2012 was an absolutely wonderful year for films. There was not one time in any given month when there wasn't at least one movie I saw and loved. I consider myself as much as a movie buff as I do a gamer, so when a year this damn good comes around, I cannot help but write up a top 10 list and put it out there for everyone to see.
One thing: opinions on movies are objective. If your favorite movie this year isn't on my top 10, it's not because I consider it a bad movie. After watching AMC Movie Talk, I have developed (*cough* stole *cough*) a new criteria for film. It's simple and all inclusive. Films should make you do one or all of these things:
If a film excels in one of these areas, it's a good film. A great film excels in two, a masterpiece does all three.
For clarification, there are times when I definitely will put a good film over a great one, or even a masterpiece. This is not because I feel that they're better as films, it's because when asked what movie I would rather watch, I would put my #8 over my #9. That makes sense, right?
Now, onto the list.
Honorable Mentions:Brave, Ted, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man
10) The Cabin in the Woods
This is a film that too many people missed for the wrong reason. If you haven't seen this film, do not look into anything regarding the plot. Avoid reviews, avoid the trailer, just avoid any mention of the film. In fact, avoid this write-up, because all you need to know is that it's one of the smartest horror movies I've seen since The Ring.
What makes The Cabin in the Woods so inherently wonderful is that it is, in essence, a satire of the slasher genre, much like Scream was in the 90s. However, like Scream, it keeps its integrity as a horror film. And even while I'm going to keep comparing it to Scream it effortless separates itself from the equally great film. A strong cast coupled with extremely clever and extremely funny writing makes for a good film on its own, give it a plot that flawlessly builds upon itself, not giving the audience every answer until the very end of the film, and you have something extremely special. It's my firm belief that everyone who's remotely interested in a smart horror movie has to see this film.
Talk about a surprise. I remember sitting in the theatre for...you guessed it, The Cabin in the Woods with my father and seeing a trailer for this movie. I thought the idea certainly was novel. Three teenagers get superpowers and start recording their adventures and trials on video. Yes, it's another film that jumped on the POV bandwagon, but it's, in my opinion, the first film to get it right. Underneath a trailer filled with teens performing pranks with their newly discovered powers is genuine tale of friendship, trust, betrayal, heartache, hurt, bullying, revenge and, ultimately, redemption.
Calling Chronicle a superhero movie is misleading. It's a drama with superpowers. It's a story about three teenage boys who have nearly nothing in common and their friendship, how it grows, and how their superpowers ultimately destroy it. It's gripping. It's compelling. It's excellent. Go see Chronicle.
Oh dear God, it's another horror(?) movie. What the heck is wrong with my list? Absolutely nothing, I tell you.
You see, when I choose to sit down and watch a horror movie, I do extensive research into it (except for Cabin, but that's because I took heed of the advice of the reviewers). If you want to research Detention, do it. Why? You won't see anything coming. I didn't. It's impossible.
Detention is a slasher movie about a villain named Cinderhella who makes homages to 80's films while wearing 90's clothing because it's retro and they go back to the past to fix the future and...wait...wait..wait...what?
If that sounded confusing, I did my job. Detention is many things. The first thing is funny. Josh Hutcherson (of The Hunger Games fame) and Dane Cook work surprisingly well together in the few scenes they have in this film. If you aren't a fan of Dane Cook's work on a normal day (like me) I will come out to say this is one of his best films to date. It's an indie movie with a low budget of $10,000,000, making you wonder if all of the embeddedness of the plot and smart, not-so-subtle movie references are the result of not being able to afford the writers to write a completely original plot, but it's done so well it doesn't matter. This movie has everything from Scott-Pilgrim like effects to time-traveling bears. Oh, and it all makes sense. Complete sense. Go see it.
In fact, here is a link to the end of the first scene in the movie. You'll get it then. I hope. (excuse the quality)
7) The Hunger Games
Fangirlism aside, The Hunger Games is by all means a great film. It's easy to give it a pass, with the Twilight-esque "TEAM PEETA" and "TEAM GALE" nonsense and all. On top of that, it was adapted from a young adult novel, makingThe Hunger Games begins to sound way too close to Twilight.
As someone who took the time to read the entire trilogy, let me say that The Hunger Games is nothing like Twilight. As a film, it's a movie with smart editing, good adapted screenplay, a fantastic cast, and extremely-well handled scenes of kids brutally killing one another. The one thing I was worried about the most in this film is that they would either A) dumb down the killing so as it make it easier to watch or B) glorify it to the extent that the movie becomes a film about who's killing who next. The director did a fantastic job portraying the brutality of the world of Panem, and an even better job of showing what parts of our own society reflect in it. The film is riveting, suspenseful and shocking (that is, if you haven't read books for the last one) and is definitely worth at least one viewing.
