A Terrific Twelve from 2012
It is always a good sign, though rare these days, when a film critic has to struggle to pare down a year end “Best of” list. I could have easily substituted at least 10 other movies for some of the films that made the final dozen. That abundance of good films could be a reason that 2012 produced the highest box office gross for domestically released films in history – so Hollywood is happy. (Higher ticket prices, especially for the 3D genre certainly helped pad the total.)
But it seems like a simple formula: Make good films, people will see them. As a film critic, that’s a trend that I strongly encourage! While the best films this year weren’t always as family friendly as last year’s elite group, the best executed films displayed originality, the element of surprise, and a certain timeless quality – all elements that your humble critic feels sets apart certain films. Interestingly, for the first time in recent memory, no animated films made the top 12 list, owing to the fact that while there were some good films in this category (see below) no classics emerged. Another positive trend is the rising popularity of documentary films, and there were many excellent docs from which to choose – something our own DOCUTAH Film Festival continues to affirm.
Here then, are the top twelve films of 2012, in no particular order.
“Les Miserables” – Tom Hooper’s immersive, raw adaptation of the beloved musical has its flaws but delivers a bold, intimate interpretation to Hugo’s novel of personal redemption.
“ Argo” – A historical thriller about our government’s attempt in 1979 to retrieve hostages from Iran is as humorous as it is nail-biting. That’s a rare feat – well done Mr. Affleck.
“The Impossible” – Harrowing and heartbreaking yet the miraculous true story of one family’s escape from the ravages of the Indonesian Tsunami lifts the spirit and is spectacularly filmed.
“Lincoln” – This history lesson by way of Professor Spielberg proved riveting and relevant with a towering, utterly convincing portrayal by Daniel Day-Lewis.
“The Avengers” – All things considered, this is the Super Bowl of superhero movies, and not coincidentally was also the wittiest film of its type ever made. Persuades even the non-believer.
“ Moonrise Kingdom” – Too quirky for some, but this poignant (and PG-13 rated) children’s adventure is a deadpan comedy filled with incredible detail in style, script and execution. Totally unique in all the right ways.
“Life of Pi” – Ignore the film’s final half hour or so and focus on the epic visuals and thrilling story of a boy and some beasts struggling for survival on the high seas while sharing a lifeboat.
“The Hunger Games” – Few book adaptations live up to the hype and anticipation but this taut, creatively designed futuristic action thriller did, while positing unsettling societal questions.
“Safety Not Guaranteed” – An indie film worth rooting for about a girl who reluctantly falls for an oddball who claims to be building a time machine—and can play the heck out of the zither. Weird and wonderful.
“Searching for Sugar Man” – A folk musician and street poet as popular as Elvis – at least in South Africa—yet completely unknown elsewhere, this is Rodriguez’ remarkable, unforgettable story.
“Zero Dark Thirty” – An inside look at the gritty, painstaking, costly, dangerous 10-year hunt for Bin Laden with a final night raid scene that puts you right there in that Pakistani compound. Chilling.
“Friends with Kids” – A simple premise – two friends have a child together turns into the year’s most incisively written, heartfelt adult comedy.
Just missed the cut: “Skyfall,” “Looper,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “The Hobbit,” “Arbitrage,” “Django Unchained,” “Robot & Frank,” “Thin Ice,” “21 Jump St.,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Brave,” “Bernie,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Arbitrage.”
The best in animation: “Finding Nemo: 3D,” “Brave,” “The Secret World of Arrietty,” “Wreck It Ralph,” “Frankenweenie,” “Rise of the Guardians.”
A great year for documentaries: “Searching for Sugar Man,” “The Imposter,” “Brooklyn Castle,” “Bully,” “A Sister’s Call,” “Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald.”
Biggest disappointments: “Dark Shadows,” “John Carter,” “Seven Psychopaths,” “Pirates! Band of Misfits,” “2016: Obama’s America.”
Most underrated: “People Like Us,” “Sparkle,” “Trouble with the Curve.”
Grandparents like good movies too: “Hope Springs,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “The Guilt Trip.”
MVP: Channing Tatum for “21 Jump St.,” “The Vow,” “Magic Mike,” “Haywire.”
Heroes of the year: The Larry Miller Group for acquiring the former Westates Theaters-owned local theaters and upgrading them with digital projectors and audio, ticket kiosks with reserved seating and more food choices—enhancing the movie experience in every way without significantly raising prices.
Agree or disagree? Email Bruce @ Madaboutmovies2@aol.com.
Listen to Bruce on radio program “Film Fanatics” broadcast Saturdays at 10.00 a.m. on FM 95.3 and KTIM.ORG.