Monday, December 31, 2012

the top 53 movies of 2012!

Alrighty then. Let's get this over with!

A couple of notes about this list. It includes all the movies I saw in theaters in 2012. It also includes all non-2012 movies I saw in the theater. That means there's some spillover from 2011 (The Muppets, The Artist) and some old movies that were either re-released or one-time engagements (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Royal Tennenbaums, etc). This skews the whole "movies of 2012" thing, so I hope you'll understand. Some of the ones I've mentioned aren't even movies, but Fathom Events of RiffTrax and British plays and stuff like that. Weird stuff like that didn't make my top ten so I can still have a top ten list of unadulterated 2012 movies.

Also, there were a few movies that came out in 2012 that I saw at home on DVD or streaming (Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, Beyond the Black Rainbow, etc.)

In short, there are lots of movies included. When I went over them yesterday I was amazed at how many I actually really liked. Either I'm getting better at knowing what will be good for me before I see it or I'm getting more open-minded to a lot of crap. Seriously, the top 50 (of 53 movies) were actually pretty enjoyable.

Talk to me a year from now, though. Every time I do this, I seriously regret several slots. That's part of the fun, I suppose. Obviously I didn't see every movie in the theaters, so stuff like Zero Dark Thirty, The Master and Beasts of the Southern Wild will have to make next year's list, even though they should be mentioned on the 2012. I do what I can.

Here we go.

53. John Dies at the End
This one may not be worth mentioning. It was just a silly sci-fi monster movie that played as a Sundance midnight movie. I'll just tell you right now there's a lot of crazy monster stuff that's supposed to be funny, but just gets really boring and tedious. Also, John doesn't actually die at the end. Spoiler, but whatever.

52. Taken 2
Sorta like Taken, but with all the fun and fire removed. It did have its moments, like when Qui-Gon Jinn found where he was by having Shannon from Lost just start hucking grenades all over Istanbul.

51. Savages
Very silly drug movie from Oliver Stone. The ending was cheap in a laughable way. People love Taylor Kitsch, but I haven't seen Friday Night Lights yet, so maybe it's my fault. Blake Lively seems like a corpse to me though.

50: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I've been getting a kick out of making fun of this movie for the past few weeks, but now I feel sort of bad about it. It wasn't too bad and I'm amazed that I liked 49 movies more (that's a compliment to other movies and not a slam on The Hobbit). However, there were problems. Yes, it's 1/3 of a fairly short book and it definitely feels that way. The gang doesn't even leave Bilbo's house until like 40 minutes in.  From then on it feels like 1/3 of Fellowship played in slow motion. There is a very action-packed sequence involving goblins toward the end, that seems very Rube Goldberg-ish. I can see how that might be exciting for people, but it got pretty old for me pretty quick. There was no sense of danger in the slightest. Sort of like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

49. End of Watch
Lots of folks really liked this one for its realism. I totally commend it for that. BUT, it also seemed like it was a movie nearly composed entirely of deleted scenes. Donnie Darko and that Pena guy were phenomenal together though.

48. Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Would not advise anybody to see this movie. If you do though, make sure it's past midnight and the gigglefits have started to come on.

47. Beyond the Black Rainbow
This one's hilarious too, in a freaky serious earnest way. Weird. Weird. Weird. Weird. Weird. Weird. It's like being back in the 80s and catching something weird on Showtime at 2 a.m. and missing the first  half so you know even less of what's going on and while you're watching it realizing that you're just DREAMING you're watching it.

46. The Expendables 2
Better than the first. Violenter than expected. So that was nice.

45. The Amazing Spider-Man
I liked this one more than the previous trilogy (thanks mostly to Emma Stone's sexy wool socks), but I don't think I ranked the other ones so low. Ultimately, though, this one won't be remembered as well, and deservedly so. If they're gonna reboot so early, it would have been nice if they diverged much further from the previous incarnation.

44. Ted
Most of my love for this movie is because Ted makes the absolutely true claim that the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon is the best film ever made. Very true. Galactically. Also, Mark Wahlberg is phenomenal  in comedic roles. We need to tell him this more often.

43. This is 40
I think I like Apatow-directed movies more than any of my friends, even though they are too long. I dunno, though. Who says a comedy has to be short? If it's funny and consistent, why wouldn't we want more of it. The straight Apatow written and directed movies are a very different bit of humor. Less punch lines and more generally humorous conversations. It's something he does best. Of course this one may be his worst, but alas. It's still great to have it every few years. Btw, if you don't want to watch the movie, make sure you watch the end credits. Melissa McCarthy goes nuts and it's hilarious.

