2012 has been a remarkable year for film. Though, I guess most years would seem amazing after 2011, but I imagine even with that dynamic juxtaposition, 2012 will be remembered as a great year for film with so many contributions from so many talents that have both pushed the boundaries of cinema and done some fascinating things with terribly familiar genres.
Here, I present my list of my 10 favorite films of the year.
Honorable Mention: The Impossible
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
This was so close to making my top ten, but given my one big criticism of the film (which I won’t go into here to avoid spoilers), I couldn’t justify putting it above any of the films I’m about to discuss. I did want to bring it up because it is definitely the most emotionally powerful film of the year. It takes a lot for a movie to nearly bring me to tears, and The Impossible comes closer to making me cry than any other movie I can think of. And it’s not the tidal wave or the chaos that does it, but rather the little things that you don’t see coming that threaten to push you off the emotional edge. I hope that Ewan McGregor earns some awards for his role here because he’s astonishing.
Directed by David Cronenberg
This could be my favorite Cronenberg film to date. And I think I like it so much because the film itself is so wonderfully Cronenberg-esque. He hasn’t made a film like this in a while, but I love when he works with themes of sex, violence, philosophy, and technology and blends them all together in the most captivating ways. Couple that with fantastic performances from Robert Pattinson and Paul Giamatti, and an episodic structure that works like a series of short plays and this is a real winner.
09. God Bless America
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
I’m a huge fan of dark comedy and 2012 has made some fine contributions to the field. First on the list is God Bless America, about a guy with a terminal disease who teams up with a teenage girl to assassinate worthless people. It’s brutal and dry and utterly hilarious, while making a very disturbing (and honest) comment on where we are as a country.
08. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by Peter Jackson
I really wanted to not like the idea of Peter Jackson repeating himself and returning to Middle Earth for this prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but it is an excellent film and so far I’m not at all upset about the choice to break Bilbo Baggins’ tale into three whole movies. The visuals and the action are just as good as the original trilogy and Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo is spectacular.
07. Moonrise Kingdom
Directed by Wes Anderson
I can’t say this is my favorite of Wes Anderson’s movies, but I completely disagree with critics who say his style is getting tired. It’s only annoying to me when others try to imitate his style. Moonrise Kingdom’s ability to juxtapose childhood and adulthood in a believable and unique way in each character gives the film both an incredible realism and a nice fantastical element.
06. Marvel’s The Avengers
Directed by Joss Whedon
When Jon Favreau’s Iron Man first hinted at the possibility of an Avenger’s movie, I said that there was only one man who could successfully pull it off. Fortunately, my wildest dreams came true and Joss Whedon delivered one of the best Superhero movies ever made. Whedon thrives on writing for an ensemble of strong and dynamic characters, and The Avengers plays to that strength perfectly. I look forward to living in a world where Joss Whedon has enormous commercial success and can basically do whatever he wants. Maybe now he can keep a TV show on the air for longer than ten minutes.
05. The Cabin in the Woods
Directed by Drew Goddard
This collaboration between director Drew Goddard and screenwriter Joss Whedon, who previously worked together on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Angel is one of the most interesting films of the year. It’s difficult to summarize, so putting together a trailer for it must have been difficult. Basically, it’s a horror movie parody, but with a genuine horror movie at its center. It’s wickedly funny, genuinely scary, and every horror movie cliché you know and love wrapped up into one insane ride.
Directed by Ben Affleck
The truly amazing thing about this one isn’t that Ben Affleck was at the helm. Actually, I’ve grown to really respect him as a director. In fact, he’s even a much better actor when he’s directing himself. No, the really amazing thing about Argo is that throughout the entirety of the film, I had absolutely no idea if the mission to extract the Americans in hiding was going to be successful or not. Either way, it would be a fantastic story, and I loved how impossible to predict this was. The film is gripping, and intense, but with a lot of great humor that cuts the tension in all the right ways.
Directed by Rian Johnson
I’ve been a huge fan of Rian Johnson’s work thus far, and the idea of him doing a time travel movie is the reason I love movies. Johnson’s story here is a fresh and horrifying take on the time traveler story we’ve seen repeatedly, and the performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the young and old versions of Joe respectively make for a really fun movie that raises a lot of philosophical questions about ourselves and where we see the trajectory of our lives going.
02. Django Unchained
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
This was neck and neck for my #1 spot, but ultimately fell short for reasons I’ll discuss in a minute. I think this is a phenomenal film. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz both deliver amazing performances, and Tarantino’s take on the spaghetti western is both familiar and a refreshing new take on the genre.
01. Seven Psychopaths
Directed by Martin McDonagh
This has the best script of the year. I’ve read all of Martin McDonagh’s stage plays and his capacity for dark comedy is unparalleled. Seven Psychopaths is a continuation of that great talent. The script is brought to life by arguably the best ensemble of actors assembled this year. Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Christopher Walken are all absolutely perfect; embodying everything wonderful about the themes of the film.