I know, “finally,” right? Yes, being in the situation we’re in, these aren’t the timeliest lists in the world. We don’t have enough data for our Best of 2012 list until 2013 has sat itself down, cracked open a beer and made itself comfortable.
It happens like this every year. The big critics get advance press screenings, we often don’t. They get to see them as they are released, instead of waiting for the January roll-outs. We often don’t. They will compile lists based on only a handful of the films eligible. We often won’t. I’m not bemoaning our lot in life, nor am I patting our site on the back there. That’s just the way it is, and it’s why my Best of 2012 list is being published now, after 2012 has started to fade from some people’s memory.
Now that we have seen the major films from 2012 however, we’re a bit more qualified to make our decisions. So, thanks for the patience, hope you’re enjoying your awards season and let’s get this show on the road.
First up are a few films that didn’t quite make the top ten, but are completely worth your time regardless.
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
And now the Top 10 Films of 2012!
10. THE WORDS – Didn’t I just get done talking about this one? Making it in just under the wire is this surprisingly complex melodrama which explores the power of words and the way they inspire and destroy us. The film is told from three different narrative perspectives. The main story has Bradley Cooper risking his marriage to Zoe Saldana when he plagiarizes the novel that ends up making him a star. There’s Jeremy Irons who narrates the actual story on which the novel is based, the novel he in fact wrote. And then there’s Dennis Quaid who may represent the self-destruction of one or both of them. A great screenplay well executed.
9, TED – There is no doubt that TED was the funniest film of 2012, and may be the funniest film of the last few years. Seth MacFarlane makes the transition to feature films gloriously with this twisted yet surprisingly touching film about a grown man who can’t let go of his childhood. This childhood is represented by his teddy bear, which was magically brought to life when he was little. Now that they are older, both are experiencing their own adult troubles and yet they can’t seem to let go of each other. Finally, Marc Wahlberg is in the great goofy comedy he has wanted to do for years, without being held down by screen hogs like Wil Ferrell. Mila Kunis is great as Walberg’s long-suffering girlfriend, a role with more to it than that description suggests. Hilarious.
8. THE AVENGERS – Marvel played the long game and it paid off beautifully. For the last six years, they’ve been taking control of their own properties, after seeing them mishandled by major studios (You can still see the results of this practice in a couple of the Worst Films of 2012). Marvel wisely cultivated the characters that they themselves had created and cultivated and spread the seeds of a major film event in each of their films. They had the wise foresight to hire the brilliant Joss Whedon to write and direct the ultimate superhero team-up. It’s an event whose epic scope never undermines a wonderfully-paced, brilliantly-written screenplay. How they managed to give everyone their time to shine without short-changing anyone is a major achievement all on its own. This is pure cinematic enjoyment.
7. COSMOPOLIS – Yes, one of the films that made Jesse’s Worst of 2012 list has made my Best of 2012 list. God, I love the combination of personalities we have on this site! In truth, very few people will like David Cronenberg’s latest film. The ones that do will likely love it and the ones that don’t will likely hate it. It’s that polarizing. A young billionaire takes a limo ride through the city as his world crumbles around him. It’s a shocking expose of our modern society, filled with psychological and emotional insight. This is a film that tackles issues rarely touched upon in film, and does it in a way that is damn near unique in its rarity. – Read my full review here.
6. DUST UP – I hate saying that this is the best film of 2012 you probably haven’t seen. It sounds like such a backhanded compliment. But it’s true. DUST UP has gotten some attention in certain circles, but most people have overlooked this incredible gem of a film. It features a soldier who has renounced violence (Aaron Gaffey) and his Native American companion (the decidedly not Native American Devin Barry). The two get into a battle to the death with an insane criminal who leads a drugged-out cult (Jeremiah Birkett), when a loser (Travis Betz – director of LO and THE DEAD INSIDE) gets in over his head. Caught in the middle is a struggling mom (the incredible Amber Benson – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and her infant daughter. This is an anarchic, twisted, quirky, funny, near-apocalyptic action comedy that should be seen by everyone. Director Ward Roberts (who helmed the equally great LITTLE BIG TOP) is a talent to watch. The production team behind this film is making some of the most interesting and unique independent films around. I will continue singing DUST UP’s praises until you all give it a look.
5. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – David O. Russell makes another great film with this inspiring and touching romantic-dramatic comedy. Bradley Cooper (making his second appearance on this list) plays a man recently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder whose marriage has fallen apart. He wants to get back together with his wife, no matter how delusional that might be. He befriends an equally emotionally damaged widow (Jennifer Lawrence, making her first appearance) and agrees to enter a dance contest with her, in order to relay communications to his ex-wife. This could have slipped into schmaltz so easily and yet Russell keeps everything perfectly level with an honest yet enjoyable screenplay. Cooper proves that anyone who dismisses him as the latest Flavor of the Month does so at their own peril. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, it’s truly shocking to see so much talent in someone so young. But the fact is all the praise Lawrence receives is earned and deserved. – Read my full review here.
4. CLOUD ATLAS – This film will develop a devoted cult following. It has to. I just can’t imagine a world so unjust that a film this complex and unique will slip through the cracks and be forgotten by time. The Warchowski siblings have created something not to be dismissed lightly – a challenging film that alternates through various narrative strands, spread across millenia. In each of the original stories, behavior is repeated and we see reincarnations of people from other times. CLOUD ATLAS is a film that defies all notions of race, gender, religion, sexual preference and anything else that divides us. The film should not have been one minute longer or shorter – everything is paced just perfectly that it seems like the slightest change could have been catastrophic CLOUD ATLAS is more than a great film, it’s a towering achievement that advances the entire art of filmmaking.
3. ARGO – I still don’t get why people are so quick to dismiss Ben Affleck. Did he make a few stinkers in his time? Most certainly, as have most people. But the guy has always had a good head on his shoulders. In recent years, he has advanced from the realm of actor and screenwriter and has become one of our greatest new directors. Anyone who still turns their noses up at what he has created is living in the past and showing their ignorance I’m afraid. ARGO is a tout political thriller that also happens to be based on a true story. It’s filled with great characters, funny dialogue and incredibly tense and emotional sequences. ARGO shows that there doesn’t need to be a distinction between classy filmmaking and great entertainment. This deserves its accolades and the Academy looks pretty foolish snubbing Affleck in the Best Director category. – Read my full review here.
2. THE HUNGER GAMES – Yes, really. I had read THE HUNGER GAMES about a year prior. It was an enjoyable book, one of the cases of teen fiction that has wound up being better than its genre name would suggest. But what director Gary Ross did with the material is nothing short of incredible. This is an outstanding film. THE HUNGER GAMES wisely never becomes a mere action film in which the lethal bloodsport of the Hunger Games becomes an excuse for set-pieces. To do that would be to miss the entire point of the film. Instead, what we have is a film about oppression, individuality and being placed in a no-win situation against the forces of greed and corruption. It’s a huge hit, but I hope people continue to look at it as the great work of art it is. Jennifer Lawrence (Hi again!) is fantastic, as are Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland, who gets his best role in ages. If I were giving out Best Supporting Actor awards, Sutherland would get mine. Yes, I’m looking forward to the sequel, though the absence of Ross worries me. If they can keep up the momentum started by this film, we’re in good hands.
And the Best Film of 2012 is……… (imagine a drumroll here)
1. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER – No question, this is a coming of age film by which all other modern coming of age films should be judged. Even remembering the various parts of the film causes an emotional reaction deep in my heart and soul – “I didn’t think anyone recognized me…” “You think that if anyone ever knew how crazy you really were that no one would talk to you?…” “We accept the love we think we deserve…” “Write about us…”
It’s a personal and incredible film that deals with the loneliness of being an outcast and the people we depend on to get us through those terrible times. Steven Chobsky adapts his own book and debuts as a director as well, and he has done an exemplary job all around. Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson are all incredible.
Rather than go through all this again, here is what I said in my review: “This is what THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is about – that sense of belonging that so many films try to explain but so few are able to truly capture. I could look at several scenes in the film, the rites of passage of suburban youth, and was transported right back to those similar moments in my own life. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that I was roughly the same age as Charlie when this film takes place. But there are bigger things as well. When Charlie laments that he sees all the people he loves in pain and it hurts him and he can’t shut it off, I sat it my seat, silently nodding agreement.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is a testament to one young person’s growth, rocky and uncertain though it may be. It’s a comedic homage to everyone who makes those confusing and terrifying days a little easier. It’s a masterpiece.”
Yeah, what he said.