As always, my caveat with the movies list is that I’m not an employed film critic. I’m not seeing these films for free so the list may be missing something you’d expect to see. This is not a list of the best 20 movies of the 2012, but a ranking of the 20 films I’ve seen.
Also, several of the films on the list are of the independent variety. While they are certainly well known in the independent film community they aren’t mainstream. Therefore, I’ve included trailers for a few such films. This is a great time to check out these types of films. In Memphis you can do so at the awesome Ridgeway Four theater. Given an open mind, I bet you’ll enjoy it more than seeing the wide released crap that comes out this time of year. Let’s get on with it…
In fairness I watched this in a room full of people who became quickly disinterested and therefore don’t even remember much about it. What I did watch I found anywhere from boring to unwatchable. Clearly, I didn’t “get” this one.
Here’s the thing, Ted might be better than its spot on the list but it probably never had much of a chance with me. It had its hysterical moments but by the end I was just looking at my watch. I’m just not really the crude, talking teddy bear type. I’m also not an animated, adult comedy fan either and this was movie was directed by Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane. If that kind of thing is up your alley then ignore the ranking because you’ll probably love it.
I was riveted for an hour and 15 minutes before it unraveled into a sloppy, illogical mess.
17. The Grey
I admire the ambition but it too often felt like ambition for ambition’s sake. Did I mention it was ambitious?
It was a mess but an entertaining one.
15. The Amazing Spiderman
It was fine. It was unnecessary but fine. I never really bought Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. While Emma Stone is awesome, it was distracting watching her play a high school student. Yes, having older actors play young is common Hollywood practice. Garfield is 28 and Tobey Maguire was 27 when he first put on the suit. There is just something about the 24-year-old Stone’s signature, raspy voice telling her father she doesn’t want any hot chocolate that was too much.
14. Snow White and the Huntsman
Sure, it was overlong and pretty boring for stretches but it looked amazing. Visually, it was one of the most impressive films I’ve seen in a long time. Also, I’m not sure if this is an unpopular opinion but I think Chris Hemsworth is an excellent presence on the screen. As always (go get Adventureland), non-Twilight Kristen Stewart is also good.
13. Bourne Legacy
As a single film the Bourne Legacy underwhelmed. At the same time it did excite me for the future of the franchise. I think the stage is set for the next Bourne film to restore the franchise to something close to its former glory.
12. Safe House
It is a tired concept that has been executed much more skillfully. If you came out thinking the movie was an intellectual masterpiece that doesn’t necessarily mean you are an idiot. It more likely means you haven’t seen very many good movies in the genre. All that being said it was rather entertaining and the performances are solid. Despite my previous statements, I actually like Safe House as a sit back and don’t think kind of movie. Also, I’d watch Denzel Washington do most anything. Although there are more interesting things he could be doing like say landing a plane upside down.
11. Ruby Sparks
I was hesitant going in. I figured a movie about a writer manifesting his dream girl by means of desire and a typewriter could be disaster or masterpiece. Of course, I was wrong because it was both. The way the writer constructed the conceit was brilliant and I was all in up until the last five minutes. All the boldness and intelligence the film displayed was traded in for a comfortable, put a bow on it, STUPID resolution. What a waste. Still, I enjoyed experiencing the journey more than the whole of the other nine films on the list. I have my own ending that I will train my brain to believe was the real one.
10. Men In Black III
It’s worth seeing for the Josh Brolin performance. It doesn’t come close to reaching the level of the original but clearly crushes the second installment of the trilogy. They went back to something they did in the first movie: they gave a crap. The story was a creative way of livening up the Men In Black universe and ending the series on a high note.
9. Jeff Who Lives at Home
Charming if ultimately forgettable. It was a tightly wrapped, short film with a clear point. The performances are good and I found the end satisfying.
8. The Campaign
It drags a bit towards the end when it wants you to invest in a plot in a way the film didn’t earn. However, when it is in its full-on comedic mode it is riotously funny. Best theater energy I’ve experienced for a comedy in some time.
7. The Avengers
Perfect? Not by a long shot but the degree of difficulty on this movie was high. While I didn’t love the villain, Joss Whedon did an excellent job with meshing the characters. This is a film with built-in limitations that excelled in spite of them.
6. 21 Jump Street
This has been the surprise of the year for me so far. It was really funny and while that may sound simple, take a look around Hollywood and you’ll see it isn’t. It adeptly maneuvers between different forms of comedy while maintaining enough of a plot to justify its running time. Also has some surprises that are, unlike most Hollywood attempts, actually surprising.
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild
It’s thought provoking, visually arresting and features the performance of the year from 6-year-old (at time of production) Quvenzhane Wallis. It’s a difficult film to explain and one I think you’re better off seeing without a full understanding of its concept.
4. Hunger Games
Excellent adaptation of the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy. The feel and tone were pitch perfect and Jennifer Lawrence was predictably awesome. The only issue in translation is with the character of Gale. The character is butchered by Liam Hemsworth who is every bit as awful as hisaforementioned brother (Chris) is awesome. Google also reminded me that he and Miley Cyrus are together. I can only imagine their average evening includes multiple instances of forgetting what they were talking about, being distracted by shiny things and pretending to understand big words.
Remember that preachy little rant about stepping out of your comfort zone I made at the beginning of this post? Well, this might not be the best movie to try that out with. It is an amazing film but Wes Anderson makes movies that take place in a distinct universe. Don’t get me wrong, this film is brilliant but I have at least one friend who told me it is the only movie he has ever truly hated. I happen to love the visual style as well as the ability to generate deep human emotion in such an odd world.
2. Dark Knight Rises
This not being on top is the upset of the year for me. I’m undoubtedly biased in that I’ve been waiting to love this movie for a long time. I just couldn’t honestly say it was a better movie or that I enjoyed it more than the number one film on the list. The small critical backlash was mostly the result of people who just hate it when anything reaches the critical approval and mass appeal that Nolan’s Batman series had.
Are there logical flaws galore? Absolutely. However they all pertain to details. They do not compromise motive or the overall narrative. If you’re bothered by the plot holes I hate to be the one to break it to you but Nolan has never been the master of the airtight logic. The rest of the trilogy isn’t without its logical problems not to mention Inception. The bottom line is that Christopher Nolan created the most satisfying end to a saga that I can remember. The villain, while not quite at Joker level, was fantastic. The stakes were appropriately high and the performances were phenominal. It is a popular refrain but Anne Hathaway’s “Cat Burglar” was sensational. It needed to feel epic and it did coming in just under three hours. With Dark Knight Rises, Nolan’s telling of the Batman story is further cemented as the greatest super hero story ever converted to film.
1. Safety Not Guaranteed
There is no shortage of independent films featuring quirky characters and witty dialogue. The failures in this genre are often marked by contrived quirkiness and self-satisfaction. The ones that succeed hinge on great performances. In this case we get great performances and something extra. The something is an actual engrossing plot. The balance is nearly perfect and against all odds the ending is remarkably satisfying. As a disclaimer, I should note that I would watch a movie in which Aubrey Plaza does her taxes for an hour and a half. She needs to be a movie star. All the performances hit, the characters are multidimensional and everything is earned.