Top 10 Films of 2012
From great documentaries to sweet indies to big studio movies, 2012 was one of the biggest years ever. It will be remembered for the reinvention of musicals with Tom Hooper’s LES MISERABLES, the meet-and-greet of horrifying engineers in Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS and the toppling of an empire in Lauren Greenfield’s QUEEN OF VERSAILLES.
There was no shortage from which to choose from at your local cinemas where superheroes reigned supreme at the box office, animated adventures were welcomed by young and old alike, and favorite characters from the various prequels and sequels were embraced like old friends.
As we head into the new year, some of the most anticipated films of 2013 are Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL, J.J. Abrams’ STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, Shane Black’s IRON MAN 3, Marc Forster’s WORLD WAR Z, Dan Scanlon’s MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, Gore Verbinski’s THE LONE RANGER, Joseph Kosinski’s OBLIVION, M. Night Shyamalan’s AFTER EARTH, Guillermo del Toro’s PACIFIC RIM, James Mangold’s THE WOLVERINE, Neill Blomkamp’s ELYSIUM, Sam Raimi’s OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, Baz Luhrmann’s THE GREAT GATSBY, Kenneth Branagh’s JACK RYAN, Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY and George Clooney’s THE MONUMENTS MEN.
In our look back at the year that was, WAMG has compiled our list of the ten best films of 2012.
Honorable Mention – SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is the second feature film from writer/director Martin McDonogh and the second to show his prowess with smart, dark comedic material. Once again enlisting Colin Farrell, McDonogh throws Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken into his alchemy and creates an unexpected yet very satisfying reaction. Much like Charlie Kaufman’s ADAPTATION, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS blurs the lines of reality and fiction, art as life and vice-versa. The main character, a screenwriter suffering a creative block embarks on a dangerous journey into the mind of psychotic killers to research ideas, unaware that he’s living his next film.
It turns out that it’s always possible to reinvigorate a movie series, even after fifty years and twenty-three installments. Sam Mendes, seemingly the most ill-fitting director for the job, ended up making the newest James Bond the best in years, even decades. With a smart script, terrific cast, and astonishing cinematography from Roger Deakins, SKYFALL mixes the best of traditional Bond elements with a fresh sensibility to make a great statement on what James Bond is, and what he could be moving forward.
PARANORMAN paid homage to some of the best known horror movies. The creative filmmakers behind the lovable CORALINE brought audiences their second stop-motion animated feature. Nominated for 8 Annie Awards, all the films’ tiny food, sets and characters were given great care down to the minutest detail. Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, PARANORMAN is the story of an outcast boy who can see dead people and talk to zombies – all the while being bullied by the kids at school. We loved that Norman found a loyal pal in the energetic Neil. The movie grabbed us emotionally and we cheered Norman on as he became the hero of the town. A pleasant mix of scares for both the kiddos and their parents, PARANORMAN easily found a place in our hearts and on WAMG’s best of the year list.
8. MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS
2012′s biggest box office earner may also be the most fun popcorn flick of the year. After laying the ground work for this team-up flick since IRON MAN in 2008, Marvel Studios did the unexpected. They handed the reins of this new potential franchise (combining four film franchises) over to relative movie director newcomer and TV wunderkind (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) Joss Whedon (who also had a hand in this year’s delightful fright flick CABIN IN THE WOODS). And did he deliver! Of course there are the big action set pieces (like in the classic comics, the Marvel Superheroes battle when they first meet), but the biggest surprise may be the witty, multi-layered screenplay. Unlike many films that feature a large core cast (X-MEN, STAR TREK), each character truly got a chance to shine, even screen newbie Hawkeye. Perhaps Joss’s biggest coup was finally turning the Hulk into a real movie star after two solo features. Let’s hope we hear the rallying cry of “Avengers Assemble” again at the multiplexes very soon!
7. LIFE OF PI
Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, Ang Lee’s fantastic adventure film centers on a young Indian boy named Pi, who survives a disaster at sea and has to fight for survival aboard a lifeboat for weeks on end with another survivor – a Bengal tiger. This is not the story of a boy and his tiger becoming buddies. This is about a boy fighting to stay alive without starving, becoming dehydrated, and most importantly – being EATEN BY A TIGER. Ultimately, LIFE OF PI also the story of a boy finding faith in God. It is a rousing adventure film with breathtaking visuals and spectacular 3D imagery.
6. ZERO DARK THIRTY
ZERO DARK THIRTY tackles one of the biggest man-hunts in history as its subject… The search for Osama bin Laden. The film follows the search following the unspeakable events of September 11th, 2001 and gives Americans a glimpse into how Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 ultimately found, and killed the most wanted man in the world. Although graphic at times, the film offers suspense, intensity, and fantastic writing. It’s a must see for 2012.
