Looking Back: Jeremy & Ben Pick Their 10 Favorite Movies from 2012
by Jeremy Kirk
December 27, 2012
After counting down some of the best posters, performances comedies, horror films along with our greatest surprises, biggest disappointments, and worst films of 2012, it's time for the big show. Two of our writers have chosen their Favorite Movies of 2012. Today we have our own Jeremy Kirk and Ben Pearson each chiming in with their Top 10 Movies of the Year from 2012. There's only a few movies in common between them, and there's some very surprising choices, but we'll just let the lists and their recaps speak for themselves as they countdown their personal choices for the best movies of the year. Check out their lists!
Jeremy's Top 10 Films of 2012:
People make the mistake of saying certain years were "good" or "bad" years for movies. For every person who thinks 1999 was a good year for movies, there's someone arguing 2004 was a horrible year for movies. During any present year, you'll hear shouting from both ends of the glass, and whether 2012 was a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of year is solely based on perspective. There will always be good movies every years, and there will always be bad movies every years. It's just a matter of seeing the right ones and finding the best, or at least the ones that you loved the most. Here are my personal best films of 2012.
#10. Django Unchained
I know. I know. The shocking thing is that Django Unchained is #10 on my list, not that it's on the list at all. Quentin Tarantino's latest is a rip-roaring, good time, full of amazing Tarantino characters, ample amounts of dark humor - Essentially all Tarantino films are comedies, right? - and some of the coolest, most gorgeous Western shots of American scenery to hit movie theaters in quite some time. The film slips a bit in the third act, and when the film hits its prolonged, action beats, you can't help but think it's a little bit of Tarantino doing the Tarantino thing. Lots of gunshots, lots of squibs, and lots and LOTS of profanity. The camera movement and composition is still all there, though, and Tarantino, even when he's not firing every chamber in his gun, still hits his targets ably.
#9. 21 Jump Street
The high school movie of 2012 that's a little less serious, it's shocking even to me that this movie is ending up on my best of the year list. But it's that damn funny. The jokes between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum hit extraordinarily well upon first viewing. However, it's the way those jokes stay with you, the way you want to see them play out again and again, that keeps 21 Jump Street from being more than just a really good comedy. It's a great film, simultaneously revitalizing a 20-year-old TV show and making fun of the concept of reboots as a whole while keeping a constant grin on its collective audience. Tatum, who had a stellar year in 2012, shines between the two, but every aspect of 21 Jump Street is designed for maximum laughter. With this same team on board, a sequel is a very welcome idea.
#8. Killing Them Softly
In a fall and winter that was loaded with 120-minute+ films, it was nice having a 97-minute thriller from Andrew Dominik, the director of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Not only was Killing Them Softly brisk, it was hard-hitting. You could almost call it blunt with the way it hits its points, moves its characters around, and plots the course to that final monologue. It's also pretty clear that final monologue was among the best scenes of the years, as well. It reiterates every point Dominik is saying with this film, the way the corporatization of America has effected organized crime and how capitalism is actually a system that works. Deep messages in a violent, sometimes uncomfortable film, but it delivers on every front. The cast, Brad Pitt and Scott McNairy especially, is also a powerhouse team. Just don't expect to find many females in there.
#7. Cloud Atlas
It was a foregone conclusion that Cloud Atlas would be something amazing. Whether it was a good or bad kind of amazing was the question, but the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer have collaborated on a movie experience that cannot be matched. Cloud Atlas isn't perfect, and the detractors of the film find no difficulty in nitpicking flaws in it. But the sweeping story, countless and colorful characters, and power behind the the film's deep-rooted message handily overcome any makeup or tonal shift issues. Tykwer's musical score is gorgeous, and only adds to what is already a whirlwind of emotions and story structure. It's not the easiest storm to get caught up on, but once you do, the rewards Cloud Atlas heaps on its audience continue showing themselves months after you watch the film.
#6. Searching for Sugar Man
I didn't know anything about Sixto Rodriguez going into the Searching For Sugar Man premiere at SXSW this year, and it probably helped my experience. The folk singer from the 1970s was a virtual nobody everywhere in the world except for South Africa, where he's bigger than Elvis. Two documentarians set out to find Rodriguez, dead or alive, and make him or his family aware of his overseas popularity. It's a fascinating story about one of the music world's forgotten stars, and his songs that pepper the film are as memorable as its story. Moving and interesting but making you aware of something new about the world is always the best combination for documentaries. Searching For Sugar Man hits all three chords effortlessly, and is easily the best documentary of 2012.
#5. Kill List
After Down Terrace, there was an excitement to whatever writer/director Ben Wheatley would bring us next. We had no idea it would be the disturbing, darkly comic, punch to the gut we got with Kill List. What begins as an intense drama about family life for a wearied hitman quickly turns to the more horrific, and Wheatley's storytelling pendulum is always swinging over our heads. We aren't sure when it's going to drop, but when it does, it's not going to be very pleasant. The abruptness of its ending left some questioning if Kill List had a deeper meaning, but multiple viewings show the clues are all there. Wheatley has given us everything we need in Kill List to put the grander picture together in our heads, and its one that brings the film's real terror to the forefront.
