As an armchair film critic, it takes me a while to finish seeing most of the “best” films of a year. There are still a half dozen smaller films that got great reviews I haven’t seen from 2012, about 15 films I’d still really like to see, and others I’ll discover down the road. So my Top Films list is always a work in progress. I feel no obligation to establish it in stone right this second.
As a whole, I thought 2012 was an outstanding year – one of the best overall in a while in depth. And, unlike some recent years, the best films weren’t all completely depressing. Of the 9 films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, 8 of them made my top 20. Only Amour (AKA 2 hours of incredible sadness) didn’t quite make it.
Just before the Oscars, I will reveal my picks and predictions, but here is (ever-evolving) Top films of 2013.
2.Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow made a very different sort of film. I’ll say this: I was overwhelmed with tension during the raid on Bin Laden’s compound – even though I knew exactly how it ended. Need to see this again.
3. The Avengers – The master plan for Marvel totally worked. I loved the team-up. Saw it multiple times. I enjoy “upbeat” superhero films, which have become more of a rarity. Other than a typically non-sensical comic plot (Tessaracts anyone?), it was perfect.
4. Les Misérables - While I still have some issues with the direction, and everyone knows I thought Russell Crowe was a detriment to the film, this has something in common with The Avengers – I thought it couldn’t be done. And it was wonderful. It made me sing, cry, and beam. Just make sure to watch the movie and not listen to the soundtrack alone.
5. Silver Linings Playbook - This movie should have been terrible. Too many plots, all sitcom-like characters, and a dance competition. But David O. Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings, Flirting With Disaster) has a gift for making things come together brilliantly. Terrible title, however.
6. Moonrise Kingdom - For everything wonderful about this great film, Wes Anderson understands middle school kids better than any other filmmaker.
7. The Impossible – 2 hours of crying for every possible reason (fear, joy, sadness, empathy, sympathy, apathy).
8. The Hunger Games - I loved the book. I loved the sequel. I’m not so fond of the third one. While not a perfect adaptation, it did a pretty good job translating it to film. And despite the sentiment put forth but “hip” movie reviewers, The Hunger Games is better than the somewhat similar Battle Royale as that movie has no soul.
9. Django Unchained – It is a little long and draggy, but Tarantino revenge flicks (Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds) with outstanding acting, action, and comedy always make me so glad to go to the movies.
10. Life of Pi – Like The Avengers and Les Misérables, this seemed unfilmable. Ang Li found a way to make it work so beautifully. It was certainly one of the most eye-catching and visual films of the year. It also didn’t match up to the book’s spiritual uplift. Make sure to click the image to the left.
11. Lincoln - This is a tremendous film Steven Spielberg. The acting, most obviously Daniel Day-Lewis, is the best there is. Tony Kushner’s adaptation of the phonebook sized Team of Rivals was something (like The Avengers, Les Misérables, and Life of Pi) I didn’t think could be done. And it looked great. It may be a masterpiece, but it was too talky. Too damn talky.
12. Bernie – A dark comedy with a much overlooked gem of a performance by Jack Black.
13. Beasts of the Southern Wild - A movie that surprised in so many ways. Tremendous first directing and acting work.
14. Perks of Being a Wallflower – The last 30 minutes transform this from being a nice teen story to something very special.
15. The Cabin in the Woods - I avoid horror films. But like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, this elevates the genre with creative genius.
16. ParaNorman - In a strong year animation, especially tales of dark creatures, this was the most entertaining of a strong lot.. Wreck It Ralph was also wonderful, especially the voices, but it got dull in the middle. Brave was very overrated. ParaNorman also has a gay teen in it, which also probably moved it up a notch in my book.
17. Safety Not Guaranteed - Let’s start with the fact that Mark Duplass keeps putting out incredible stuff as an actor, director, and writer (The League, Zero Dark Thirty, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Cyrus). Add in to this indie the wonderfully dark, but adorable Aubrey Plaza. And the typical cynical Jake Johnson. And a ridiculous newspaper and time travel plot. You get a really wonderful film.
18. Magic Mike - This film surprised me. Not the hot guys dancing – yes, there’s plenty of that. It actually kept me interested in their lives and the characters. Sort of what Showgirls might have tried to be once and instead failed miserable. Channing Tatum (see also 21 Jump Street) is the real deal. Matthew McConaughey has transformed into a really delightful actor as well (in 2012 alone, see also Bernie, Killer Joe)
19. Ted – It was really funny.
20. Arbitrage – I loathe to praise Richard Gere or his movies, but this worked and he was very effective in it. Damn you, Richard Gere.
Click Here for my Top Films Lists from 1999-Today (and even my worst films list)
Your favorite is on my list? Complain about it in the comments.
What was your favorite film this year?