If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Before I start my countdown, let me state that I am not a super-being and I do not have an infinite amount of time at my disposal, therefore I have not seen every film released during 2012. This list is based solely on the films I did see. Some of your favorites may not make the list either because I did not get to see them or I simply did not consider them worthy. Enough chit-chat let's get this sucker started!!!!
#10: Ruby Sparks- A clever, fun film about how men perceive women and what they expect from women. In Ruby Sparks, struggling writer Calvin creates the girl of his dreams who he names Ruby Sparks. The more he writes about her, the more she slowly starts to seep into his world until one day he awakens to find her waiting for him in his house. Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan are electric as the lovers and main characters, both putting on top notch performances. Zoe Kazan is particularly stunning, hot, gorgeous, cute, loveable and tragic as the titular character, Kazan also wrote the screenplay for the film so that's pretty cool too. Dano acts his butt off and is believable and fantastic as Calvin, easily one of his best performances to date. Chris Messina is also superb as Calvin's brother, Harry, who reminded me of a young Paul Rudd and really sold his role here. The film, while fun and quirky, is in reality about some pretty serious subjects and the film is not afraid to go to some pretty dark and scary places at times. A fantastic film from beginning to end, Ruby Sparks is a must-see for any film fan or writer. It's sure to leave you with a feel-good feeling.
#9: Life of Pi- This film is a good example of how to properly use religion in a film. The religious aspect is ever present in Life of Pi, but it can be easily ignored if one so wished. Life of Pi is another stellar from Ang Lee. In the film, he crafts a magical, mythical story about a boy hopelessly adrift at sea in a lifeboat that he has to share with a tiger named Richard Parker. These two must learn to work together if they are to survive. The cinematography is without a doubt the best of the year, evoking a heavenly, other-worldly quality (like a hallucinatory scene where Pi may just see the truth about the universe) . Both Pi and Richard Parker deserve Oscars for their performances here. It is a very slow film, and you feel every second of its 2 hour plus running time but the film is magical, sad, and amazing in all the ways that count.
#8: Argo- Argo is one of the most tension filled films I have seen this year. From a crazed, angry riot at the beginning to the dangerous escape at the end, the film will have you constantly on the edge of your seat. John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston put on superb supporting performances and Ben Affleck does fine in the lead role, I'd dare say he deserves more credit for the work he does behind the camera here than the work he does on screen. It also makes the film a bit more interesting when you learn it's based on a true story. Not only can we draw comparisons from events seen in Argo to what is currently going on today in the Middle East (yes, this film is indeed quite relevant today), but Argo also depicts a time when Hollywood and the art of film was used to save innocent people from being killed making Argo an almost self-reflective film as well....Hooray for Hollywood indeed.
#7: Liberal Arts- Liberal Arts is a teary-eyed look at life in college and life beyond college. Josh Radnor is completely relateable and real and Elizabeth Olsen is as adorable as ever (You just want to hug and kiss her whenever she's on) , and Zach Efron shines as the magical, mystical white guy who is there to drop some knowledge on Josh Radnor every now and then. Olsen and Radnor have fantastic chemistry, but their relationship isn't really the main focus of the film, it does take up a good chunk of screen time but the film is really about looking back and looking forward. It's not really a happy film, but it's never too sad either. Liberal Arts is a realistic, mature film about life that is an absolute must see. Since I am currently preparing to graduate from College, this film really struck a chord with me. For a while, it was in my top 5 but I brought it down to number 7 because I feel that there is nothing really extraordinary production wise in the film. It's got a fantastic story and great acting, but I felt there were other films more deserving of being in my top 5, so there ya go.
#6: Compliance- This film will give you chills in the worst way possible. In the film, a mysterious caller initiates a sick game of sexual power play when he calls a fast food place posing as a police officer and begins making demands relating to one of the restaurant's female employees.By far the best performance in the film comes from Dreama Walker, who portrays Becky, the poor girl at the center of the drama. She may be the main victim, but she certainly isn't the only one. She puts on an all too real performance as an employee who is scared for her life and emerges from the whole fiasco with obvious psychological damage. Quite possibly the most disturbing thing about the film is to watch how easily everyone in it complies with the mysterious callers demands, only two people hold their ground and say no, and even then they don't really try to stop what else goes on in the film. Just about everyone in this film is a despicable, disgusting person. In the end, Compliance is a film designed to shake your faith in humanity, and it goes places many other films wouldn't dare go. The film will also ask viewers to ask themselves what they would have done differently, and thus will inspire viewers to take a good hard look at themselves. Humanity can be downright ugly, despicable, and cruel and Compliance has no problem diving down into our murky depths, asking us to look deep into ourselves as well......don't expect to like what you find. Compliance is one of the most challenging films I have seen in a very long time, it's a film that shook me to my core and that is one of the highest compliments I can give to a film. While it is by no means an easy watch, I still think that Complaince is worthwhile viewing.
