The Golden Globes have come and gone. The Oscars are just around the corner. And you don’t care about any of that shit because what you’re reading right now is way more important.
So before the anticipation sends you into a murderous frenzy, let me tell you about my favourite movies of 2012 (Australian release dates). As always, I’ll also let D.A. (Devil’s Advocate) give a second opinion …
10. Les Miserables
An adaptation of the mega-bucks stage musical that follows French prisoner-turned-entrepeneur, Jean Valjean, as he tries to protect a young girl while being pursued by the law.
Oh man, this movie is loooooong. And having big stars like Hugh Jackman and Russel Crowe sing every bloody line in such humourless, earnest fashion took a lot of getting used to (actually I never got used to it in Crowe’s case). Yet I found myself admiring so much about the film that the admiration slowly blossomed into something resembling love. To be honest I’d have to say that watching Les Mis was one of the most unique cinema experiences I’ve ever had, and it contains some of the most impressive emotional outpourings ever captured on-screen.
DA Says: A badly shot, overlong piece of drivel with not even one minute of respite from the sub par, absurdly melodramatic ”singing”.
A young ‘Borrower’ (a tiny person who lives unseen among humans) puts her family’s well-being into jeopardy when she is discovered by a sickly young boy.
With their love of detail, Studio Ghibli (ie. Miyazaki’s House of Wonder) are masters of making you forget you’re watching a film – transporting you into the imaginary world unfolding before you. The first half of Arrietty is especially good at this. The way a simple journey across the kitchen is turned into an immersive experience using simple things like the ticking of an old clock, is a prime example of why I have so much love for Ghibli’s work.
DA Says: By the end it’s so dull that I can only assume everyone working on it gave up and went home.
After the US embassy in Iran is attacked, an expert attempts to extract six Americans from the country by pretending to film a science fiction movie.
Suitably tense and with a surprising amount of humour, Argo is a rock-solid piece of entertainment – even if Ben Affleck’s performance is about as wooden as a fence post.
DA Says: A daft, irresponsible piece of Islamophobic propaganda.
7. Wish You Were Here
Four Australians head off on a holiday in Cambodia. One of them never returns. Back home, tempers flare and lives fall apart as the secret of their friend’s disappearance is slowly revealed.
Great performances in an effective family drama with a side-serving of mystery that helps keep things interesting. The scenes where the truth is finally revealed are masterful.
DA Says: A tedious melodrama.
6. The Artist
A narcissistic star of the silent film era struggles to deal with the rise of talking pictures, as well as the skyrocketing career of his young former co-star.
I called Les Mis unique but seeing this (almost) silent film in an empty cinema made that experience seem conventional. Yet it wouldn’t be fair to only focus on the absence of dialogue and sound effects, for The Artist manages to rise above its main gimmick. It may be a simple story but it’s presented with more charm than a bucket of George Clooneys.
DA Says: A high budget, pretentious art-school flick that falsely believes novelty is an adequate substitute for good storytelling.
5. Moonrise Kingdom
The residents of an island community search for a young boy and girl who have run away together.
Wes Anderson doesn’t exactly “shake things up” when he sets out to make a new movie. All of his films have a similar feel to them, and you can find many of the same elements appearing time and time again (eg. a broken or unusual family unit, Rolling Stones songs, deadpan humour). Therefore the haters will continue to hate every time he releases a new film and Moonrise Kingdom is no exception. But for those of us who are happy to return to Anderson’s slightly whimsical world once every few years, this is one of his best.
DA Says: Another excuse for Anderson to waste money on cramming pointless “quirkiness” down the our throats while pretending it’s art.
4. The Muppets
The abandoned Muppet theatre is about to be demolished, and it’s up to three fans, (including the very Muppet-like Walter) to get the old crew back together and save the building.
The Muppets never really went away, but I understand why it was necessary to pretend they did. We haven’t been treated to a film where these characters were used with such enthusiasm and wit since … well probably not since the original Muppet Movie back in 1979. It’s often laugh-out-loud funny, and despite a healthy dose of nostalgia, the uninitiated next generation will find plenty to love too.
