Tonight is the Academy Awards. As the votes are being finalized and I prepare for my annual drunken Oscar party, I decided to take some time to write down my top ten films of last year. I understand that it’s February and top ten lists are usually revealed at the end of the year, but, hey, I am no professional critic. I have to actually pay for all the movies I watch. Anyway, without further ado here are my top ten movies of 2012.
10) The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The film was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky (who is also the man that wrote the book). It revolves around Charlie (played by Logan Lerman), a freshman, who befriends a couple of seniors, Patrick (played by Ezra Miller) and Sam (played by Emma Watson). The story is not new. It is a coming of age flick that you have probably seen many times over, especially if you are fan of John Hughes. However, while it may seem to some as formulaic, I found it to be quite a unique take on an old story. If you are a fan of the Smiths, I highly recommend this film.
9) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Ok, so this is where my nerdness comes out. While The Hobbit may not be of the same quality as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I quite enjoyed this first installment of what is to be a new trilogy of the Tolkien universe. It was good to see Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Gray once more and I quite enjoyed Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo Baggins. Gollum, once again, steals the show as we get to see how the ring came into Bilbo’s possession. I’m just happy that Peter Jackson is not screwing up this prequel trilogy like George Lucas did for his.
8) The Dark Knight Rises
The last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was, in my opinion, its best. While most will continue to love The Dark Knight as the best of the three, I do believe that Nolan outdid himself with this one. While I can certainly agree that Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight is unmatched, I think The Dark Knight Rises as a whole is better. I still love Tim Burton’s version the best though and, unfortunately, so many have forgotten how great that version really is.
7) Zero Dark Thirty
The controversial film, directed by Academy Award winning director, Kathryn Bigelow, takes its audience through the ten year search of the most wanted man in American history. Obviously, there are no surprises here as everyone knows how this story ends, but the journey to get there is an intriguing story to say the least. The film revolves around Maya (Jessica Chastain) who is put in charge of finding Osama Bin Laden. The film somewhat plays as a detective story as Maya tries to unravel all the clues to Osama’s whereabouts. It takes you through so many false leads that you start to wonder if the film will end like you thought it was going to. When we finally get to the final scene, there is almost a sigh of relief that we actually made it.
The current front runner for best picture is another tale based on real life events in the Middle East. The film follows CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) as he attempts to rescue six Americans hiding in Iran. In order to do this, he concocts a plan to fake a film by the name of Argo. While I think the film is a good one, I am not convinced that it deserves the best picture award. Its best moments come from its supporting cast of John Goodman and Alan Arkin who provide the comic relief. I found myself more intrigued with the lengths they go through to create the façade than the actual rescue itself. Just like Zero Dark Thirty, the film is more about the journey to the end than the end itself.
5) Life of Pi
I actually just saw this movie last night. I did not have high expectations for it, but I was quite surprised by how good it was. The story is of a teenager named Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma). He is a son of a zookeeper in India. When his father decides to move to Canada, Pi and his family hitch a ride on a cargo ship along with all the animals. When a huge storm sinks the ship, Pi is found shipwrecked on a life boat with a Bengal tiger and the story follows them as they struggle to survive. This film is a visual spectacle and I was quite sad that I did not get to see it in 3D because I think this is the kind of film that actually benefits from it. It captured me emotionally and it leaves you with a somewhat mystery ending.
Every year there is that one action sci-fi film that really captures my attention. In 2011, that movie was Super 8. In 2012, it was Looper. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, who is an assassin for the mob in present day. However, the people he kills are sent back from thirty years into the future. One day, his own future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back for him to kill. A brief moment of hesitation allows for his future self to escape and the film follows Joe as he attempts to stop himself from changing the future. If you love your action sci-fi films, this is not one to miss. It’s not up for any awards, but it is by far one of the best that came out last year. I actually thought that Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a great job in capturing Bruce Willis’ mannerisms and facial expressions worthy of some acting recognition, but I understand there are far better performances out there. So for all you folks out there just looking for some entertainment, I highly recommend this film.
What more can you say about the acting prowess of Daniel Day Lewis? There is no contest. If you want to see some amazing acting, this is the movie for you. The film follows the 16th President of the United States as he works to pass the 13th Amendment. The civil war serves as the backdrop, but we don’t see much of the war. As the title suggests, this is all about Lincoln and the difficult decisions he must make in the most crucial of moments in American history. Tommy Lee Jones is great as Thaddeus Stevens and one of the best scenes in the whole film involves him as he insults a fellow congressman. The film is a cinematic masterpiece and I am rooting for it to take the best picture award from Argo.
2) Silver Linings Playbook
This is another acting masterpiece of a film. Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a former teacher, who is recovering from a mental breakdown. Just released from the mental hospital, the film follows Pat as he tries to get his life back together again and win the heart of his ex-wife once more. He meets another person with a troubled past, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and they both take on a mutual agreement to help each other out. The film is an unconventional love story with a wonderful balance of comedy and drama. Robert De Niro does a fantastic job as Pat’s gambling addictive father and both lead actors are superb and have great chemistry on screen. Yes, the ending is a bit predictable, but the theme this year seems to be that it’s not about the end itself that matters; it is how we get there.
1) Django Unchained
Another Quentin Tarantino triumph! Just when I thought he could not get any better, he goes out and does something like this. Ok, if you have seen a Tarantino film before, you might say to yourself, “What is so special about this one?” Honestly, it is the same Tarantino style that you have come to love, but somehow it is done in such a way that it still feels fresh. As in every movie he has made, the dialogue is superb. Christoph Waltz, who plays the German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, once again takes Tarantino’s words to a new level. The film follows Schultz and former slave Django (Jamie Foxx) as they attempt to find Django’s wife and free her from slavery. The film is a gritty portrayal of slavery and pulls no punches. Yes, it is historically inaccurate, but we should have known that Tarantino’s stories are always more fantasy than reality. Whatever the case, I am against the charge that the film does not take slavery seriously and makes light of the institution. Quite the opposite, if there is anything to take seriously in this film is the portrayal of slavery that it attempts to show. While the deaths of all the racist characters in the film are stylized and exaggerated, the brutal tortures of the slaves all take place off camera. This allows for the audience to imagine the horror for themselves and creates an emotional reaction in strict opposition to the deaths of the slave owners. This dichotomy of presentation allows the audience to have a polar opposite reaction to the death of characters in the film, one in which we care so deeply and are angered by it, and one in which we care for nothing at all and even laugh at it.