-like movie with a fierce heart, this was a true experience of unexpected catharsis, and excellent photography that never feels forced. Fairytale elements felt as natural as the rain.
9. The Intouchables – A steadily entertaining and uplifting movie, in the vein of In America. This was a perfect, cozy sort of film that’s fun to watch and be absorbed in for a quick two hours.
8.1. The Raid: Redemption – Wall-to-wall action with stunts galore. Not for everyone, but fulfills in every way for fans of martial arts movies. I caught this at SXSW in a sold out crowd — the best way to watch ANY movie, home systems be damned!
8. Cabin in the Woods – I’m a fan of meta-movies, Joss Whedon, and Bradley Whitford. The first time I saw this was at SXSW sitting beside my brother on opening night, with a Q & A afterword. Now, the Q & A experience definitely bumps up a filmgoing experience, and a sold-out crowd/premiere does as well, but upon rewatch the film holds up, and I’m glad I got to share the premiere experience with my brother.
7.1 Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson is back and going strong. Every shot well-composed, which we knew would happen, but the storytelling is also greatly fun and enjoyable throughout. Kudos!
7. Looper – Great experience in a twisty, expertly made film revolving around time travel, discovering your own destiny, and then trying to dodge fate just a little bit. Expert storytelling from Rian Johnson.
6. Django Unchained – Tarantino strikes again. While I feel like there could’ve been some minutes clipped from the closing act of this movie, there is a great joy in listening to the rhythms of Tarantino-speak, and Leonardo DiCaprio gives what’s perhaps his most impressive performance in a good while.
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Charming and touching, yet also sad and nostalgic. I’m sure this movie will have a personal meaning for many viewers, for me it brought back a few memories of high school, navigating adolescence in moments good and bad, with friends and mere acquaintances. This may not win a lot of awards, for whatever reason, but in my opinion this was a very great film.
4. Zero Dark Thirty – A well-crafted film, handled with a precise style of objective storytelling by Kathryn Bigelow. I was intrigued from the opening moments of darkness all the way through the final 45 minutes. Also, Jessica Chastain is getting a lot of praise, but Jason Clarke deserves all the attention he can handle. Between this and Lawless, that dude is going places.
3. Cloud Atlas – Fascinating. Truly wonderful. This is an exploration at how collaboration can bring an almost impossible film project to life. Six stories, intertwined thematically, and by characters, music, locations, sound, visual transitions…intricate and meticulous, and above all each story holds an entertaining, passionate, dramatic value.
2. Lincoln – Remarkable study of not only a man but a process, a time period, and a government system that is as strong as the peoples’ ideas. There’s a clear dramatic question, and all we’re required to do is watch as the characters pull in votes, one by one. I saw a reviewer call it a “procedural,” which feels accurate. Also, the entire cast is excellent, and surprising: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones (very Oscar Worthy), John Hawkes, James Spader (hilarious)…the list goes on.
1. Argo – Buildup is huge, and the tension of the last half-hour is extremely palpable. Ben Affleck keeps it all together quite amazingly, and I’m now on board the Ben Affleck as director train. This is the film I most want to watch again out of the past year, and has stuck with me as an example of the best film of the year.
These movies also impressed me as an audience member, and are worth mentioning: The Master, Holy Motors (what happened?), The Avengers, The Grey, Silver Linings Playbook, Lawless, Do-Deca Pentathlon, Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
And these I’ve heard good things about, but haven’t yet seen. Les Miserables, The Sessions, Anna Karenina, and Amour.
Hope you enjoyed your year at the movies!