If it's crap ... We'll tell you
From looking through the 90+ films I've seen this year, it's immensely encouraging to see how much I've liked so many films this year, and that it got incredibly difficult to narrow down my favorite films this year to ten; some of my honorable mentions are pretty great movies, and have just missed my list. 2011 was a fairly strong year, and 2012 was even better, so I'm hoping the quality continues on in 2013.
American Reunion, Arbitrage, Argo, The Avengers, Bachelorette, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Compliance, The Dark Knight Rises, End of Watch, The Five-year Engagement, Flight, The Grey, Hitchcock, Lawless, Les Miserables, Looper, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, ParaNorman, Pitch Perfect, Prometheus, Ruby Sparks, Seeking a Friend For the End of the World, Seven Psychopaths, Silver Linings Playbook, Sinister, Skyfall, 21 Jump Street, V/H/S.
10. The Cabin inthe Woods
A horror-comedy surrounded by mystery upon its release, and incredibly difficult to discuss to people who have not seen it without the risk of spoiling something, "The Cabin in the Woods" can accurately be described as this generation's "Scream," a thrilling horror film that giddily toys with the tropes that have become so common within slasher/horror films today, as well as a darkly funny, self-knowing satire that criticizes the very elements it embraces. Not particularly scary per se, but endlessly original and entertaining, "The Cabin in the Woods" was a genuine gift for horror fans.
9. 10 Years
A low-key, honest Indie comedy/drama that follows the storylines of a group of individuals on the day of their high school reunion, "10 Years" rang true in every performance, character, and emotion displayed, in which I could understand and recognize the traits every character and how they got from their reputation in high school to their position today, even while I'm currently in high school, and trying to figure out where I'll be going after I graduate. If "10 Years" served the main point of providing poignant, authentic snapshots of people having been moving forward with their lives while they never have fully grown over high school, it also may encourage certain highschoolers, as it did with me, to make the most of what they have in their school years.
Adrian Brody delivers a riveting performance as Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher at a high school on the eerily realistic brink of disaster, who brings passion and care towards the students and his job, despite the fairly bleak nature of how the school functions. The impact he begins to have on certain kids he meets and the bonds he begins to form are all the more heartbreaking when he sees their lives simply fall further down the gutter in the sea of cruel and ignorant people that their town is. "Detachment" is an engrossing, provocative, and unsettling look at a dire schoolboarding system.
Three teenage friends find a strange, crystal-like object underground, gaining telekinetic powers, and at first, do what teenagers today may initially do with these powers--prank around and have fun. This tightens the bond between the three main characters, making the tragic third act all the more affecting, in which the main character of these three, Andrew, endures a grim home life and crushed pride that slowly gets the better of him. "Chronicle" puts a fresh spin on the superhero genre, providing realistic characters and a riveting villain origin story, along with a stunningly innovative use of the often increasingly tedious found-footage theme.
6. Take This Waltz
Michelle Williams has turned in one of the most phenomenal, emotionally shattering performances of the year as Margot, a married woman who becomes torn between the lustful chemistry she forms with her neighbor (Luke Kirby) and the kind-heartedness of her husband (Seth Rogen). What may, on paper, sound like a generic Lifetime movie, has become a thoughtful, mature, miraculously executed story of adult relationships and human tragedy. “Take This Waltz” is uncompromising and somewhat even melancholic, yet, in a way, simultaneously beautiful.
5. Django Unchained
Although it’s often a good five or so years between the times Quentin Tarantino releases a new film (his last film, “Inglourious Basterds,” was released in 2009), he is always wholeheartedly welcome, his vividly unique style and dialogue always refreshing to see in mainstream cinema. “Django Unchained” is no different, meshing elements of an inspired spaghetti Western, a brutal, intense, slavery-era revenge thriller, and a sinister, witty dark comedy into the most joyously entertaining film of the year.
Alongside “The Cabin in the Woods,” “Entrance” is another film you should go into knowing very little about. The trailers shamelessly spoiled something about the film that viewers really should not know going in, and also made it look like something it’s not. At the core of “Entrance” is a quiet character study of a young woman feeling uncomfortable in her own skin and state of life, plagued by anxiety and paranoia, and planning to move out of her state to start fresh. She begins to notice something strange and possibly menacing going on in her neighborhood, which is the aspect of the film that should be left for viewers to discover. Suffice to say, it’s a slow-moving but engrossing character piece with a more unsettling theme beneath the surface, made even more disturbing by the astonishing realism of it all.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
It’s completely clear of the passion a filmmaker has for his material when he adapts his screenplay directly from a novel he wrote and published as well, bringing the novel to life with immense care and thoughtfulness towards its characters and themes. Such is the case of Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and while the novel has not yet been read by me, the film was the most emotionally impactful I have seen all year. Logan Lerman was a perfect lead as Charlie, a timid, troubled high school Freshman who befriends two seniors, Sam, wonderfully played by Emma Watson, and Patrick, phenomenally portrayed by Ezra Miller, who, after this and a completely different but equally great performance in 2011’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” has become one of my favorite young actors working today. The bonds Charlie forms with these two are the kinds of friendships anyone would wish they had in their teen years, and the dark, touchy topics that the film tackles with the utmost seriousness and respect serves for an unforgettable coming-of-age film that rings honest and true.
2. Life of Pi
A visually stunning story of a young man coming of age and surviving a ship wreckage through a somewhat ambiguous yet no less than fascinating series of events, “Life of Pi” is utterly beautiful in the way it handles its tale of survival and hope, while also touching upon religion, yet never preachy or shoving it down the viewer’s throat, but instead showing it as a way that the title character helped cope with his situation and matured throughout his journey. The film adds the aftermentioned ambiguity through the suggestion that Pi’s experience with the animals was symbolizing a darker, more tragic story of what he experienced, and yet, either way you look at it, the storytelling is as wonderous as it is moving.
1. Cloud Atlas
As vastly ambitious as it is enthralling and deeply moving, “Cloud Atlas” was the richest, most fascinating cinematic experience I have had this year. Several different storylines taking place in different time periods are weaved together in great detail, exploring the lives and experiences of eras that leave their mark and leave room for the next generation, and supporting the central theme that all of these eras are somehow connected through even the smallest of actions. The impressive fact that several of the same actors seamlessly play different characters in separate time periods, along with the sublime imagery and effects, are no less than worthy additions to an unforgettable tapestry.ime periods, along with the sublime imagery and effects, are no less than worthy additions to an unforgettable tapestry.