The year end list are coming out and people seem to have the shortest memories. A lot of the films were released recently, and while excellent should not obliterate the movies that were around at the beginning or middle of the year. And while I like artistic, finely wrought emotional dramas as much as the next person, commercial releases can be just as effecting and as valid artistically.
2012 started (for this writer) with the explosive Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara. I actually saw this twice because I loved the Swedish minimalism, the fierce vulnerability of Lisbeth, and the tight storytelling.
The next film I saw was Young Adult with Charlize Theron. While Theron was hilarious as Mavis, a whiny immature ghostwriter still in love with a high school flame, it was Oswald Patton as the geeky Matt Freehauf that really touched my heart. They both came out in December 2011, but I am counting them because I actually saw them in January.
Madonna made her directorial debut in 2012 with the February release of W.E., her valentine to Wallis Simpson (played with relish by Andrea Riseborough). Abby Cornish is beautiful as Wally Winthrop, and the look of the film is smooth and expensive. It’s not deeply affecting, but it’s not completely disposable either.
Goon could be called Stiffler’s redeption. Ably played by Sean William Scott, Doug Glatt blunders into a career as a pro hockey player whose sole position is fighter. Sweet and incredibly stupid, he manages to gain popularity by doggedly sticking to his guns and getting up when others would gladly lay down and die. It’s like Rocky, but funny and on skates.
Casa de Mi Padre came out in March of this 2012 with a sizzling theme song sung by Christina Aguilera. It’s basically Will Ferrell in a telenovela. There are hallucinations, crazy drug dealers, and a lot more. I will see anything Will Ferrell decides to star in. Anything. Which is how i ended up seeing The Campaign (which I am not counting in the best of list, I’m just mentioning that I saw it.)
Moonrise Kingdom came out in August. I love Wes Anderson films and looked forward to slipping back into his world of make believe. It’s the story of Sam, played by a pre-pubescent Johnny Depp lookalike named Jared Gilman, who takes off with his emptionally disturbed girlfriend to live in the wild. Plans go awry, there are confrontations, explosions and storms, and surprises. The movie left me feeling unsettled, and a little jangled up. If he did a sequel, I’d go see it.
I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild, and I’m including it because I recognize that it’s an honest attempt at good film-making and I know that a lot of people (including Oprah) loved it to distraction and can’t stop raving about it. I personally thought that it was depressing and had to fight the urge to walk out and see something more fun. I was uncomfortable with the thought of a child living in those circumstances. but I also think that the story, the mythologizing of a missing parent, mental illness, abject poverty, and the bravery of children in extreme situations is too serious for me to let personal distaste keep me from reccommending it. Just don’t ask me to watch it with you because once was more than enough.
Top 3 Favorites
1. Rock of Ages: I saw the W magazine cover of Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, and while not a massive fan of his, I was so shocked by his transformation that I had to go see this movie. I LOVED IT. It rocked out. This is my coming of age era, and I felt it was captured perfectly, I sang along (so did a lot of the audience I saw it with) because I loved these songs as a teen.I thought Tom was insanely sexy in this role. It was a wonderful summer spectacle and has become my favorite modern movie musical since sneaking off to see Grease as a 9 year old. Buy the dvd and play karaoke every night with it, it’s that much fun.
2. Anna Karenina: Jude Law. His character’s steadfast devotion to his wife, until he is forced to break with her is remarkable. This phenomenally handsome actor turns himself into a middle-aged bureaucrat with the soul of a saint. Kiera Knightly is deliciously abandoned and the costumes, settings, and words are wonderful- but when Law’s character, Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin says ‘Thank God the curse of love has been lifted from me!’, I was devastated. Anna Karenina is a sumptuous, breathtaking, whirlwind of a fim and a major accomplishment for director Joe Wright. Go see it immediately, and buy the dvd when it comes out. It’s lovely.
3. Queen of Versailles: My favorite movie of the year. The documentary chronicles the downfall of the Siegels, a high living couple who see their dream to build America’s biggest home crumble to dust. If there is any story closer to the American heart, it’s the financial destruction of 2008 that we’re still recovering from. This is no escapist fantasy. Directed by Lauren Greenfield, it’s an honest look at great wealth laid low. It’s like a slap in the face, which is what a lot of people need. See it, then go look at your credit report and finances and make sure you have your retirement money in a safe place.