Monday, January 7, 2013

My Top Films of 2012.

There were so many good movies in 2012! It was quite hard to come up with this list of my favorite ten. I could have easily made a Top 20, there were so many creative, innovative, beautiful, funny, sad, and original movies--there was something fresh about movies this year.

01 Anna Karenina

As I sat in the theater watching the opening minutes of Anna, there was a huge smile on my face. I had no idea what was happening or why, exactly, but I loved what I was taking in because it felt new even though it was based on an old story. Director Joe Wright takes one of my favorite novels of all time and sets it in a theater--on its stage, mezzanine, rafters, and lobbies. Screenwriter Tom Stoppard does justice to the emotions and characters of the novel and so do all the players from Keira Knightley to Jude Law to Domhnall Gleeson. It is different and above all beautiful. I saw it twice in theaters just to witness its power again.

02 Looper

This film also blew me away in a completely different genre. I'm so excited that director/writer Rian Johnson was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for the Writer's Guild Awards. I can only hope the same honor is bestowed when it comes to the Oscar nominations this Thursday! I really do love smart action films (see also: Hanna). Johnson's vision was spectacular, and his story riveting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, and Bruce Willis were all superb. I enjoyed every minute and surprise in this movie.

03 Zero Dark Thirty

I wasn't quite sure the movie I would be seeing when I sat down to watch this, but ultimately it was engrossing. The story unfolds methodically and sharply, and Jessica Chastain is brilliant. The story is told so objectively, I don't think there should be any media fuss about this 'politics' of this film. It's a great film, based on a true, intense story and I couldn't--and still can't--stop thinking about it. I will probably want to see it again in theaters.

04 Moonrise Kingdom

Joyous, magical, funny Wes Anderson! I remember seeing this opening weekend and sitting next to my best friends grinning from ear to ear for most of the movie. Having just rewatched this on New Year's Day, I have to say the word for it is: delightful. And the story is fun and it looks great--I enjoy Anderson's aesthetics. His casts are always superb, too. (Sidenote: on the blu-ray, there's an special feature called "Set Tour with Bill Murray" and it's hilarious. I recommend watching it!)

05 The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I remember reading the novel years ago, but seeing it come to life was a strange experience--it may be the best novel-to-film rendition I've seen. Perhaps because it was directed by and written for the screen by the novelist himself, Stephen Chbosky. I wanted to embrace Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, just as I had when I read the book. I loved Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), and wanted them to be my friends, too. Just like the book, the film understands high school and doesn't condescend towards its teenage subjects. One of the best, and emotionally true, movies set in high school.

06 The Avengers

How to get a super-big action movie with tons of superhero characters done right? Call Joss Whedon! Not only did the characters each get their fair share of the story, but it was told well and looked great. Even Scarlett Johansson's character of Natasha Romanoff was improved 1000% from her introduction in the Iron Man series (leave it to the creator of Buffy to finally get a female character right). But above all, the action! The pace and special effect were incredible! Exclamation points!

07 Prometheus

RIDLEY SCOTT, y'all. Visually, this movie ruled. The wide shots alone were stunning. Scott's scope is truly 'epic' and I'll say it here now, if Disney wants a great director for their upcoming Star Wars film, Scott should be their first choice. The story really angered some people, but I wasn't bothered at all while watching the film. I was grossed out at times, but I totally loved it. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender were great.

08 Amour

I only just recently saw this, but it has an entrancing power that takes hold. I've seen director Michael Haneke's films before, and I was not expecting something so sad. The film is about an elderly Parisian couple, Georges and Anne, whose relationship is tested when the health of one begins to falter. Haneke's shots quietly astound from beginning to end--the viewer is brought into these lives through lens. It's a depressing movie, for sure, but I like that it doesn't gloss over emotions or become melodramatic. It resonates.

09 Life of Pi

I love Ang Lee, but I wasn't sure whether I would take to this story of a boy lost at sea with a tiger. However, as soon as the movie began, I was swept away by Pi(scine), the tiger, his tale, all the philosophical questions it asks, and the wonderful, beautiful way the movie looked. I was audibly gasping at points during the movie--and I saw it in 3D and loved it in 3D, as a person who hates and avoids 3D whenever possible. A truly awe-inspiring experience.

10 Silver Linings Playbook

I didn't know much about this movie going into it, except that it had a pretty good cast and it was directed by David O. Russell, he who last made The Fighter. I didn't realize I was watching something that could be categorized 'romantic' until halfway through the movie. I liked the odd characters and the way they interacted (I'm a Sorkin fan, so I know how to suspend disbelief when it comes to dialogue) and I laughed out loud a lot. Also, I think I may have fallen in love with Jennifer Lawrence during this movie.

