Sunday, April 7, 2013

Best of 2012


Hey everybody.

So 2013 is here and 2012 came and gone. We all survived! No WWIII, no zombies, no rapture, we made it another year. I am particularly happy about this because I did not want to stop living yet. For the past few days, I have been thinking about 2012 and catching up on films I have missed for one reason or the other. I have to say, had the world really ended in 2012, I can say with dignity that it would have ended on a high note. As far as movies goes that is.

Again, this year I have posted a list of my favorite films I feel people should check out. A Runner's Up List, A top 10 and Special List I will get to in just a minute here. Last year, if you remember, I had a bunch of ties everywhere. This year I tried really hard to do a straight up top 20 list of my favorite films. I am really happy with the list I created. 2012 was a good year for movies if you side step the crap that makes every year distasteful. In 2012, I saw a little over 140 films to prepare for this list. I am happy with the result.

Keep in mind, I included all movies that had release dates in 2012. Foreign films and festival films are eligble for my top 20 of 2012 list. And I have to warn you all now....if you are going to cry about the placing of a particular film or if you are going to cry because "such-and-such" didn't make the cut, then you might as well not read it. This is not a "Best of" list by any means. AlI I can share are the experiences I will remember the most as we move into 2013. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now with no further ado, lets get to the list.

The Darkhorses: The 10 Best Films You Probably Didn't See

Alright everybody, I am doing something different this year. THE FOLLOWING LIST IS NOT THE TOP 10 NOR IS IT THE RUNNER'S UP LIST.  Think of it as a warm up list. The reason why I like to post my favorite films each year is so I can recommend films I feel are worth watching. Steer friends in a direction they probably would not have gone down. Every year, if you look past the sequels, reboots and reimaginings, there are small films that are truly great and innovative. Being the movie geek I am, I try my hardest to seek them out. These 10 films are all worthy of your time and attention. If you have seen any or all of these 10 special films, then give yourself a pat on the back. Pride yourself in being the type of person to check out the movie-verse in all of its corners. I bet you will agree these were some of 2012's wonders.

10. Arbitrage
I don't know what happened to Richard Gere this year but something deep inside of him awoke in 2012. This is a thriller unlike any other, rather reminiscent of last years "Margin Call." It is about a
man who is deep in a white-collar crime scheme and also cheating on his wife. Leading a double life is catching up on him, especially when he gets into a car accident with his mistress. How Gere goes about wiping his hands clean of his situation(s) is the premise of this crazy film. Which will keep your pulse high throughout.

9. V/H/S
Do you like found footage horror movies? Because they are usually hit-or-miss. And if they happen to be an analogy film as well, that is usually a deal-breaker for most people. However this found footage/analogy horror film is one of the scariest films in recent memory. In a world where technology is slowly digging itself into our everyday routine, a horror film which taps into the many corners of the digital age is daring, ambitious and downright horrifying. There were many times as I watched this on ITunes where I literally had to minimize my screen, as I was too much of chicken to watch what was happening. Each story is unique, and yes rather chilling. A great film to have when October rolls around.

8. Friends With Kids
 Most of the cast from "Bridesmaids" is featured in this film, but this isn't just another "Bridesmaids." Some of what happens is very funny, however this is truly a character study of how people are affected by starting a family, the good and the bad. Especially as emotions flare when two best friends decide to have a kid together but have no plans of marriage or a serious relationship. I found the entire story very emotional, a great story with something honest to say.

7. Mansome
 Sometimes, I just love a good ol' fashioned documentary. This one in particular is funny and original. Created by the ingenius Morgan Spurlock, the doc is a series of interviews asking men what it really means to be manly. Because lets be honest, being masculine means something different to every male. So when it gets down to it, who is wrong and who is right? With a humorous edge, this documentary has the answer to that daring question.

6. Saftey Not Guaranteed
 A smart way to include time travel in the movies. Aubrey Plaza is really making a name for herself in this beautiful little film about a group who work for a Seattle newspaper right a story about a guy who puts an add in the papers to go back in time with him. Is the guy crazy? Or does he really mean to time travel? What happens is strangely original, sort of melancholy, but fun and hilarious all at once.

