The Year in Film – 2012

The end of every calendar year generally means two things: Holidays and “BEST OF” lists.

I’m a fan of these lists for many reasons, mainly because I often find I missed out on a new band, album, book, song, movie, tv show, article, or some other thing that I would probably find interesting for one reason or another.

Over the past few years, I’ve often compiled a list of the movies that I saw in the previous year, with a short reason why I enjoyed them. On a few occasions, my mom tells me that she and my dad will look over the list, see if anything I enjoyed is on netflix instant and watch it. So, if nothing else, it has served them to some level, so I’m doing it again.

*Note: I try to see every film that has a nomination for an Academy Award, but you can imagine this can be difficult with documentaries, shorts, foreign films, and time. This year I was able to see nearly all of them major category nominees before mid-January, so I feel pretty good about this list.*

To begin, I haven’t seen some of the films that had great reviews and I plan to see. Here are a few of those that I can’t recommend, but many others did (UPDATED with info on the ones I was able to see):

  • Rust and Bone: Loved this one. A sad and wonderful story about an odd relationship. Worth a watch.
  • Amour (coming to the Belcourt in Feb 2013): So good, so sad, and probably a very realistic portrayal of end of life concerns. Also, Haneke is a great director. Really drove this one home.
  • The Queen of Versailles: Goodness gracious. Some people just don’t seem real. These folks qualify.
  • Searching for Sugar Man: Great film. Watch it. It’s a helluva story.
  • 2 Days in New York: Julie Delpy is really great at these intimate portraits of relational life. Chris Rock is great as well. Enjoy it.
  • Anna Karenina
  • Holy Motors: Weird, but interesting. Read about it, and decide for yourself.
  • Cloud Atlas: well, it was super ambitious. It just wasn’t very good.
  • The Sessions

Here are the movies I saw that I didn’t really enjoy, but you might:

  • Prometheus – I didn’t think it was good at all, though Michael Fassbender was really incredible. 
  • Les Miserables – Meh.
  • The Master – P.T. Anderson is way above my head with this one. I think I understood it, but it was just weird.

Now – honorable mentions:

  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Awesome documentary about a small sushi restaurant where Jiro crafts the best sushi ever tasted. 
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt. I enjoyed it, in spite of the use of music by “The Fray” for the trailers.
  • The Avengers – Well, yeah. It’s awesome fun.
  • Snow White and the Huntsman – I liked it. Also, the visual effects were cool.
  • Brave – Pixar rarely misses (see Cars 2), and Brave was no exception. The trailers didn’t give it away, and it was really enjoyable. PLUS – make sure to catch the Pixar short at the beginning, La Luna. A five-minute silent film that tells a better story than most movies in theaters.
  • The Dark Knight Rises – a fitting ending to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Suspend logic and reason for a few moments and enjoy it.
  • The Bourne Legacy – Jeremy Renner picks up where Matt Damon left off and continues the Bourne series. It was fun escapism viewing.
  • Cosmopolis – this isn’t for everyone, but it’s interestingly shot. This could also be Robert Pattinson’s only movie that critics don’t hate. Ever.
  • Lawless – Tom Hardy, Shai LeBeouf, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska in a great movie about West Virginia moonshiners during prohibition.
  • End of Watch – Sneaky good. Gyllenhaal and Peña are really great together in this, and it’s pretty intense.
  • Arbitrage – movies built around the financial crisis with Bernie Madoff-like characters will compel me even if they’re crappy. This wasn’t crappy.
  • Taken 2 – escapism rebooted with Liam Neeson as a father/husband who you really don’t want to mess with.
  • Chasing Ice – Global warming movie of the year. But not too bad at all.
  • Life of Pi – Way better than I expected. Ang Lee tells this story with control, and I will always enjoy Irrfan Khan. He’s a great actor.
  • Silver Linings Playbook – I struggle with films that highlight mental illness, but this one has some great performances. Bradley Cooper is really a solid actor, but Jennifer Lawrence is the real rising star. If you haven’t seen it, watch Winter’s Bone.
  • The Hobbit – It was fine, but I really enjoyed the final 30-minute sequence with Bilbo and Gollum. The money-grab that is a three-film series for the Hobbit is a tough pill, but that’s Hollywood.
  • Jack Reacher – Really enjoyed this. I saw it in a recommendation from my dad, and he was right. It’s not your typical hero movie, but it had a good story working for an action film.
  • The Impossible – I thought I was going to grind my teeth out of my mouth during this movie. Graphic scenes, terrifying tsunami visuals. But it is a redemption story, so that makes it easier to endure.

And my top ten:

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild – it’s playing NOW at Belcourt, and it’s worth seeing. It’s absolutely terrific. If you can’t see it in theatres, find a way to see it. It’s my favorite film from 2012. 
  • Looper – Joseph Gordon-Levitt maybe had one of the best years in acting (Looper, Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln), though Jessica Chastain gives him a run for his money (Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty). This movie has a great premise, and it never hurts to have Emily Blunt co-star (Salmon Finshing in the Yemen).
  • Argo – based-on-a-true-story with some embellishment for the sake of action, this is where Ben Affleck shines. Not in front of, but behind the camera. Between this, Gone Baby Gone and The Town, behind the camera is his sweet spot. This is a good one. See it.
  • Flight – Denzel, Don Cheadle, John Goodman. Crazy story, but really good movie. Zemeckis with another solid offering (Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future I,II,III).
  • Skyfall – My favorite Bond film ever, though many friends disliked it. Daniel Craig is a great Bond, and he’s finally giving the character some depth as opposed to a hangover.
  • Wreck-It Ralph – This was really great. Disney brings it’s first excellent animated film (in my opinion) since The Lion King. Make sure to see it, and the animated short Paperman that aired before the feature.
  • Lincoln – Steven Spielberg. Daniel Day-Lewis. JGL. David Strathairn. Tommy Lee Jones. Hal Holbrook. James Spader. John Hawkes. Michael Stuhlbarg. Sally Field. If you like any of these folks, go see it.
  • Django Unchained – Tarantino’s back again, bloody and crude as ever. But this “Anatomy of a Scene” via the NYTimes gives cool insight into how much thought goes into each scene. I enjoyed this, though the language is rough and the violence is classic Tarantino.
  • Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson fans fall into a few groups defined by which Anderson movie they love the most, but I feel like everyone loved this one.

So, if you’re looking for a movie to watch, there’s probably one on this list you can enjoy.

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