Top 10 Movies of 2012 Or: Ten movies I really liked and want to celebrate by telling you why I really liked them
By Bret Dorman
Intro: As always, I would like to remind everyone that these lists are personal picks. By no means am I saying you have to like these movies or that they are the only ten good ones of 2012. Every year, a lot of great movies are released. It was hard for me to pick just ten. But I had to do it. Some are the usual top ten fare and some are not. I will try my best to actually explain why I loved each movie while staying away from Spoilers! as much as possible.
I try to like as many movies as possible, for as many different reasons as possible. However, I do tend to like “Action Movies” the most and I won’t apologize for putting them on my list over the more traditional “good movies.” If I put one on my list, its probably because it is a good action movie that does more than just entertain and really advances the genre in some way.
Without further adieu, here’s my personal picks for the Top 10 Movies of 2012:10) Skyfall (aka Bond “rips off” The Dark Knight)
I’m no big Bond fan. I say this because even if I do think this is the best Bond movie I’ve seen (which of the 23 in total I’ve maybe seen a dozen) I did not expect to put this on my Top Ten. In fact, as much as I did like the story, action, acting, and quippiness all around… I did not have it on my list until this very last minute. So what was the one thing that bumped it up with the big boys? Cinematography. I firmly believe Skyfall is the most beautiful film of 2012 (and yes I use “film” lightly, fully aware it was shot on digital). How could I not include Skyfall if I do think it has the best cinematography of the year?
I’ve heard a lot of complaining about this movie though, mostly about its pacing. I really don’t understand this. Maybe it is because I saw absolutely no trailers or press before watching the movie, but I did not know what to expect. The movie moves from location to location pretty fast. Even if there isn’t a huge action set piece every scene, there are a lot of spy-isms going on, including Bond walking into a casino having no idea what is going to happen but knowing full well he’s asking for trouble. These moments may not shout “Holy crap Bond is doing something awesome!” like when he uses a back hoe to jump train cars, but he is doing something awesome I assure you.
Silva has been likened to Heath Ledger’s The Joker which I do understand. He is a creepy man who is a foil of our main character (one who is often “right,” only uses immoral or “wrong” ways of achieving his goal) and he is able to accomplish impossible tasks through years of impossible pre-planning and impossible luck. But from his long take intro to his secret reveal to his court room massacre to his final demise, Javier Bardem is able to deliver a strangely intimate performance while keeping in line with the silly Bond villains of the past.
9) Silver Linings Playbook (aka never go full “mentally ill”)
I know this seems like an obvious pick and that it charmed a lot of people. It’s a nice uplifting film that uses great actors to really sell its “Oscar Bait” story of mentally ill people trying to fit in and be the best person they can be. It is cheesy, it is predictable, and it is sappy. Yet walking out of the theater you can’t help but feel good about the message of the movie. But can charm alone make up for its “obvious formulaic approach” to movie storytelling?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is a bit more complicated, but here’s the short of the long of it. To me, movies don’t HAVE to do anything, other than do what they want, and do that well. Movies don’t have to be escapism or they don’t have to be insightful looks into the soul of humanity. This movie doesn’t have to tell its story traditionally, but it does choose to. And it uses the formula well and it makes sure that the first two acts make the payoffs of the third act worth it. All the sappiness at the end is well earned. Some will complain the mental illness aspect of the movie disappears towards the end, but the movie lets the people speak for themselves and break free from their problems. The whole movie they are defined by their pasts and finally they are able to be seen for something else. The movie doesn’t offer answers, it offers hope.
As an adult who is currently living at home with no car and has been prone to some mood swings and depressive states of sorts, I really like that this movie is made about adults for adults. Bradley Cooper (an actor I like finally in another movie I like) struggles with his childish mood swings while trying to handle the aftermath of them like an adult. Jennifer Lawrence has so many little touches that make her character desirable, including but not limited to her sex appeal. Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver heighten the home drama and both comfort and annoy Cooper, something only a family can do.
8) The Comedy (aka NOT T&EB$M)
Ugh. Me picking an obscure “pretentious” flick that stars one of my comedic idols as the star and his co-comedy partner as a minor character. Yes, it’s the Tim Hiedecker featuring Eric Wareheim movie that isn’t a “Tim and Eric (Billion Dollar) Movie.” This movie meanders from weird scene to weird scene where nothing seems to happen. I could argue it “drops the conventional tropes of Hollywood Films and offers an alternative that doesn’t feature happy endings, or even any ending at all, but looks deep in the heart of a generation of misguided and aimless adults as they struggle to accept responsibility and find meaning in their life.” While all that is true, that’s the “pretentious” part that almost made me not want to put this on my list. But I can’t help liking what I like.