5. Juan of the Dead
 Don't accuse me of going to the dark side in recommending this movie. Here is a comedic horror adventure from the shores of Cuba...yes that Cuba...no I am not ashamed. Our southern neighbors may have a poltical system I don't agree with but boy do they know how to have fun with zombies. Creating something different and ambitious with the walking dead genre. Sure, there's some politics but its not offensive and all in good taste.

4. Hodejegerne AKA Headhunters
 This movie from Norway was one of the best thrillers of the year. About a man who is headhunter for a huge corporation by day and intricate art thief by night. Until he decides to steal from a skilled assassin, things get quite hairy. Great performances all around, check this out on Netflix.

3. A Cat In Paris
 I know that everyone loves their Dreamworks and Pixar, but this quick little bit of pulp animation is both wonderful and magical. Creative animation which proves you don't need a state-of-the-art computer to get the job done, as long as you have a great story to tell, no matter how big or small. The story carries the animation, not the other way around.

2. Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Pam Grier all do fabulous work in this small little dramedy that blew me away when I saw it. Segel plays Jeff a guy obessed with the movie "Signs" and believes his destiny is right in front of his face, he only needs to grab it. He tries to find it with helping his older brother repair his relationship with his estranged wife. This leads to a full day odessy with an emotional climax that punched me in the gut at the end. A true gem for all to enjoy.

1. God Bless America
Not sense "Fight Club" has a movie called bullshit on our society for all the right reasons. Joel Murray (In a unbelievable performance) plays a man who has a brain condition and will die soon. He contemplates suicide, until he turns on his television. What he sees distgusts him, and honestly we all know why. He sees what we see, reality TV of people acting like idiots, Jersey Shore, American Idol, Cop Shows, Celeb Gossip, Bieber. Then we take a walk outside and we see it in our cities, there is a clout of disrespect that can be discouraging. So what better way to handle it than to go on a killing spree? This dark comedy is very original and one of the highlights of the year for me.


TOP 10 RUNNER'S UP LIST
If this was my top 10 list I'd say that we had quite the year of movies. A nice blending of arthouse, blockbusters, international and domestic fair. A good year if one went looking. Here is my list of films that almost made my top 10. The closer to the top spot they got, the harder it was to decide to include them or not.

10. Killer Joe
Quite the year Matthew Mcconaughey has had this year. A sort of reawakening of his career. I don't know if he fired his previous agent and found a new one, but whatever the case, it worked. This isn't quite what you'd expect the old heartthrob to sign on for, a jet black film about a killer-for-hire who gets tangled in some family drama. But he kills the role. Emiles Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church and Juno Temple make up the other cast, all doing solid work. Oh, and Gina Gershon is making almost 50 look GOOOOD.

9. The Cabin In The Woods
I love horror films, so when a film comes out which celebrates the genre, I get giddy. This is a celebration of the horror film, a smart and clever way to celebrate it I might add. It has the normal set up, five teens go on a trip together, you got your jock, your pothead, the girl that sleeps around, the girl that doesnt sleep with anybody at all, and the token black guy. They plan to spend a weekend in a cabin, and of course nothing is what it seems. This all sounds very routine of I'm sure, but the genius of this film is to not see what is coming at all. They've built something so special to the horror genre that no fan shall resist.

8. Brave
Ahh, and there's Pixar, God bless em! Taking to the Medival setting of magic sounds like something they would have put out on display alot sooner than they did. But "Brave" is a true wonder as to be expected from the studio. I know it seems like everybody in the world is head over heels for Pixar, but I cannot resist their smart writing, great casting, and emotional suckerpunch time and time again.

7. The Raid: Redemption
Sorry "Expendables 2," but this Indonesian film was the pure action cinema to beat this year. Featuring some of the most kick ass martial arts I have seen on display in quite sometime, "Redemption" is a pure adrenaline rush in mayhem and blood. A simple story of a SWAT team brought in to obtain a big time crime lord, however when the crime lord gets his whole tenant of thugs to fight back, it ends up turning into a survival journey. There isn't a whole lot of talking because everybody is too busy kicking each others asses, but the action scenes are so unforgettable that its hard not to show love at the end of the year.

