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January 27, 2013

7

Top Ten Films of 2012 (Helen Geib)

by HELEN GEIB

In the final analysis, every “best of” list is a list of favorites. These are the ten movies that made me the happiest in 2012.

The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers

The final Marvel origins story is the year’s top juggling act. A measure of its success: I read five reviews claiming five of the fan favorite characters- four superheroes and one supervillain- had stolen the show. When I went to see it for the second time I thought I might discover hidden depths, or at any rate something I’d missed in the hurly burly. I didn’t, but I don’t love it any the less for its superficiality. (my review)

Bernie (2012)

Bernie

A bold experiment in form masquerading as comedy. Paradoxically, it’s the laughter that allows us to consider the tawdry true crime story with the seriousness demanded by its ruined lives. Jack Black is so incredibly good as Bernie, it was a positive surprise to realize he isn’t in my two favorite scenes: explaining the map of Texas and nabbing the deadbeat dads. (my review)

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

The Bourne Legacy

I really, really loved this movie and not only because it stars Jeremy Renner. This is a smart and well-calibrated thriller with good performances across the board and a knockout action finale. A combination remake of The Bourne Identity and sequel to the Jason Bourne trilogy, it creates its own identity within the series by neatly inverting the core theme of identity. (my review)

Coriolanus (2011)

Coriolanus

A great Shakespeare film from one of the minor plays. Leading a fine ensemble cast, Ralph Fiennes is a double threat as director and star. Filming amid the modern ruins of Serbia to represent ancient Rome besieged by a hereditary enemy was the stroke of genius.

Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln

They had me at the Gettysburg address. Lincoln is the ideal biopic: excellent, consequential, and accurate. Too bad he couldn’t resist taking the film a step beyond its natural dramatic endpoint; and yet, even the Spielberg Coda can be defended as the fitting last words of a study of the American president remembered more than any other for his words to the nation.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom

From my review: One of Moonrise Kingdom‘s charming points is its multifaceted homage to old-fashioned children’s books spinning tales of adventure and fantasy, most charmingly expressed by Suzy’s reading passages aloud from her favorite books by the light of the runaways’ campfire. That this particular children’s story was made for adults is signaled by the theme of transience and the lightly worn nostalgia. The connecting thread is the quirky sensibility of writer-director Wes Anderson.

The Raid: Redemption (2011)

The Raid: Redemption

In a tough field this is the movie of the year I’m happiest to have seen on the big screen. Star-choreographer Iko Uwais is a killer combination of skills, screen presence, acting talent, youth, and good looks. (my review)

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Safety Not Guaranteed

They start by assembling a roster of indie cliches, then confound expectations by writing them as fully developed characters. In one way or another they’re all seeking love through time travel. Clever, funny, bold, perceptive, and heartfelt, this is the most thoroughly engaging movie of the year as well as one of the best.

Seven Pyschopaths (2012)

Seven Psychopaths

Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to the brilliant In Bruges trades that film’s clean-lined perfection for an exuberant kitchen sink approach. Crime, comedy, philosophy, religiosity, Hollywood satire, and a formalist exploration of modes of storytelling are all in the mix. It also vies with Lincoln for the distinction of being the all-around best acted movie of the year.

The Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook

It’s not the edgy psychological drama promised by the first act, but I won’t be the one to criticize it for being a lovely romantic comedy instead. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro deserve the accolades, and the depiction of family and community life is refreshingly true to life.

RELATED POSTS

Odds and ends and highs and lows of 2012

Please read this post before you fire off an angry comment asking why Zero Dark Thirty (Indianapolis release date: January 11) isn’t on this list

Meanwhile, this post explains why my list is in alphabetical order

My picks for the best performances of 2012

Geoff’s startlingly similar top ten

Nir’s top seven and other bests of 2012

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 27 2013

    I watched Safety Not Guaranteed about a month back because it received critical acclaim and, seeing that it’s on your best of 2012 list, it’s also a beloved film by the general audience.

    Now here’s the thing: I don’t get the film. I must have missed something. All of the performances, save for Jake Johnson’s, are delivered in a monotone fashion and as a result they were annoying; the premise features time travel but the film doesn’t; and I found Mark Duplass to be terribly annoying, or at least his performance was. I just don’t understand why the film received so much love. It was terribly predictable and even though the characters were developed, they were entirely cliched and predictable, as well.

    I was trudging through the film, even though it’s only 86 minutes long (including the end credits), and not thing had really happened; at least nothing of real consequence. And the worst part of all is that I knew exactly where it was going and exactly how every would eventually behave and think.

