My 20 Favourite Movies of 2012: Part 2
10. Holy Motors - Dir. Leos Carax
9. Anna Karenina - Dir. Joe Wright
8. Killer Joe - Dir. William Friedkin
7. Cloud Atlas - Dirs. Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer & Andy WachowskI
6. Moonrise Kingdom - Dir. Wes Anderson
5. Django Unchained - Dir. Quentin Tarantino
4. Skyfall - Dir. Sam Mendes
3. The Master - Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
2. Looper - Dir. Rian Johnson
1. The Avengers - Dir. Joss Whedon
To read more about my choices, click here.
My 20 Favourite Movies of 2012: Part 1
20. The Innkeepers - Dir. Ti West
19. Silver Linings Playbook - Dir. David O. Russell
18. Sightseers - Dir. Ben Wheatley
17. Berberian Sound Studio - Dir. Peter Strickland
16. Killing Them Softly - Dir. Andrew Dominik
15. The Grey - Dir. Joe Carnahan
14. Magic Mike - Dir. Steven Soderbergh
13. Seven Psychopaths - Dir. Martin McDonagh
12. The Dark Knight Rises - Dir. Christopher Nolan
11. Sound of My Voice - Dir. Zal Batmanglij
To read more about my picks, click here.
#138 Once Upon a Time In Anatolia (2011) Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
I loved the way this film took the police procedural and took it to it’s most primitive, basic form. The first two hours consist of a doctor, a prosecutor, grave diggers and police officers searching for a body with the two serial killers in tow. This is slow, meditative cinema that taps into various psyche’s. It takes the morbid and transforms it into the mundane. It’s a gripping watch even if it does operate on a more psychological rather than visceral mode.
#137 Margin Call (2011) Dir. J.C. Chandor
A great cast and a gripping script on a topic I have absolutely no interest or knowledge of. Successfully held my attention for 90 minutes and kept me thinking long after. Reminded me of Robert Altman and any filmmaker who can do that is clearly someone with talent.
#136 Sound of My Voice (2012) Dir. Zal Batmanglij
Following the one-two sucker punch of this film and Another Earth around festivals last year, Brit Marling seems to be the current face of indie-cinema. I haven’t seen Another Earth (yet) so I went into this one pretty blind and came out with my vision restored. This is a terrific little movie. The kind of movie you look at and think “man I need to make a film like that!” It looks so effortless and easy. It’s a simple tale full of eerie silences and suspense that dips it’s toes into so many genres and sub-genres over it’s brief running time. It goes for questions rather than answers and the finale beautifully jarring and ambiguous. As for Marling she is a captivating and enchanting screen presence as well as a very gifted writer. Consider me a fan. Great stuff.
#135 Get the Gringo (2012) Dir. Adrian Grünberg
Not really a big fan of Mel Gibson the racist, alcoholic and jew-hater but I am a big fan of Mel Gibson the movie star. I think he’s one of the most charismatic and watchable stars of his generation. I grew up watching old battered copies of Lethal Weapon, Mad Max, Conspiracy Theory, Maverick, Payback…the list goes on. So anyway, while this film has failed to rise above the tarnished reputation of it’s star I’ve had my eye on it knowing that the intention behind it seems to be Mel Gibson going back to his roots and giving his audience what they want - Mel the action star. It does that in spades, but the film itself is nothing more than a bland, predictable and forgettable prison-thriller. Still, at least Mel can still flash that million-dollar smile.
#134 Life Of Pi (2012) Dir. Ang Lee
This movie will push your retinas to the absolute brink. Probably the most visually overwhelming experience I’ve had at the cinema in 2012. Life Of Pi is a beautiful, beautiful movie. The best use of 3D since Hugo. I love how you hear nothing from Ang Lee for years then suddenly he explodes out of the woodwork with a blinder. He’s one of the most spiritual and painterly filmmakers alive and also one of the most versatile. Kevin Smith referred to him on twitter as a “cinematic jedi” and I can’t think of a better description than that. He handles so many moods and ideas in Life Of Pi that you can’t help but take a second to quietly applaud his skill.The entire sinking-ship sequence is breathtaking and left me physically and emotionally exhausted while another scene of a young boy looking at his mother can have the same effect. This is a proper movie, born and bred for the big screen. I thought it was near-perfect.
