Saturday, March 23, 2013

Terry's Top Ten Films of 2012

It always takes me a little longer to get my top 10 list of the year out than my two companions.  This is mainly because I have more trouble finding time to view the top films of the year before the come out on DVD.  Eventually I see them all and am able to put out a strong top films of the year.  This last year was one of those years where I think the Academy got it pretty right with who they honored at the Oscars.  This not only makes for a much more enjoyable Oscars ceremony, but also gives me increased faith in the awards systems.  Eight of the Best Picture nominees can be found in my top ten.  The one that is not I have yet to view (Beasts of the Southern Wild) but I feel confident enough in the ten that I have to go with it without viewing this one yet (Update: I saw Beasts and it did not crack the list).  So far, I have given out nine 4 star ratings for 2012 which is my lowest total since 2009 when there were eight 4 stars.  However, with that said, I believe this was a good year for movies because of the quality of the these ten movies at the top.  With all that said, here is the list.

Honorable Mention
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
This Is 40

10.  Amour (Dir. by Michael Haneke)
Let me start by saying this type of film is not my cup of tea.  I am usually not a fan of quiet subtle character studies.  I usually differ to Todd or Zach to discuss the greatness of this genre.  However, Haneke's latest achievement about an elderly couple dealing with the trials and struggles of the twilight years impressed me so much I had to put it on my list.  I still didn't necessarily "like" this movie in the traditional sense of the word, but I was fascinated by it and by the beauty of its subtlety.  The screenplay is brilliant because of everything it doesn't say.  There isn't much plot in the story, but most of the events that advance the plot are not seen or heard.  The film is not about what is happening, but about how people react to and cope with those events.  The beauty is in the non-verbals which led to two amazing performances from the Oscar-nominated Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant.  If nothing else, this film shows the incredible artistry of a unique filmmaker.

9.  The Avengers (Dir. by Joss Whedon)
This is probably the closest thing to a polar opposite that you could find to the last film on the list.  However, I would be lying if I didn't say the superhero mega-movie event wasn't one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences of the year.  Individually, some characters made decent films (Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger) and some didn't (Thor) but together they made an explosive team that saved the world.  I could watch this movie over and over and over again.

8.  Lincoln (Dir. by Steven Spielberg)
I love a good historical drama.  When you add to that one of the better directors of the last 30 years, one of the best actors of the last 25 years, and one of the most beloved characters in American history, you are bound to have a masterpiece.  That is exactly what this combination brought.  Daniel Day-Lewis once again gave a career-defining performance (I believe this makes 5 career-defining performances for him) as he became the embodiment of the character instead of simply playing him.  Add to that some of the best supporting performances of the year from one of the most impressive casts of the year, and you really can't find anything to complain about.

7.  Les Miserables (Dir. by Tom Hooper)
When I heard they were making a movie version of my favorite musical of all time, my only reaction was, "Don't screw it up."  What I realized after watching the film was you really can't screw it up.  It was not a perfect movie.  I had some issues with some of the casting decisions and some of the performances, however when it came down to it the story is so good and the music tells the story so well that less than perfect still produced a masterpiece.  I give Tom Hooper a lot of credit for this because he realized the best way to bring this musical to the screen is to not mess with what made it a great musical, and that is the music.  By keeping the singing throughout and allowing the actors bring their characters to life through song, it gave the film the emotion and epic scale that makes the musical so beloved.

6.  Looper (Dir. by Rian Johnson)
This was one of the best kept secrets of last year.  However, by the time saw this movie, I had heard from everyone that had seen it that it was the most underrated film of the year.  So the hype had definitely built up.  With that said, it lived up to all the hype.  What a unique and original movie!  As all great sci-fi films do, it establishes its reality quite well, but what makes this one stand out is the reality we are forced to live in for two hours.  The unique and fascinating premise is so thought-provoking in itself that when the plot starts taking its twists and turns, you are hooked and on the edge of your seat for the duration.  Looper redefined time travel movies in a way District 9 a few years ago redefined alien movies.