42. Jack Reacher
Saw this with my stepdad, which was fun because he was in the military and he's read all the Jack Reacher books. He told me the MPs in his unit really sucked at marksmanship. So that was fun. The movie was alright too. I don't think there was a scene with Tom Cruise running, which was weird. I did like Cruise in this though. Yeah, he's supposed to be a big guy, but I have no allegiance to the books anyway, and my stepdad liked it, so there. Rosamund Pike sounds weird with an American accent. I think the accent lowered her voice an octave. Also, there's one outfit she wears that makes her boobs pretty phenomenal.

41. Moonrise Kingdom
Not a super fan of Wes Anderson. I appreciated tons of the visuals and quirk here (enough to like it more than Jack Reacher!), but I can't find the heart in his films. It's almost as if the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers made a movie.

40. Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts
Hoo boy. I saw these like a year ago. They seemed to be okay. They were nominated for Oscars, after all.

39. Haywire
I may have ranked this one so well because I'm disappointed in hearing so many people say that Gina Corano didn't act well in it (apparently she's some kind of MMA fighter or something). Maybe it's the feminist in me, but she acts better than Seagal and Van Damme and nobody seemed to blame them for anything. Also Fassbender's in this one. And the Carano-Fassbender fight was pretty cool.

38. Hit and Run
Flaws aplenty. Despite that I'd like to be friends with Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd. They sort of seem like groovy folks.

37. RiffTrax Live -- Manos: The Hands of Fate
Worst movie of all time? I don't think so! 37th best theater experience of 2012! The RiffTrax guys always give me incredible stomach exercise.

36. Raiders of the Lost Ark (in IMAX)
The perfectest movie ever. Of course, in IMAX, the perfectest movie reveals what few flaws it has quite strikingly. Still, they just don't make 'em like they used to.

35. Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Q Who?" and "The Measure of a Man")
They had this special theater event where they showed two Next Gen eps. "Q Who?" is probably more exciting than any of the actual TNG movies. "The Measure of a Man" was quite good, especially with additional scenes not shown on TV that really filled out some of the philosophical aura of the episode.

34. 48-hour Movie Competition: Event B
I'm partially including this because I was actually in it. You wanna do something fun? Watch "Back" with the YouTube-generated captions on. Hilarious! I promise.

33. The Hunger Games
Pretty good, but I had some serious camera-work issues. They were forced into shaky-cam to get the PG-13 rating, which many people praised as a non-explicit loophole. Personally, I feel it would have suited the story and setting far more if instead of shaking away from the violence, they instead cut away to the television audience reaction, from stimulated to horrified).

32. ParaNorman
My biggest praise of this movie is that it really respects the kids in its audience. Yes, kids can handle a movie with obvious horror elements. Casting McLovin as a bully was actually a pretty good choice too.

31. 21 Jump Street
Sorta funny, but I think it really works because Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill really did seem like buds.

30. The Muppets (2011)
Last year's movie. Pretty good!

29. Premium Rush
This one played out like a low-budget 80s action film, right down to the "fight the man" coming together of the good bicyclist and evil bicyclist. Michael Shannon as the quintessential 80s bad guy is really the icing on this cake.

28. To Rome with Love
I always give props to Woody Allen. No matter what. This one is no exception, even if it is a bit unusual. It's an ensemble piece with several storylines, but some of the storylines seem to take place in a day and some over the course of several months. Maybe this was on purpose to achieve a sort of dreamy fantastic quality. Underneath all the exuberance, though -- sadness.

27. Goon
I'm not sure if this movie ever played in theaters. It is on Netflix, though, and I'd recommend checking it out. Hockey movie that deals with the guy on the team specifically in charge of putting the other guys out of commission. Our hero is quite good at throwing punches, but is also a sweetheart of a nice guy. Alison Pill is here and she's just as fun as in Scott Pilgrim (and waaaaaaaay funner than she is on The Newsroom).

26. The Queen of Versailles
This documentary deals with the "time share king" and his vapid family building the nations largest single-family dwelling place and losing it all during the housing crisis. The movie is remarkably restrained by not shelling out a series of cheap shots at an easy target. Still, my favorite moment is when the mom rents a car for the first time and asks the Enterprise guy "the name of her driver."

25. Silver Linings Playbook
I'm sensing a recurring theme here. This is an adequate story that involves people with with grief-induced mental illness, but the reason the movie works is from the dynamic of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (who is far more fun as a disgruntled nymphomaniac widow than a post-apocalyptic teen archer).

24. Wanderlust
Jennifer Aniston hasn't been this funny since Friends and Paul Rudd is someone I constantly want to spend time with. I have a new soft spot for David Wain movies in much the same way I have for Woody Allen movies. I love this movie, but if you haven't seen a David Wain flick, please check out Role Models.

