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Best in 2012 - Movies

Below please find my thoroughly biased, unscientific, unacademic take on the best and worst movies of 2012. This is all from the heart, with a little from the head to back it up. I love movies; consider this my love letter to 2012.

(I've tried to put in links for things, but big stuff doesn't really need it, right Avengers?

The Best 11 (because I really couldn't throw another one out for Django)
  1. Cabin in the Woods - I can't say anything about this movie. If you've seen it, you know why it is awesome. If you haven't seen it, go see it.
  2. Wreck-It Ralph - This is a valentine to anyone who grew up on video games. I normally hate kids movies, but this is up there with Pixar movies.
  3. Looper - Sci Fi done right. Remembers the most important rule: don't get so excited by your own rules that you completely neglect your story and your characters.
  4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Tasty British cast, tight plot, show-don't-tell characterization, and the period is done so so right? Sign me up.
  5. Moonrise Kingdom - Best Wes Anderson in years. Best since Royal Tenenbaums. He gets over his own twee obsessions to leave room for real characters and emotion again. Anderson does ensemble movies like nobody else.
  6. Avengers - The only anticipated movie of 2012 that actually met and exceeded my expectations. With so many different threads and characters and plotlines running around, this easily could have collapsed under its own weight. Instead, it gave us character moments and humor and depth.
  7. Django Unchained - Perfect companion piece to Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino wins again. I could watch historical 'sploitation movies from this man all day long.
  8. Argo - Tense and excellent. I particularly loved how they wove real archival footage and images into the recreated pieces.
  9. Lincoln - Definitely had some issues, but if you're willing to look past the family drama portions there's a tight political story being told here. There are numerous wonderful turns by what might at first seem like minor characters -- excellent cast. And a very weird, almost mesmerizing Lincoln.
  10. Premium Rush - Unexpected little gem. Really marvelous little movie.  I know the summary sounds silly -- give it a chance. JGL will not lead you astray.
  11. Shame - On the surface it's about a sex addict, but underneath it's about two lost people. Beautiful looking, but the characters are even better. So much sadness.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
Movies definitely worth seeing, but not quite good enough to make it into my top list.

  • Haywire - Great weird little action movie, with great work from a lead who is not an actress.
  • Mirror Mirror - see below
  • The Sessions - Excellent.  Lovely characters, frank discussions of sexuality, weird interpretations of Catholicism.
  • Dark Knight Rises - see below
  • Bourne Legacy - not the best of this series, but definitely good
  • Skyfall - I liked Quantum better, but I'm weird. This was still good.
  • Mission Impossible 4 - best one of this series
  • John Carter - see below
  • Casa de mi Padre - see below

Anticipated But Disappointing Genre Films
There were so many genre films this year -- tons and tons of them. Comic book movies, sci-fi, video game movies, fantasy re-tellings of fairy tales. Lots of movies that I was definitely looking forward to (since I love genre stuff in all forms). I guess with all that looking-forward-to it was inevitable that there would be disappointments; I just never thought these would be the problem.

  • Dark Knight Rises - good but flawed, lingers too long, stretches believability too much for its gritty more realistic world. But I did love Bane and Talia. Catwoman was well done. Lots of little awesome touches.
  • Prometheus - actual movie terrible, so many little good bits sprinkled throughout, could have been so much better, so much potential squandered
  • Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - just not campy or crazy enough
  • The Hobbit - ugh. I have a long rant in me about this one, but I don't feel like getting into a fight. To sum up: I did not like this movie. I felt it was not a good adaptation of the book. It's a Phantom Menace level mistake, as far as I'm concerned.

Good Movie Hiding Inside Bad Movie
Multiple times this year I walked out of the theater re-editing whatever I just watched in my head. Each of them absolutely could have been a good movie (and one could have been a great one) had someone simply come in and cut away the extraneous, the ridiculous, and the boring.

  • Prometheus - opening scenes with David = amazing; unwanted pregnancy scene = horrifying in the perfect way; lots of other stuff = trash
  • The Hobbit - ugh, just ugh.  Cut at least 1 full hour off the run-time.  Tighten everything down.  Decide on your tone, or at least the tone progression.  Is it light-hearted adventure or super serious end of the world stuff?  Can't decide -- then at least start with one and slide into the other gradually.  Don't give us tonal whiplash.  Remember that the Hobbit is the story of small people learning they can do great things and stop mucking it up with tons of epic too-tall characters.  One or two is fine, but why cram all of them in there?  Just cause you like those actors?  Really?  Ok, I'm stopping now, I swear, even though I could go on for an hour about the problems here.
  • Lincoln (*Great Movie Hiding Inside a Good Movie) - 80% perfect, makes getting something through congress exciting; everything with Mary Todd Lincoln = terrible and overwrought, Lincoln speaking like he stepped out of Shakespeare? = puzzling at times

Surprisingly OK or Good
I went into these movies with pretty low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised in each case.

