|The award traditionally given to the best film|
of the year is a green guy in a garbage can.
The other longstanding movie tradition I have is to rank my ten favorite movies of the year. Believe it or not, this isn't actually an original idea. It turns out many movie critics keep this same tradition and hundreds of thousands of people whose job has nothing to do with watching movies do it too. I won't pretend my list is any better or more meaningful than anyone else's, but I've got this blog now, so I might as well post mine here. Feel free to tell me how much better YOUR list is in the comments.
* To "Silent House," you had me, then you lost me, then you bored me, then you creeped me out (not in a good way), and then you made me wish I'd done something else with my Friday night.
* To "The Dictator" and "The Campaign," thank you for showing me I've grown up. There was probably a time in my life when I would have enjoyed each of you. Instead, I nearly turned you off.
* To "Ted," America loved you, I did not. I'm sure it's not you, it's me.
* To "The Lorax," I don't know why I thought there was some chance you weren't just going to take one of my favorite children's books and turn it into crap, but I was wrong. That's precisely what you did.
Alright, on to the films I liked...
* "Life of Pi" - A beautiful-looking film that did a better job of capturing the book than I expected.
* "Chronicle" - You don't need a huge budget or pre-existing characters to create a good superhero movie...
* "The Amazing Spider-Man" - If you've got my favorite pre-existing superhero though, I'm good with that too.
* "Flight" - Liked but didn't love it, but the plane crash was one of the most tense movie sequences I've seen.
* "Looper" - Sci-fi movies usually don't work, but when they do, it's a treat.
I would also mention "Killing Them Softly," "The Sessions, and "Silver Linings Playbook." They are the movies I most wanted to see but haven't (yet) gotten around to. Whether or not they would have cracked this list, of course I can't say.
Top Ten Movies of 2012:
10) Django Unchained - The over the top violence didn't bother me, though I did feel a bit jerked back-and-forth between comedic moments and scenes of intense seriousness. I could have done with about twenty fewer minutes near the end too (Tarantino really should stop appearing in his movies), and I'm not one to mind long films. That said, it made the list, so clearly I enjoyed it. Great dialogue, memorable characters, and fantastic-looking shots, just as we've come to expect from Tarantino.
09) The Cabin in the Woods - Of all the movies in the list, this is probably the least likely, in that I'm not much for horror movies. Of course, if you've seen it, you know describing it as "a horror movie" doesn't do it justice. I have to say, knowing all the options, undead hillbillies wouldn't have been my first choice.
08) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - The movie that has the best chance of climbing this list (were I to update it) over the next couple years, since, fair or not, I feel unable to decide for sure what I think of it until the second and third installments come out. I know I didn't love it as much as LOTR, but that's mostly due to the story not carrying the same weight. I was happy all the same to be returned to Middle Earth, and to know we're not finished there yet.
07) Beasts of the Southern Wild - It's always a treat when a movie you've never heard of until a couple weeks before you see it comes out, and then you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed this one. I'm thrilled Quvenzhane Wallis has been nominated for Best Actress. Only six years old when the movie was filmed, she made Hushpuppy one of the most memorable characters of the year.
06) The Dark Knight Rises - My least favorite of the three films, but still a worthy finale to the best trilogy in superhero cinema (and something has to be my least favorite). It's consistently engaging, Bane was an intriguing villain, and I liked the League of Shadows angle, but for me there were a few more false notes than in the first two installments. I also think I might not like Ann Hathaway very much (but that might just be the "Les Mis" trailer talking). All-in-all, this was still not only the winner among the 2012 popcorn movies for me, and stands up as more than a popcorn movie too.
05) The Master - I greatly enjoyed seeing this and wish I'd gone again, because I know I would have gotten a lot out of another viewing, as I did on my second and third trips to "There Will Be Blood." I don't think this film is quite on the same level as that one. Then again, I'm not sure any movie in recent years lives up to "There Will Be Blood." Paul Thomas Anderson is a master of his craft. I hope it's not another five years before we hear from him again. I'm thinking he should find a nice, light buddy comedy. He should still cast Daniel Day-Lewis and Philip Seymour Hoffman though, perhaps the two of them are wacky Middle School guidance counselors, one at a cushy suburban private school, the other at a rough and tumble inner city school, and it turns out they have to trade jobs!
04) Argo - One of a handful of films this year that showed how much mileage you can get out of putting a strong cast together. I enjoy when movies can recreate the not so distant past without it seeming tongue-in-cheek, ironic, or kitsch. "Argo" did that well.
03) Lincoln - When the cast for this first came together, I was confident it would be great. When I first saw the trailer though, my hopes dimmed a bit, as the preview seemed... I don't know, trite perhaps. A little too "I'm proud to be an American" for my liking. Upon the movie's release, I was happy to find out I was right the first time. It's Spielberg's best movie in ten years. I could watch Daniel Day-Lewis act in just about anything, the man knows what he's doing (and deserves another Oscar). Next time, he should lend his skills to a lesser President, one in greater need of help in becoming well known and admired. Rutherford B. Hayes was a good man, but no one knows it.
02) Zero Dark Thirty - One of the tough things about putting this list together every year is trying to assess movies I've seen so recently. In this case, it's been just five days. It's possible that in another few weeks, with more time to reflect, I'll have softened in my admiration, but it's also possible I won't. As has been written many times already, it's an impressive feat to take a story everyone knows the "ending" to and keep it tense and engaging all the same. Jessica Chastain, as the only character given much screen time, has to carry a ton of weight, and she carries it well. She'd likely get my vote for Best Actress (but maybe Quvenzhane would). I think the hubbub surrounding the torture scenes and the possible messages they may or may not send has been far overblown. They aren't what the movie is about, I don't think they were glamorized, and to leave them out of this story would have been dishonest.
01) Moonrise Kingdom - I am nothing if not a sucker for the filmography of Wes Anderson. I love the rhythms of his dialogue and his attention to minute details on the screen (perhaps my sister's work as a set decorator has given me a keen eye for props, decorations, color palettes, etc.). I suppose it's because I'm almost unendingly nostalgic, even for times I didn't live through and experiences I didn't have. I'm also drawn to melancholy (who else still listens to Nirvana's Unplugged album with great regularity?), apparently mistaking my middle-class childhood (which I'm so nostalgic for) for something to brood about. Those are conflicting emotions, I know. I wish I didn't enjoy Anderson's films so much, because it seems a bit of a cliche, but I am what I am and I like what I like. The Bishop family's house tops the Tenenbaum's on my list of favorite movie homes, the entire world of the Khaki Scouts delighted me, and Bill Murray is right, chopping a tree down is good for what ails you.
I have to say, while most of the movies on this list were easy inclusions for me, I found it a bit harder to rank them than I usually do. That may be due to so many of them being so close together in my mind, and/or my finding it a little harder to feel definitive about such things as I get older. I think the movies of 2012 were a very good bunch, probably my favorite since the fantastic batch in 2007. Looking ahead to the release schedule for 2013, it seems unlikely there will be so many I really enjoy, but only time will tell.