Our Best of 2012 series kicks off with Film. You’ll also see best of lists in Music, DVDs and TV later this week. How do your best of lists stack up against your top films?
1. The Story of Film: An Odyssey
I still have a slew of films to see before I can call this the definitive list (Holy Motors, Rust and Bone, and most foreign language offerings – my main blind spot this year – to name a few). That said, Irish film scholar Mark Cousins’s fifteen (yes, fifteen) hour documentary on film history is one of the best surveys of film history (from the silents to the rise of Hollywood to the New Waves across the world to the advent of the digital) I’ve ever seen outside of the classroom.
Secondly, it is one of the best edited visual essays I’ve seen. Cousins’s editing draws parallels between films produced with decade to century long gaps, making the past relevant for those who have only been exposed to the cinema of the past decade or two. In other words, skip the horrid Room 237 and spend your holiday vacation with this intoxicating gem. Even I left the marathon screening experience with a list of films I need to see or re-watch thanks to his insightful textual analysis. That said, the film is not without its minor issues.
First, Cousins sometimes embraces the urban legends of film history to streamline his narrative. He tells us that the audiences who saw the Lumìere Brothers’ “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat” were scared out of their seats (Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, my top choice of 2011, bought into this as well). However, according to scholar Tom Gunning, early audiences were prepared for such sights thanks to the theatrical spectacles of the late 1800s. Later, Cousins claims that Hollywood was founded on the west coast to escape Thomas Edison’s lawyers, who were enforcing his copyright on cinematic patents. This may be true to a degree, but California also offered diverse locales for shooting, an abundance of sunlight to assist in capturing the fragile images of early film, and a lack of unionization. Finally, and this is a mixed blessing, Cousins’s veers away from canonization and indulges in his own idiosyncratic choices. When he gets to American indie film, he spends the bulk of his time with Quentin Tarantino films and Gus van Sant (whom, like a handful of others, he interviews for an extended period of time). It’s a curious choice because it avoids some of the folks who brought indie into the folds of Hollywood (Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh) and one of the greatest narrative innovators of the past fifty years: Charlie Kaufman. Still, as a crash course in film history and textual analysis, this is the best alternative to film school that the movies can offer.
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Django Unchained
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
6. Silver Linings Playbook
1. The Avengers
The Avengers won’t likely be nominated for any Academy Award outside of the technical categories or make many other Best Of lists, but does that mean it isn’t a great film? Not by any shot. The Avengers is the best film of the year because it accomplished exactly what it set out to do – entertain and amaze. Only The Dark Knight Rises had higher expectations this year and it disappointed a lot of people (but not me). The Avengers however is widely agreed to be a fun and extremely entertaining summer blockbuster. Director Joss Whedon had the most daunting task of bringing together a cast and a story even more complicated to blend from the previous character origin films. He absolutely met and exceeded the challenge.
2. The Dark Knight Rises
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5. Men In Black 3
Honorable Mention: The Amazing Spider-Man, Wreck-It Ralph
Wish I Had Seen: Lincoln, Argo, Django Unchained, Moonrise Kingdom, Looper
My husband requested that we watch this movie and I fought seeing it for the longest time. I finally gave in last weekend and I was pleasantly surprised. Ted made it to the top of my list for 2012 movies because it delivered more than just the promise to entertain; it surprised me. Ted is indulgent with absurd humor and great 80s references. A talking teddy bear is cute, but a teddy bear that resembles the washed-up child actors of the 80s is brilliant. Ted reminded me of the magic of early Adam Sandler—though I am not comparing it to those great movies. For any skeptics out there, take the chance because it is absolutely worth watching.
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. The Avengers
5. The Master
Honorable Mention: The Expendables 2, Rock of Ages, Skyfall
Wish I Had Seen: Looper, Seven Psychopaths, Django Unchained
Year-end lists and especially Oscar season is a horrible reminder of all of the great movies you didn’t get around to seeing this year. It’s also a terrible reminder of the wasted hours spent seeing schlock you don’t care about. I didn’t see enough movies to warrant a top 10 list. Since I refuse to put offensive bullshit like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on the same list as Lincoln and refuse to give heavy-handed awards-grab failures like Won’t Back Down a 7-spot simply because I’m cursed by fate to never see a Wes Anderson film in theaters, here is my bottom 5 (best to worst) and top 5 (less good to more gooder) films of 2012, with links to my reviews/features:
5. American Reunion (probably missed out on a few inside jokes)
4. Won’t Back Down (just, no)
3. Pirates (kids movies don’t have to suck)
2. Total Recall (not enough three-boobed hookers)
1. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (if Mitt Romney was a comic book nerd, he’d green-light this movie)
Honorable Mention: Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection
5. 21 Jump Street (didn’t write about it, but it will make you laugh a whole lot)
4. The Dark Knight Rises (better than the hate, not as good as the first two films)
3. The Avengers (maybe the most rewatchable film of 2012)
1. Lincoln (incomparable, and resonates with 2012 very well)
Honorable Mention: The Hunger Games