Written by Markus Robinson, Edited Nicole I. Ashland
It’s that time of year again, so with the New Year upon us I have once again formulated what I believe to have been the ten best movies to come out of 2012. And no, neither the mess of a movie that was “Beasts of the Southern Wild” nor the putrid “Killer Joe” made my list, in case you were wondering. And (as always) if you disagree with my list and feel the need to write me an angry letter, my email is Iamright.firstname.lastname@example.org. On a side note, as a companion to my list I will be writing mini write ups very briefly describing why I enjoyed each film. These write ups are only mini reviews, so if you would like to see my full reviews for each of the following films go to movieswithmarkusonline.blogspot.com. So, without further ado, here is my list of the top ten best movies of 2012, in order (and no, they are not interchangeable like some of those other critics’ lists):
10. ParaNorman – Made for the multitude of people who loved watching horror films in their youth, what directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler have created here is basically the best Tim Burton film in over a decade. Telling the story of (you guessed it) Norman, who is every bit the archetype of a weird/misfit/Haley Joel Osment child (scrawny and susceptible to wedgies) who everyone (including his own father and sister) thinks is a “mental case” for some reason…and I guess it doesn’t help that Norman seems to have the ability to communicate with ghosts. One afternoon, after a day of being bullied, his estranged (and very insane) uncle informs Norman that since he is very sick, it is now Norman’s duty to conduct an age old ritual at an old town gravesite every year (from that point forward) in order to save the town from a century’s old curse. Oh, but don’t worry, this cartoon is not as scary as I just made it sound, because Norman is given a fat friend named Neil who accompanies him on this quest of sorts. And we all know having a fat friend (sidekick) is the recipe for hilarity, even in the horror genre. This film is the perfect mixture of spooky and funny, with just the right touch of sentimentality throughout. Overall, the highest praise I could give “ParaNorman” is that it truly is the most entertaining animated film of 2012.
9. Silver Linings Playbook – Next we come to THE BEST romantic comedy of the year. But saying that sounds hollow (specifically if you’ve seen more than one Katherine Heigl movie in your lifetime) so to that I must also add that “Silver Linings Playbook” is undoubtedly the most unconventional and genuine romantic comedy I’ve seen in a few years…at least. This romantic comedy centers around a man with mental illness, as he attempts to start fresh, after recently being released from a mental institution, with hopes of getting back together with his ex- wife. But to do this he must illicit the help of a widow, who might be crazier than him. With some intriguing performances from Bradley Cooper (who, until this point was my pick for the most overrated actor working today) and Robert De Niro, who finally gives a performance that seems as if he’s read the script, the real stand out here is Jennifer Lawrence who gives the BEST PERFORMANCE OF HER CAREER! You heard me right “Winter’s Bone”/Sundance snobs! “Silver Linings Playbook” is a breath of fresh air within a genre that is normally riddled with predictable Harlequin romances, starring a neutered Zac Efron or crying Channing Tatum. In short, in case you didn’t know that these kind of films existed, this is a romantic comedy that in turn, is also a very good movie.
8. How to Survive a Plague – It’s not like I had to put a documentary in my list, as I had been pretty disappointed with most of the docs to come out of 2012, but when I saw “How to Survive a Plague” it was immediately my pick for THE BEST documentary of the year. By using (mostly) never before seen archival footage, David France’s unflinching documentary “How to Survive a Plague” documents the early epidemic of the AIDS virus in the United States, during a time when it was seen as a death sentence. But why this documentary is a cut above the rest, lies not only in its powerful subject matter, but in France’s delivery. His choice of using (at many times) only archival footage, without voiceover narration, to move the story forward, was not only a stroke of genius but works extremely well to immerse the viewer in the time and generation in which all of these events take place.
7. Lincoln – OK, so I realize that I haven’t put out an official review of “Lincoln”, so just think of this as my mini review (or my stunted review, if I don’t have time to come out with a full length one). Forget about the log splitting, truth telling, vampire-slaying Lincoln you know and..well, put up with, and say hello to the first movie focusing on an amendment passing Lincoln, but filmed by a director who has proven time and again that he can transform any premise into a Best Film nomination. Not to say that the passing of the 13th Amendment wasn’t a significant moment in American history; you know me, I love black people, but this is one of the only seemingly non-dramatizable movies that I’ve ever seen made dramatizable by sheer will and talent. Daniel Day Lewis gives a Best Actor of the year performance in his (pretty much) be all, end all rendition of the cinematically larger than life Lincoln character, and Steven Spielberg makes a slow moving near masterpiece out of a Lincoln movie without much Civil War and no assassination. And while pacing and focus will keep this movie from winning Best Picture, “Lincoln” is in fact an extremely well constructed piece of historical non-fiction, as well as THE BEST Lincoln movie of the year. “Lincoln” also kicks off one of three films on my list where the consensus seems to be, you will either “love it” or “hate it”.
6. Pitch Perfect – What “Glee” wishes it could be. While “Pitch Perfect” is not the raunchy female buddy comedy, filled with overlong skits about feces that “Bridesmaids” was, the good news is, it’s so much funnier and (more importantly) more accessible than “Bridesmaids” will ever be. Elevating itself far above the mundane-ness of your everyday teen comedy, “Pitch Perfect” tells a satirical based story which delves the viewing audience deep into the world of collegiate a capella singing competitions. From the NON-STOP laughs, to the quite a ca-perfect teenage dialogue, to the hilarious “Best in Show”-esque banter from Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins, who play the two commentators of the national a cappella competition, “Pitch Perfect” works on EVERY level; even in its rarest of sappy moments. And the main reason “Pitch Perfect” works so well is actually quite simple. Where “Glee” is so in love with its self-proclaimed perception that glee clubs are the new “cool”, this is a comedy that isn’t afraid to make fun of a cappella groups, glee clubs and people randomly breaking out into song, while at the same time presenting interesting characters that audiences want to root for.
