The Best of 2012

I’m going to try something different this year. Instead of a my usual list I’m just going to list twenty-one of my favorite films of the year. No ranking. No awards. These are just some films I think are worth watching.

amourAmourMichael Haneke, France

Two actors. One apartment. One simple story that contains enough emotion and sadness to kill a horse. An elderly coupe are tested when the health of one of them starts to go. Haneke is a slow, deliberate director. And the style and pace help you to feel the sadness and helplessness of the characters. He smears it all over you. I hate him. I will never watch this film again. It destroyed me.

argoArgo Ben Affleck, USA

This is a tense Hollywood thriller detailing a groups harrowing escape from a hostile country. Sure, Ben Affleck turns the screw just a little too far at the end, but it was a fast-paced and pressed the right buttons. I never lost faith in the storyline or became disengaged. A real barn-burner.

Hulk-The-Avengers-movie-imageThe Avengers – Joss Whedon, USA

Marvel built up to this movie for years and they do not disappoint. Putting Joss Whedon at the helm was of course a good idea. He can definitely do characters well, but he also did a good job setting up the stakes and following through with the action. The whole thing was a smart affair. A big worthy climax to the individual Avengers films before it.

bernieBernieRichard Linklater, USA

Jack Black plays the most well-liked guy in town who murders the most hated woman. And no one wants to see him get in trouble for it, except for Matthew Mcconaughey of course. This is a sweet and easy-going story of a sweet and easy-going man. Jack Black carries the film, and really shows his range. The film could only work if you like him, and he makes that very easy.

cabininthewoodsCabin in the WoodsDrew Goddard, USA

I don’t have much else to say about this film that I didn’t already say. Easily the most entertaining and surprising film of the year. Highly recommended for any genre fan.

CLOUD ATLASCloud AtlasTom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Germany

Six stories, somewhat interconnected, play out over thousands of years. What an undertaking wrangling this film must have been! But the Wachowskis and Tykwer manage to pull it off. It’s epic yet personal, thrilling yet intimate, and I think all stories are grounded in the same theme. you’ll have to watch it to see if you agree. This one will stick with you.

darkknightreturnsDark Knight Returns Part 1 – Jay Oliva, USA

The DC Universe animated films have been great. Some of the best comic book movies of the past few years. This one is no exception. Its a retelling of the first half of the famous Frank Miller comic. And it is better than the Nolan film. Peter Weller is the perfect voice of older Batman. The second half comes out in a month! Can’t wait!

djangounchainedDjango Unchained – Quentin Tarantino, USA

It’s a big healthy mess of a film. Each scene is great. The story arc is great. The performances and direction are solid. Cool music. Gory gory action. The only thing not to like, which is a usual Tarantino thing, is that he doesn’t  even try to make a tight film with normal scene progressions. Everything is just out there and in your face whether you like it or not. Luckily for me, I like it.

DreddDredd – Pete Travis, UK

You don’t realize how much the original Judge Dredd did wrong until you watch this film. Written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine), this film should be a blue-print for action films. You don’t need to give Judge Dredd a history. Just show that he is cool. You don’t need to have a convoluted story to keep the audience guessing. Just set up an interesting situation and let the characters determine the action. I can’t find anything wrong with this film. It didn’t do well upon release but people will flock to it soon.

the_grey2The Grey – Joe Carnahan, USA

This is a great B-movie siege film. A group of characters are stranded in the frozen wilderness and terrorized by a killer pack of wolves. It does the formula well. We get to know the characters and they slowly drop off one by one. Liam Neeson plays the leader of the group, and the lack of information given about him and the others keeps the focus on what is happening, and doesn’t tip it over into melodrama.

haywireHaywire – Steven Soderbergh, USA

This film contains the best fight scenes of the year. Soderbergh, master all all genres, is smart enough to use Gina Carano to the best of her abilities. And he was smart enough to keep the camera still and let the amazing choreography and the athleticism be the star here. The fight between her and Michael Fassbender is brutal. Not only that, but the story is pretty good, too.

holymotorsHoly Motors – Leos Carax, France

It’s bizarre and beautiful, to be sure. A man traveling in a limo goes on various appointments which have him playing different characters. It’s a movie about films, but beyond that I’m a bit mystified. Even if I don’t quite get it, I loved going along for the ride and really admired Denis Lavant for being such a chameleon. Carax is a weirdo, but a good one.

jeffwholivesathomeJeff Who Lives at Home – Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, USA

The thing I loved about this film is that I had no idea what was going to happen. Like the main character, I was just looking for a sign and following it from one scene to the next. And it led me, like him, to a touching and fulfilling conclusion.

Film Review Killer JoeKiller Joe – William Friedkin, USA

Wow. Friedkin has still got it. This twisted and perverted crime thriller tells the story of a family who wants to hire someone to kill their matriarch in order to collect her insurance money. All the performances are excellent, and the script is exciting and sleazy and leads to one of the craziest endings of the year.

lifeofpiLife of Pi – Ang Lee, USA

A surreal and imaginative tale of a boy stranded on a life-raft with a Bengal tiger. Watching the main character trying to survive was exciting. But the real joy was the structure of the story: a years later retelling that attempts to convince someone that God really exists. It brings the whole thing together and leads to a final poignant revelation.

lockoutLockout – James Mather, Stephen St. Leger, France

Guy Pierce basically plays Snake Plissken. Except int this film he has to rescue the president’s daughter from a space-prison orbiting Earth. He plays the role really well. The movie knows what it is, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and gives Guy Peirce plenty of room to play. It was much more fun than it should have been, which is how I usually describe movies Luc Besson has something to do with.

TheMasterThe Master – Paul Thomas Anderson, USA

This is the most aggravating film on this list. I still don’t know how to read it. But watching P.T. Anderson’s killer direction and two incredible performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman is more than enough. Add to that the discussion and thought that this film promotes and you have something that, even if flawed and obtuse, is much more interesting than most films made this year.

moonrisekingdomMoonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson, USA

Classic Wes Anderson. If you like his work, you will like this film. It takes place in an isolated island off the coast of New England, and tells the story of the illicit love between a young boy and girl who run off together. The young leads are great and the supporting cast is solid. But the real joy is in the set design and the little touches that Anderson adds to all his films. Like the really cool young adult books in this one.

sleepwalkwithmeSleepwalk with Me – Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish, USA

I am partial to stand-up comedy stories. I think there is something romantic about traveling the road and building up comedic material that you test night after night until your act is perfect. This film about a comedian (Mike Birbiglia) really showcases that idea but does it while be grounded in a human story about a relationship. Add in sleepwalking and you have a winner.

Film Title: WanderlustWanderlust – David Wain, USA

David Wain and his usual crew return in one of their funniest films yet. I love their style of humor. It’s different than anything out there. This film is not as surreal as Wet hot American Summer, which makes it more accessible, but it has many great comedic moments. An acquired taste but a great one for those on the same wavelength.

womaninblackWoman in Black – James Watkins, UK

Hammer horror is back and it feels like they never left. I thought this was the best horror film of the year. A Victorian ghost story with great atmosphere, locations and set design. And the story, surprisingly, was believable, had some good tension and slow-burn scares, and built up to a solid satisfying ending.

And now for something completely different…

There were a few films I hated. I’ll be brief.

Safety Not Guaranteed for a terrible script masquerading as a quirky fun indie.

Prometheus for employing that new but misguided “Lost”-like writing style that is so prevalent nowadays.

The Watch for being a pile of studio drivel.

And the worst: Snow White and the Huntsman for having the worst pace, the most miscast heroine, and the most laughable pre-battle speech I have ever seen.

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