#5: Silver Linings Playbook- Tragedy is comedy. This is the age old belief that this film strictly adheres to. Silver Linings Playbook is about 2 very broken people who meet each other and in the process manage to fix each other. It's very poetic and beautiful. Jennifer Lawrence is the hottest she has ever been and she puts on one of her best performances here, and Bradley Cooper is phenomenal as the "hero" of our story who must overcome great odds and personal tragedy to reach the peak he has been striving for. Both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence put on performances that will cut you to the core, and the film excels at making you laugh your ass off one moment and the very next halt you in your tracks and hold you in its grasp as tension rises to a surprising degree (to the point where it actually gets pretty scary at points) only to have that tension slowly melt away to make way for the next gut laugh. My only complaint with the film is that the sports sub-plot does play a pretty big role in the finale in a way that doesn't feel natural and failed to really captivate me....maybe that's just because I've never been a huge sports fan though. Silver Linings Playbook may be a dramatic comedy, but it is still without a doubt the best comedy of the year. It's got pretty deep themes about love, self, and struggle and while sports plays a maybe too big role in the overall film, that does not prevent the main themes from gut punching you when they need to. Silver Linings Playbook is easily the best surprise of the year.
#4: Django Unchained- A Quentin Tarantino film on my list...what a surprise. In Django Unchained, Quentin makes slow, passionate love to the silver screen and invites us to watch the cinematic orgasms. As usual, Quentin can get a bit too cocky at times (like a final "horse dance" at the end) and this does detract from the film a bit and there are times where it feels like we are laughing along with the characters at the negroe's misfortunes which is bound to leave somewhat of a bad taste in audience's mouths. That said, the film overall, while a good deal darker than other Tarantino films, is still entirely enjoyable for the most part. I had a lot of fun with it, and as long as you don't have a problem with excessive use of the "N" Word, I'd bet you will too.
#3: Looper- Rian Johnson hit another home run with this film about time travel and the consequences of such. Luckily for us, hidden underneath it's cool exterior lies a message about violence creating violence. Joseph Gordon Levitt puts on another one of his all time best as Young Joe, an untrained assassin for the mob whose job is to kill people from the future who are sent back in time to him. Things get messy when his future self, played by Bruce Willis, shows up and gets the one up on him, escaping. Old Joe has come to the past with a horrific plan to save the future, and only Young Joe can stop him. It's great to see Bruce Willis back in Die Hard mode here, and the interactions between Young Joe and Old Joe are fantastic and highly entertaining (like the scene in the diner, which I never fail to bring up). Looper also talks about the idea of a person's ability to change. Old Joe claims he has changed over the years, and claims that he is doing this for his wife but in reality his motives are purely selfish and his plan revolves around excessive violence. Joe was born from violence, violence is all he has ever known, so it makes perfect sense that, in Old Joe's mind, violence is the only way to save the future. Young Joe realizes that Old Joe can not or will not change and so it is up to him to save the day. Looper is a fantastic film, and it makes for a great way to introduce your friends to true quality cinema. It's a down right elegant film, and it's also tons of fun. The best way to describe Looper is as a thinking man's sci-fi action film, and even that doesn't nail it down all the way. In the end, you'll just have to see it for yourself.
#2: The Raid: Redemption- Without a doubt the best action film in years....and it doesn't even come from the U.S. The Raid is classic action, the way it was meant to be. All the stunts and fights are done by the lead actors and crew, there is no CGI, no bluescreens and no stunt men to be found here....giving the film a brutal, raw, real quality. The story here is simple: A SWAT Team infiltrates a high rise apartment complex only to quickly be sealed in by an evil drug lord who rules the apartment complex with an iron fist. The drug lord orders the inhabitants of the apartment complex to kill the members of the SWAT team, and in return he will grant them free rent. The battle is on as the SWAT has to fight their way up, capture the drug lord, and survive. The story is fairly simple, as well it should be. The focus here is on the action, and boy is there plenty of it. The Raid's fight sequences are heart pounding and super cool as fists and feet fly like mad. I walked out of the film inspired to go forth and kick-ass. If only every action film made me feel like that.
#1: Zero Dark Thirty- The story of the decade long search for Osama bin Laden is every bit as gripping and riveting as I imagined it would be. Don't expect a lot of action except for a few scenes here and there, no, this film is on a quest to bring us the truth about how we found Osama. We start out with one of the most affecting depictions of 9/11 I have ever experienced in a theater, choosing to portray the events of that day aurally instead of visually. From there on out we explore water boarding techniques, then jump into the extensive research done in the search for bin Laden, and finally we get to tag along with Seal Team Six as they raid bin Laden's safe house. The last thirty minutes with Seal Team Six are phenomenal as it really feels like you are there with them, and when they finally do kill the bastard there is no cathartic moment, only an uncomfortable silence as the film allows the act to fully sink into our brains. The rest of the film is every bit as gripping as the last thirty minutes are, I can honestly say I was never bored and was on the edge of my seat and fully invested in the film for every second of its 157 minute run time. Jessica Chastain is simply phenomenal as the determined CIA Agent, Maya, who finds herself leading the search. The film is not a rah-rah GO USA film as some would have you believe (definitely NOT a propaganda film) , and it wisely chooses not to take sides on the torture debate as it instead shows water boarding as it actually occurred and the consequences of it on both sides (torturer and prisoner). Zero Dark Thirty is an appropriately dark, intense, and probing film that digs deep into the years between 2001 and 2012 and into the work the CIA was so tirelessly doing to find and apprehend (dead or alive) Osama bin Laden. It's a film that asks if the outcome was worth the ethical boundaries that were pushed to find bin Laden, and the film leaves us with a final thought-provoking question: Where do we go from here? It is a film that is vitally important to America's history, and not only is it my personal favorite film of the year, it's also what I consider to be the best (for very good reason).
So there you have it, my top films of 2012 list. Did you agree, disagree? Was there a film that you felt should have been included but wasn't? Feel free to post your thoughts below. Till next time, here's to a (hopefully) great 2013.