The final days of 2012 are upon us, and after surviving both a general election that would never end and the Mayan apocalypse, 2012 turned out to be a pretty good year for movies. A slow first half put that in question, but when the fall rolled around a lot of strong films came out and as a result there were a lot of choices to be made as to what would make it into my top ten.
Before I get into my official list, I have a couple of honorable mentions. First off is HBO’s “Game Change”; a made for TV movie so I can’t really consider it with the others, but this was such an interesting, well done, and in my opinion terrifying look into politics that it merits some recognition.
Sadly I was not able to see many docs this year, but the one I made sure I saw was “Side by Side” and it just missed out of cracking my top ten. It is a must watch for anyone in the film business, but is provides a great deal of information and interest for those who aren’t.
Then there is “The Avengers”. A blast of a movie that pulled off something that not many thought was possible with so many superheroes in one film. Marvel spent years creating their universe so this could happen, and all that time and planning paid off in the best way possible for everyone.
Now lets get down to the fun stuff.
“Ted” is not exactly a marvel of filmmaking, but what Seth MacFarlane was able to do with his first feature film made one of the funniest films in the last few years. The creator of “Family Guy” took a clever idea and added his own personal flare to it and created such a memorable character in a crude little teddy bear. Most importantly though is the fact that underneath it all there is such a great heart to it. MacFarlane had a big year that will be topped with hosting the Oscars in February, but I most look forward to his next directorial outing.
9. Les Miserables
Considered one of the greatest stage musicals of all time, “Les Miserables’” first trip to the big screen is a worthy honoring of the musical, but also Victor Hugo’s original novel. It is a deeply affecting story, beautiful songs performed tremendously by the likes of Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, and company. The decision to sing the songs live rather than pre-recording was inspired as it added an intimacy to the performances, particularly Hathaway’s, who will win Best Supporting Actress for a single take. Whether Tom Hooper was the best choice to direct, or Russell Crowe the best possible Javert will always be a question, but not enough to bring down the overall quality of the film as one of the year’s best.
8. Safety Not Guaranteed
This little gem of a movie is a fantastic mix of classic indie romanticism with a science fiction twist. Based off a real life classified ad, the story takes such a unique snippet and spreads it into a fully fleshed out depiction of a group of people discovering whom they belong with. Aubrey Plaza gives a tremendous performance that goes far beyond her usual sassy girl, and Mark Duplass continues to be an indie staple. Perhaps what it does better than any time travel movie in history is give us a story where the idea of time traveling is just a small cog in the greater story.
7. Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have found their niche and become the voices of depicting the wars in the Middle East on film. After winning Best Picture for “The Hurt Locker” Bigelow and Boal give that film a run for its money with the tense and vital “Zero Dark Thirty”. It has been called film journalism at its best, and that is absolutely true, depicting the ten-year search for Osama Bin Laden, but there is more to it. It has a deeper meaning, embodied by Jessica Chastain’s character, of American will, our faults, but our overall determination.
A couple of years ago it looked like James Bond may have seen his last mission with the financial troubles of MGM and a less than stellar reception for “Quantum of Solace”. Well, it looks like you can’t keep a good spy down. Daniel Craig returns to 007 and proves why he is possibly the only rival to Sean Connery for best Bond. He has some help from Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins, a great theme by Adele, and possibly franchise best supporting turns from Judi Dench and Javier Bardem, but “Skyfall” is easily one of the best Bond films ever, and one of the best times to be had at the theatres this year.
5. Rust and Bone
It wouldn’t be a surprise if a large number of you haven’t heard of “Rust and Bone”, but let me tell you, you should take the time to see it. Ignore the fact that it is in French and you have to read subtitles and recognize that this is a lovely film that will floor you when all is said and down. Marion Cotillard, who most people better know by now, shows why she is even more brilliant to watch in her native language, and Matthias Schoenaerts will quickly be knocking down the door to big time Hollywood films as well. Their performances don’t make this film, which would have succeed in the hands of director Jacques Audiard anyway, but together they make it a truly unforgettable experience, and one that should cross international cinema lines.
4. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson is an acquired taste, but perhaps his most accessible film to date is also his best with “Moonrise Kingdom”. Don’t let the word accessible fool you though; this is still a film with all the styling and quirks that Wes Anderson is known for. The reason that it has found a wider audience than many of his movies before is that the story of these two young kids in love has a far greater reach amongst audiences. Simple and pure, that is the love that the two kids have for each other, and that is what makes “Moonrise Kingdom” such a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
There isn’t a film that takes you on such a journey, or wows you with a sense of magic than “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. Set on a small island south of Louisiana called The Bathtub, a young girl name Hushpuppy braves a changing world and creatures long thought gone to protect her and her father’s way of life. Not much more can be said about young Quvenzhané Wallis, and maybe not enough (although still a strong amount) has been said about first time director Behn Zeitlin. From story to the music, from beginning to end, this is a wonderful little film that is a must see for any and all.
2. Silver Linings Playbook
I admit I have a little bias to “Silver Linings Playbook” because of the fact that it is set in Philadelphia and strongly features the Philadelphia Eagles as part of the story. But this could honestly be a story set in New York, with the family routing for the New York Giants and it would still be just as funny, just as impactful, and just as brilliant. For my money it is the best ensemble performance, the best writing, and one of the best all around films of the year. You fall in love with this crazy family, with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and you wish that you could just for one Sunday be on the couch watching football with them, come an Eagles win or a loss.
1. Perks of Being a Wallflower
While “Silver Linings” seriously vied for this top spot, and my claims of it being this year’s top in many categories unwavering, my best film of the year is “Perks of Being a Wallflower”. Another brilliant ensemble, and a touching adaptation and direction by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the original book, are high marks for this film. However, what makes “Perks” so special though is the ideals of friendship that it gives. Whether you have friends like these, or you want some like them, it is so relatable to everyone and leaves you with such a great faith in people that you can ignore anything that may be off with the film. And when such a feeling is created by a movie, where else could I put it but as my number one for all of 2012.
Okay, there’s my list. Please feel free to comment if you agree, disagree, or want to share your own list of the best movies of the year. Also, get a quick glance at the entire year in film with the video imbedded in this article, created by Kees van Dijkhuzien.