Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best films of 2012

As I said yesterday, 2012 was a great year for film.

Sure, sure, it may not have been 1982 or 1984 or 2006, hell, it wasn't even a 2009... okay, maybe it was a 2009, but either way, you know what it was without a doubt? A pretty good year. Actually, I'm just kidding, 2012 was phenomenal year in film. I have probably saved myself a lot of headaches by just going ahead and making this list despite having missed several films that I know would be trying to crowd their way on. Because even with all those films missing (Django Unchained, The Master, Holy Motors,Save the Date, I Declare War, Zero Dark Thirty, The Ambassador, Wreck 'em Ralph, Central Park Five, Killing Them Softly, The Island President, The Man with the Iron Fists, Perks of being a Wallflower, Jack Reacher,Lincoln, to name a few...), it was still a really hard list to get down to just ten.

That being said, this list is in actuality--as always--my top ten favorite films of the year. Yes, I know the title of this blog is "Best", but before you get hung up on that particular semantic, let me explain. "Favorite", not necessarily "Best". Get it? They may not be award winning or even all that insightful, but they are the films I will most likely end up buying and I will definitely watch again and again.

Let's do this.

Top Ten Best Films of 2012

10. The Raid/The Dead

I'm starting off with a little bit of a cheat here. If that's a deal-breaker for you, well, I guess I'll just have to learn to live with that. Moving on, The Raid: Redemption is an insane Indonesian film about a good cop in a high-rise apartment building filled with criminals. It is the new definition of what makes an Action movie. It is relentlessly kick-ass. The Dead, on the other hand, is a pared down zombie apocalypse movie filmed in West Africa. It's premise is simple: A zombie outbreak happens and a mercenary is just trying to get off the continent and back home to America, bad shit happens. Both films are fantastic examples of the genre, perfectly delivering exactly what they set out to. Fun, new, inventive and yet automatically classic. I loved them both, I couldn't possibly choose between them, so they share a spot.

9. Bernie

For a long time, I looked forward to the new Richard Linklater films. It took me an even longer time to start wondering why. Eventually I realized that, besides Dazed and Confused, I haven't really liked any of his movies (well, Slacker, I guess), not really. I haven't hated them or anything, but... meh. So here comes Bernie and it stars Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine and I wasn't going to bother. But the premise intrigued me: A true life murder story from East Texas. Did the nicest man in town kill the meanest old lady? Why? Using actors and actual residents of the town, it is a charming, funny, dark, and seemingly effortlessly accurate portrait of small town life, half documentary/half true crime/half comedy film. Jack Black really is great. It's worth your time.

8. Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, the novel, is an incredible book. An amazing voice. Incredible prose. The Wachowski siblings and Tom Tywker took it's themes of power and control and the inter-connectivity of lives and added a healthy splash of the power of Love. Seems silly, doesn't it? It is, a little. Cloud Atlas is the story of multiple lives and the same souls, spinning up through history, from the days of tall ships, up through the present day, and on, past dark futures and beyond, forever wrapped together. Yeah, it's a little silly, but only because Tywker and the Siblings were trying to paint a big, honest message in big, honest, gooey open-hearted strokes. It's exciting, hilarious, surprising, tense, and sad. All you need is love may be an unfair, over-simplification of the message, but it's apt enough. Are there some issues? Sure, but they did not interfere with my enjoyment of this film. It was ambitious and audacious and even though it failed a bit, it was still great in the attempt.

7. Moonrise Kingdom

After Darjeeling Limited, that was it. I was done with Wes Anderson and his bullshit, his white suits and his daddy issues, his Vespas and his overwhelming, unstoppable fetish for an era that never really was. Ugh, I was so tired of it. Where he was once a Director of promise, I had begun to feel like he had taken that promise and stomped it into the mud due to his refusal to try something new. But Moonrise Kingdom was innocent and sweet and funny and sad. It had everything that is a hallmark of Wes Anderson, but somehow avoided seeming so cynically purposeful as his last few films. It is a storybook tale of the intensity of first love, the impossibility of young love, of summer camp love. So as innocent and sweet as it was, it was also mean and dark, teetering on the edge of adulthood, inevitable in its ruin. I loved the balance. This movie reminded me of the promise of young Wes Anderson, it was fun and full of heart. I hope he can keep it up.

6. Detention

This movie is the best. It is the best. A send-up of teen films, of slasher films, of time travel films, and so much more. That's not to say that it's another one of those awful Scary Movie type movies either, because it's not. Detention is the type of film that a lot of people are not going to like and let me tell you, I am glad I am not you. I thought it was genius, crazy weird genius. The mother and daughter switching lives? "How hard is it to be popular in 1992?" The time traveling space bear? Taylor Fisher's guide to not being a total reject? The scene where the kid who has been in detention for 19 years (not the point of the film) is remembering all the long years, the different music and styles of the time as the camera spins, spins, spins back through the years? Genius. So funny. So crazy. I loved this film.

