Well, it’s the end of the year, and that means several things. Booze, resolutions you won’t keep, and best of the year lists. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dive right in.
But first, a disclaimer: there is a LOT I didn’t see this year, so don’t get all angry when you don’t see stuff like Zero Dark Thirty or Magic Mike or Django Unchained. I’m sure with time I’ll see more 2012 movies that would have made this list, but for now I’d ask you to kindly stow it, or just call me a douchebag in the comments section. I’d probably just thank you for actually leaving a comment for once.
On to the list!
10) A Letter to Momo
A Letter to Momo was the highlight of Fantasia 2012’s anime selection for this year, a touching story of mourning and loss made even more entertaining my comical demons who all look sorta like Steve Buscemi. Add in some beautiful animation and a terrific score and you got yourself a winner. And probably a good cry.
David Cronenberg’s latest exercise in “What the fuck?” is probably one of the more haunting and, to quote myself, effnin’ dense movies I’ve seen this year. You can read my original review here, but to give you the short version, insanely good performances from everyone except the male lead, enough symbolism and subtext to keep you pondering about it for a while, and the occasional rectal exam to keep things suitably fucked up.
God, I love absurdism. When something’s fucked up and weird just for the sake of being fucked up and weird, you can bet I’m there. A massive step up from his previous film Rubber, Quentin Depieux’s Wrong is a love letter to absurdism, a mind-bending, almost completely nonsensical exercise in filming stuff no studio film maker would ever ever film. On top of that we have awesome performances, especially from William Fichtner and a great score by Depieux’s alias, Mr. Oizo.
7) The Grey
This is one of those movies that surprised a lot of people. From the premise, you’d think it’s another one of those movies dedicated to showing off how badass Liam Neeson is, and granted it is that to an extent. But people going in to the theatre, myself included, were pleasantly surprised when the action-fest survival flick they were expecting turned out to be a gorgeously filmed piece of cinema dealing with themes a tad heavier than “Daughter kidnapped. Kill foreigners!”. Also it must be said. Ballsiest ending of the year. Did not expect that, guys. Slow clap.
Looper is gonna be on a LOT of top ten lists this year, and for pretty good reason. High concept sci-fi movie starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt about time travel and superpowers? Does watching it make you lose weight too, because that’s pretty much the only thing that could get movie nerds more jazzed for this movie. While a tad over-hyped, the final product does deliver. Bruce Willis gets to be all Bruce-Willis-y but still manages to deliver a solid performance, and JGL is awesome as usual, even if his Bruce-Willis-ifying makeup is a tad distracting
5) Moonrise Kingdom
Is there really any word for Wes Anderson’s latest film besides “Delightful”? Charming, maybe. And yellow. Very, very yellow. Again, my original review can be read and enjoyed here, but to reiterate, Moonrise Kingdom continues Anderson’s standard of quality and offbeat charm, though it is a minor step down from Fantastic Mr Fox in terms of charming the pants off you to the point that you just want to hump the screen. Or is that just me?
4) The Raid: Redemption
Let’s just put it this way. There are movies that kick ass. There are movies that kick a lot of ass. There are movies that kick so much ass you’ll need an ice pack on hand when you watch it. There are a few more levels after that….and THEN there’s The Raid.
There’s something about a really, REALLY good kids movie that just wins me over instantly, and ParaNorman is nothing if not a really, really REAAALY good kids movie. Partly because of the beautiful animation, partly for the solid writing, partly for the fact that it doesn’t treat its audience like a bunch of monkeys with buckets on their heads. Messages other than overdone self-affirmation? Acknowledgement of emerging sexuality? That sounds almost like progress! Then there’s the fact that it’s about a misanthropic, bullied young boy obsessed with horror movies. Yeah….this movie struck a chord with me.
2) The Cabin in the Woods
Pam prettymuch summed up this movie perfectly in her review, but all the same here’s my version. Cabin in the Woods is the new Scream. It’s a horror movie that takes one of the most stayed and played out formulas and takes it to new places and then batshit insane places, turning the genre on its head in ways that I’ve never seen in a movie before. I think what really won me over in the end was the willingness to take the insane scenario it created and just run wild with it. Some movies would just take things to a certain point and leave it there. Cabin instead says “Uhh yeah, fuck that noise, let’s go nuts” and pushes the Unleash Hell button. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
1) The Avengers
Oh, don’t act so surprised (your highness), you knew it was coming. The Avengers is a lot of things. A fantastic sci-fi action movie, the culmination of three years of careful world-building, the final result of one of the most gutsy experiments in mainstream filmmaking in the last few years. But for me, what it is above all else is an affirmation. An affirmation of something I’ve been saying since this whole comic book movie craze started: that you can make comic book movies that actually feel like an adaptation of a comic. That you can embrace all the “comic-booky-ness” of the source material, down to flying invisible aircraft carriers, bright costumes, larger than life battles and everything else people have being saying you “can’t film” and fucking FILM IT, and make it work. The Avengers is a two hour counterpoint to the “gritty realistic” mindset that has dominated comic book movies since the beginning of the craze, proof positive that you can make a film that embraces its source material and not come out like Batman and Robin. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, and unquestionably my favorite movie of 2012.