2012 was a very weak year for cinema, perhaps one of the weakest in recent memories. With the extrodinary year that was 2011, 2012 seemed like quite the disappointment. Few game changers were around and everywhere one looked was something that has already been done before, failed to live up to expectations, or a remake of some property no one cared about. Luckily, those few moments of excitement and draws came in the form of people willing to take risks and deliver experience in the cinema worth being reminded of for years to come. Heroes clashed and villains lost. Lives were changed and history was celebrated. Twists were turn on the old and the old become new once again. 2012 may have had little ambition, but still brought out standouts. These standouts make up my personal list of the twelve best films of 2012.
12. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino is a master in the cinema world with a unique style and blend of drama and humor and Django Unchained continues the tradition despite being one of Tarantino’s lesser efforts. Django is packed with magnificent Spagetthi Western thrills and a dazzling performances by Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio (one of the biggest snubs in recent memory). The lowest point of the film is how it suffers a problem with pace throughout and feels padded. Django still shines with the traits one expects from Tarantino and entertains throughout.
11. The Avengers
Joss Whedon helming The Avengers was thought to be a brillant idea from the start and after this film, it seems everyone was in fact right. Avengers is a popcorn flick done right with Whedon’s carefully crafted love for the characters and giving the audience a connection to each Avenger. Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo light up the screen in their respective roles and a presentation that please just about everyone. The film is one of the best ensemble films and delivers on its promise of bringing our favorite heroes together for one epic showdown.
Tim Burton had one of the biggest low lights of the year with the abysmal Dark Shadows, yet in the same year came back with a direct return to his roots with Frankenweenie. Burton creates a charming world filled with heart and emotion paying tribute to the classics of horror and establishing the strong bond of a boy and his dog. The animation is beautiful relying on classic stopmotion and wonderfully werid designs for a unique cast of characters. Too bad it was considered a flop because it was the biggest animation surprise of the year.
9. The Dark Knight Rises
The grand finale in Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is a stunning conclusion to the already captivating story of Batman. The continuation of the legend goes from being a crime thriller like the film before it to a heartstopping tale of reassurance and if one can truly continue on dealing with becoming what the people need. Christian Bale carries it beautifully alongside Anne Hathaway’s turn as Catwoman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as possibly the future hope for Gotham. Few trilogies end with such a sendoff and, fortunately, this was one of them.
8. The Cabin in the Woods
Being delayed for two years, The Cabin in the Woods was worth the wait indeed. Taking the tired genre of horror in general and parodying it with ease and perfection by changing the rules and paying homages to the past. TVTropes would be envious as it hits all the marks we love from horror and comedically using it to their advantage. I really would not like to give much away since it is something one should experience for themselves. One spoiler though: When you see a unicorn, prepare for one scene you won’t forget.
As controversy ahound due to the film’s portrayal of Iran, Argo is still one intense thriller with some light hearted moments as well. Affleck takes double duty as director and star as Tony Mendez teaming with Hollywood players and Canada to create a fake film entitled Argo to save escapees hiding out from the Iranian Hostage Crisis. With compelling performances by Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck and not shying away from the terrifying nature of the crisis, Argo winds up a winner and strong contender for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
6. Ruby Sparks
(500) Days of Summer meets The Twilight Zone with one of the best scripts of the year due to Ruby Sparks herself Zoe Kazan writing it. A dazzling satire on the modern romantic comedy and a even darker deconstruction of the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ stereotype that is daring to make the sweet moments of the film bittersweet, but still delivers on comedy and stellar performances. Kazan’s real life boyfriend Paul Dano is delightful and Kazan herself is beyond gorgeous with a amazing manic pixie girl attitude making the chemistry and film on a whole much more believable.
Time travel never ceases to amaze the cinema world and with this original take on the genre manages to create a confusing yet intriguing tale that welds telekentics and neo noir thrills. Looper dares to create a gritty underworld and takes its premise that was already interesting a deliver a even better plot then the trailers world have you believe. Director Rian Johnson visual style is near pefection and hits every note with Joseph Gordon Levitt playing a hardass with tender love and care giving us an antihero worth rooting for.
Every reboot is always a huge undertaking especially if the first time around failed to live up to expectations and become a farce. Dredd erases he memories of the joke that was Slyvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd wih a compelling character study of Dredd and his rookie Anderson while wrapped in a hardcore slick action film. The visuals is truly what sells the film with an innovative use of slow motion and rich vibrant colors captivating the scens ultilizing it. The cinematography is one of the most impressive of any action film in the past years and Karl Urban’s take on Dredd is stupendous with Olivia Thirlby getting time to shine as well. As I mentioned in my previous review of this film, this movie is nothing to dread.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson’s trademark quirkiness comes back to deliver a wonderful and insightful look at young love, lost love, and a love that is falling apart with Moonrise Kingdom. The film excels in not being something more than what it is and tells the tale of two young pen pal lovers with the humor Anderson loves to give his audience. The performance by young first timers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman are stunning and Bruce Willis gives a brokenheart lovelorn performance that is some of his best in ages. Wes Anderson makes on of his most adorable yet bittersweet film yet and it is a winner.
After doing my 007 in 23: 23 Days of Bond series, I grew a strong appreciation for the man with the license to kill and saw the growth of the franchise’s life in film from its high and lows. Skyfall continues to make the franchise reach new heights blending the modern Bond and the classic Bond tropes with thrilling moments of suspense and exciting action the series is famous for. Daniel Craig is the best Bond he can be with Judi Dench giving her best performance as M out of her time with the franchise and Javier Bardem’s chilling flamboyant Mr. Silver is a worthy addition to the growing list of best Bond villians. The cinematography of Roger Deakins and direction by Sam Mendes make Skyfall the most gorgeous looking film of the series to date. Even for non-Bond fans, the film will entertain and delight giving a fitting anniversary present Bond needed.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Beasts of the Southern Wild is exactly what filmmaking is all about creating a believable post-apocalyptic fantasy world, utilizing actors who probably never acted before to show true emotion, gorgeous visuals that mesmerize the viewer, and a story of of a Hayao Miyazaki film. Beasts goes above and beyond giving a dazzling view at Hushpuppy, played to perfection by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, as she struggles to live in The Bathtub alongside her father to find her mother all while wild beasts come to life from the life. The leaps and bounds the film takes are something to witness creating a realistic if nearly abusive relationship between a daughter and her father and shows her imagination. Beasts is my pick of the year for being a all around miracle of a film and I will be rooting for this on Oscar night alongside Argo.
With all that said, let’s hope for a magnificent 2013 in the cinema world and hope it doesn’t disappoint.