23. Seven Psychopaths
This is a good one, but I don't really know what to write about it. I may have to think for another year about it. It addresses violence as an issue in a very funny... and violent way. I haven't decided if I appreciate that method or not. Still, you can't go wrong with heavy doses of Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken (who are extraordinary on bad days (and are beyond that here)). There's a line in the movie that's not answered: "What are Americans known for?" I think (especially considering recent events) the answer the movie gives is violence. Then again, maybe the movie isn't as deep as I think I'm supposed to take it.

22. Lincoln
Should have been called The 13th Amendment. Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing, but the most interesting thing about the movie is how much of a large ensemble it is. Check the IMDb page. Everyone's in this freaking movie and some of the best parts are on the floor of congress, where Lincoln wasn't.

21. Room 237
This one may be hard to explain. It's not a documentary about the movie The Shining, but a documentary about the crazy people who have all sorts of conspiracy theories regarding The Shining. Such theories include the idea that Stanley Kubrick made The Shining in order to reveal that he took part in faking the Apollo 11 moon landing. Like in The Queen of Versailles, this one doesn't take cheap shots at anyone. It can't really because it's gotta be the most cheaply made documentary ever. It's just audio laid over footage from Kubrick films (which I believe is one reason this one is so difficult to see -- because the rights to the movies weren't given). Despite the cheapness, the film comes across not as an indictment of overanalysis, but the joy of it.

20. Safety Not Guaranteed
Yeah, I'm a sucker for time-travel movies, but this isn't a time travel movie so much as it is a quaint story of people letting their guards down long enough to care about each other. Aubrey Plaza's kind of annoying, but Duplass is always great (and pretty different here). My highlight character is a supporting role from Nick from New Girl.

19. Sleepwalk with Me
I've been really into Mike Birbiglia's stand-up lately. The guy really excels at the story-driven stuff, so the fact that this is his first directorial feature, and it's quite good, is no surprise. His stand-up relating to the events of this movie are far funnier, but the movie has a lot of heart and real emotion that's respectable and touching.

18. Friends with Kids
It's a pretty laugh out loud comedy, but it's worth noting that, like Sleepwalk with Me, there's some real emotion and connection with these characters. It doesn't hurt that there's Bridesmaids reunion of Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Chris O'Dowd and Maya Rudolph.

17. Your Sister's Sister
Made by the same team that made Humpday (which I sort of hated), this one was actually pretty good. It involves a trapped love triangle (one of which is the delectable Emily Blunt) that runs through the wringer of loss, guilt and family. It's also refreshingly full of ad-libbed dialog. I admit, if every movie was ad-libbed rather than polished, it would get annoying fast. Fortunately we get just enough of it every year with flicks like this.

16. Shut Up and Play the Hits
Another documentary. This is about the final concert of LCD Soundsystem. I'm not really a fan, but the concert footage was exemplary and created a party of the senses. The concert footage is intercut with interview footage between the mastermind of LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy, and the most diabolical interviewer ever (and my personal hero), Chuck Klosterman.

15. The Avengers
Do I need to tell you about this movie? I'm sure you saw it. Everybody did. I will say, it was the action that was weak though. The real fun is the interaction between our heroes, who were all heroes in vividly different ways.

14. The Dark Knight Rises
I could talk about the flaws of this film all day (and I have). The fact is though, talking about the flaws of a Christopher Nolan movie is a lot like talking about the lack of a sliding van door on a Porsche. His films tend to be so high above the norm that ripping it apart is just a way to pass the time between saying "Wow, that was incredible." Great movie, but still probably the least great of Nolan's Batman films.

13. The Artist (2011)
Let's get it out of the way. This film is overrated. I don't say that as a knock on the movie. I say it so that when you finally see it, you know that it might not necessarily be the best film of 2011 (it won Best Picture), but it does deserve an immense amount of credit and deserves to be wholly enjoyed. That Bejo chick is an absolute delight and both leads find true charm within the constraints of a long-lost film type. Yes, the silent film treatment is a gimmick. But it lands and succeeds fully within that gimmick.

12. The Royal Tennenbaums
This old movie played at the Tower for a one-time event. I said I didn't appreciate Wes Anderson, but I really love this one. It came out like ten years ago, so don't take my word for it.

11. Frankenstein
This is actually a broadcast of a recent British play version of Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Frankenstein and Jonny Lee Miller as the monster (coincidentally both actors are separately playing Sherlock Holmes on British and American television). It is kind of weird to watch the taping of a play in a movie theater, but this sucker was dark and twisted enough to keep me caring throughout. Lots of critiques on humanity. If we do create a new form of life, it may be far more enlightened than us by default.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I read the book this was based on, but didn't remember most of the details, so I was sorta re-living it again for the first time. Everyone was very real. So real, in fact, that I actually missed the 90s for a couple of hours. It was great. Wish I had more to say.