#4. Life of Pi
Beautiful. Stunning. Brilliant. Any number of other adjectives that could have, and should have, graced the ads for Life of Pi. A story thought unfilmable, director Ang Lee is always up to that challenge, and he has once again delivered a film that is breathtaking in its visuals and quite amazing in the story it tells of a young, Indian boy stranded on a lifeboat with no company but a killer tiger. Suraj Sharma does an excellent job acting against a mostly CG creation, but that's nothing compared to the achievement in pulling off the tiger and other digital creatures Lee's team of effects artists were able to pull off here. It's as emotionally captivating as it is incredible to look at, and dammit if the 3D on this thing wasn't awesome, as well.
#3. Killer Joe
While many directors hit the law of diminishing returns after a certain point in their career, William Friedkin continues to redefine his style, continues to match spectacular screenplays with solid performances, and continues to shock us with every new project he steps into. The 77-year-old director behind The Exorcist and The French Connection, just to name a few, hit his second of two punches with playwright collaborator Tracy Letts. Their 2007 film Bug was a mind-bending, creepy-as-hell, indie horror that could only be followed up by something as darkly hilarious and edgy as Killer Joe.
Matthew McConaughey - What a year he's had! - takes the title role of a cop-turned-hitman and not only fills the cool gaps with his own swagger, he turns the intensity to new levels for the actor and creates a character as iconic as any he's played before. Supporting turns by Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, and Gina Gershon round out the superb cast, and everything gels in a very unpleasant but very entertaining film. Friedkin first turned audiences off to pea soup. Now he's working on getting fried chicken out of our diets.
I have officially seen Goon more times than I can count. A sports comedy that sat well the first time I saw it, the more the hockey sequences played in my mind and the more I heard those quotable lines in my head, the more apparent it was that this was more than just a good sports comedy. It is truly one of the best sports movies ever, possibly THE best sports film in the past decade.
With likable characters, simply awesome moments of hockey action and fist-to-face blasts, nonstop hilarity, and the best diner scene since Heat, there's no question Goon would rank high on this list. Then I saw it three times, four times, more than I can remember, and it became very evident that this was one of my absolute favorite movies of the year. That its comedy, characters, and cracked skulls work so well just proves that it'll sit nicely with the rest of what 2012 had to offer. Now bring on the sequel!
#1. The Cabin in the Woods
Nothing ever beat it, not in the months since Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods played before my eyes for the first time (my original SXSW review). More than just a horror movie, it transcends the genre to just be a great film through and through. No, it probably won't play for audiences who aren't well versed or even familiar with the horror genre, but for those of us who are, The Cabin in the Woods is a revelation.
With so many twists, turns, instances both awesome and hilarious, and one of the most satisfying endings in years, it's a film that works every time you see it, whether it's a first viewing or your 27th rewatch. While films like Cloud Atlas or Life of Pi may be grander achievements in terms of cinematic storytelling, The Cabin in the Woods is 95 minutes of unadulterated joy. Not to mention the Blu is ideal for pausing some of the busier shots of the movie, so you can pin-point every monster this explosion of fun has to offer. It's not surprising The Cabin in the Woods is my #1 favorite film this year, and I'm perfectly satisfied leaving it right here where it belongs.
Honorable Mentions: The American Scream, The Avengers, Compliance, The Dark Knight Rises, Dredd 3D, The Grey, Looper, ParaNorman, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pitch Perfect, Prometheus, The Raid: Redemption, Seeking a Friend For the End of the World, Seven Psychopaths, Ted
Ben's Top 10 Films of 2012:
While many of 2012's blockbusters were lackluster and disappointing, the year still gave us some amazing works of art. As always, the latter part of the year is chock full of awards contenders, but there are a few films on my list that were released much earlier and stuck with me through the whole year. Keep in mind this is a list of my personal favorite movies of the year, and that when I create these kinds of lists, "having fun" factors into my decision more than many critics you'll probably read as the year comes to an end. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think in the comments. Film picks and writing by Ben Pearson.
#10. The Cabin in the Woods
Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard teamed with Joss Whedon to write this impeccable deconstruction of horror movies, and I haven't been able to watch a movie in this genre the same way since. Goddard's directorial debut sat on a shelf for a few years, but I'm so glad we were able to finally see it this year. It's a meta-commentary about the way we watch horror movies, adding a huge dose of humor and some bleak moments in a story that totally subverts expectations. The free-for-all climax features some great shout-outs to horror films of old, and it's giant "eff you" ending is one of the most interesting conclusions to a film on screen this year.
