Concluding my look at this past year in film, I give the fourth and final part of 2012, The Year in Movies. In the first part you saw a myriad of movies which I rated lower than three stars (out of five), ie, the worst I saw over the past year. In part two you saw all the films I rated 3 or 3.5, ie, the middle of the pack. In the third section we moved into the better movies from the year. These movies were not quite Top Ten material but every bit as worthy of a watch from everyone! Finally, we have come to the best of the best…my Top Ten movies of 2012. Now, something you must realize is that ultimately I love most movies, that’s why I go see between 30-45 a year. I genuinely enjoy a majority of the films I see. However, to make my top ten for any given year something really has to set a film apart for me. What separates those films from my previous blog (Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Cloud Atlas, Skyfall etc) and those films listed below is that little thing extra, that added touch of cinematic magic. Perhaps a phenomenal performance, maybe the impact the film has on the genre, a storyline so unique that it makes you feel like you are seeing something for the first time, visual effects and cinematography that blows your mind, impeccable directing, or a variety of other things that simply make these films a bit more special than any other film you saw during the year. Its hard to put into words really but these films all had that little bit extra that separated them from the rest of the pack. I beg, plead and implore you that if you have not seen one of the movies listed below PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE for the love of god add them to your queue immediately!! These are not just good movies, these are ALL MUST SEE FILMS! All of the movies in Part 4 here, I rated 4.5 or 5 stars. They ranked #10-#1 in my 2012 movie experience.
So, without further ado, let us conclude our journey through 2012, the Year in Movies!
There are very few actors in the business that I would literally watch any film they were in regardless of what the topics, storyline, or plot consisted of. Denzel Washington is one of those actors. This man has turned in unbelievable performance after unbelievable performance and Flight was no exception. This movie is worth it just to see Denzel show everyone how acting truly should be done. However, that is not the only reason you should watch this film. You should watch this film because it is the long awaited and thankful return of director, Robert Zemeckis to the live action feature film medium. You should watch this film because it features an equally as brilliant performance by the only man in more movies than Bradley Cooper in 2012, John Goodman! Most of all you should watch this film because it’s ‘real’. Perhaps no movie this past year captured real life more than did Flight. Not only was it an excellent character study but also a profound look at one of the worst ‘diseases’ on the planet, alcoholism. This film does little wrong and deserved much more praise than it received.
#9. Killing Them Softly
Killing Them Softly was to me a very interesting picture. It somehow managed to capture the classic ‘gangster’ feel you get when you watch a movie like Casino, Goodfellas, or other expertly crafted films, stayed current in the vain of Lawless, The Town etc, had the cult appeal of something like Reservoir Dogs or Boondock Saints but at the same time managed to be unique in and of itself as well. Perhaps what separates this film from those others listed is both its subtlety and expertly delivered social commentary that may end up making Killing Them Softly a film that grows in appeal more and more with time until it carves out a spot as a historically significant portrait of the setting it depicts. People who enjoy any of the films listed above should run, not walk to the nearest red box and get their hand on this one. Those that don’t care for the movies listed above…should STILL make sure they get around to checking this one out!
#8. Django Unchained
For four-fifths of the film I was convinced that Django Unchained was making a late run for best film of the year in my book. Unfortunately that last fifth of the film prevented it from doing any such thing. That does not erase the fact that this film is remarkable. It’s just that the first 80% of the film far outshines the final act. If there was one thing the academy got right this year it was undoubtedly awarding Christoph Waltz with a supporting actor statue. Waltz completely stole the show here. He turned in one of my favorite performances of the year and that’s not saying Jamie Foxx was anything to sneeze at by any means. I realize a lot of people were clambering for Leonardo DiCaprio to get an award for his performance but that would have been a travesty when it came to 2012. Really the only things that prevented me from sticking a 5-star rating on this one would be Samuel L. Jackson’s performance (not to mention his terrible makeup/effects) and basically everything that happened from the time approximately 5 seconds before SPOILER ALERT! Waltz character was killed off. He was such an epic character that he deserved much better treatment than he was given. Tarantino has the potential to be a mad genius most of the time however he made critical error after error in just about every decision he made for the last fifth of this film. Again though, this film is definitely top-ten material regardless of my problems with parts of it.
#7. The Words
It seems like every year there is at least one or two films that I seem to enjoy much more than anyone else on the planet. This year one of those films was The Words. I thought this film was amazing. Bradley Cooper continues to impress and Zoe Saldana may have cemented her spot as my current favorite actress in Hollywood thanks in part to her role in this film. The mystery, the parallels, the unique plot and storyline all were woven together in directorial perfection by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. Every single member of the cast was not only a perfect choice for the role they were cast in but also turned in flawless performances. Jeremy Irons was remarkable. Perhaps its my love of ‘words’ and ‘writing’ in general and for all things related to literature but this movie was a breath of fresh air in an industry riddled with reboots, sequels and re-makes. The Words definitely deserved a spot in anyone’s top ten listing for 2012 films.