  • Total Recall - ok. I had very low expectations for this, but it was pretty and had an interesting vision of tech in the future. Just ignore everything about the plot or issues with gravity, physics, or the center of the earth.
  • Mirror, Mirror - great. Lots of weird interesting touches. Felt like lots of Russian/Slavic influence throughout, just in design aspects. I always expect to be visually wowed by this director (who also did The Cell), but I also genuinely enjoyed the story and comedy. And this was LOADS better than Snow White and the Huntsman (if that's how we're making comparisons).
  • Casa de mi Padre - I had low expectations for this one: Will Ferrell starring in basically a telenovela-style entirely spanish language western type thing. But it was actually pretty good. And Gael Garcia Bernal is pretty good at comedy, too. It wasn't the best comedy of the year, but it was way better than Ferrell's other movie The Campaign.
  • John Carter - I'm not sure what happened with this one. It delivered pretty much what it said it would. There were aliens, princesses, crazy action adventure. It was funny enough. Didn't overstay its welcome. Not sure why people didn't like it.
  • Premium Rush - Surprisingly excellent. Delivered exactly what it promised. Played with time and created layers of narrative. Reminded me of Run Lola Run. Went to see this just for JGL and came away quite happy.

If You Like Terrible Movies

  • Lockout (Space Jail) - SPACE JAIL! Crazy Scottish Guy from Misfits, Shannon from Lost, and lots of weird decisions. Well worth a rainy sunday afternoon.
  • Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - bad enough, but they could have gone farther. I wish they'd made it just a bit more over-the-top.

Just Bad, Not Even in a Good Way

  • The Raven - boring, silly
  • Dark Shadows - boring, silly

LiveJournal runs on rubberbands and plastic-jug vodka. Cross-posted from http://sleepymaggie.dreamwidth.org/460528.html.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
catpaw67 has "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" on Blu-ray.

I am also sad I did not get to see Cloud Atlas. It's high on my want list.
Jan. 7th, 2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
I really wanted to see Cloud Atlas in theaters, but there were too many other things. I hope it holds up on a smaller screen.

I think you were possibly recommending that I ask to borrow Jiro from Cat, maybe? I don't have a Blu-Ray player, though, so it's not gonna work out. I think the DVD will be on Netflix soon though.
Jan. 7th, 2013 09:40 pm (UTC)
I was recommending you ask to borrow from Cat; I suspect (though I haven't checked) that it came with a DVD copy in the package.
Dec. 31st, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
i'm right there with you for most of you "Terribly Long List of Movies I Really Wanted to See In Theater and Didn't Get To", with the exception being Jiro Dreams of Sushi. i *did* see that one - at the County in Doylestown - and it is a beautiful little film. definitely worth watching at least twice.

i haven't seen half of your Top 11 list, and your recommendation of Wreck It Ralph really surprises me. i clearly need to watch some movies this winter.

(and Cabin in the Woods was absolutely definitely deserving if #1. i really can't stop thinking about that film, and when i watch other films, i'm frequently reminded of common tropes that CitW got so, so, super right.)
Jan. 7th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
I didn't get to arthouse/indy theaters enough this year -- so things like Jiro mostly didn't make it on the list, unfortunately. I will try to see it in the future, but my home watching list is super long and very clogged up with whole seasons of tv at the moment.


To give some background on Wreck-It Ralph: I don't usually love children's movies -- I've strongly liked a lot of Pixar's stuff, but I don't usually go to the theater to see them. I liked Monsters Inc well enough. Wall-E was beautiful. Etc etc. But none of them made me super excited and squee in the theater.

Wreck-It Ralph made me squee, several times.

Not only did they licensing for actual well-known properties (Super Mario Bros, Q-bert, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, among others), they also really captured the spirit of a particular age in the made-up video games. In multiple genres: 8-bit, FPS, racing game. As the characters ran from world to world everything was fit to that world -- the dialogue for the FPS characters were completely different from the cutesy racing game characters. Plus the story had real heart and life poured into it, the voice actors were all top notch. I smiled through the whole thing. It was awesome.


Cabin in the Woods wins. It is the king of all meta. And it's like a secret club that can only be discussed with other members.
Jan. 7th, 2013 09:13 pm (UTC)
i am printing this if you dont mind... just for my own reference
Jan. 7th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
Certainly, you are welcome too. I definitely have a particular taste in movies -- but a lot of these are worth watching.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )