2012 is over. Where does the time go? It feels like just yesterday we were all guessing about THE AVENGERS, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and THE MASTER and now we’ve seen them all and are waiting for the next round of anticipated films. That’s one of the great things about movies, there will always be more to look forward to.
While we think about what 2013 will bring us, let’s look back at 2012. It wasn’t a good year, it was a great year. After a rather lackluster 2011, the last twelve months have given us an awful lot to be happy about. The big, the loud, the small, the intimate – 2012 had it all.
So here is a list of my favorite 2012 films. Keep in mind that I said “favorite.” There might have been better pictures in 2012 but these are the ones that I loved. It’s my opinion, dammit. Get off my back!
DISCLAIMER: I haven’t seen DJANGO UNCHAINED, ARGO, ZERO DARK THIRTY and a few more so their absence doesn’t mean I disliked them, only that I haven’t caught them…yet.
10. THE GREY
(d. Joe Carnahan)
Here’s the thing about THE GREY: you don’t know it’s a spectacular film until the final credits roll. You enjoy Carnahan’s movie throughout its runtime but it’s only when it concludes and everything comes together that you see just how brilliant the whole experience was. It’s a rough ride, it’s hard to watch at times and there are sequences in here that’ll make you shudder at the utter realism, but it’s a movie I recommend again and again. Months later, I still think about Liam Neeson and his cursed band of plane crash survivors. I’m safe and warm in my home but just thinking of this movie makes me shiver.
9. WRECK-IT RALPH
(d. Rich Moore)
I love animated movies, I love John C. Reilly and I love video games. Still, I was nervous about WRECK-IT RALPH. While I was interested in a movie about video game characters, I was afraid it would be too obvious, too silly or would just completely miss the mark. You know how older folks sometimes screw things up when they’re talking about a subject they know little about? That’s what I was afraid of with WRECK-IT RALPH. But Rich Moore and his team proved that they know more about video games than me. You know what else they know a lot about? Strong, lovable characters with motives, goals and feelings. Holy moly there are a lot of emotions in WRECK-IT RALPH, all handled perfectly. Laughs, tears and nostalgia all in the span of less than a couple hours.
(d. Steven Spielberg)
What hasn’t already been said about LINCOLN? Daniel Day-Lewis is a living incarnation of our tortured 16th president, Tommy Lee Jones is outstanding and is on his way to multiple awards and Steven Spielberg successfully tones things down and creates a masterful study of tough politics and the lengths one man will go to for what he believes in. Okay, so what else needs to be said about this truly fantastic biopic? Um, Walton Goggins is great in it! Walton can never get enough love! Oh, and James Spader is hilarious and mustachioed. So what if I can’t add any new accolades? That doesn’t change the fact that LINCOLN is just as terrific as you’ve heard. Long live Abraham Lincoln!
(d. Rian Johnson)
I hope LOOPER affects future filmmakers the way it affected me. It’s been so long since we’ve had a strong, creative science fiction film like Rian Johnson’s time travel morality tale. Sure, it’s influenced by movies before it but it’s also completely its own. This could be a landmark movie, one that influences writers and directors for years to come. It has its flaws and holes, of course, but by LOOPER’s conclusion you’ll know that you’ve just seen an important film.
6. 21 JUMP STREET
(d. Phil Lord & Chris Miller)
I love Phil Lord and Chris Miller and I have for a long time (CLONE HIGH represent!), so it’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of 21 JUMP STREET. Luckily I’m not the only one on board, it seems everyone adores this adaptation. And I use the word “adaptation” loosely because 21 JUMP STREET is miles away (and miles above) the source material. The marvelous script, the deft direction and the power duo of Hill and Tatum all come together for an exciting, funny and bizarre comedy. It’s so refreshing to find a movie that makes you laugh until it hurts while also packing in some enthralling action and fleshed-out characters. And it doesn’t sacrifice its silliness, it’s as weird as it wants to be. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, thanks for everything. Keep up the good work, gents.
