Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Occular Optometrical: Best Films Of 2012

The Movies I Saw, Released (In The U.S.) In 2012 (Total Count: 145):
2016: Obama's America / About Cherry / Alps / The Amazing Spiderman / Amour / Apartment 143 / Argo / Avengers / The Babymakers / Bachelorette / Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 / Batman: The Dark Knight Rises / Battleship / Beasts Of The Southern Wild / Being Flynn / Best Laid Plans / Beyond The Black Rainbow / Bindlestiffs / Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY In The 21st Century / Bones Brigade: An Autobiography / The Bourne Legacy / Brave / Cabin In The Woods / The Campaign / Careless Love / Chronicle / Cloud Atlas / Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope / Compliance / Contraband / Cosmopolis / Craigslist Joe / Crawl / Dark Horse / Dark Shadows / Detachment / The Devil Inside / The Dictator / Django Unchained / The Do-Deca-Pentathalon / Dredd 3D / Elfie Hopkins / Excision / The Expatriate / Flight / Frankenweenie / Friends With Kids / General Education / Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance / God Bless America / Goon / Grabbers / The Grey / Haywire / Hick / Hit And Run / The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / Holy Motors / Hotel Transylvania / Hunger Games / Imaginary Friend / The Imposter / Indie Game: The Movie / The Innkeepers / In Their Skin / Iron Sky / Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy / Jack Reacher / Jeff Who Lives At Home / John Carter / Justice League: Doom / Katy Perry: Part Of Me / Killer Joe / Killing Them Softly / Klip / The Letter / A Letter To Momo  / Life Of Pi / Lincoln / Looper / Lovely Molly / Mac And Devin Go To High School / Magic Mike / Man On A Ledge / The Man With The Iron Fists / Marley / The Master / Men In Black 3 / Moonrise Kingdom / Nazis At The Center Of The Earth / The Pact / The Paperboy / Paranormal Activity 4 / Paranorman / The Pirates! Band Of Misfits / Piranha 3DD / The Possession / Premium Rush / Pretty Sweet / Project X / Prometheus / Pusher / The Raid: Redemption / Red Lights / Rec 3 / Rise Of The Guardians / Roller Town / Rust & Bone / Safe / Safe House / Safety Not Guaranteed / Save The Date / Seal Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden / Searching For Sugar Man / Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World / The Sessions / Seven Psychopaths / Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family / Silent House / Silver Linings Playbook / Sinister / Sleepwalk With Me / Sound Of My Voice / Skyfall / Superman Vs. The Elite / Taken 2 / Take This Waltz / The Tall Man / Ted / Thin Ice / This Is 40 / Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie / Truth Or Dare / 21 Jump Street / V/H/S / Vamps / Vampire Dog / We Need To Talk About Kevin / When The Lights Went Out / The Woman In Black / Wanderlust / West Of Memphis / Why Stop Now / Wrath Of The Titans / Wreck It Ralph / Zero Dark Thirty

The Worst Films Of 2012:
05. Cloud Atlas
04. Taken 2
03. Why Stop Now
02. Friends With Kids
01. 2016: Obama's America

The Best Films Of 2012:


20. Excision - What if Todd Solondz made gory horror movies instead of just emotionally terrifying ones? A sardonic autopsy of the rites of young adulthood.

19. Compliance - A really well made & performed film adaptation of the stranger than fiction tabloid crime. The material practically begged for a cheap & exploitative effort, but Compliance focuses on the right themes & gives weight to the proper issues.

18. Rec 3 - This Spanish first-person 'found footage' horror series has been excellently executed. After 2 atmospheric & claustrophobic entries combining zombies & haunted houses, Rec 3 lets loose with a campy, slapstick, comedy-action-horror film ala Army Of Darkness.

17. Prometheus - Despite being a mess of plot holes & squandered storytelling, the gorgeous Prometheus features enough elements of a mature science fiction tale to hold the promise of a satisfying payoff until the very last frame.

16. The Raid: Redemption - Effective, bare bones,  genre filmmaking. No extraneous backstory, subplots, or character arcs. A brilliantly simple plot promises a lot of brutal martial arts and that's what it delivers.


15. Cabin In The Woods - Drew Goddard  & Joss Whedon indulge a lot of their pet conceits that fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel will be gleefully familar with. The real strength of the film is its ability to satisfyingly keep the viewer off balance without feeling arbitrary. I guessed a lot of the film's plot from the jump, but nobody could have told you how far it would escalate.

14. Alps - A wonderfully strange story, from the writer/director of Dogtooth, that's revealed incrementally, and never explicitly. It actually bears a lot of similarities to 2012 critical-darling Holy Motors, but this held a deeper emotional core.

13. Sound Of My Voice - Effective indie, sci-fi, drama that uses it's budget limitations to its creative advantage, simplifying the storytelling and reveling in the resulting ambiguities.

