Top Ten: Best Movies of 2012
The “Best of 2012” list is always my least favorite to write. Outside of the obvious fact that I can’t possibly afford the time or money required to see every decent film released in the run of a year, there will always be some flicks that are adored by some audiences and loathed by me. As Mission:Geek’s principle cinephile, I’m put in the precarious position of ranking the ten best feature films released this past year. Where I’m limited to what I saw and actually liked, there will always be detractors to my opinion. That said, 2012 wasn’t an awful year for film and I was lucky enough to catch some of the best the year had to offer in theatres.
10. The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods challenges a number of horror staples, the biggest of which being that films within this genre cannot be ostensibly “good.” While I acknowledge that the Academy would never give this kind of film the time of day and that many audiences have no love for scares, violence, and horror, this Joss Whedon flick really should be given a good shake. The film’s narrative is very clever and keeps you guessing throughout, characters are dynamic, dialogue is engaging, humor is dark, and the visuals are legitimately terrifying at times. If there was ever a genre film that could convert general audiences to horror fans, it would be this one.
9. The Dark Knight Rises
There’s a lot of hate on for this film among critics because of its creative talent and not its actual quality. Pretentious film buffs drone on for hours over how commercial Nolan has become and how “inept” he is at coherent action sequences, but most of their complaints boil down to petty bitterness. Nolan is a smart filmmaker and The Dark Knight Rises is a strong conclusion to a detailed and well executed trilogy. The narrative’s delivery is intelligent, characters manage to feel heroic in and out of costume, and the flick somehow doesn’t buckle under its massive runtime.
8. Django Unchained
While I realize that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is currently dominating the box office, the only film in theatres that legitimately deserves your time is Django Unchained. Bloody, stylish, and classically Tarantino, Django Unchained is a reinvigoration of the revenge action genre. The flick seamlessly mixes irony, humor, and gore over the course of a runtime that goes by all too fast. You’re far more likely to enjoy this film if you’ve been a fan of Tarantino’s previous works, but any movie buff will appreciate the complex narrative hiding behind an otherwise consumable action flick.
7. The Secret World of Arrietty
I should start with the disclaimer that I’m not a fan of Japanese animation. If you like anime or Miyazaki’s previous works that’s great, but it’s never been a visual medium that I’ve gravitated towards. That said, in a year where we’ve seen a Dr. Seuss adaptation, a stop-motion flick from the people behind Wallace and Gromit, and a new Pixar feature film, The Secret World of Arrietty is actually my favorite children’s movie of 2012. The story has been told before, as it is the Japanese take on The Borrowers, but this iteration bears a lot more heart, charm, and beauty.
When I heard that Michael Haneke (known mostly for his atrocious meta horror film Funny Games) was releasing a new flick predicated upon elderly romance, I scoffed. However, after a surprisingly impressive showing at the Cannes Film Festival, I actually had to pull some strings to see this flick. The version I saw was completely in French and featured questionable English captioning. That said, this romance feature is easily Haneke’s best work. Amour manages to present an intelligent dialogue on the relationship between life and death, without losing heart or feeling preachy.
Looper is a respectable film in a number of ways. Unlike most features predicated upon the concept of time travel, this science fiction blockbuster takes a minimalist approach to both presentation and action. The plot itself is maddeningly well crafted and takes and is incredibly imaginative. Characters are anything but one-note and don’t lack humanity, but are thankfully far from flawless and at times morally questionable. It’s been described as a ‘techno-noir’ by some, but in scope it’s more akin to Inception as a thought-provoking cerebral action flick. Easily consumable to many, but cinephiles like me will find a lot to savor under the surface.
4. The Avengers
The Avengers had a lot of hype working against it. Not only was this film designed to incorporate the varied backstories of multiple established superheroes, but there was an expectation among audiences for adequate character development and relatively even screen time for the principle cast – something that seemed nigh impossible without a bloated screentime and lack of action. Somehow, Joss Whedon managed to produce a superhero film that adequately featured the personalities of various characters, found a balance between drama and action, and didn’t feel too drawn out. Without a doubt, The Avengers is the best superhero film ever released.
It’s no secret that I’m a pretty massive Bond fan. After tolerating what was a decidedly unimpressive 007 adventure with Quantum of Solace, Skyfall really had to do more than just be “decent” in order to rescue the reputation of the now fifty year old brand. Thankfully, Skyfall nails everything it sets out to accomplish. Craig is powerful in his role as Bond, demonstrating not only the ability to be brutal and cold, but also extremely charming and emotionally invested. Despite its long runtime, the film never drags and manages to find a keen balance between action, drama, and intrigue. Overall, I’d even go as far as to say that it is the best Bond film ever released.
2. The Master
Paul Thomas Anderson never ceases to impress. With The Master, this veritable wunderkind has continued his tradition of releasing intelligent, engrossing, and beautifully shot non-traditional dramas with unconventional themes. Make no mistake though, while I see this film as a drop dead gorgeous masterpiece full of deep and incisive psychological themes, others may not “get” it. To say that The Master is a challenging film would be an understatement; it is by far Anderson’s least accessible flick and spares no quarter for casual movie goers.
Argo marks the third downright impressive feature film directed by Ben Affleck. If you had suggested to me five years ago that he would be this adept at filmmaking, I would have laughed. However, time makes fools of us all and I could see Argo gaining nods from the Academy for Best Director and Best Picture. This flick not only manages to nail its historical setting, but the pacing, humor, and characters are all downright impressive. It is by far the best suspense film of 2012 and quite possibly the most impressive release we’ve seen this year.