#133 Dark Shadows (2012) Dir. Tim Burton
Poor Tim Burton. Once upon a time he was the voice of a generation of outcasts, misfits, goths and the face of the troubled, gloomy artiste. A true original. Sadly that image has been tarnished by his latest run of CGI-laden weird-fests that lack the punch and edge that made him so distinctive and unique. So along comes Dark Shadows, another teaming with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and another film that came and went with a ton of bad reviews in it’s wake. Those reviews are the reason it’s taken me so long to get round to Dark Shadows. I’ll always watch any film Burton directs because I owe him that and there’s such a greatness to his early work that any opportunity to see just a glimmer of that greatness again is too good to pass up. But his latest output has been so disappointing and so…tame that the urgency to see his films is fading with increasing speed.
Now don’t get me wrong, Dark Shadows does have it’s problems. It’s all over the place both tonally and narrative wise. It doesn’t come together as a whole at all and just falls apart by the time the credits roll around. BUT there are flashes of a Tim Burton in this film that I haven’t seen in a long long time. The first third especially may be the best thing he has directed in years. Pairing his visuals with the 1970s is such a treat. I can’t remember the last time his visual style was so enjoyable and pleasing. Sleepy Hollow perhaps? In fact, Burton’s direction actually improves the script’s shortcomings and keeps it afloat in many places. I loved Tim Burton most when he kept things practical. The charm of Burton’s early films is that they feel synthetic and crafted. You feel like you’re watching human characters inhabit a dollhouse world of carefully designed interiors and moods. When CGI came along, that world fell apart and you just couldn’t believe in his style any more. It looked artificial but without the weight that practical effects gave him. Dark Shadows brings back some of that weight and also much of the fairy-tale darkness Burton has neglected when he needed it most (Like what the fuck was Alice In Wonderland?).
I enjoyed Dark Shadows most as an exercise in style (as well as Eva Green’s hotness) and it was refreshing to watch a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collab that managed to entertain rather than annoy me. He’s nowhere near back on form, but this definitely feels like a filmmaker finding his feet again. Let’s hope the next one goes a step further and gets the script right.
#132 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) Dir. Peter Jackson
My anticipation for The Hobbit has purposefully been kind of muted and mild. I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy and while I was over the moon that Jackson was returning to middle-earth to adapt it’s prequel, there were various factors that had me skeptical. The whole trilogy structure, bloated running time etc. all just seemed like overkill and an over-ambitious reach to match what went before. But thankfully, the first part of The Hobbit satisfied me ten-fold. It may be close to Rings in terms of length but the scope and the story is still small and intimate, just as it should be. Understandably Jackson and his writing team have fleshed out the books subplots and side-characters to give the whole thing more weight but it never weighs the film down. Jackson slips back into his Tolkien shoes with ease reminding us once again that he is the master of large-scale CGI set pieces while also being adept at handling the softer, more comedic side of the story. Martin Freeman is the perfect Bilbo and he anchors the film with a warm heart amidst a chaotic (but never confusing) slew of new characters including dwarves, trolls, goblins and orcs while Ian McKellen and other Rings alumni return to give the whole thing a feel of authenticity and consistency. There was so much potential for embarrassing failure with this film but astoundingly, Jackson has avoided it at every turn with a thrilling adventure yarn. I am a believer again. Bring on The Desolation of Smaug!
#131 Friends With Kids (2012) Dir. Jennifer Westfeldt
This is the latest in the slew of intelligent, grown-up rom-coms that have been pouring out of Hollywood recently. It doesn’t have the gross-out laughs of Bridesmaids or the youthful charm of Easy A but as a study of thirty-somethings dealing with parenthood and friendship, it kind of hits all the beats perfectly. There’s real care gone into the characters and there isn’t really anyone you don’t like or understand. Will probably fade from my memory as time goes on but it’s a nice and enjoyable little package.