12. Indie Game: The Movie -  Excellently crafted documentary about independent video game designers that's able to tackle bigger subjects about creative endeavors and what it means to live through your work.

11. Irving welsh's Ecstasy - I haven't seen another adaptation of Irving Welsh's work since Trainspotting, but I thought this managed to capture much of the same manic energy and depicted a pack of antiheroes whose actions are repulsive but whose humanity keeps you from rooting for them to face the consequences.


10. Rust & Bone - In this age of comic book movie glut catering to our developmentally arrested population, I'm always really pleased to find movies aimed at honest-to-God adults. Two outstanding lead performances breathe life into complex characters and their equally complicated relationship. It's a film about finding dignity and understanding in lives, by choice or by fate, outside of safe convention

09. Killer Joe - William F'ing Friedkin! follows up the excellent Bug with a sweaty Texan noir full of wonderfully depraved creatures. The alpha creature is Matthew McConaughey, who is having a really fantastic renaissance as a character actor after all of his lazy womanizer roles appear to have been passed to Bradley Cooper. Here he is a shark, never pausing, never compromising, and always escalating the situation. This film easily has the most brutal and disturbing final act of any movie in 2012.

08. Django Unchained - Tarantino rubs our faces in the graphic details of American slavery and sells it to the megaplexes with cartoonish violence and comic timing. I have some trouble with the film's politics, feeling that it backed down from fully implicating white Americans in the travesty, backed down from being the righteous and angry revenge film that it needed to be. But I accept that Tarantino successfully navigated the tightrope and got his film, full of eye-opening horrors, in front of a wide audience, and not just the converted.

07. Goon - A really great surprise, a pithy indie comedy that joins Slap Shot and Strange Brew in the hockey movie pantheon. Sean William Scott delivers a charismatic performance as a dimwitted enforcer, too simple-minded to be anything but an earnest team-member & friend.

06. A Letter To Momo - A story that deftly combines weird Japanese folklore with the deeply grounded details of a young girl dealing with loss, adapting to a new environment, and growing up. The animation is lovely. It's a great blend of touching and funny. The entire movie is reminiscent of Miyazaki at his finest.


05. Seven Psychopaths - I think I laughed more during this film than any other time in 2012. It's a wonderful twisty plot full of damaged characters. Some of the finest scenery-chewers including Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell and Woody Harrelson go to town, and every second that Christopher Walken is on screen is mesmerizing.

04. Dredd 3D - Pound for pound, probably the best comic book movie to date. Everyone was justifiably scared away from this movie by the 1995 Sylvester Stalone abortion, but Peter Travis' Dredd brings the character to life like he was meant to be. In a plot eerily similar to The Raid, Karl Urban's protagonist glowers beneath his full-face helmet while dishing out judgment, sentencing, and execution to a ruthless drug lord and her minions. It's another beautifully simple and direct story with no unnecessary subplots or ancillary characters, no convoluted twists or unearned character growth. The violence is snappy, colorful, and memorable. The modest budget is on screen, including a lot of stunning slow motion 3D effects. Keep it simple stupid!

03. Amour - Ready for Michael Haneke to break your heart? The master filmmaker wastes no shots telling the story of a deeply devoted husband and wife contending with the natural adversities of growing old together. His camera never cuts away from the most difficult moments, and so it's always there to capture the fleeting instances of raw humanity.

02. The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson's long, unhurried shots create scenes that feel real and inhabitable. Loosely connecting those scenes to sketch out rich characters gives the impression of full lives, composed of monumental moments stacked atop of mundane. The Master uses those qualities to bring to life the charismatic if pompous intellectual Lancaster Dodd on his way to becoming a controlling guru and, Freddie Quell, the lost soul he is trying to mentor. I really enjoyed the challenging relationship between Quell & Dodd, and its passionate swings from compassion and anger, and the way it explored the post-war struggle to cope through drunken abandon or sober productivity. It very effectively drudged up visceral memories from my childhood that I loved being immersed in again.

01. Beasts Of The Southern Wild - This film is magical. It's filled with wild, manic joy, but its happiness is cut with anger. It's out of control and dangerous, because it's passionate and full of life. The story is fairytale like because its set outside of our familiar and structured reality, but it's a very real place, full of very real concerns. The film is ostensibly a coming-of-age story for six-year-old Hushpuppy living in the bayou, but as she narrates her and her father's story, there is a sense that she is already wise about the important things, about the deeper universal things. This film is boisterous. It put a smile on my face and left me with a lingering taste of its zeal. It's magical.

PS. I forgot to actually publish this in January 2013 when I wrote it. I just didn't finish some of the capsule reviews and got busy with other things. I've seen some more 2012 movies since, some that were really excellent, but this is still based off of the movies i'd seen up to that point, listed at the top.

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