I watched this movie not knowing what to expect. If you follow Tim Heidecker at all through press and youtube and twitter/Facebook you’ll know he is constantly messing with people. At Sundance he and Eric complained their Billion Dollar Movie was “Rango‘d” (scenes from Rango where spliced in against their will”) and any podcast trying to get a real conversation out of them only amounts to jokes and anti-jokes usually featuring the two being asses to each other and the host. So would “The Comedy” a movie Heidecker himself professed to not be a comedy nor a typical Tim & Eric production actually not be a comedy or Tim & Eric production? Yes. This movie is not typical, but does feature some of what makes Tim himself.
I’ve rented this movie once (its only available for rental right now) but just can’t stop thinking about it. It’s stuck with me. You know how people say you should always “just be yourself.” We’ll if this was the case for me I would constantly be putting people off their guard, either subversively or aggressively. I would never conform to typical social conventions and treat “small talk” as a game of nonsense. But I don’t. I “act normal” throughout the day. As “normal” as I can without being boring. In this movie, Tim is given a chance to really let loose and offend in every way. It’s a trait I can identify with and acts as a Curb Your Enthusiasm-like fantasy, even if extremely awkward at times.
7) Moonrise Kingdom (aka The Most Wes Anderson Film yet)
I’m not an Wes Anderson fanboy the same way I am a Michael Mann fanboy, willing to overlook any flaws for the good. I do however, like the fact that Anderson is assured in his skill and willing to leave the camera steady or even still and build a sense of theatrics combined with a literary attention to detail. As much as I do like hand-held shakey cam (Neveldine/Taylor anyone?) I think that trend of putting it in every type of movie is getting old. Anderson’s main form of camera movement are the (whip) pan and controlled dolly shot. While some will argue his style makes you fully aware you are watching a movie (which for some reason is regarded as a big no-no by these people) I think his point of view gives you a good sense of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world full of outsiders without distancing you from the characters too much.
For me this movie works if it gets you on one crucial plot point. The romance of the young boy and girl builds to a kiss while the two underage kids are in their underwear. There are three reactions you could have to this. 1) Giggle at the awkwardness of a first kiss in a strange situation. 2) Show disgust at the fact two minors in their underwear are engaging in a sensuous moment. 3) Appreciate the earnest reality of young lovers awkwardly exploring their adolescent feelings. I’m not saying the first two reactions are wrong (especially out of context), but I am saying if either one of those first two reactions is stronger than the third at that point in the movie, it didn’t really do its job of getting you on its side.
A lot of Rom Coms will have characters spout out their love of one another even though they barely know each other. What this movie excels at is having two young outsiders fall for the other and spend the rest of the movie developing feelings for the other in a mature and honest way. As the adults of the movie desperately try to find and separate the two young lovebirds, they have something to bond over and strengthen their relationship. Instead of letting these external forces get between them or make stupid decisions (as most Rom Com characters do), they acknowledge each others’ flaws and work through them.
6) Seven Psychopaths (aka In Bruges 2: In L.A.)
This movie and The Comedy are the only two on my list that I’ve only seen once. Heck, I even saw Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises 4 times in theaters just to make up my opinion on them. So what makes this one so special? Well, for starters, the story is carefully constructed to hide and reveal certain things to its audience in a way that doesn’t always make perfect sense, but pays off when needed. Certain characters become other characters or are revealed to be the same characters, making the script more about legends and reputations while the characters themselves deal with immediate issues.
There’s a defining moment of this movie that happens to one particular character. I won’t say what it is, but lets just say that Christopher Walken showcases some of his serious acting abilities. He does the typical “Walken” thing here and there throughout the movie, but when the script calls for some immediate ratcheting up of tension, he delivers in a way that sends shivers down your spine. The rest of the cast all shine tremendously, feeding off of each other and making the most of their roles no matter how small they may be.
As characters quip back and forth, the movie introduces a meta-element as its main character struggles to write a movie about something as generically cliche as seven psychopathic killers. He’s focused more on the back stories and what makes each character cool than he is a plot to connect them all. Indeed the movie itself has tons of great character who wander in and out of the script that takes time to question where its headed before it even gets there. The “final shootout” as written by Sam Rockwell is one of the funniest, most ridiculous scenes of the year that plays like a Trey Parker/Matt Stone rendition of a John Woo movie.
Be sure to check out Movies 5-1 here! Plus a special “non-honorable mention” that still manages to make the list! What? Who saw that twist ending coming?!