Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Best Films of 2012

Well, we made it through another year. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy my reviews.

This year was pretty damn good for movies, and there are still some that I haven't seen that I wanted to, so just because I didn't mention it on here doesn't mean I won't think it is great. Except The Avengers, I didn't think that was that great.

2012 wasn't without its stinkers, though. We had garbage like Wrath of the Titans to insult our intelligence, Battleship to give us headaches and remind us how bad Transformers 4 will be, a bloodless remake of Total Recall, and don't even get me started on anything Adam Sandler was fucking in this year. But, on the plus side, most of those movies didn't make much money.

So, here is a list of my 10 favorite films of the year, in ascending order. Plus a few other good movies.

This is a thought provoking character study with two of the best performances of the year. Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal as the alcoholic war veteran that becomes consumed with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's cult. The two actors create a hypnotic connection that permeates throughout the entire film. Paul Thomas Anderson's film about Scientology is as bold as it is disturbing, capturing the essence of cult mentality, and the desperation of undiagnosed mental illness and shell shock.

Okay so, I guess it is cheating to put two different movies here. However, they are both fantastic comedies that are down to earth in their strange, ridiculous ways. Not to mention that they are at the very least semi unintentional companion pieces. The Duplass brothers directed Jeff, starring Jason Segel as the title slacker, and Ed Helms as his stressed out and self involved older brother. Jeff is a touching and humanist film that really understands and loves its characters and their universal problems. Safety stars Mark Duplass, as well as Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Rec and the hilarious Jake Johnson of New Girl. The plot of this movie is slightly more fantastical and predictable than Jeff, but the two movies understand their characters and connect with the audience in such similar and fulfilling ways that it is impossible to not feel the bond between them.

Writer-director Rian Johnson crafts an excellent film about the self defeating circle of violence with this smart, disturbing, and cynical look at the future. The film takes place in the near future, in an economically crumbled America, where the preferred form of currency is Chinese money. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fantastic as a killer for the mob that gets rid of the bodies they send back in time. Through a series of complicated events, his older self appears in his time, played with style and coldness by Bruce Willis.

Here we have a movie that is at times silly and obvious, but without a doubt it creates a true sense of wonder. Directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, it is a great achievement of cinematic experience. The intertwining stories that span across centuries connect with a dizzying clarity. The two stories set in the distant future are probably the best, creating both great characters and phenomenal worlds that are dazzling to behold.

This sortof-prequel to Alien combines horror and sci-fi perfectly. Co-written by Damon Lindelof, and directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus is a phenomenally well crafted film. Weirder, stranger, and darker than most any Hollywood movie, this film gets the benefit of both a huge budget and competence. Michael Fassbender's role as the android is mind blowingly intense, and the bleak cinematography makes the entire movie unsettling.

Zero Dark Thirty is really fucking good. Jessica Chastain is powerful and beautiful as the main character, obsessively searching for Osama bin Laden. Kathryn Bigelow's exciting thriller is amazingly well done. The scenes of torture are brutal, and the climax is powerful and disturbing. The film is an unflinching look at the state of the world and America's messy and morally ambiguous role in it.

This is writer-director Wes Anderson's most personal film, and as a result probably his best. Filled with romance, sentiment, melancholy, and humor, Anderson creates a stylized look at childhood and the 1960s. The Romeo and Juliet style romance between the two kids is touching and beautiful, and the two actors are excellent at being funny and honest. The likes of Bill Murray, Francis McDormand, Edward Norton, and Bruce Willis populate this movie, and they all bring their ingenious characters to life. Anderson's movie laughs in the face of modern cynicism, and brings us a refreshingly sentimental and sweet look at love and youth.

First time director Benh Zeitlin creates a mesmerizing film about life in the flooded remains of Southern Louisiana in the near future. Hushpuppy, a young girl who lives in the small, almost aboriginal community, must deal with living with people who have given up on the world. Her mother left long ago, and her father his an angry, self interested alcoholic who cannot take care of her. The sad, melancholy of this situation is not always present, as Hushpuppy takes joy in her surroundings and her carefree life. The film is very sad, but it also breathtakingly beautiful, as it rises above the depressing idea of rising sea levels to create a movie that connects to the soul.

Who would of thought that a movie with Shia LaBeouf in it could be so great? Based on a true story, this film is a brutal look at bootleggers in the backwoods of Virginia during the Prohibition. The screenplay by Nick Cave is violent and old school, inspired by tall tales of outlaws and criminals of that old, weird America. Tom Hardy, who also gave an excellent performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, plays the eldest of three brothers, and he is a walking legend. Guy Pearce is pure evil as the corrupt federal agent looking for a piece of the bootlegging business. Director John Hillcoat paints a stunning picture of these characters and their lives in the wilderness of America.

This is a movie that takes the art of cinema to its incomparable heights. Ang Lee's majestic adventure movie about a 16 year old Indian boy and a Bengal tiger engulfs the viewer into its cosmic world. As a boy names Pi travels with his family and their zoo animals to America, their ship sinks. Miraculously Pi survives on a lifeboat, only to be accompanied by the tiger. Pi learns to live with it, and eventually he and the tiger's destinies become inseparably intertwined. The film pierces into the soul, connecting inner space with outer, and delivering literally breathtaking images. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest movies I have seen in a very long time.

Now, here are some movies that were also really good, but didn't quite make the list: Haywire, for being a kick ass movie staring Gina Carano who delivers the coolest fight scenes of the year; Bernie for being hilariously dark and featuring Jack Black in one of his best roles; The Pirates! Band of Misfits was the year's best kid's movie, with fantastic stop motion animation and smart, clever humor; Lincoln for delivering a classic look at one of histories most important people; Men in Black 3 for its absolutely unexpected goodness, and Josh Brolin's role as the young Tommy Lee Jones; Skyfall for being the best James Bond movie; The Dark Knight Rises was fantastic, delivering a satisfying end to the series and thankfully not sacrificing its story for action; Cabin in the Woods for making horror movies smart again; Frankenweenie, for letting us know that Tim Burton's creative juices aren't entirely gone; Premium Rush was a fun and exciting movie that was reminiscent of days when blockbusters weren't all 2 and a half hours; and The Man with the Iron Fists, for obvious reasons.

Thanks for reading, as always, and let's look forward to the first year since 2007 without a Twilight movie!

1 comment:

  1. I read your review of Argo and I get what you say, but I still feel that it deserves honorable mention here. But that's a personal opinion. Only one you gave an honorable mention that I thought was a major disappointment was Men in Black 3. With the exception of Brolin's performance, I felt it to be a pretty jacked up sequel that didn't compare to previous installments. I have yet to see Lawless but I definitely intend to based on your review. And yeah, I think it's bogus that Cloud Atlas didn't get a single nomination at the Oscars.