#9. Room 237
I don't think Rodney Ascher's documentary had a full release this year, but trust me: if you're a fan of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, or a fan of film criticism, keep your eyes peeled for Room 237 because it is an absolute must-see. The movie is told in nine segments and highlights a ton of intricate fan theories about what the film is really trying to say. Many of these are totally crazy, but every once in a while, someone says something that actually makes sense, and even listening to the oftentimes crazy nonsense made for a wildly entertaining time at the movies. I can't wait to see this one again.
#8. Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow won a few Oscars for The Hurt Locker, and it looks like she might be heading down that path again with Zero Dark Thirty, a much more accessible and personal war film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain gives one of the strongest performances of the year, and the movie manages to inform and inspire in equal measure as it brings to light the story of how one woman's dedication brought down the world's most dangerous man. With a killer cast and a suspenseful, tight screenplay based on true events, Zero Dark Thirty is compelling and spellbinding and definitely one of the year's best movies.
#7. The Raid: Redemption
Writer/director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais crafted some of the most thrilling and intense action this side of a Tony Jaa film for The Raid: Redemption, the first in a planned trilogy of Indonesian action films. Like Die Hard on speed, the bone-crunching choreography mixed with the "trapped in a building" storyline proved to be a perfect combination, and I'm really looking forward to what Evans and his team come up with for the sequel.
#6. Wreck-It Ralph
Though many complained that too much of the film took place in the Candyland-inspired Sugar Rush, Wreck-It Ralph was still my favorite animated film of the year and one of the best animated Disney movies in recent memory. Tons of fun cameos, loads of great voice work, brilliant animation, and terrific character moments made this one a great time at the movies, and the short film Paperman that played in front of it was even more magical.
#5. The Avengers
Joss Whedon was perhaps the only man capable of bearing the weight of three separate franchises on his shoulders, crafting a crowd-pleasing superhero opus that not only worked, but worked like gangbusters. Rocketing to become the third highest grossing film of all time, The Avengers combined everything we loved about the Marvel cinematic universe into a fast-talking, action-heavy, pop culture stew of awesomeness that was impressive on a visual level but also connected emotionally. The ensemble of A-list talent worked wonders with Whedon's witty dialogue, and each member of the team - including fan favorite The Hulk - had multiple moments to shine.
#4. Safety Not Guaranteed
Two time travel movies back to back? Yep. The feel-good movie of Sundance 2012 was unveiled on a larger audience this summer with its theatrical release, but most people ignored this indie movie. That's a real shame, because the heartfelt performances of Mark Duplass (who does career-best work) and Aubrey Plaza (who is much more than her droll April Ludgate character from "Parks and Recreation") combined with a tinge of science fiction made this one of the best films of the year. It gave me chills both times I saw it, and with solid comedic work by Jake Johnson ("New Girl") and Karan Soni, Safety Not Guaranteed is one of this year's underlooked gems that really deserves some more love.
Rian Johnson's science fiction film was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and it absolutely lived up to the hype. Johnson took a fantastic concept that we hadn't seen before and infused it with a palpable energy, cementing him as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis were great, but Emily Blunt (with a flawless American accent) and five-year-old actor Pierce Gagnon practically stole the film as a family that becomes entwined in the saga of gangsters on the run. This one had me talking about the ending with my friends more than any other movie in 2012.
#2. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino's first true western, Django Unchained mixes violence and humor as only Quentin Tarantino can, exploring the very real horrors of slavery filtered through the lens of a folk hero origin story. He's been on a tear with revisionist history lately, and there's something very gratifying about watching this iconic filmmaker's vision of how history should have been. Christoph Waltz gave an instantly iconic performance as Dr. King Schultz, Jamie Foxx does some of the best work of his career, and with excellent supporting characters, a fantastic script, and the bloodiest gun battle captured on film this year, Tarantino has outdone himself yet again.
#1. Cloud Atlas
A jaw-droppingly ambitious effort from the Wachowskis and co-director Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas was far from a box office hit. But though the story didn't connect for general audiences, I was totally captivated throughout its entire runtime, mesmerized by the masterful editing and crosscutting over thousands of years as the story of a few connected individuals was woven on screen. The music, performances, and narrative culminated in the year's most emotional moviegoing experience for me, and as the credits rolled, I sat stunned at the sheer scope and magnitude of what these filmmakers accomplished. Cloud Atlas might not have made a large mark this year, but I'm betting this will be one we're still talking about for years.
Honorable Mentions: Argo, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Grey, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, People Like Us, Lawless, The Master, Holy Motors, Rise of the Guardians, Moonrise Kingdom, 21 Jump Street, Silver Linings Playbook
Damn. Jeremy and Ben only shared three movies between them (Django Unchained, The Cabin in the Woods and Cloud Atlas), and two of them were on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in their lists. This just goes to show you how great of a year this was for film, and how diverse cinephiles tastes really are when it comes to figure out a personal list of the best in any given year. Some of these will definitely be on my Best of 2012 list (coming tomorrow), but I've got some films that don't appear on this list as well. What do you think of Jeremy and Ben's choices? Do you agree with one list over the other?