    What am I missing? What did you, Helen, see that I didn’t? I know I’m missing something…

    Aside from that, I love Bernie, Coriolanus (which I own on Blu-ray), Lincoln, and Moonrise Kingdom. :O)

  2. Feb 8 2013

    I really need to see The Raid: Redemption. I thought it would be terrible, but I have heard nothing but love about it. Overall a very solid list!

  3. Feb 9 2013

    @Rob: Thanks, sounds like we have similar taste in movies. :-) THE RAID’s your movie if you’re looking for wall-to-wall action.

  4. Feb 9 2013

    [spoilers ahead re SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED]

    One of the special things about SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is the juxtaposition of literal and non-literal time travel to illuminate the love stories and develop the characters.

    Darius and Kenneth’s storyline is a quirky-conventional time travel movie with elements of parody. He’s the eccentric genius, she’s the skeptical rationalist; the plot traces the usual arc of preparing for the journey, building the time machine, eluding the men in black; they experience the temporal paradox. Their relationship becomes real- something more than her subterfuge in the service of a magazine article- at the point when she reveals what she would go back in time to change.

    Jeff’s storyline is the non-literal part. That crazy guy who thinks he can build a time machine is his pretext for returning to Ocean View, but what else is he really doing but attempting to turn back time on his own account? To rewind the past and recover some longed-for piece of his youth, of the experience of being young. The woman he reaches out to is also stuck in the past (the pain caused by her broken marriage). They’re replaying an old record.

    Jeff’s response to rejection, to the collapse of his attempt to recapture a remembered summer idyll, is to make Arnau his proxy. He hasn’t learned anything. That failure to move forward in life is contrasted with Kenneth’s change of heart away from his old crush and toward Darius.

    The climax is time travel as a glorious metaphor for love. Kenneth and Darius literally leap into the unknown together. Jeff cheers them on so there’s hope for him yet.

  5. Feb 10 2013

    Yeah, I got all that. I just found the film predictable and, story-wise, entirely uneventful because it teased us with the notion of time travel (even critics had referred to it as a “time travel film”), which didn’t happen until the end, and was then mostly just a metaphor. I found that I knew what the characters were thinking at all times and knew how they were going to think and what they were going to do out of sheer convention, all the while waiting for an intellectual time travel riddled film to commence. But then it just ended.

    I admit that what I’d expected to see and what I actually saw were two completely different films, and I don’t like that (IMO) it’s a generic rom-com. Like I said, I knew what the characters were thinking and how they were going to act all the way through to the end, but the film never furthered the plot along; it just shoved it aside and decided to remained a quirky rom-com (which I’m guessing was the intention from the start).

    And it doesn’t help that I don’t like the Kenneth character. He annoyed me to no end and Duplass’ performance lacked enthusiasm and conviction. His face was a blank stare throughout, like Ben Affleck’s in Argo.

    I hadn’t seen Mark Duplass in films before and he’s, apparently, a popular actor but I found that, in Safety Not Guaranteed he brought nothing to the table.

    You didn’t find the overall character arcs generic, as in “in a fictitious and/or real world these people would act like this”? I found it generic. But luckily it was a short film and I was never bored. That’s all that I ask of today’s films: don’t bore me. You’re allowed to be generic and crap but just don’t bore me.

    I’d recently watched Wreck-It-Ralph and was bored after 35 minutes. I shut the film off and eventually finished watching the following day. I found that all of the characters in it, aside from Ralph were terribly people and that Venelope was utterly annoying. And where the film went after the first act wasn’t interesting in the least bit.

    But you know me. It’s become damn near impossible to please me nowadays. :O)

  6. Feb 11 2013

    Unpredictability is overrated. I don’t give a fig if a movie is predictable if it gives me something more important, like emotional truth.

  7. Feb 11 2013

    Well, the most important element in a comedy is the element of unpredictability. One should not predict the oncoming jokes, should not be able to see them coming a mile away. The same goes for quirky rom-coms. I don’t hate rom-coms on principle, I just hate what they’d become due to the repetitive nature of current Hollywood. I simply find that Safety Not Guaranteed follows the steps of a rom-com to the tee and has eventually become a quirky yet generic rom-com.

    Plus, I still really want it to be a time travel movie and it’ll never be that. And it angers me that many call it a “time travel romantic comedy with hipsters”. I say, take out the hipsters and put in the time traveling! lol

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