My Favorite Films From 2012
Sometimes it is only when you take a moment to survey the past that you start to realize how enjoyable the journey has been. It’s been an incredibly good year for movies and that has made it difficult to narrow down a top ten. So I’ve cheated a bit by including an additional 15 titles (and created an entire separate list for documentary films) that could have, maybe should have, made my top 10 films.
My top ten films, in alphabetical order, are:
Ben Affleck’s third feature film is a wild ride filled with the sort of suspense that will keep you on edge until the credits roll. That’s pretty impressive considering we all know exactly how the film is going to end. Yes, Affleck is supported by a tremendous cast that includes Oscar worthy turns from Alan Arkin and John Goodman, but it’s Affleck’s relentless pacing and ability to lampoon Hollywood without disrupting the tone of the film that makes “Argo” special.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
One of the first films I saw this year was Benh Zeitlin’s “Beats of the Southern Wild” at the Sundance Film Festival. The story mixes the fantasy of a child’s wild imagination with the gritty life that comes with living in the Bayou on the wrong side of the levees. Some films you watch and others you experience. “Beast of the Southern Wild” will take you to a place you never thought to visit and leave you all the wiser as the credits roll. The Dark Knight Rises
I know that I’ll raise a few eyebrows by including “The Dark Knight Rises” over “Marvel’s The Avengers” or James Bond’s return in “Skyfall,” but it’s the one action film that I’ve kept returning to and one of the few films that was better the second, third and fourth time I saw it. It’s dark, unrelenting and ultimately a fitting ending to what will be remembered as the film that changed the way audiences and critics look at movies based on comic books. Frankenweenie
Some preferred “ParaNorman” and “Wreck-It-Ralph,” but my favorite animated film of 2012 was the one that had me the most worried. I adored Tim Burton’s original short film and feared that stretching it out into a feature would weaken the story; it didn’t. Burton expanded on the basic themes of “Frankenstein” and created a movie that not only pays tributes to the classic Universal monster films, but also delivers a wise message about how greed and ambition can turn good science into a catastrophe.
This year featured two films that centered on characters who used stretch limos as their offices: David Cronenberg’s somewhat disappointing “Cosmopolis” and Leos Carax’s brilliantly bizarre “Holy Motors.” Actor Denis Lavant transforms himself in and out of a variety of characters as he travels around a city. His performance and Carax’s direction turn chaos into a film that not only dazzles, but ultimately has meaning hidden within it’s absurdity. Besides, who can say no to a film that utilizes pop starlet Kylie Minogue’s talent in a way that doesn’t feel like stunt casting?
Stephen Spielberg’s biopic on Abraham Lincoln features a phenomenal performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as the revered president and a supporting cast that boasts scene-stealing talent like James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones in his best role in years. Had it ended 10 minutes earlier that it does the film would be a five-star masterpiece. Looper
Rian Johnson’s stunningly smart and original twist on the time travel subgenre benefited from a great script, fantastic art design and a great cast that included familiar faces like Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levit, Emily Blunt and Paul Dano as well as fresh talent like Pierce Gagnon and Summer Qing. The Utah Film Critics voted “Looper” as the second best film of 2012. It easily makes my top five.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Once or twice a year I stumble upon a film that feels like it was made specifically for me. In years past it has been films like “(500) Days of Summer,” “Beginners,” “Let the Right One In” and “Never Let Me Go” and this year no other film held a mirror up to my life like Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” If you look close enough you’ll see my dearest high school friends and me scattered between the various characters. There have been many films about adolescent outcasts and this film is one of the finest. Ezra Miller is simply fantastic.
Silver Linings Playbook
Somehow David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) manages to make Pat and Tiffany (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence), two completely dysfunctional people, into the sort of characters that you can’t help but fall in love with. You accept their faults and root for their success, no matter how illogical and impossible that might initially seem. It’s also nice to see Robert De Niro following up “Being Flynn” with another quality role.
Zero Dark Thirty
Yes, “Zero Dark Thirty” is destined to divide the masses and there will be those that claim that the film somehow glorifies torture or promotes a particular political agenda. For me Mark Boal’s script and Kathryn Bigelow’s direction did a remarkable job of not playing to the left or the right and torture in presented as being mostly ineffective, not the key to unlocking the mystery of Osama bin Laden’s location. Should “Zero Dark Thirty” be viewed as the absolute truth? No, of course not. Should it be considered as one of the year’s best films? Absolutely. Jessica Chastain gives a wonderful performance as Maya, a woman operating in a man’s world. She’s confident, stubborn, relentless and determined to prove herself and Jason Clarke reiterates that he’s an actor with more range than he’s often given credit for. Films also worthy of consideration:
Amour, Cabin in the Woods, Django Unchained, Headhunters, Les Misérables, Marvel’s The Avengers, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, Prometheus, The Raid: Redemption, Rust and Bone, Safety Not Guaranteed, Skyfall, Sleepwalk with Me, Smashed
My favorite documentary films from 2012 can be found here: http://www.kutv.com/entertainment/features/movie-reviews/stories/vid_44.shtml