5. Looper

How great a year was this that Looper is only number five on my list? Super tight, clever and inventive, this film is like the sci-fi of old. It is bold and awesome and totally unafraid of its weird new world. It throws you in, explains very little of the side bits, and demands that you keep up. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are fantastic as younger and older versions of the same man, a hit man trying to pull off one last job, but does that surprise you? It shouldn't? What else do you expect from them? No, the real heart of this film is Emily Blunt as the mother willing to die for a son who might grow up to be the Scourge of the World. She is great. Incredible. She's strong and determined and still completely believably feminine. A fantastic performance. Seeing her here now makes me sad she wasn't able to be the Black Widow in the Marvel movies. So, so, so one of my favorite films of the year. A pure pleasure. And yet... only number five? What lies ahead, you wonder?

Read on, kid.

4. The Cabin in the Woods

Slasher films bore me, they're mostly populated with stupid characters doing inexplicably stupid things. Why do people still go to Camp Crystal Lake, do they not have newspapers or TV? You're driving away from a house where all your friends have been massacred, you run over a giant bloody weirdo wielding a chainsaw, why do you stop the car and check on him? Stupid and predictable. Cabin in the Woods is aware of all of these things and it embraces them, creating a film that is part clever commentary on slasher films, part terrifying slasher film with plenty of twists you won't see coming, and hands down, all awesome. I highly recommend this movie. You're not a fan of slasher films? It doesn't matter, it's not that type of film, it's better than that. You should watch this movie. Also, it's by Joss Whedon, so extra thumbs up.

3. Beasts of the Southern Wild

At first glance you might not think Beasts of the Southern Wild would belong on this list, if not tonally, then perhaps in intent and quality. You would be wrong. The touching fable of a father and daughter and a young girl's journey, this film is all storybook. It's sweet and funny and odd and sad. It was beautifully shot in New Orleans and the little girl, Quvenzhane Wallis, is a local, as is most of the cast. She's fantastic. They all are. And there's something to be said about the grassroots/locally-sourced/family created way this film was made, there's a feeling of magic to the whole thing. Will the Director be able to reproduce something of similar beauty and style and heart going forward? Time will tell, but for right now, you have this. Enjoy.

2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Now, there are those who will stomp and mutter and rage, claiming my top two spots do not deserve their positions, shouting a litany of reasons. To those people I say, too bad, so sad, nothing you say is going to overcome my deep rooted love for this film and the one in the number one slot. Concerning The Hobbit? I loved it. Is it goofy? A little, but isn't the book a little goofy? Or at least, goofier than the Lord of the Rings? That's how I remember it. Does Jackson maybe stretch a few sequences out a little long? Maybe, but wasn't The Lord of the Rings movies a little long as well? And for those complaining about things like Gandalf ex Machina, the confusingly similar cast of characters, or the episodic nature of the story... talk to Tolkien, man, because that's all him. In Jackson's favor, he fleshed out the book and added dimension to it. He managed to make Thorin's party of Dwarfs into a much more specifically distinctive group of characters than Tolkien ever bothered to do. He also took a lot of the side pieces and explanations for things that happen in the Hobbit, but appear in the Simillarion or The Lord of the Rings and he added them back in at appropriate moments. Did these things bother you? Sorry, pal, because none of it bothered me. Fun, exciting... the word that occured to me most was: Adventure. Pure adventure.

1. Avengers

I was going to like this movie no matter what (see: Iron Man 2, Captain America, and Thor). It was made for me. I'm a fan. The Avengers is a film that I have always wanted, but assumed it was so impossible that I didn't even bother to wish for it. Any fan will tell you the same. Before this film came out, even as the Marvel Movies were really getting underway and headed toward this film, I didn't believe it would happen. And if it did happen, I had no hope that it would be any good. It's too big. It has too many characters. It will cost way too much.

There's no way it will work.

Then I saw it... in a really crappy theatre too, and it worked. Oh man, did it work. Oh man. And that's all I can say. If you don't get, I can't explain it to you. Sure, I can point you to extremely well-written articles that lay it all for you, (This one is written by Hulk himself, ignore the ALL CAPS and read the content, it's extremely well done) but honestly, if you didn't love it on first viewing, then you probably won't ever. Sorry, buddy. Sucks to be you.

This is easily--hands down!--my favorite film of the year. I will watch it forever, over and over. It's Joss Whedon kicking ass in the best, most true, and unapologetically comic book way without crumpling under the weight of continuity minutiae, the inherent silliness of the genre, or attempts to "broaden the demographic". It's the best summer film I have seen in years. Loved it. Every moment.

I can't wait for more.

'Nuff Said.

So there you go, my Top Ten films of 2012. And like I said at the beginning of the post, it was really difficult to get down to just ten. Here's a quick list of some of the films that I liked, but ultimately got edged out: Argo, Brave, Dredd, Skyfall, Chronicle, 21 Jump Street, Juan of the Dead, Sound of my Voice, and War of the Arrows. They're all worth checking out too.

So how about you? What do you think?

1 comment:

Shawn Enderlin said...

The only one's I've seen are Looper and Avengers. Both mightily awesome. Detention and the Raid sound intriguing, and I have every intention of seeing Cabin in the Woods.