6. Wreck-It Ralph
My older brother was a huge gamer growing up and still is today. I like to play video games myself every once in awhile. So when I heard about this movie, the excitement was something that was very hard to resist. This film features the probably the most clever screenplay of the year. The jokes, punes, characters, settings, and atmosphere is better than you would expect. If you really know your video games than this is something you are really going to enjoy. But the genius of it all is that even if you didn't grow up with gaming in your background, you can still love this movie! It has something for everybody which is most important.

5. Looper
Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both take a superb turn in this high concept sci/fi action thriller. I know it feels like two movies in one, I know it feels like there is almost too much going on in this film. However, I felt writer and director Rian Johnson juggled his concepts and storylines with ease. And the result was a great action film. Film with cool guns, time travel, telepaths, Emily Blunt, killer kids and fly motorcycles. What's not to love really?

4. Skyfall
So for the 50th Anniversary of James Bond film franchise, was it surprising to receive one of the best entries of the series yet? I know alot of people who like to complain about how the Daniel Craig movies suck because they don't "feel" like Bond. Well, to retort, I would ask those individuals if they have ever seen any and all of the Bond films. Bond seems to exist in the era of time and history in which it takes place. I know the Craig films seem off because they have completely started over and are telling a linear story. But why his turn as Bond works can be summed up in speech made by M late in the movie. We live in a world today where the enemies aren't cut and dry, and that can be really scary. Because of this it is necessary to declare war in the shadows. This is by far the most sincere of the Bond films so far, a story that is human and intelligent. Throw Javier Bardem as the villain and the triumphant return of Q and Moneypenny and you've got a winner.

 3. The Avengers
The Marvel Boy in me is jizzing his pants right now. Sense 2008 I have been long waiting seeing my favorite superhero group moving at 24 frames per second, and now that it is finally here I am speechless. Marvel Studios did the most ambitious move in movies in history, it could have easily sunk the ship. But while hiring people that actually love comics then giving them complete control of the material is a great place to start. Joss Whedon laid his soul into this project, and we as fans are all richer for it. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, ScarJo, Jeremy Renner, Sam Jackson, and more are all awesome in this film. This literally felt like an Avenger comic come to life, each character shines, its funny without being cheezy, and full of incredible action, this has set the standard for comic books onscreen.

2. The Hunger Games
Now before we get into this, understand that I have not read the books and have only seen the movies. Not that should matter. Everyone should know upfront that the literature universe and the cinematic universe will always be different. If you are a die hard fan of the books, so much so to the point that you can't stand changes, then you probably shouldn't watch this. As a movie this film is an emotional journey that was hard for me to shake after viewing it the first time. Jennifer Lawrence has been an actress that I have had an eye for a couple years, and she doesn't disappoint here. Yes folks, she can act. Lots of people seemed to give her shit this year, particularly in the scene where she sings to a little girl. If you think she can't act because she can't sing is missing the point. The point of the scene was to comfort someone who was about to die, it wasn't an American Idol audition. Then there's Josh Hutcherson, who had a superb year, yeah we will be talking about him later today. The film is a horrid look at our possible future, emotional and deep, and entertaining.

1. The Dark Knight Rises
Probably one of the most controversial films that divided audiences and batfans all year. Me? I stand on the side of this being a triumph. I have written hundreds and hundreds of words about the batman movies and Nolan's take in general, because if you really look at his trilogy he has truly created something special. I wouldn't argue against someone who said this is the messist of the three films, and that it has the most flaws. I get it. I don't get how Bruce could get to one side of the world to the other with no money and no Alfred. I never understood why the cops and mercenaries didn't just shoot each other. There's also a few character beats that felt off to me. But there is no denying that this third entry is hypnotic. I was impressed that all three films are telling one complete story. Consider the scene where Bruce ends up in Bane's prison, then he has a flashback to Batman Begins when he fell into the well as a boy. The well and the prison look identical, Bruce was constantly up front with things he feared, and when he finally escapes, it was an emotional suckerpunch which brings me to tears.

Nolan has always had a talent for finding great performances in people and that is no different here. Tom Hardy is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, everytime he is on screen I can't keep my eyes off him. That should be saying something for a character who can only act with his eyes. Hardy is a God among Bale, Freeman, Caine, Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt and the incredible cast Nolan assembled. Nolan was never interested in the comic book Batman, he was however interested in studying how an ordinary man was driven to dress up and fight crime and on that level his trilogy is a massive achievement.


