Monday, January 7, 2013

2012: A Year at the Movies



Another year and another Top 10 list. In hindsight, 2012 was quite a good year at the movies. Amidst the sequels, the reboots, and book adaptations, there were a slew of very goods and greats from the 191 movies that I reviewed. Many film pundits and regular moviegoers oversold "Argo." I found it to be solid storytelling, as well as a good third feature from actor-director Ben Affleck, but it didn't make the list. "Lincoln," despite Steven Spielberg being at the helm and an uncanny turn from Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, was a big disappointment to this writer. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" was just bafflingly overrated, even though it housed a confident, inspiring performance by 6-year-old Quvenzhan√© Wallis and captured its sense of place as well as a documentary might have. So, while most critics have littered all of the Oscar bait on their Top 10 lists, I was more taken by the following, which are all distinct:


10. Chronicle - Like a bolt from the blue, "Chronicle" is a nifty game-changer that will drop your jaw over and over. Cleverly realized, exciting, emotional, and staggeringly awesome, this teen-misfit sci-fi crossover in home-video format springs so many surprises on us that it's worthy of a "wow."


9. Silver Linings Playbook - Rawly authentic, unexpectedly affecting, and offbeat in the best way, "Silver Linings Playbook" doesn't feel the need to trade in its messiness and nerve for formula and cuddliness. That's not to say it's not funny and romantic, but the most humorous and sweetest kinds of people are the ones that don't know it—just like this film.


8. Skyfall - "Skyfall" is a balance of classic and modern, taking some of the jaunty playfulness from the '60s and the gritty coolness of the last two movies with Craig; it's meaty but light on its feet, weighty but not self-serious, and altogether dangerous and thrilling. Easily the best of the most recent three and one of the top Bonds in the franchise.


7. Cloud Atlas - While some cookie-cutter formula pictures entertain but disintegrate from memory on the drive home, "Cloud Atlas" is brimming with so much energy, beautiful spectacle, and imagination that a film swinging for the fences is the much more desirable one. It's a singular, polarizing piece of work that can't be ignored and won't be forgotten. 


6. Your Sister's Sister - In the summer, it's refreshing to see a movie made outside of the Hollywood studio system. "Your Sister's Sister" is a small, character-driven, performance-based piece about three characters talking in a cabin. It's naturally funny, gently moving, and deeply satisfying. 


5. Zero Dark ThirtyWhile "Argo" Hollywoodized its crazy-but-true story in history with exciting manipulation, "Zero Dark Thirty" dramatizes the global needle-in-a-haystack hunt for Osama bin Laden and still feels unadorned and matter-of-fact, giving this film a more enduring power. Kathryn Bigelow gives us urgent, riveting filmmaking and Jessica Chastain delivers one of the most fiercely committed and commanding performances of the year.


4. Life of Pi - Harrowing, stirring, and utterly magical, "Life of Pi" stands as director Ang Lee's next magnum opus. It won't make atheists believe in God, but the film holds more than enough credibility to believe such a fantastical parable. 


3. Looper - Tricky but not condescending and cerebral but not emotionally cold, "Looper" works on multiple levels: as a brainy piece of science fiction; a brutal, thrillingly sensational action spectacle; an emotional character piece . . . and a superior mind-bender to even "Inception." Yeah, I said it.


2. The Cabin in the Woods - Giddily playful, twistedly creepy, darkly witty, and unsuspectingly ambitious, "The Cabin in the Woods" is a true horror geek's high that will leave them satiated. This is buckets of fun that returns to the roots of "fun horror" like a gushing love letter wrapped in a big, blood-red bow. It's one of a kind.


1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - The film may seem like just another teen movie that chronicles the joys and pains of high school and coming of age, but it covers such themes while striking plenty of hard truths, emotional warmth, and relatability to set itself apart from its cinematic elders that started such a nostalgic staple. A sublime labor of love, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" has enough, yes, perks to be something special. Timeless, poetic, exquisitely written, and reverberatingly moving. 

Honorable Mentions: 
Arbitrage; Bernie; Brave; Celeste and Jesse Forever; Compliance; Dark Horse; The Dark Knight Rises; Detachment; Django Unchained; Entrance; Flight; Friends with Kids; Goon; The Grey; Hello I Must Be Going; Hitchcock; Hope Springs; The Hunger Games; The Innkeepers; Jeff, Who Lives at Home; Katy Perry: Part of Me; Killer Joe; Lawless; Les Miserables; The Loved Ones; Magic Mike; Marvel's The Avengers; Moonrise Kingdom; ParaNorman; Pitch Perfect; Prometheus; Ruby Sparks; Seeking a Friend for the End of the World; The Sessions; Seven Psychopaths; Sinister; Sound of My Voice; Take This Waltz; 10 Years; 21 Jump Street; The Woman in Black

Dishonorable Mentions:
Alex Cross; The Apparition; ATM; The Babymakers; Beneath the Darkness; Bel Ami; Cosmopolis; Darling Companion; The Devil Inside; The Divide; Gone; Jack and Diane; A Little Bit of Heaven; The Moth Diaries; Nature Calls; One for the Money; Playing for Keeps; Silent Hill: Revelation; Taken 2; A Thousand Words; Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie; That's My Boy; The Wicker Tree; The Words

Underrated:
Bachelorette; Beyond the Black Rainbow; Chernobyl Diaries; Dark Shadows; Detention; The Five-Year Engagement; The Guilt Trip; In Their Skin; Lola Versus; The Odd Life of Timothy Green; The Raven; Rock of Ages; Save the Date; Silent House; The Tall Man; The Three Stooges; V/H/S; Wanderlust

Overrated:
Beasts of the Southern Wild; Damsels in Distress; Lincoln; The Master; Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

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