"Argo **** yourself."
I'm a bit more of a conservative fellow, so when I see that Ben Afleck is directing a movie I always get a bit nervous and cautious of a more liberal message that I'd rather not hear (I did, however, love The Town). When I saw Argo, however, I was blown away.
What this film did was take a premise that sounded pretty boring to start with and made it one of the most tension-filled movies of the year. I went with 4 of my college friends, and two of them would not stop freaking out over the constant suspense that permeated the air during the film. They just couldn't contain themselves. The tension is not created by fake gunfights or artificial conflicts; Afleck just let the movie create its tension naturally from the situation it portrayed. And he did it wonderfully.
I'm nothing if not a fan of Disney. I'm double-nothing if not a fan of video games. I'm triple-nothing if I'm not going to flip tables over from pure excitement when I hear that Disney is producing a film with a video game theme.
It's hard to talk to about this game in front of gamers. Some will say that "Why didn't [INSERT GAME HERE] get in?" or that the movie spent too much time on Ralph's and Venelope's relationship instead of the gaming world they live in. Personally, I wasn't looking for this game or that game to make an appearance in the film, I was looking for a Disney film set in a video game world. That's what I got. And it was great.
Sarah Silverman, John C Reily, Jack McBryer and Jane Lynch executed all of their lines perfectly, never missing a beat. The animation was an absolute treat to look at (especially Sugar Rush) and Ralph and Venelope's relationship as well as Felix and Calhoun's were wonderfully written and orchestrated throughout. Add in a ton of intelligent implementations of video game ideas, staples, and genres and you have a really unique film. What's especially wonderful about this film is that it didn't forget that non-gamers would be seeing it, too. It effortlessly walked the line between fan service and accessibility, and for that alone it's a great film.
4) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I understand the mixed reactions on this film. It had a lot to live up to and, indeed, it's a film that fans of the book have been waiting to arrive for decades. I was raised as an avid Tolkien fan by my father, and, as such a fan, I can tell you that I loved this movie.
First off, it's beautiful, especially in 48fps. It's one of the most technically stunning movies I've seen since Avatar (I have yet to see Life of Pi [I read the book before it was cool (I am not a hipster)] so shush). The pacing was wonderfully quick and gave the film an extremely adventurous feel, just as the book did when my dad read it to me as a kid. Andy Serkis blew every single scene he did in the original trilogy away and into space in the highly-anticipated riddle scene. Sure, it pulled some stuff from the appendixes to make it into a trilogy and take more of our monies, but if every movie in this new trilogy is as good as this one...well...take all of mine! (Yes, I just went there)
3) Les Miserables
I don't understand why critics gave this film mixed reviews. I loved every second of it. The live singing allowed the cast to act out their emotions through their singing, with every single member giving a stellar performance. Nobody can deny Anne Hathaway's tear-jerking performance as Fatine, safely securing her numerous awards for best supporting actress. Hugh Jackman surprised everyone with his ability to show that Wolverine can sing, and Russel Crowe was one of the best tragic villains I have seen in movies this year.
I think a lot of the bias against this film comes from the fact that 1) It's an operetta, and critics usually have a certain aversion to any form of musical in the first place and 2) those who are fans of the stage show were expecting something similar to their favorite production, and this possibly did not live up to their standards. That's fine, it might have been done well on stage before, but this is a movie, and it's a damn good one.
2) The Avengers
The Avengers. That's all that needs to be said.
I'm not the biggest fan of biopics. They're usually drawn out and a bit boring, and usually fall into a realm of extreme campy-ness and cheesy-ness that is impossible to stomach. Lincoln did not do that, and gave us the best performance of any actor this year via Daniel Day Lewis.
Yes, Daniel Day Lewis. His performance as Lincoln is the product of something that happens when an actor falls in love with their character. You could tell that he wanted to portray one of America's finest presidents as accurately as possible, and he did it flawlessly. Spielberg, a director of extraordinary merit, once again proved his abilities with this film. Even though every audience who sees this film knows the ending before walking into the theater, the tension created when the final vote is being cast is paralleled by no other film this year.
An all-star cast that was clearly gathered to celebrate the life of this incredible man all did amazingly well in their own right. The writing highlighted all of their strengths as actors and actresses, giving us a wonderfully rendered telling of the end of America's days of slavery. Seriously, if you haven't seen Lincoln, go see it. It's one of the best movies I have ever seen and is my #1 movie this year.