2012 has came and gone, and the world didn’t end! To celebrate our spared existence, I present my top 10 favorite films from last year. As usual, we start things out with some noteworthy titles. As always, this is a tough list to put together, but it should certainly not be taken as any kind “best” list, for who am I to say what classifies something as the best? These are just those that stood out and made the biggest impact for me personal this past year.
Arbitrage starring Richard Gere was a solid and stylish drama surrounding a business man dealing with the ramifications of some bad decisions; while the trailer may have given away most of the movie, People Like Uswas a heartfelt and emotional family-driven drama with some excellent performances; indie coming-of-parenthood dramedy Small, Beautifully Moving Parts was quite charming, mostly due by a extraordinary performance by Anna Margaret Hollyman; Indie it-girl (I question my own use of that term, in any case…) Greta Gerwig steals the show in Lola Versus which has some really well done scenes, but resides in an overdone genre; Beasts of the Southern Wild displayed a magical method of storytelling in an emotion-filled tale of a father and daughter surviving in the wake of a disastrous storm in the bayou; Liam Neeson showed he’s still a badass even in the face of man-hungry wolves in the icy cold thriller The Grey; Joseph Gordon-Levitt killed it in Premium Rush as a New York City bike messenger who performs adrenaline-filled stunts to get away from a corrupt cop played by a villainous Michael Shannon; it came as a surprise, but Jessica Biel delivered what I’d personally consider an Oscar-deserving performance in The Tall Man, her monologue is the icing on the cake of this dark and moody mystery; and finally there was Man on a Ledge, the clever crime flick about a man (Sam Worthington) standing on the ledge of a skyscraper while a heist is taking place, but it isn’t without some twists and surprises.
10. The Hobbit
This perhaps could have appeared higher on my list, but as I mentioned in the intro this was incredibly tough. The epic adventure from the world of The Lord of the Rings follows the story of the book The Hobbit, which precedes the Rings series. The film is just as epic as Peter Jackson’s Rings triology, filled with florious visuals, an exciting storyline and tons that overall magic that was felt with the Rings films. I’m definitely looking forward to the second two films in this new trilogy.
9. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola tell the tale of young love in true Wes Anderson fashion. The quirky characters, fantastic costumes, and overall beautifully strange style makes this love story a treat for the eyes and ears. The film does a great job of capturing the spirit of youth, young love, and rebellion but in a most unique fashion.
8. Beyond the Black Rainbow
And the award for Most Bizarre Film of the Year goes to…Beyond the Black Rainbow! This movie had to be on my list as it is one of the most bizarre and unique films I’ve seen for a while. What stands out the most is its 80s-inspired style. The film look, the colors, the music, everything screams retro but without feeling gimmicky. Filmmaker Panos Cosmatos was apparently channeling his youth days of watching late night TV when coming up with this film, but the final product is a psychological trip and an aesthetic feast.
The film takes place in the Alien universe, but not being well-versed in that particular universe I went into this film with an open mind and no expectations (other than I would be seeing my fave, Noomi Rapace, and would likely be seeing some cool visuals). I was truly blown away by the visuals and the mythology behind the story, so much that I desperately wanted more. My only negative is that the film really lacked a lot with the characters and their stories.
6. The Hunger Games
The book got me excited, but I was very surprised when the film ended up being one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve seen. The attention to detail was great, the acting was superb, and the futuristic visuals were incredibly pulled off. Though it was a longer film, they managed to cram most of the film’s details in (though what I would consider some key parts were left out). Perhaps that was also a downside for the film; many parts seemed rushed and those that seemed significant in the book didn’t seem so much so in the film.
5. Ruby Sparks
Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan (who also wrote the film) have great chemistry in this hilarious yet emotional gem about a writer who invents the love of his life through his writing, only to realize she suddenly appears in his life as his real girlfriend. The clever and playfully silly concept is a breath of fresh air, and the acting and writing really bring it to life. While it may seem more like a fantasy, the relationship aspects of the film are realistic and emotional.
Anthony Hopkins revives a real-life character in Hitchcock, the biopic about arguably one of the best filmmakers in history, Alfred Hitchcock, and his making of the film Psycho. The film was extremely interesting to me for two reasons: the dramatic look at the making of a great film like Psycho during the time it came out (1960) in the midst of extreme controversy, knowing the success it would have (and continue to have); and the portrayal of Hitchcock himself, which Hopkins does with all the right mannerisms. The film feels much like a comedy at times, but when thinking about the real story it’s even more effective.
3. The Hunter
The Hunter is a truly gripping thriller that is driven by a demanding performance by WIllem Dafoe. Dafoe plays a mercenary hired to hunt down what is believed to be the last of the Tasmanian Tigers. The cold and snowy scenery is breathtaking, but also adds to the dark and mysterious tone of the film. At times I felt that the film seemed a little slow, mostly because there are several long shots with very little to no talking, but it knew how to pick things up when it needed to.
2. Perks of Being a Wallflower
I have always been drawn to films about loners, misfits, losers, outcasts, etc. Perhaps I can identify with some aspects of those characters, but in any case, I always appreciate a film not following cliche heroes and supermodels. This film is based on the book by the same name about such a loner (Logan Lerman) who befriends an eccentric brother and sister. Authentic acting performances bring the realism to the story, which is filled with true emotion from both the funny and the sad parts of growing up, finding love, and dealing with personal demons.
Ever since 2009’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish film), I have always been on the lookout for Scandinavian thrillers. Like the Dragon Tattoo films, Headhunters is also based on a book by a hugely popular author, Jo Nesbø. This Norwegian crime thriller follows a man who’d otherwise seem quite average, if it were not for his success as a corporate headhunter and secret art thief. When the main character, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) steals his latest piece, he winds up in a mess he didn’t expect. The film is full of twists and turns, laughs and cringes, and it doesn’t let up. I also have to mention that it’s hard to believe that this was the first role for the actress who played Roger’s wife DIana, Synnøve Macody Lund. This film has everything I look for in the genre, and it left me craving more!