A lot of critics and film fans rush to get out their best of lists just before or just after the end of the year. That is perfectly fine, most people know definitely what they love the first time they see it. I like to take my time though, I like to rewatch those that I love and I like to watch as much as possible. As at 14 April, I’ve watched 162 films that were released in the US in 2012. Of these 162, I gave 12 a score of 4.5 or higher. Without further a do, here are my heavily thought over top 12 of 2012 in alphabetical order.
Whether it is completely accurate or not doesn’t really matter, it isn’t the first (nor will it be the last) Best Picture winner to stretch the truth. Argo is the kind of 70s thriller that Hollywood rarely makes these days, it is focused purely on thrilling and entertaining its audience. Affleck keeps this straight as an arrow and simple, avoiding overt political subtext and delivering an intense and absorbing thriller.
Nobody expected The Avengers to be as amazing as it is. Whedon’s writing and direction hails back to the golden age of Hollywood blockbusters, with Star Wars, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones influences easily noticeable. Whedon created the ultimate crowd-pleaser, filling the film with witty banter, exciting action sequences and being gifted one of the best casts in years. All the parts assembled perfectly, films don’t get any more enjoyable than The Avengers.
The Cabin in the Woods
In 2012 nothing challenged and busted out of its genre conventions like The Cabin in the Woods. Through a clever and original screenplay, Goddard and Whedon built a film with the main goal of making the audience laugh whilst also delivering a smattering of scares and surprises. They single handedly took the piss out of, and saved the mainstream horror genre with one 95 minute film. The best horror and comedy of the year.
What is Cloud Atlas? I’ve seen it described as everything, from sci-fi to melodrama, from perfect to nonsense. Nothing split audiences and critics like Cloud Atlas, but there was nothing else that presented classic ideologies and questions in such a wonderfully messy puzzle. It isn’t for everybody, but for those that want something more from their cinema than it is hard to go past this big-budget indie.
Despite its inclusion, Django Unchained is far from Tarantino’s best. The loss of Sally Menke is felt throughout proceedings and as a result QT’s longest film struggles at times to hold your attention. But the film still features his typically writing and visual flairs and the ultra-violent finale is one of the best scenes of 2012. Add another epic performance from Christoph and you’ll find it hard not to get caught up in this adventure.
Whilst being a documentary, The Imposter doesn’t feel like a documentary at all, instead it plays out like the kind of bizarre thriller Brain De Palma would direct. The suspense and surprises never cease and the film will have you gasping with disbelief until the finale frame. In a year of absolutely outstanding docos, this is the one you’ll be recommending to friends and watching again and again. Robbed of an Oscar nomination.
Whilst the content and lack of story might not appeal to all, the acting from the three leads will keep even the most hard-nosed cinephile intrigued and absorbed until the end. Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is gorgeous to watch and if you missed this on the big screen than you really need to kick yourself. Despite an already amazing filmography, The Master is my favourite PTA film to date.
I’ve never enjoyed the films of Wes Anderson. Often they are trying so hard to be quirky and out there that Anderson forgets to tell an actual story. With Moonrise Kingdom he fixes all the issues I have with him whilst still retaining his quirkiness and incredible visual style. I fell in love with Sam and Suzy immediately and because of that this is a film I can happily watch again and again.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is perhaps a sentimental favourite, but it had me blubbering like a pansy in cinemas. I still find it hard to contain my shit even when I rewatch it. Charlie, Sam and Patrick are three of the most sincere and loveable characters put to screen in recent years. The script may not hit all the right marks all the time and many may be put off be the ‘coolness’, but the characters are so wonderful that I personally can’t resist.
The best action film wasn’t a big superhero film or an ensemble of ass kicking old timers, the best action film of 2012 was a tightly-budgeted Indonesian film called The Raid. Gareth Evans proved to the world that you don’t need $100 million to create a kick-ass action film, instead doing it for a few million, in a foreign language and with a no-name cast. You won’t believe how brilliantly brutal this film is until you see it.
Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook will keep you buzzed for days. A rom-com at its core, David O. Russell has crafted a magnificent film that contains the right dose of serious material to balance out all the fluffy love stuff. Lawrence is alluring (she was better in Winter’s Bone though), however Bradley Cooper is the real star here delivering a performance you never thought him capable of. We also need to thank it for rescuing Robert De Niro from the straight-to-DVD slums.
The Sound of My Voice
It was my most anticipated of the year, I was sold the moment I heard the premise and The Sound of My Voice didn’t fail me. The lack of answers will frustrate some, but the minimalist charm of the film really won me over. Brit Marling is hypnotising, beautiful and scary as fuck, you never know her end game and she owns this film. Watch everybody involved with this film, they are all on the way up and have big futures ahead of them.
These aren’t my next 10 films, well some are, but for the most part these are films that I think deserve a mention for trying something new or out-performing low expectations. They deserve a pat on the back and a “good effort, better luck next time”.
5 Broken Cameras – for proving you can make an impact even if you are a just regular citizen with a video-camera.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – for the incredible score and how much it is growing on me since release.
Berberian Sound Studio – for being the most unsettling horror of the year without actually being a horror.
End of Watch – for delivering way above expectations and being my biggest surprise of 2012.
Frankenweenie – for proving that Tim Burton still has a pulse and can be great if the material is right.
The Grey – for allowing Liam Neeson to funnel all his anger into one brilliant role.
The Hobbit – for plummeting my extremely low expectations and providing one of my most enjoyable cinema experiences in 2012.
Holy Motors – for being like nothing I’ve ever seen and still making me scratch my head 6 months after seeing it.
Mirror Mirror – for sticking to the story’s roots and being the significantly better Snow White adaptation.
The Sessions – for the courageous performances and the heart-warming honesty.
Thank you for reading. Post any questions you have and I’ll happily answer them.