#6. Moonrise Kingdom
I didn’t see Moonrise Kingdom in the theatre or anywhere else for that matter until 2013 actually. I randomly decided to watch it out of the blue one night and was instantaneously mesmerized. This film will grow on people over the years and eventually be a cult favorite. Wes Anderson was at the top of his game with this one. (Perhaps his best film since Bottle Rocket) Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman were amazing in the lead roles in what I can only liken to a modern day Blue Lagoon type of relationship. Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Edward Norton were hysterical throughout the film and never once did I look at a clock or think about doing anything else while watching this film. I can understand why some people may not like this one but to me this is by far the most underrated film of the year! [sorry Dan but I believe and support the use of under and overrated when it comes to films 100% ;) ]
#5. The Avengers
I really shouldn’t or couldn’t say too much about this film that hasn’t already been said. This film vaulted to the top of its genre. In a year with so many epic super-hero movies including the conclusion of what at this time is the greatest superhero trilogy of all-time in the Dark Knight Rises, Avengers slaughtered the competition. Avengers found a perfect balance between action and humor and everything in between. Most importantly it balanced the four main characters in a way that virtually no one believed was possible. What’s more? It even had character development and that should have been impossible to squeeze in with everything else that they had to do in their allotted time. Avengers raised the bar and is definitely the new standard for what every future superhero film would like to achieve.
#4. Silver Linings Playbook
It takes a lot for a movie like this to crack my Top 10. There are so many pitfalls for a Romantic Comedy to overcome that it usually is impossible for it to come out unscathed. Silver Linings did just that. This was not me just buying into the hype that accompanied this film either. This film was literally every bit as good as everyone says it is. Jennifer Lawrence was absolutely ridiculous in this role. I was very happy to see her justifiably win an Oscar for this one. This film like Flight succeeded in its realism in ways most films can only hope to do. It was sad, it was funny, it was romantic, it was happy, it was angry, but most of all it was real. There is a reason this film is on just about everybody’s Top Ten list for 2012 and thats because its an absolute must see. I thankfully give this one my first five-star rating of the entire list of 40 films from 2012.
As a history major and a general history buff I usually go into a movie like Lincoln prepared to be disappointed. However, in a year full of historical pieces, like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Red Tails etc, Lincoln towered over everything else. Spielberg once again showed why he is perhaps the greatest director not just of our generation but of all-time. Daniel Day-Lewis was insane and much deserving of his best actor nod. I know my colleague has pointed to a variety of ‘flaws’ in the film but I simply don’t see it the way he does. This film in the end was about one man’s life and more specifically about one moment in that man’s life. The film succeeded in all aspects in its portrayal of one of the greatest figures in American history. This movie was a masterpiece, nothing else needs to be said.
#2. Life of PI
In the opening I mentioned a variety of things that can separate a great film from a phenomenal film. Almost all of those aspects were present in Life of PI. From a purely visual perspective this was the best movie of the year. Its effects were stunning and you could have watched this movie on mute and still be entertained and mesmerized. It was THAT good visually. It was unique and different in just about every way. What resonated most with me though perhaps was the underlying story that existed beyond all the flashy visuals. This movie poses religious questions and debates with so much tact and delicacy that the common person probably never even understood the deeper meaning behind this movie. The screenplay and directing was flawless and I just have an extreme appreciation for what this movie is teaching us overall. I suspect that the common movie goer had no clue what they had watched when they left the theatre, I on the other hand knew exactly what I had just seen…….the second best movie of the entire year!
#1. Les Miserables
Often times a movie buff like myself needs time to pass before they can truly measure up the films of any given year. This is partially why I have waited until almost the half-way point of 2013 to reveal my movie rankings for 2012. Initially Life of PI was my early pick for best movie of the year, but over the months the Top 4 “L” movies here rotated amongst the four top spots. As more and more time passed however, one film was just staying with me and staying on my mind more than any of the others. That film, was Les Miserables. I am passionate about many things in life; history, baseball, cartoons, science fiction, and singing are among them. Also on that list though is the theatre and more specifically in musicals overall. From Phantom of the Opera, to My Fair Lady, to Guys and Dolls (I could go on and on) I have a deep love for the musical genre. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a Broadway show transposed onto the silver screen any better than was Les Miserables.
I know there was a lot of discussion on the actual vocal performances within the film but anyone who gives any credence to anything Adam Lambert says when it comes to ‘singing’ should have their hearing permanently removed from their body. The singing in this film was not only remarkable but was real and believable as well. This was not just a bunch of Hollywood stars being handed these ‘sacred’ roles and characters. Each and every one of them worked their tales off to honor the roles in which they were blessed to portray. Hugh Jackman was amazing as Jean Valjean. My favorite performances outside of Jackman were Samantha Barks who was magnetic as Eponine and Isabelle Allen as the younger version of Cosette. And I would be silly not to mention perhaps the single best piece of casting of all of 2012 when Colm Wilkinson was cast as Bishop Myriel. For those of you who don’t know, Wilkinson was the original Jean Valjean and to include him in this film not only as a way to pay respects to the history of this story but to give him the chance to teach and advise the cast was pure genius. I do have to mention that I was thoroughly appalled on my visit to the theatre to see Les Miserable when less than 10 minutes in a couple walked out of the theatre. Such a sad statement on society that anyone could number one, enter this movie not knowing that it was a musical and number two, that they could be so ignorant to not be able to appreciate a musical for what it is….magnificent!