Monday, January 21, 2013

The Ten Best Films of 2012

2012 has been an excellent year in film.  Out of the 31 movies I have seen in the theater over the past 12 months, a whopping 12 of them scored a 4.5 rating or better.  The Academy has deemed that 9 movies are worthy of a Best Picture nomination.  I agree with a few of their picks but there are quite a few that they omitted from their list.  I plan on posting an Oscar preview post in a couple of weeks with my own take on the major award categories.  What follows is my personal list in reverse order of my favorite 10 films that were released in 2012.  The final four films on this list were the only movies of the year to achieve a perfect 5 JR rating.

#10 - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson's triumphant return to Middle Earth was a personal joy for me to watch.  Contrary to other critical reviews of this film, I thought the movie went by quickly for a three-hour film.  Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and the rest of the familiar cast of characters brought life once again to J.R.R. Tolkien's prose.  The delightful cave riddle sequence between Bilbo and Gollum was the highlight of an exciting intro to the Hobbit movies series.  I just wish I didn't see it in 48 FPS.

#9 - Flight

A realistic and revealing look at an airline pilot's struggle with alcoholism, made by an underrated director returning to his live-action roots.  Robert Zemeckis allows Denzel Washington to shine in the lead role as Whip Whittaker, a maligned hero who can't shake his addiction to the bottle despite a horrific plane crash.  This is easily Zemeckis' (Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future, Contact, Cast Away, etc..) most adult movie to-date and he and Denzel knock it out of the park with a raw depiction of the troubles that addiction can bring.

#8 - Argo

The fact that Ben Affleck was snubbed in the Best Director category by the Oscars for this film is ridiculous.  In a growing trend of directing quality films, Affleck has finally found his niche in Hollywood and comes up big in both directing and starring in this true story of a hostage extraction in Iran.  Under the cover of a science fiction film, a group of CIA operatives help lead several US hostages out of a hostile environment.  A great ensemble cast and tight pacing by Affleck combine to make this movie a must-see and just might lead it to Oscar gold for Best Picture.

#7 - The Amazing Spider-Man

This movie was the biggest surprise of the year for me.  I went into it wondering why a Spider-Man reboot was being made at all in Hollywood.  I left the theater absolutely blown away by just how entertaining this version of Spider-Man was.  Thanks to human and engaging performances by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and excellent oversight from director Mark Webb, Amazing Spider-Man manages to bring the fun back to the web-slinging franchise.  This was sheer popcorn entertainment in fine form.

#6 - Life of Pi

Ang Lee managed to take a novel that was called "un-filmable" by some Hollywood experts and turn it into a visual feast.  The story of a young indian boy and his struggle to survive a shipwreck aboard a lifeboat with a tiger is an enjoyable epic tale of resolve.  Filmed in 3D that helps tell the story rather than detract from it, Life of Pi is a true big-screen theater film.  I found myself amazed at the visual effects used to animate a multitude of wild animals and at the sheer vast land-and-sea scapes used by Lee to tell this amazing story.

#5 - Django Unchained

Tarantino in his element once again in a strong follow-up to Inglorious Basterds.  Django is an epic western set in the south during the height of slavery in America.  With over 100 occurrences of the N-word and a penultimate sequence that features pint after pint of blood, Tarantino pulls no punches in letting Jamie Foxx and the rest of the cast trade lines of bravado through beautifully shot sequences.  The acting in this movie (especially the performances from Christoph Waltz, Leo DiCaprio and Sam Jackson) is amazing and the typically awesome Tarantino movie score does a good job of tying it all together in a very satisfying package.

#4 - The Dark Knight Rises

My favorite director working today is Christopher Nolan and he didn't let me down at all with his epic final chapter of the Batman trilogy.  Not quite as amazing as The Dark Knight but pretty damn close, this movie showcases Bruce Wayne's demise and rebirth as he fights to save the citizens he has always longed to protect.  Anne Hathaway gives a good turn as Catwoman and Bale is solid as usual, but the star of this film is Tom Hardy who gives a steely and intimidating presence to Bane.  Complete with a weird-cool voice over and creepy mask, Hardy dominates every scene he's in.  Nolan demonstrates his command of the pace and scale of this film and gives us a fitting end to one of the best franchises in movie history.

#3 - Silver Linings Playbook

I think it's impossible to see this movie and not feel really good afterwards.  David O. Russell proves he's a master of down-to-earth dialogue in his follow up to The Fighter.  SLP is a very realistic look at how family and friends get together to watch sports.  With an engaging relationship between the two main characters (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence - both of who deserve serious consideration for winning the top acting awards at the Oscars) as the backbone of the film, the rest of the strong supporting cast (including Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker and Jackie Weaver) is given plenty of good material to work with.  Russell mixes serious themes about mental illness with important family dynamics and throws in a bunch of good laughs to boot.  Overall, this is probably the best-acted movie of the year.

#2 - Prometheus

Ridley Scott returns to his science fiction roots with a quasi-prequel to the Alien film franchise.  While I wasn't quite as satisfied with the connection of this film to Alien/Aliens, I was pleasantly surprised by the direction that Scott took in creating a new world of mythology with Prometheus.  Noomi Rapace and an extra creepy / cool Michael Fassbender lead a group of excellent actors in showcasing the strange unknowns of outer space.  Our creationist roots are questioned by the key characters throuhgout the film but in the end it's the tense action combined with the awesome score from Marc Streitenfeld that make this movie truly engaging.  I thoroughly enjoyed taking another sci-fi ride with Ridley and I hope he's got another Alien-esque film or two left in him before he decides to retire.

#1 - Looper

Joe.... Meet Joe.
Not many people went out to see this one but what they missed was truly a gem of 2012.  Rian Johnson's sci-fi time-bending tale is a totally unique spin on the genre as Joe (a hired assassin) finds himself face-to-face in a battle against his older self.  With amazing performances by Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the MVP of 2012 in my book), Looper manages to blend plot twists with well crafted characters that are worth rooting for.  Johnson weaves in a multitude of clever moments that make you think about the present and future at the same time to fully understand the ramifications.  The tense climactic ending is perfect in its finality and genius.  If you missed this one, please go rent Looper on DVD.

There you have it.  Notice that Lincoln just missed the list and I'd like to give honorable mention kudos to The Avengers, Les Miserables (ESPECIALLY the amazing Anne Hathaway) and The Raid: Redemption.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know via Facebook or in the comments section below.


Unknown said...

I didn't see all f these yet, and really want to see Django (even though I thought Bastards was meh). Got to disagree about the Avengers. For purely blowing 3 hours of my life...I can do it over and over. Also with all due respect to Tom Hardy, I thought the other Tom (Hiddleston) was a much better villain as Loki and his smug smirk was just perfect at times.

Rushputin said...

Whereas I totally agree: Spider-man was a much better comicbook movie than Avengers for any number of reasons.

(Though, of course, DREDD was the greatest of all 2012 comic movies.)

Jordan said...

I do need to see Dredd for sure. You don't own it do you?

Mommy, Esq. said...

Just saw Looper and liked it. Good mix between talking drama and action sequences. Some day I'll have more time to think about time travel paradoxes presented.