By Scott Kayser
It seems as though I’m always playing catch up with year’s movies in December. While I wouldn’t say I was successful in seeing all the movies I wanted, 2012 has ended and it’s time for my Top 10 list. 2012 was quite a big year with some of my most anticipated movies ever and more than a few huge hits in the box office. I only had the opportunity to see 40 of this year’s movies, a number I’m not exactly proud of, but based on the fact that about half the movies I saw this year entered some sort of consideration for my list, I feel like I made good film choices this year. The glaring gaps in my movie viewing for this year are Lincoln, Seven Psychopaths, and Silver Linings Playbook, among others. Hopefully, I’ll fit them in before award season but here are my Top 10 (or 25%) Movies of 2012 as they stand at the end of the year.
I’m quickly going to throw in my Top 10 Movies from the past two years as a reference for my tastes.
10. True Grit
9. Exit Through the Gift Shop
8. Toy Story 3
7. The Fighter
6. King’s Speech
5. The Town
4. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (SWE)
3. Black Swan
2. Social Network
9. Tree of Life
8. Ides of March
5. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (USA)
4. Project Nim
3. X-Men: First Class
Honorable Mention (in no particular order):
Prometheus – Certainly one of the most polarizing movies of 2012, Prometheus divided fans and critics alike. I, for one, found myself enveloped in the beautifully desolate setting and captivated by Michael Fassbender’s android, David. Sure, there were some plot holes in the movie and it faltered a bit near the end, but I enjoyed the ride.
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – While it took a while for the movie to find itself and get rolling, I was so happy to make it back to Middle Earth! Loved Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and the riddle scene with Gollum was one of my favorites this year. And I don’t think it was just me but Gandalf seemed to become much more badass. Looking forward to the sequel next year and I would be surprised if the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug didn’t make my Top 10 next year.
Ted – Not that I expected anything less from Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane, Ted was by the far the funniest movie I saw this year. Mark Wahlberg once again proved he has amazing comedic abilities and Seth MacFarlane’s raunchy teddy bear, Ted was nothing short of hilarious. And if you’ve ever wanted to see a man get the shit beat out of him by his talking teddy bear, this movie won’t dissapoint.
Cabin in the Woods – What at first appeared to be just another run of the mill horror movie, Cabin in the Woods pulled the rug out from under me about two/thirds of the way into the film. Essentially putting an ingenious twist on all horror movies, Cabin in the Woods became one of the most fun and original horror movies I’ve ever seen. I’m incredibly impressed that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard were able to write this movie in 3 days. And I quite enjoyed Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford’s comedic pairing in this movie.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Easily one of the most heartfelt movies of 2012, Beasts of the Southern Wild follows Hush Puppy, a young girl who lived with her daddy in the Bathtub, a remote part of the Louisiana delta. Quvenzhane Wallis gives a powerful performance as Hushpuppy for any actor, but especially for a nine year old. This film showcases what has become one of my favorite father-daughter relationships as they struggle through the trials of living in a Bathtub.
10.) Argo – Ben Affleck has quickly been becoming one of my favorite directors. His first two films, Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town, are incredible films for any director, but especially for a relatively new director. The third entry in his filmography, Argo, leaves his record untarnished in my book. A tense thriller based on true events, Argo chronicles the extraction of six Americans from revolutionary Iran by faking a movie production. I loved the blend of humor and tension throughout the film, John Goodman and Alan Arkin effortlessly providing the comedy here as fake producers for the fake movie. And despite knowing the ending to the movie almost the entire time, I was on the edge of my seat for the whole film. The highlights were the script reading scene and the final interrogation scene in the airport. I look forward to Affleck’s next effort and have faith he will make it 4 for 4!
9.) The Master – There were certainly high expectations for Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow up film to There Will Be Blood and The Master delivered. Showcasing two incredible performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, the Master follows Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a damaged Naval veteran who becomes intrigued with the leader of a newly found religion (Hoffman) after returning from war. More of a character study, the Master centers on the dynamic between these two characters and how it evolves. This film is beautifully shot and directed by Anderson and Phoenix gives an intensely disturbing performance. Highlight of this movie was the first processing scene between Phoenix and Hoffman.
8.) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia – One of the only foreign movies I was able to see this year, I went into this movie with little or no expectations. Most of this movie takes place in the remote countryside of rural Turkey as a group of policemen search for a body with the guilty party. Backed by solid performances from the entire cast, Anatolia makes a relatively desolate environment come to life through the use of slow panning shots of the sprawling hills of Anatolia. While one of the slowest paced movies I’ve seen, this film remained powerful nonetheless.
