Folks, its time for the big one! The 2012 movie year is over and done so that means its Top 10 time. This is my favorite part of the movie season – a chance to reflect back on the past year in movies and heap praise on the films that I think are the 10 best. 2012 started off a little slow but ended up being a pretty strong year for both the big blockbusters and for small independent cinema. But enough with the buildup. (Imagine a small but steady drumroll) May I introduce The Keith & the Movies Top 10 Movies of 2012…
Before I get to the 10 best, I do want to mention three films that I desperately wanted to see before making this list. Unfortunately it’s not going to happen for another week or so. They are “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Rust and Bone”, and “Amour”. I would also like to throw out a few honorable mentions. These were fantastic movies that I loved and that just missed the cut (click their names for full reviews)…. “Damsels in Distress’, “The Hobbit“, “The Kid with a Bike“, “Bernie“, “Looper“, “Delicacy“, “Les Miserables”
#10 – “FRANKENWEENIE” – I’m as shocked as you. The idea that a Tim Burton picture would be on my Top 10 list amazes me. I’m not a Burton fan but “Frankenweenie” is an animated delight. It’s one part tender tale about a boy and his dog and another part the Frankenstein story and it works beautifully as a collective whole. It’s also an old school horror movie homage with tons of fun references to everything from the monster pictures of the 1950s to the classic Universal horror films. But the key reason it works is that Burton wisely focuses more on telling a good story than promoting his unique style. The result is a fabulous animated treat that I adored.
#9 – “PROMETHEUS” – I know this will be a controversial pick just judging by the variety of differing opinions about this film. But I gotta say that I loved “Prometheus”. I loved the universe. I loved the special effects. I loved most of the cast. I loved its open-endedness. Are there holes in the logic here and there? Sure. But for me Ridley Scott supplied me with another exciting sci-fi experience that may not answer all the questions as it advertises, but it still reminds me of what an intelligent and visionary filmmaker he is. I stand firmly beside “Prometheus” and sincerely hope that the $400 million box office was enough to ensure us a follow-up.
#8 – “LINCOLN” – Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is a movie that may surprise a lot of people. While there are a few Speilberg overindulgences, as a whole he really dials it back and it works beautifully. This isn’t a film steeped in huge set pieces and heavy melodrama. This is a performance driven drama with possibly the best ensemble casts of the year. Daniel Day-Lewis reaffirms his status as the greatest working actor with a fine performance. Critic Leonard Maltin called the performance miraculous and I have to agree. He loses himself in this towering historical character and I was hooked on every line and every mannerism. That’s the biggest reason the film worked so incredibly well.
#7 – “THE IMPOSSIBLE” – There have been many disaster movies that have made their way onto the big screen. But none has ever gripped me and affected me the way “The Impossible” did. This is one of the most poignant and powerful pictures I watched all year. It’s also a draining and at times difficult movie to endure. But the reward is overwhelming as we watch the best of people come out in a truly devastating circumstance. This is an intelligent and respectful film about the Indian Ocean tsunami and it’s aftermath. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor give stunning performances and newcomer Tom Holland should garner a lot of attention. Don’t brush this movie aside as just another disaster film. It’s so much more.
#6 – “SKYFALL” – It wasn’t until Daniel Craig took the reigns of 007 that I became a huge James Bond fan. Now I’m hooked. “Skyfall” is a wonderful action thrill ride from director Sam Mendes and is arguably the best Daniel Craig Bond picture yet. It’s loaded with the expected blow-your-socks-off action shoot-outs and car chases. But it also fleshes out Bond more as a person, something I really responded to. Javier Bardem, while underused, is a blast and it was great to see Judi Dench’s role expanded. “Skyfall” has raked in over $1 billion dollars worldwide but it’s well deserved. This is just more proof that big budget films can and should knock it out of the park.
#5 – “ARGO” – For my money Ben Affleck has proven himself to be an incredibly capable director. “Argo” is a shining example of his abilities behind the camera. This sizzling picture set during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 is an edge-of-your-seat thriller anchored by a fantastic cast, sharp direction, and Chris Terrio’s slick and intelligent screenplay. It dramatizes the absurdity of the real life hostage rescue in a way that had me glued to the screen. And the perfectly realized sense of time and location just seal the deal. It also features what may be the best opening 20 minutes I have seen in several years. I love “Argo”. It’s storytelling at its finest.
4 – “THE AVENGERS” – It has become the norm for Hollywood to release several big budget superhero movies each year. But very few are as good as “The Avengers”. This was one of the most ambitious projects and it had potential to be a disaster. It was far from that. “The Avengers” was one of the most well-conceived and well-executed movies of the year thanks to the clever and often times hilarious screenplay from Joss Whedon. Loud laughs and thunderous applause filled the theater during both of my big screen viewings and I was right there with them. In terms of sheer fun at the movies, “The Avengers” was tops and that makes up for any tiny flaw it may have otherwise.
#3 – “MOONRISE KINGDOM” – It’s safe to say that I have evolved into a full-blown Wes Anderson fan. “Moonrise Kingdom” solidified that for me. This is a film that perfectly encapsulates Anderson’s special brand of humor and style. There’s a beautiful and sensitive story of eccentric children’s puppy love and their feelings of not belonging. But there’s also the story about the adults within a small New England community and all their imperfections. And then there’s Anderson’s razor-sharp script – some of the best writing of the year. Great performances, hilarious moments, perfectly quirky music, and an artful 1960’s aesthetic are all spread across Anderson’s gorgeous canvas.
#2 – “BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD” – This is a movie that I didn’t catch up with until later in the year. Suffice to say it really blew my mind. This was clearly the biggest surprise of the year for me as well as the most moving and emotional film of 2012. A first time director and two first time performances create an experience that pulls you into the isolated and poverty-stricken world of a 6-year old girl named Hushpuppy. It’s sometimes heartwarming and sometimes deeply unsettling, but it’s riveting cinema throughout. This is small and little known film that is finally getting an audience and stands above most every film of 2012.
#1 – “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES” – No other movie of 2012 combined the thrill of adrenaline-fueled action with the art of pure cinematic storytelling. Christopher Nolan wrapped up his phenomenal Dark Knight trilogy with yet another sharp and layered movie. Tom Hardy is a brute presence and Ann Hathaway makes Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman) a much more grounded character. The entire film is laced with a tinge of realism but it’s still a rousing superhero experience. Some have had issues with this film but I found it to be brilliant and the perfect ending to one of my personal favorite trilogies. This is also Nolan’s third straight film to end up as my year-end #1. Bravo!
So there they are, my 10 Best Films from the 2012 year. What are your thoughts? Where did I go wrong? What’s your favorite film of 2012?