5. THE AVENGERS
(d. Joss Whedon)
After several films and billions of dollars, it all came down to this. Would Marvel stick the landing and deliver with this culmination of their efforts? Thanks to Joss Whedon, THE AVENGERS is the best Marvel film yet and a truly spectacular blockbuster feature. Whedon fills in the blanks character-wise and doesn’t short us with the whizz-bang action we’d expect from a movie of this size. It’s not just Joss who nails it, the performers all bring their A games, especially Mark Ruffalo who gives us the best Bruce Banner yet, and Chris Evans who continues to be both heroic and – for lack of a better term – studly. THE AVENGERS concludes with one of the biggest finales in recent cinema history and will leave you ready for and wanting THE AVENGERS 2: STILL AVENGIN’.
4. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
(d. Drew Goddard)
Speaking of Joss Whedon, he sure did have a great year, huh? THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was supposed to grace our screens a couple years ago but was postponed and existed in limbo until 2012. There was a short time when it looked like the feature might be straight-to-DVD. That would’ve been unfortunate because this is the type of movie that needs a sold-out, enthusiastic crowd. Goddard and Whedon play with an entire genre with big smiles on their faces and it’s a pure blast from beginning to end. I’ve loved horror films since I was a kid so THE CABIN IN THE WOODS feels like it was made specifically for me. However, seeing as how midnight showings of the film are already selling out nation wide, it’s safe to say there’s a lot here for everyone to love.
3. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
(d. Christopher Nolan)
I can’t remember ever not loving Batman. I’ve been a fanatic since before I could properly form a sentence. Obviously I’m a major fan of BATMAN BEGINS and don’t even get me started on THE DARK KNIGHT (Masterpiece! Best comic book film ever! Transcendent!). Needless to say, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was a big deal. However, it could have easily been a real stinker. We all know Christopher Nolan wasn’t exactly jumping at the chance to do another Batman film and there was no way Bane could rival Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker performance. And when was the last time a third film in a trilogy was good? Yeah, the cards were stacked against this one.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES doesn’t reach the same heights as its predecessor but that doesn’t mean it’s not a exceptional, ambitious and tremendous success, a fitting conclusion that actually concludes. Nolan ties all the themes together and completes Bruce Wayne’s journey in a way that should make all Batman fans happy. Aside from the thematic success, TDKR is big unlike anything we’ve ever seen. You can tell he wanted to go out with a bang. He did that and more. Massive, exhilarating and emotionally satisfying, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is the perfect way to end the best comic book saga ever made.
2. CLOUD ATLAS
(d. Larry & Lana Wachowski & Tom Tykwer)
CLOUD ATLAS exhausted me…in a good way. After the credits rolled, I didn’t want to see another movie for a long time. I had no reason to, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis’ adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel gave me so many themes and characters that it felt like I had just seen half a dozen films at once. And I had because CLOUD ATLAS isn’t one story, it’s many. As the film states again and again, everything is connected and everyone is a part of something bigger, something universal and infinite.
Is CLOUD ATLAS about our desire for love and human connection? Is it about good overcoming evil time and time again? Yes and yes. It’s about all these things and more. It’s the type of movie you can dive into, dissect, discuss and discover again and again. Maybe that’s too much for some people, maybe that’s too unwieldy and over-the-top. Not for me. For me, CLOUD ATLAS is just as big, complicated and stuffed full as the universe itself. There’s beauty in its cluttered chaos.
1. THE AMERICAN SCREAM
(d. Michael Stephenson)
Remember when I gave THE AMERICAN SCREAM a perfect five star review? Why did I do that? Well, because it’s a perfect five star movie. I can’t think of another film that moved and inspired me like Michael Stephenson’s brilliant examination of the passion and love behind home-made haunted houses. On the surface, THE AMERICAN SCREAM seems like a simple film about people and their desire to make fun, campy scares for their neighborhoods but what the film really gives us is a story about the drive to create, despite financial and societal shortcomings. Have you ever loved a hobby against your better judgement? If so, THE AMERICAN SCREAM is for you.
I saw the film at this year’s Fantastic Fest and I remember leaving the theater filled with a joyful optimism that most movies don’t give me. I was lucky enough to meet one of the subjects of the movie and I vigorously shook his hand. His daughter stood beside him. “You should be very proud of your dad,” I said. She was. I was. We should all be proud of the people who strive to achieve their dreams, despite how weird they may be.
THE AMERICAN SCREAM will make you proud to be passionate. What more could you ask for?
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