9. Skyfall
Somehow this James Bond movie re-wrote everything about how to make a James Bond film and also went back to Bond basics at the same time. It's just great to have the guy back. There's a reason he's lasted this long. There's also a reason why the 007 film was successful this year, but the Bourne film wasn't. Bourne was a great adrenalizer, but Bond is simply eternal. We may get a little tired of him now and then, but like his women, we'll always come crawling back.

8. Indie Game: The Movie
Alright last documentary. It's about independent video game makers, but the profession isn't at all what's important here. It's an exhaustive record of the blood, tears and most of all emotional stability of people who put everything they have into succeeding at just one thing. Heartbreaking. Inspirational.

7. The Raid
I saw this at Sundance (before they changed the title to Colon Redemption). Not much to say about this one except it kinda rocks. Non-stop Indonesian martial arts. My second favorite moment: when the tiny psycho guy laid down his weapon in front of the cop so they could duke it out like men. My favorite moment: when the tiny psycho guy laid down his weapon in front of the two brothers so the three of them could duke it out like men.

6. Django Unchained
A slight disappointment, but by Tarantino standards that'll still get you in the top ten pretty easy. Cristoph Waltz and Samuel Jackson were very amazing. They delved quite deep into their characters. Surprisingly I was quite fond of Leonardo DiCaprio and he usually bugs me. Come for the scenery, stay for the final hour of incredible blood spatter.

5. Prometheus
If I believed in guilty pleasures, this might be the one for the year. The characters make decisions that make absolutely no sense. I'm still waiting for a very needed online course that goes over the life cycle of the Alien aliens. However, I was pretty riveted during this thing. Even though the characters made Cabin in the Woods-ish decisions (more on that later), I was all in. Funny how in other movies I'd be annoyed at such things, but in others I forgive. I love forgiving so many elements of Prometheus. It does bring horror on two levels. The obvious level -- these things are trying to kill us, as well as the big picture level -- our creator just might exist -- and he/she/it/they doesn't/don't love us all that much.

4. Looper
I'm a sucker for time travel. Looper is especially hilarious though. Not only is it a time travel movie, but it states very early on, "this is about time travel, BUT ALSO, a bunch of people have telekinesis FOR NO REASON, and the plot of the movie depends on it. As for the time travel, it reinvents the rules and focuses on the paradox of two of the same self within the same present. It's the perfect setting for plotting a course that sets young idealism at odds with hindsight wisdom (both through the eyes of a pretty amoral criminal). Rian Johnson for the win. His flicks are always interesting.

3. Argo
Not only does the movie take place in the 70s, it sort of looks like it may have been made in the 70s -- and I don't mean a lame movie from that time either. Argo is relentless in using oldschool Hollywood techniques to make me sweat despite how seemingly formulaic it is. Very fitting that Hollywood itself kind of plays a character in the story.

2. Les Misérables
I've been waiting for this movie for 25 years. When I finally saw it... I was super worried during the first hour. There was A LOT of missed opportunity here. They could have illustrated the music literally (especially during "I Dreamed a Dream") rather than focusing on the close-ups (which turned out rather distracting than intimate). BUT, by the end, I was completely in. I'm in love with Eponine (who was brilliant and heartbreaking) and I want to fight at the barricade no matter the lost cause (thanks to a surprisingly strong Enjolras who is never a super powerful singer when I've seen the play in the past -- and in the movie is possibly the thawed out cryogenic remains of Tom Bailey from Thompson Twins). That last shot got me, man. I'm weeping now.

1. The Cabin in the Woods
Very rarely do I see a movie in the middle of the year and say to myself as I'm watching it, "Well, that's my favorite movie this year." It was pretty easy with The Cabin in the Woods. It's almost unfortunate that The Avengers did well. If I were Joss Whedon, I'd actually be a little miffed that his superior work was so overshadowed. If you watch scary movies, it helps. But Cabin isn't especially scary. It does provide an amazing analogy for why we as a movie-going people continually demand all the things we endlessly complain about. Also, the movie kicks ass.

Questions, disagreements and comments are welcome.


Blogger Saule Cogneur said...

I always enjoy your lists. I generally agree with your rankings this year with the exception of Prometheus. That movie had incredible potential (great cast, great source material, great budget, etc) but had the sloppiest execution I've seen in a movie of such caliber in years. I won't go on a rant about why I hated it for now, but I would put it below #40 on your list.

January 01, 2013 4:31 PM  

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