Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Movies of 2012

Another drop in movies seen this past year, which on the face of it seems odd since by most accounts 2012 was a far superior year to 2011. But, you know, life. The kids keep me busy, work keeps me busy, writing keeps me busy, and 2012 was the year I finally got an Apple TV and hooked up to Netflix, so there is that. First thing accomplished upon that purchase, actually, was to find the delicious goodness we'd been missing with Downton Abbey. Cramming in all of those episodes takes time!

In 2011 I saw 48 movies, which was a drop from the year before. 2012 only brought me to 40 movies, two of which were significantly older than the usual fare, but which are listed because I saw them on the big screen. 44% of the movies I saw were in the theatre in 2011, as opposed to 58% in 2012. If I were to guess as to why this is, I'd say that the lack of nearby video stores, coupled with Netflix being readily available and yet not carrying many truly current movies are the main reasons. That said, it made sense to see many of these movies on the big screen, something I can't always say.

Here's the list. Any movie seen in the theatre will include an asterisk (*), and for those movies not released in 2012 I will include their year of release.

*The Grey - I went into this ready to ridicule it for making wolves into the bad guys and feeling like it was probably going to be Sarah Palin's ultimate wet dream. I came out astonished to have seen something of a paean to atheism, to say nothing of a quiet yet brutal thriller. And the best plane crash since Castaway, possibly even better.

Chronicle - While I tire of the found footage movies still being flung our way, this one wasn't too irritating. Decent, even, although whiny teens no longer occupy a soft spot in my heart, being the father of teens now.

*In Darkness - A Polish movie, based on a true story, of Jews being hidden in the sewers by a local man who initially starts out only thinking about money, but soon grows into more altruistic reasons. Outstanding.

*The Secret World of Arietty - Out in 2010 in Japan, but it didn't make here and in English until last year. Miyazaki didn't direct, but he did have a hand in the script, and this adaptation of the children's novel The Borrowers was tremendous.

21 Jump Street - Funny and raucous, a well-done entry in the sudden onslaught of gross-out comedies.

*The Hunger Games - My son Brennan, a huge fan of the books, was a little harder on this than I was. That said, it was more than OK, less than excellent.

*The Raid: Redemption - A martial arts/police/crime thriller in Indonesian directed by a Welshman. Incredibly intense and exciting.

*The Cabin in the Woods - This was apparently a love or hate movie, and I fell into the love camp. Great gooey fun.

*Beasts of Southern Wild - A revelation, and worth all the hype. Yeah, you're not supposed to like the dad, nor are you supposed to be pleased with the poverty. But instead of viewing it as an apologia (as I heard from a critic on the radio today), view it as a triumph of human spirit.

Bernie - If you haven't seen it you may have trouble processing this, but now that the Oscars have been announced I find myself disappointed that Jack Black did not receive a nomination for Best Actor. Because he really was that good. A better feel-good movie about a murderer you won't find these days.

*The Avengers - Sloppy and sometimes bothersome, but some great characters and chemistry redeemed it.

*Moonrise Kingdom - I love Wes Anderson's stagey presence in his movies, his calm detachment, his quirky characters. But even with all that, this was his warmest movie in years, and it's a damn shame it didn't get any love from the Academy.

*Prometheus - Woof. Listen, you've proven you can run moments after having an emergency C-section, so why can't you just run to the side? What a ridiculous movie. The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

*Brave - Not as light a Pixar movie as some might have it, its family dynamic still suffers a bit in comparison to the real emotion of Up and Wall-E, probably because it ended up feeling more like Disney and the Lessons Required in such movies.

*The Dark Knight Rises - I liked Bane as a character, I liked Catwoman, I liked some of the set pieces, and I was appalled by the not-so-hidden message that the ordinary people can't and shouldn't think and act for themselves.

*Looper - A smart time travel thriller. Quite enjoyable.

*Argo - Yes, there were cars chasing the plane, characters were sometimes composites, and it gave short shrift to the Canadian contribution, but this was still an enjoyable film, and it's surprising how tense I felt considering a knew what was coming.

*Skyfall - Lost me when he rode on the back of the monitor lizard. Would have pulled me back if Sean Connery had played the Scottish gamekeeper, although Albert Finney was perfectly serviceable. But still enjoyable.

*Lincoln - Daniel Day Lewis really is all that and a bag of chips. And the movie itself was wonderful. Yes, I know Spielberg knows how to pull my strings, but if he's going to do it like this, I'm OK with it.

*Life of Pi - The most gorgeous movie I saw last year. Stunning, and more so in 3D. And it made me feel good. Which may sound odd, if you've seen the movie and know my views on god and religion.

*The Hobbit - 3D was not absolutely necessary, but I did see it that way, and in 48fps as well. The sharpness that gave made it feel like I was watching an episode of Planet Middle Earth, waiting for David Attenborough to start narrating at any moment. Enjoyable, but it could have used some editing.

*A Separation (2011, but since it was the very end of the year, I will count it as 2012) - Magnificent and distressing Iranian film about the collapse of a family.

Centurion (2010) - A pretty decent film about Roman soldiers on the run for their lives in ancient Britain.

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) - Good thriller with Matthew McConaughey.

Midnight in Paris (2011) - I couldn't rave about it as much as others, but I did like this movie. For me, this is closer to a return to form for Woody than some previous outings.

X-Men: First Class (2011) - I'm now at the point where I can honestly say I enjoy a good superhero movie, but can't think of anything to say about them. Overload.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) - Very good, especially the mocap work by Andy Serkis as Caesar.

Fright Night (2011) - A quite good remake of the original horror flick.

Colombiana (2011) - Dime-a-dozen revenge thriller.

Contagion (2011) - Spooky, and it felt all-too-real. I especially liked how Soderbergh looped it back to the beginning.

Moneyball (2011) - This was a very good movie, which surprised the heck out of my wife.

50/50 (2011) - A movie about cancer that makes you feel good, and doesn't cheat doing it. Well done.

The Ides of March (2011) - As I noted, most people have been saying that 2012 was better than 2011 for movies. But there were a whole lot of movies that were really took you places without requiring stuff blowing up. Tense and interesting and well-acted.

The Descendants (2011) - Another excellent Clooney film.

The Muppets (2011) - And this one was way fun, as well.

*The Artist (2011) - Good. Not worth all of the fuss, I thought, but still fun to watch.

*Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) - I very much loved this movie, and if I'd been able to see it in the year it was released it would have been on the top of my list. Gary Oldman was a marvel. Watch how calmly he reacts to the bee in the back of the car, and then see the back of his neck in John Hurt's apartment in the next scene.

*Thief of Bagdad (silent, with symphony) (1924) - A fundraiser at our excellent Roxy Theatre, this is the Douglas Fairbanks movie, completely and ridiculously overacted, and every moment was a blast.

*Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - My all-time favorite film, re-released and cleaned right up, on the big screen the way it was meant to be seen. Glorious.

And so on to my Top Ten(ish). Again, only movies from 2012, aside from the odd foreign film that couldn't get here at the original release date.

1. A Separation
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
3. Lincoln
4. Life of Pi
5. In Darkness
6. Moonrise Kingdom
7. Bernie
8. Argo
9. The Grey
10. The Raid: Redemption/The Cabin in the Woods (tie)

I have seen Django Unchained, but didn't get to the theatre until the new year, so that will have to wait. And I promise to try and be more diligent.

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