Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Best Films of 2012

Here it is, folks!  The Super Bowl of blog posts!  The fruits of my labor!  The culmination of watching over 260 new releases in 2012!  The coveted 'Best of the Year' list!  And, in keeping with the tradition I began last year, I cannot and will not restrain myself to a Top 10.  10 is not nearly enough and, frankly, I'm not confident enough in my ranking to be sure I'm choosing the right 10 to include.  So instead I give you 53 films I think are the most worth your time.  (Don't feel overwhelmed.  You don't have to see all 53!  And later in the week I'll be grouping them by genre to help you hone in on what you like best.)  But before we get there, let me offer my general thoughts on the year in film:

Overall 2012 turned out pretty well, though it was certainly rocky at the beginning.  Summer was brutal at times, but we were fortunate to have so many great releases between September and December.  (Fun fact: Of my top 53, the number released by quarter were 6, 10, 17, and 20 for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters, respectively.)  But while there were more films I really liked in 2012 than in 2011, there were fewer that I absolutely loved.  I had more difficulty giving out the coveted A+ and picking my top 10 this year than last year.

As I've commented before, you may notice that my 'Best' list doesn't resemble many awards nominees, or the countless other 'Best' lists out there on the web.  This is not because I'm trying to be an individual, but rather because I'm trying to keep it real.  I don't hop on the band wagon or drink the cool-aid, as some less diligent or willing-to-rock-the-boat critics may.  I didn't include 'Lincoln' or 'Les Miserables' and certainly not 'Life of Pi', 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' or 'Moonrise Kingdom', as I don't believe they're as good as my top 53.  I have seen many of the films below (and the aforementioned five) twice in order to be as comfortable as possible with my list.  You may not agree.  And that's ok.  But rest assured, plenty of thought went into my list and I'll stand by it.  (At least until next week when I feel like changing it.)  But obviously, this is not an exact science.  I see so many films, that it's hard to rank those that I saw 52 weeks ago against one I saw yesterday.  If I watched them all again next week, the order could certainly change.  And that was the case with many films that I did have a chance to revisit and subsequently either upgraded or downgraded.  So I've tweaked some of my initial grades, though few of these changes were drastic.

And now, before the big reveal, a detailed explanation of my Top 5:

Comedies don't often make my Top 10 list.  But my number five pick is a really great and unique combination of risque adult comedy mixed with your typical stuffy British period film feel.  I've seen it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.  It's about the invention of the vibrator, and it's called 'Hysteria'.

For my number four film, I went with my gut.  It's not an important film.  It's not pretentious, or artistic, or highbrow, or anything like any Academy Award Best Picture winner.  It's simply the film I had the most fun watching all year.  It seamlessly blends horror, fantasy, and comedy, with superb original writing that keeps you on tilt from start to finish.  Not since 'Scream' have I enjoyed this genre.  Unfortunately it didn't hold up as well for a second viewing, but not every movie has to.  It's 'The Cabin in the Woods'. 

My number three pick is a film by Paul Thomas Anderson, who I believe to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.  It features some of the best performances of the year, particularly Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, and it mesmerize you while you're watching it, and it will stay with you long after it's over.  It is 'The Master'.

My number two film will undoubtedly surprise everyone reading this as much as it surprises me to select it.  Most haven't heard of it.  And of those who have, some didn't care for it.  I saw it very early in the year on Video on Demand and found it very powerful and moving, but didn't give it the full praise it deserves.  But as time passed I found myself thinking about it a lot.  And I just revisited it and loved it so much.  It's artsy.  It's bleak.  It's heavy.  It's thought provoking.  It features moving performances by Ewan McGregor (one of my new favorite actors since 'Beginners' and 'The Impossible') and Eva Green.  It blends science fiction, romance, and melodrama beautifully.  And it touches me in a profound way.  My second favorite film of 2012 is 'Perfect Sense'.  Buyer Beware: It's not for everyone.

And, coming in at number one, a little known low budget film called 'The Dark Knight Rises'.  (I kid, of course.  It cost $250 Million and it's the 7th biggest box office revenue film of all time, both domestically and internationally, even despite the opening weekend being marred by the tragic Colorado shooting.)  I've seen it twice and it gave me chills both times.  Is it as good as 'The Dark Knight'?  Probably not.  But, as a whole, the Dark Knight trilogy is absolutely breathtaking and, like the Harry Potter series, it deserves much more love and respect by critics and award voters than it is receiving.  Do yourself a favor and have a marathon of all three.  You can thank me later.

And now, without further ado, I give you my Top 53 of 2012:

  1.  The Dark Knight Rises
  2.  Perfect Sense
  3.  The Master
  4.  The Cabin in the Woods
  5.  Sound of My Voice
  6.  The Tall Man
  7.  The Hunger Games
  8.  Django Unchained
  9.  Looper
10.  The Good Doctor
11.  Prometheus
12.  Hysteria
13.  Newlyweds
14.  Your Sister's Sister
15.  Deadfall
16.  The Impossible
17.  Ruby Sparks
18.  The Queen of Versailles
19.  Celeste and Jesse Forever
20.  Smashed
21.  Flight
22.  Headhunters
23.  Sister
24.  A Royal Affair
25.  Zero Dark Thirty
26.  Skyfall
27.  Seven Psychopaths
28.  Hello I Must Be Going
29.  Sleepwalk with Me
30.  Arbitrage
31.  28 Hotel Rooms
32.  Won't Back Down
33.  Game Change
34.  End of Watch
35.  Killer Joe
36.  A Late Quartet
37.  Kill List
38.  Promised Land
39.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower
40.  Argo
41.  Citadel
42.  Killing Them Softly
43.  Get the Gringo
44.  God Bless America
45.  Robot and Frank
46.  Ted
47.  Marvel's The Avengers
48.  Thin Ice
49.  Red Lights
50.  V/H/S
51.  Jeff, Who Lives at Home
52.  The Sessions
53.  Silver Linings Playbook

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I've enjoyed compiling it over the last 52 weeks.  I would love to hear your thoughts!  And keep checking back this week, because I have many more lists to come, including Best Performances, Best Films by genre, Most Overrated, Most Underrated and Underseen, and of course the Worst of 2012.  Stay tuned...