5.  Django Unchained (Dir. by Quentin Tarantino)
It seems that no matter when Tarantino makes a film, it ends up on my top films of the year no matter how ridiculous the film is.  Django is a perfect example.  If you were to hear about a film with this premise, you would think it was a joke.  A slave right before the Civil War is freed to work with a bounty hunter to hunt down and kill slave owners.  What a terrible sounding, offensive movie!  This film should never be made!  Then you're told that Quentin Tarantino is making it.  All of a sudden it becomes one of the movie events of the year and a soon-to-be masterpiece.  It almost seems like Tarantino wants to see how far he can push it before he gets run out of Hollywood.  This will never happen though.  First, Tarantino would run away from Hollywood before he would be considered a part of it.  Second, he makes films in a way no one else does.  His screenplays and dialogue are so unique and his plot lines are so original, he has practically created a genre of his own.  Because of that, every time we see Tarantino work we see something we have never seen before.  This is what makes films like Django so great.  I'm sure if we saw films like these everyday then Tarantino wouldn't wow us so much.  But we don't, so they do.

4.  Zero Dark Thirty (Dir. by Kathryn Bigelow)
It is rare that such a moment of recent history is brought to the screen so quickly and so effectively.  Kathryn Bigelow has built a reputation for herself that I don't think anyone else should ever make a film about the Middle East besides her.  I really don't like a lot of the movies that are coming out about the wars in the Middle East, but Bigelow has now succeeded in making two masterpieces on the subject.  This film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden is so honest and suspenseful that it draws you in from the very first scene.  The last half hour of the movie is one of the greatest war sequences I have ever seen.  It is definitely a film that takes you for a ride.

3.  Life of Pi (Dir. by Ang Lee)
This film surprised me more than any other this year.  I knew nothing about it going in except there was a boy, a boat, and a tiger.  I also knew that it was getting more recognition than I looked like it should by the awards season.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Yes, it is a story about a boy, a boat, and a tiger, but it is so much more than that.  It is a story about faith, survival, and imagination.  And when you put an imaginative story like this into the creative hands of Ang Lee, you are bound to have one of the greatest movie experiences you can find.  I loved everything about this movie.  The story is incredible, which you almost forget about because the film is so beautiful to watch which is a given when Ang Lee is at the helm.  On top of all this, the film ends in a way that keeps you thinking for days.  It is one of those films where you need to have a discussion with someone to debrief after you are done watching it.  This is a film I will never get tired of talking about.

2.  Silver Linings Playbook (Dir. by David O. Russell)
Out of all the films on this list, this is the most human story with the characters you relate to the most with the best overall acting job of the year.  This film about a bipolar finding his way to be normal in the world is quirky, heartbreaking, funny, serious.  In short, it is life.  Few films capture life in all its dynamics like this does.  In a lot of ways (and my counterparts will hate me for this), it is a lot like Sideways in this way.  There is a real life story told with flawed, complete characters in a way real life actually is.  However, Silver Linings would have been nothing if not for its stellar cast.  Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence show they can do a lot more than what the general public recognize them for, and when you can round out your cast with a living legend you have a perfect cast.  I know some of you were thinking the living legend was Chris Tucker, but it's not.  It was Robert De Niro.

1.  Argo (Dir. by Ben Affleck)
If any of you have read any of my other posts or know what my favorite movies are, you will know that my all-time favorite type of movie is a 20th Century American History film.  Whether it's Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, or Frost/Nixon, there is something about this time period that appeals to me.  Argo is the latest film I can add to this list.  Ben Affleck is quickly becoming one of the best directors we have with this film being his masterpiece about the rescue mission of the Americans who escaped before the hostages were taken in Iran.  This movie feels like an instant classic, and instantly became one of my favorite movies of the last number of years.  I really don't know how to describe it other than: awesome.

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