5. The Comedy – While this pick will either have people saying to themselves “comedian Tim Heidecker actually did something worth watching?!” or asking who the hell Tim Heidecker is in the first place, allow me to assure you that “The Comedy” is not only an alluring character study worth watching, but in an odd turn of events, sees Heidecker himself starring in a film that essentially makes fun of the same people who watch “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”. Not since Lars von Trier’s “The Idiots”, have I witnessed a movie that so successfully demonstrated the complex struggles of a generation built on a doctrine of nihilistic irreverence. But if nihilistic irreverence isn’t your thing, than this may not be the movie for you. As much as I enjoyed “The Comedy”, this is one movie that will assuredly come under heavy scrutiny from some audiences, because, for one, while there is a subtle story arc here, this film is not pushed along by heavy conflict. And secondly, many unfamiliar with Heidecker’s form of comedy will undoubtedly be turned off by the amount of absurdist drama which is played out by a group, whom on the surface seem too spoiled and flippant to care about. OK, so I understand that by putting this film on my list I am flirting with obscurity, as very few people saw this movie and it’s probably not on anybody else’s list. But, rest assured, all that means is that everyone else is wrong but me.
4. Argo – The second historical film to make my list…but this one has shooting. “Argo” reminds me of those sports teams that are great because they win games that they are supposed to win. “Argo” contains a premise that couldn’t help but be interesting and a cast that couldn’t help but be great. But while it does everything it’s supposed to do, “Argo makes my list at number 4 because of Ben Affleck’s direction. Aside from the fact that “Argo” may garner Affleck an Oscar nomination for best direction, what he has done with this film, is shown his incredible Spielberg-esque ability to take a historical event, that may have come off as dry or utterly uneventful in other hands, and make it so every second of what’s on screen, no matter how seemingly mundane or complex, impressively compelling. Not to mention, Affleck has constructed a final thirty minutes that has to be the most suspenseful of any movie in 2012. Entertainment weekly named him the entertainer of the year a few weeks ago, and now I’m naming him one of the greatest directors of my generation (a much more prevalent accomplishment).
3. Magic Mike – Not just a movie about strippers! Yes, there are going to be many haters out there (most of whom haven’t seen “Magic Mike” to begin with) questioning me as to why I would even like this movie, let alone put it on any top 10 list (at #3 no less!). Well, I said it once, and I’ll say it again, “Magic Mike” is a film that works so well because of critically acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh lifting a crappy premise out of the gutter and making this a better movie than it had any right to be. But another less talked about reason why this film works so well is due to Reid Carolin’s well crafted script, which rightfully steers clear of the romantic “chick flick” clichés, pushing the premise in more of a realistic direction filled with comedic (but tonally dark) dialogue and situations, and a climax that keeps “Magic Mike” thankfully grounded. I will go so far as to say that although “Magic Mike” doesn’t contain the same caliber of dark wit as the brilliant “Boogie Nights”, on a slightly lower level it does display a lot of similarities, including an exceptionally engaging tone and a feel that reeks of authenticity due to Soderbergh being at the top of his game behind the camera. Lastly, in male-centric America (aka an America that is rather afraid of female sexuality) I can understand that there are going to be people who are not going to see this film because of their own “personal” hang-ups and insecurities. And in fact, when I first heard Steven Soderbergh was going to make a male stripper film starring Channing Tatum of all actors, I cringed; BUT that doesn’t change the fact that “Magic Mike” is a very stylized and tremendously well put together must see film, that works so well primarily because it is more story driven than love story driven.
2. The Dark Knight Rises - Damn, what more can I say about this film, that I haven’t already said before to my friends and family…in a Bane voice? Christopher Nolan essentially proving that he can “do it” without Heath Ledger, creates the greatest Super Hero finale in cinematic history. Nolan not only ties up all of the loose ends by the end of the film, but ties them up with a flair and veracity that has become synonymous with a Christopher Nolan film. Containing an ending, in fact, which makes up for every single horrid Joel Schumacher, Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, George Clooney, Chris O’ Donald, Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger piece of crap films, which had been the black eye on the Batman legacy for decades. Furthermore, this is maybe the only movie in my list that one could watch on repeat (believe me, I know).
1.The Master - Much like “The Comedy” this is hard to synopsize, but I believe Paul Thomas Anderson said it best when he stated that “The Master” was “…light on story, heavy on character”. Telling the story of a man who is obviously a leader of a cult or maybe a new religion, taking a troubled Naval veteran under his wing, “The Master” is the only film on my list that I can say without hesitation, worked on an existential level for me but clearly will not work for a majority of people. So why is this my pick for the best film of 2012 you ask? Well first off, because this is my list, and secondly the psychoanalytical questions that director PT Anderson bathes this film in, with some well constructed dialogue and a multitude of scenes that are so powerful, will have you replaying sequences from this film in your head long after you’ve finished watching. And for that reason (along with PT Anderson’s direction) “The Master” works as an experience rather than just a film; like this year’s “Tree of Life”; to some playing out like watching a tremendously complex piece of artwork (that you don’t fully understand) while for others playing as a mishmash of nonsensical scenes wrapped in unintelligible themes. Suffice to say, if you hated the “Tree of Life” (in other words, if you hate art or great films) then “The Master” (aka the best film of 2012) isn’t for you.
Just missed my list: Les Miserables, Marley, Django Unchained, Prometheus, 21 jump Street, Raid: Redemption, The Cabin in the Woods, The Grey, Sinister