AND NOW...MY TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now it is time to recognize the creme of the crop. You all maybe disappointed that some of the runner's up didnt make the top 10, but most of the movies are comfort movies. To make the top 10 it has to cover all the bases. These 10 films are the movies I could not stop thinking about all year, they engaged me intellectually, spiritually, mentally. These are the 10 I will remember the most this year and I wanna thank everyone involved with all ten of these pictures. Keep in mind, there are still a few heavy hitters I have not seen yet...notably "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Master" my lists are upgrading all the time, so keep that in mind as you read along. AT LAST THE TOP 10.

10. DETENTION
Imagine a combination of "Back To The Future," "Scream" and "The Breakfast Club" set in a Scott Pilgrim-esque universe and you will have a pretty good idea of what "Detention" was like. A crazy, delirious, yet delightful film that was fun from start to finish. Josh Hutcherson, again you gotta give it to the guy, he had a great year. Hunger Games, this, he was even good in Red Dawn, even though I didn't think that film worked overall. The kids got range and talent, and he will be worth noting in the future, I'm sure. The movie itself is hard to describe, there is a slasher killing girls at a local high school, theres a time traveling bear, some UFO's, and a jock who seems to be turning into a fly. How it all works is the beauty of the film, something everybody should see.

9. MOONRISE KINGDOM
The film is small in scale, yet it has a huge heart and sometimes that makes all the difference. Set on an island town in the 1960's, two teenagers fall in love and run away together. Except they chose the day that is the eve of one of the worst storms in history, and the small town comes together to find them. Wes Anderson has put great cast together, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton. But its the two unknown actors who portray the lovestruck teens that really make the film worthwhile.

8. ARGO
I don't know what it was that made Affleck suddenly ready to begin directing films but whatever woke up inside of him, well I kinda wished it woke up sooner than it did. As far as directing goes Affleck is three-for-three and has created another instant classic. Re-telling the true story of the 70's Iranian Crisis and an undercover CIA mission which rescued Americans hiding in Iran, the movie tells a great story without ever letting up on the suspense. I loved how at the end, you know exactly how the movie will end. It's based on a true story, of course they make it out of Iran. However, the angst Affleck piles on is so incredible, the last half hour of the movie shall surely give you a heart attack, as it almost did me.

7. CHRONICLE
The biggest surprise of the year for me. This little film that could came out of nowhere and blindsided me completely. I may get alot of heat for this but this was the best "superhero" movie of the year. Yes it was, yes it really was. Don't argue, it was. The film also feels like a superhero version of "Carrie" which was really exciting. The young cast in this is top-notch. Keep an eye for Dane DeHaan, someone I feel will has a great career ahead of him.

6. PROMETHEUS
This pick is probably going to get alot of people upset with me, as it also divided viewers when released. I for one love a great sci/fi film, and sadly great sci/fi is far and between nowadays. Then Ridley Scott comes along and decides to create a "sort-of" prequel to Alien and blows my mind completely. Many viewers are frustrated that it is more questions than answers. To a degree, I would concure, however there is so much cool material to think about, discuss with friends, and pick at that I left the theater giddy. It is a challenging portrait of the creation of man. And if Scott is serious about a sequel, I will be there opening weekend. It may not answer all the questions but it leaves enough there to be fascinated by. Particularly with the Engineers, and why they decide to kill us when they are our supposed creators.

Think for a second...do you guys think that Scott set the movie on Christmas on purpose? Chew on that for a little bit.

5. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
I have to admit that when a little movie comes out of nowhere and is instantly something that will be apart of my life forever. Featuring a cast of complete unknowns, not a single recognizable face anywhere, this is a fantasy story taking place in a small part of Louisiana, known as "The Bathtub." A great storm hits the Bathtub and polar ice caps in the South Pole melt. Unleashing savage beasts which had been frozen for years. The film becomes an odessy for a little girl named Hushpuppy (brought to life by Quvenzhane Wallis, a great performance, worthy of Oscar attention.) and her father Wink, who teaches his daughter about survival and value of family and life. It's a great, great fairy tale, full of unforgettable performances and imagery.