5. DJANGO UNCHAINED
Quentin Tarantino often talks of quitting as a filmmaker, but when he continues to turn out work as vital and alive as DJANGO UNCHAINED, I hope that remains the idle chatter between each recharge of his battery, because his voice is one of the true treasures of modern movies, with this newest, the melding of Blaxploitation and classic Westerns, simply the latest entry in one of the most interesting filmographies today.
AMOUR is, as promised by its title, a movie about love. It’s hard to watch, not least because Austrian director Michael Haneke does not intend for the audience to be passive spectators. Rather, he wants us to feel uncomfortable as uninvited guests to the private intimacy shared by long-married couple Georges and Anne. Before we have a chance to feel familiar with them, Anne suffers a stroke that begins the unraveling of her mortal coil. Haneke shows her and Georges’ loss of dignity with dignity. This movie is not an auteur’s opinion of love; it is the offering of an artist who asks us to contemplate what love means to us so that our lives may be enriched.
LOOPER is an entertaining science fiction thriller that neatly blurs the line between suicide and murder, it’s a narrowly conceived yarn about victims sent back in time to be bumped off by assassins called loopers. Rian Johnson, in his third feature, keeps the action going while trying to maintain interest in the long arc of a story about Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man assigned to kill his 30-years-older self (Bruce Willis). LOOPER is mostly set in a seedy metropolis that doesn’t look all that different from sketchy neighborhoods in some big cities today; there are derelicts, bombed-out buildings, ruined cars and enough other signs of urban ills to suggest that, in Johnson’s view, things will just gradually decline over the next three decades. There really is no sense in the time-travel in LOOPER, but no less sense than in any other film in this genre. Johnson makes up for it with narrative force, mesmeric fascination and a sense of a profound taboo being broken.
LINCOLN is a stupendous film. It will later be considered an important film in Spielberg’s career. As a film about a beloved president, it is subtle and power. After reading many books on Lincoln, including ‘Team of Rivals, which this film is partially based on, I think that there has never been a more authentic and realistic portrayal of the president seen in a motion picture. Steven Spielberg’s direction is first-rate and very restrained here. I love his skill with the camera and cinematic visuals, but here he allows the history to shine through! The screenplay stays true and authentic to the period—the 1860’s. I didn’t catch any dialogue that seemed wrong…or a piece of set design, which was glaringly unreal. Historically, nothing egregious appeared in the film that took me out of the story. Daniel Day Lewis is almost supernatural in his ability to transform into a character. He brings the word ‘Art’ into the realm of acting once again, which is cool in a world in which ‘Stars’ without talent who denigrate the craft. As for the subject of the film: Lincoln was a genius, in my opinion, able to show great compassion, but also leadership powers akin to a tightrope walker, able to contain a ‘Team of Rivals’ within his own cabinet; he was very rational, able to tell a witty story one minute and give a beautifully written speech the next. On all these levels, Daniel Day Lewis is able to bring out the most accurate Lincoln I have ever seen. And, from what I’ve read, the voice Daniel came up with for Abe is spot-on and as accurate as it is possible to be. Whether it was Daniel’s role in the brilliant, ‘There Will Be Blood’ or his early performance in ‘A Room With a View,’ this is one hell of an excellent actor. It isn’t just the performance of Abe, either. All the actors, including Sally Field as Mary Lincoln, are perfect. As far as history goes, no piece of dialogue, no part of a set, no performance seemed to betray the 21st Century. This film is almost a time capsule of one of the most glorious, terrible and revolutionary times (The Civil War and the final eradication of slavery) in our country. As a motion picture, I cannot think of a more worthy film deserving of the ‘Best Picture.’ It is super that there are films out there that break the limits of censorship, that entertain us with often-entertaining, weird and offensive subject matter, BUT I also demand that there be ART in motion pictures. I want to know that my interest isn’t just made up of bilious, though fun, garbage. It is wonderful that a serious movie was made so skillfully about a man and subject so important, poignant, brave and vital.
And our number one film of the year…
ARGO tells the recently-declassified true story of a CIA agent named Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) who concocted and led a scheme involving a fake movie production to get six U.S. embassy workers out of Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the resulting hostage crisis. Mendez is brought on as an advisor and when he learns how bad the CIA’s plan is to extract them, he comes up with an outlandish plan: pass the workers off as members of a Canadian film crew on a location scout for a sci-fi Star Wars ripoff called Argo. Look for solid, funny performances by Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Also directed by Affleck, ARGO is intense with it’s nailbiting ending and hilarious as it pokes fun at Hollywood.