DA Says: A shameless attempt at money-making with a recycled plot and zero respect for the original characters.
3. Cabin in the Woods
A group of teenagers head into the woods for a vacation, blissfully unaware of the industrial facility monitoring their every move.
Like most people, I went into Cabin in the Woods expecting the unexpected. That it still managed to give me surprise after surprise was therefore a big achievement. On top of that it provided me with plenty of laughs, excitement and even a few scares. Throw in one of the most unusual but strangely satisfying endings around and you have a sure fire winner.
DA Says: It’s like a lost entry into the Scary Movie franchise but worse. At least the guys behind Scary Movie didn’t think they were making some kind of intellectual masterpiece.
2. The Avengers
Every Marvel superhero that the Disney Corporation could legally use teams up to fight Thor’s naughty step-brother, Loki, after he tries to enslave mankind.
With Joss Whedon directing I had hoped for the mix of clever humour, exciting action and dark drama he’d brought to productions like Angel and Serenity. What we ended up with definitely skimped on the darkness but it more than made up for it by being an amazing amount of fun. The opening is a little clunky but from there the movie flows along with barely a misstep, and before you know it the 2-and-a-half hour running time is over all too quickly.
DA Says: Cliche’-ridden superhero fare that has been overhyped beyond belief.
1. The Dark Knight Rises
After eight years in hiding, Bruce Wayne puts on the Bat-suit again to take on the ruthless terrorist, Bane.
Well this is a little strange. After years of not quite understanding the super fandom surrounding The Dark Knight, here I am choosing its follow-up as the best film of the year. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for trilogy conclusions (Return of the Jedi is my favourite Star Wars film after all) but I think there’s more to it. Heath Ledger’s Joker was an exceptionally entertaining villain, but Bane’s evil-doings in Gotham marked the first time a superhero film made me feel the dread and despair that such a terrible situation would evoke in real life. The fact that dozens (hundreds?) of people are clearly killed in the film (instead of the usual trick of having the crowds miraculously escape the destruction by the skin of their teeth) only adds to that.
DA Says: A humourless, sterile, convoluted mess with plot-holes big enough to drive a Batmobile through.
Special Mentions: 50/50, Bernie, The Descendants, Frankenweenie, Hugo, The Intouchables, Looper, A Separation, Seven Psychopaths, Skyfall
A Handful of the Movies I Didn’t See: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Chronicle, A Dangerous Method, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, J. Edgar, Lawless, Magic Mike, Ruby Sparks, The Sapphires, Searching for Sugar Man, Shame, Take this Waltz, Ted, Wreck-It Ralph
The Hobbit Part 1: Early last year I predicted this would be my 6th favourite movie of the year. It wasn’t. I’m not the first to say it, but making 9 hours of film from a 300 page book (there are two 3-hour sequels yet to come) was a stupid idea.
Brave: My #2 prediction was due to my faith in Pixar, who have given me so many hours of pure joy in the past. Unfortunately I felt really let down by this. I just couldn’t bring myself to care much about the characters or the story.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: I knew this was going to be a rather placid affair but I still had high hopes (making it my #8 prediction), but there is understated and then there is plain dull, and for me Tinker Tailor is the latter. The fact I didn’t quite know (or particularly care) what was going on near the end didn’t help.
Life of Pi: My prediction for #3 didn’t make it in the list simply because it wasn’t eligible (the Australian release date was pushed back to January 1st 2013).
The Master: It looked great on paper. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plus the incredibly grizzled face of Joaquin Phoenix, all under the watchful eye of super-director Paul Thomas Anderson - it should have equalled amazing amazement. And yes it had its moments, but when the credits finally rolled I found I was far from satisfied. Repeat viewings might help but complex films have to make you want to revisit them to unlock their hidden mysteries and treasures. Did The Master do that for me? Probably not.
Worst/Most Disappointing Film:
The Amazing Spiderman: (I might expand on this decision in a later post.)
And that’s that for another year. Please fire away in the comments section, especially if you disagree with my picks. Or feel free to list (or link to) your own choices.
And happy movie viewing in 2013!