4. LINCOLN
Daniel Day-Lewis, what can I say about this guy? I guess I can say that he is the best actor alive right now, and his hard work and research that he puts into each of his roles is paramount, and he only helped make Lincoln one of the years highlights. I can also say thank you to Steven Spielberg for finally bringing this film to the big screen. Spielberg has had this story on his mind for years now, and I am happy to say that all his hard work and patience has paid off in a big, big way. We've always known that Spielberg is a master storyteller and with a story of Lincoln's life, you need someone like Spielberg at the helm. This is a big win for everyone involved, and it was a great way to end the holiday season.

3. DJANGO UNCHAINED
Praising Quentin Tarantino is becoming hyperbolic by this point, but I can't help it. The guy is just good with his movies, and after directing seven it is really hard to believe that he has yet to make one that is just plain mediocre. And for always engaging in controversial material, I think that says something about his talent. Slavery is despicable, something I think we as a culture wished never was apart of our difficult history. I think it took alot of guts and careful writing to portray this onscreen, and Tarantino deserves credit for doing it honorably. The cast, as always in Tarantino flicks, is solid. DiCaprio in particular is great, finally chewing into a villain role and killing it completely. Samuel L. Jackson deserves some credit as DiCaprio's right hand man, a performance I hope doesn't go unnoticed. Foxx and Waltz are both, as expected, no less than amazing. Bloody, hyperstyalized, and sometimes funny...Django is a gem.

2. CLOUD ATLAS
A complete exploration of the soul. A spirtual cinematic journey. A film I feel will be rediscovered in the years to come and people will finally come together and hail this as a classic, because it is. Time and time again many filmmakers try to ride the "Ambition coattails" thinking they have a winner of a movie just by being ambitious. And we all know that that just isn't enough every time. It takes alot more than ambition to get a movie to work. "Atlas" proves it takes ambition, plus great directing, plus patience, plus talent and yes plus luck to make a movie like this work. Those behind Atlas seemed to get that because this is an engrossing motion picture, something unlike anything ever made before. It's about time Tom Hanks and Hallie Berry made a triumphant comeback, and I think they both stick the landing here.

1. HOLY MOTORS
So how did a 2-hour French film that makes absolutely no narrative sense hit my top spot this year?

Because this is cinematic Cirque du soleil. It's feels like putting on your favorite musical record. This is a rare film that focuses on your emotions. It tells the story of a man that spends an entire day in Paris, France acting out scenarios or "appointments." Within a whole day, he is a begger, monster, city dweller, murderer, and mokap actor among other strange roles. Why he does this and who his employer is remains a mystery the whole movie. We never find out if the mysterious Mr. Oscar is real or unreal, being punished or doing what he wants to be doing. As the film wears on, it doesn't really matter because this is a beautiful experience and a true original work.

I know many people who would totally write "Holy Motors" off completely. That I think is sad, because in a world where we are remaking movies that have only been around a few years, we create sequel after sequel, we bring back franchises for quick cash, and homage and copy off of greater works year after year after year. It seems nobody wants to be adventurous anymore, nobody wants to take chances at an artform. I would usually warn that a film like "Holy Motors" is not for everyone, but as of right now, I will never allow myself to say that anybody ever again. People need to be more adventurous as filmgoers and I can't think of a better film to stand as way to do that.

So thats the whole list, a great year for movies if you ask me.

OTHER FILMS WHICH I CONSIDERED FOR THIS LIST BUT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:

"21 Jump Street" "Amber Alert" "The Bay" "The Expendables 2" "Get The Gringo" "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" "The Impossible" "Lawless" "The Perks of Being A Walflower," "Ted"

Thanks for reading, see ya next year. We have quite a bit to look forward too in 2013. Several sequels Like Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6, Scary Movie 5, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A Good Day To Die Hard, Last Exorcism 2, Monster University, Despicable Me 2, and Anchorman: The Legend Continues. We'll have a wealth of Sci/Fi like Oblivion, After Earth, Pacific Rim, Gravity,   and Ender's Game. We'll finally lay eyes on long awaited projects like Gangster Squad, The Great Gatspy and You're Next. I am looking forward to Man of Steel and World War Z both sure to be huge blockbusters, and I am also looking forward to the smaller fare like Budapest Hotel, Much Ado About Nothing, The Place Beyond the Pines and Only God Forgives. I am wildly curious about the Oldboy remake as well as the new adaptation of Carrie.

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

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