7.) The Raid: Redemption – This film was easily the best action movie I have seen in years. A very bare bones story, the Raid delivers an hour and half of unrelenting action as a small police force is sent into an apartment filled with criminals in order to apprehend the drug lord who lives on the top floor. The fight scenes were well choreographed, well performed and well shot. I figured an entire movie of hand-to-hand combat would get old but that’s never the case with the Raid, which features some of the most brutal and unique fight scenes I’ve seen since the Matrix. Incredibly excited that this is the first movie in a planned trilogy.
6.) Moonrise Kingdom – Equal parts humor and heart, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom depicts the romance between a 12-year-old ‘Khaki Scout’ and a young girl as they run away from home. Backed up an impressive supporting cast including: Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Frances McDormand, and the always hilarious Bill Murray, the two newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward shine in this film. Anderson’s look into the tight-knit island community of New Penzance is so full of its own quirk and idiosyncrasies, it feels like it could be real place. Oh and this film is worth it just to see Bill Murray drunkenly chopping a tree down in his pajamas.
5.) Django Unchained – Violence and humor are what I have come to expect (and love) from Quentin Tarantino and that’s exactly what we got from Django Unchained. Tarantino’s latest masterpiece follows the titular slave, played by Jamie Foxx, who wants to rescue his wife from slavery and the bounty hunter, Christoph Waltz, who frees him. While being initially skeptical of Foxx, I left the movie quite impressed with his performance and Waltz stole every scene he was in. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson were also quite entertaining as a plantation owner and his old slave at the plantation where Django’s wife was kept. Eye-poppingly stylistic and full of great dialogue, Django was everything I wanted it to be. It ran nearly 3 hours but it was 3 hours of pure entertainment and enjoyment that left me wanting more.
4.) Skyfall – Bond is back. After the disappointment of Quantum of Solace, it was time for 007 to bring his ‘A-game.’ Mission accomplished. Skyfall hit a little closer to home as M was put in danger by a figure from her past as 007 must prove himself after being ‘resurrected.’ Almost serving as a reboot for the series, the franchise proved that it was still important, just as Bond proved himself a useful and relevant agent in the movie. Smart and cool, just as Bond, this movie benefited greatly from a strong story, some great action set pieces and the most memorable villain in years, played by Javier Bardem.
3.) Dark Knight Rises – It pains me not to put this movie at the top of my list this year but I shall suspend my extreme bias towards Christopher Nolan and the Dark Knight franchise for the time being. Certainly my most anticipated of 2012, I had the distinct pleasure of viewing the Dark Knight Rises 4 times in the first 48 hours after its release. Taking place 8 years after the events of Dark Knight, Rises introduces a new stronger villain in the form of Bane as Batman struggles to become the hero Gotham needs. While no one could surpass Heath Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hardy gives a brutal performance as the villain Bane and Anne Hathaway fit into the role (and leather suit) of Selina Kyle amazingly. While not without its flaws, the Dark Knight Rises gave an action packed and emotionally fulfilling conclusion to Batman’s saga.
2.) Looper – The concept of this movie alone would be worth consideration of being of this list. A hitman (Joseph Gordon Levitt), also known as a looper, who kills people sent from the future is tasked with killing his future self (Bruce Willis) and chaos ensues. What makes this movie so impressive is that the concept was pulled off and pulled off brilliantly by director Rian Johnson. Simultaneously developing a believable future where time travel is possible, creating a action packed sci-fi thriller, and developing characters in which the audience can become emotionally invested in, Johnson succeeded in an incredible balancing act. Levitt and Willis give solid performances here, but the standout is young Pierce Gagnon, who Rian Johnson dubbed ‘the film’s secret weapon.’ Without a doubt, one of the most original, inventive and well-filmed sci fi films in years.
1.) Life of Pi – I went to see Life of Pi because I love animals, especially tigers, and there was no way I was going to miss a movie about a boy who gets stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger. Little did I know at the time, but this film would end up being my best movie of 2012. Although I was unable to see this movie in 3-D, Life of Pi was the most incredibly beautiful and visually stunning films I can recall, Moreover, Life of Pi examined every aspect of the human experience, ranging from life and death to faith and family, all without ever sounding preachy. However, for me, the most powerful aspect of the film was the relationship that develops between the main character, Pi (Suraj Sharma) and the tiger, Richard Parker. While I would never consider their relationship a friendship, they only have each other and keep each other relatively sane. Throughout this movie, I laughed and I cried and I experienced the whole gamut of human emotions. This emotional weight and visual beauty of this movie are why it has earned its place here as my Best Film of 2012.