#130 Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) Dir. Benh Zeitlin
What a lovely film, fuelled by imagination and coloured by rich textures. Kind of like a mix of Terence Malick and Terry Gilliam at times. The young protagonist is a wonderful creation and getting to see the world through her eyes for 90 minutes was a real pleasure. It becomes a bit aimless and wandering as it goes on and as the story strayed from “The Bathtub” I became less interested but I appreciated the film’s vision and intentions nonetheless. I can see why it has been embraced so intensely. Very original.
#129 Premium Rush (2012) Dir. David Koepp
I love movies like this, just a simple, straight-forward clean-cut piece of entertainment. Premium Rush is like a live-action cartoon, it whizzes and zips around at breakneck pace and only stops when it needs to. The idea of doing a high-octane action movie around bicycle messengers is a genius one and it makes the film a real kinetic and visceral experience. I really enjoyed the energy of this movie, it’s constantly up-tempo and never boring. It’s not a film you’re gona sit down and analyse but Koepp’s direction is wonderfully assured and the simple visual flourishes work wonders in keeping your attention and the geography of all the chase sequences is nicely laid out. A film like this could easily be confusing and messy if in the wrong hands (handheld Greengrass-style would kill this flick) but it’s shot with clarity. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the perfect star to lead this action-movie-but-not-really and Michael Shannon is a constantly entertaining foe. Really enjoyed this one. It does exactly what you want it to and nothing more.
#128 Sightseers (2012) Dir. Ben Wheatley
I’m sure most people on here will recognise Ben Wheatley as the director of last years Kill List which made a big splash over here in the UK but only managed a small dint in the US. Well anyway, Britain’s hottest new director is back barely 12 months later with Sightseers which operates on a much lighter plain to it’s predecessor but still retains it’s murderous tonal shifts. Much like Kill List this film seems to have to come out of nowhere and be full of surprises. It’s now clear that Wheatley has a very distinctive voice and a great ear for characters. As far as one-two sucker punches go Kill List and Sightseers is pretty damn strong. Watched back to back they announce the arrival of a fresh and home grown talent with a diverse set of tools at his disposal. I like that his films are painted on small character-driven canvases but they play with large splashes of expressive technicolor imagery and successfully blend genre conventions with mundane kitchen-sink details. The script here is sharp as hell and the bizarre mix of caravanning in the dales with shocking bursts of violence turns out to be a delightful cocktail. With this film I’m officially a big fan of Ben Wheatley and feverishly anticipate movie number four (which has already wrapped shooting!)
#127 Argo (2012) Dir. Ben Affleck
It’s crazy to think this story is actually true. Affleck’s third film as director is yet another confident and impressive effort and lets him show off his suspense skills on a bigger canvas. The cast is so fucking good. Scoot McNairy is fast becoming one of my favourite character actors working today and Bryan Cranston is, well…Bryan Cranston being great as usual. Plus any movie that pairs John Goodman and Alan Arkin together as a comic-relief double act must be doing something right. A lot of people really love this movie and it seems to be the closest thing we’ve got so far to a universal favourite of 2012. While I loved the suspense and the zany story it didn’t quite knock me on my ass as I was expecting. White knuckle entertainment of the highest order but no huge cinematic revelation. Pretty sure this will get closer to my heart with repeat viewings like The Town but sorry Ben, Gone Baby Gone is still my favourite. They should totally do T-shirts that say “Argo fuck yourself” though.
#126 Brave (2012) Dir. Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
A charming but slight effort from Pixar. I totally agree with the observation that this feels more like a pure Disney film rather than Pixar but I’m guessing that’s the point. It’s nice to see them throw their hat into the fairy tale ring, even if it does fail to match the greats. Either way, the animation is stunning and I sat through the whole thing with a big smile on my face. Even mediocre Pixar is better than most. A brisk and entertaining romp.