On another day perhaps these ten would be switched around, depending on my mood, and you might see some of these Honorable Mentions in the top ten as well --

The Sessions
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Magic Mike
21 Jump Street
The Deep Blue Sea
The Cabin in the Woods
The Impossible
Oslo, August 31st
Safety Not Guaranteed
The Hunger Games

Pretty good:

Django Unchained, The Amazing Spiderman, The Beloved, Compliance, Headhunters, Friends with Kids, Take This Waltz, Snow White & the Huntsman


The Master, The Dark Knight Rises, The Loneliest Planet, 28 Hotel Rooms, The Paperboy, Premium Rush, The Woman in Black

Didn't Like:

Les Miserables, The Lucky One, This is 40, Smashed, Sinister

The Worst:


Still haven't seen: Cloud Atlas, Lincoln, Flight, Rust & Bone, Seven Psychopaths, Holy Motors.

I saw a lot of movies this year! Sometimes the mark of a good year is how many movies I actually make sure to see. I should note that there were some great performances even in the movies I didn't like--Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables and Leslie Mann in This is 40 were wonderful, but the directors of their movies were the culprits of my disdain for the films as a whole. And I loved Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, but the film failed me in its story (I also may be the only person that didn't like Phillip Seymour Hoffman in it). Ann Dowd in Compliance was one of the top performances of the year, and I hope she gets more recognition for it. Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy, Tom Hardy in Lawless, both Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in The Sessions were all wonderful. And I don't understand why Michael Fassbender's David from Prometheus is getting no love from the awards this year, either.

My entertainers of the year, however, are without a doubt Channing Tatum and Jennifer Lawrence. Who knew Tatum could be as funny as he showed in 21 Jump Street? Or smart with bringing Magic Mike to Steven Soderbergh? Lawrence impressed me immensely years ago in Winter's Bone, but this year as Katniss in The Hunger Games and Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook she's won me over completely. Not to mention all her late night and red carpet interviews; the girl's witty and hilarious, and I want desperately to hang out with her.

I don't think my top ten would match anyone else's--which is why I love this diverse year of movies--so what were your favorite films of 2012? If you have a list posted somewhere, please link it! What was your worst film of 2012? Let's talk movies!

Some of my past top film posts: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011


  1. My, you DID see a lot of movies! My list would be all Magic Mike and Skyfall, but I haven't seen even a tiny fraction of these movies.

    (Oh, Cloud Atlas: my biggest disappointment of the year. And I've tried to like Wes Anderson, really I have.)

    1. Way too many movies... haha. Magic Mike was soooo close to being #10. So good.

      I'm about to read Cloud Atlas...and then will see the movie. Maybe I should reverse that to quell the disappointment?

    2. I'm worried you might not want to read the book after seeing the movie... either way, you might have some disappointment. The one I haven't seen yet that I'm looking forward to but also prepared to be disappointed by is Silver Linings Playbook. I've heard all sorts of things. And have you seen Pitch Perfect? Cheesy little movie, but fun in its own way (the way Bring It On was fun)... I'm made truly uncomfortable by a cappella and yet enjoyed it.

    3. I've been wanting to see Pitch Perfect forever... it releases on Netflix DVD next week, so I will get it! And I'll tackle Cloud Atlas the book first...for sure...

  2. I miss movies. I did see a lot of these! And I wish you loved Les Mis as much as I did.

    On my Netflix queue: Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook. Might be waiting a while. I might try and sneak Magic Mike on there to see if Jeff is paying attention.

    We are trying to see Zero Dark Thirty next month. haha. Things have changed.

    I disagree on Avengers. I was underwhelmed. And on Les Mis, which might be my favorite movie ever. But I was a fan girl going in.

    Someone told me not to see the Master, that it was terribad.

    1. As I wrote to you in the e-mail... as someone who's never seen any rendition of Les Mis, the directing was all wrong. There was no silent moments, no time for the characters to develop or breathe. I simply felt that they sung me their emotions instead of demonstrating who they were and how they felt. And ugh, Russell Crowe. Damn Tom Hooper! I can't stand his directing! The bad CGI, the close-ups CONSTANTLY, the crazy angles always, just...CALM DOWN YOUR CAMERA.

      The Master was just underwhelming. It looked beautiful, but I felt no substance. And what an uninspired choice in Phillip Seymour Hoffman...

  3. I was actually pretty disappointed in Magic Mike, and I'm desperate to see Beasts of the Southern Wild.

    No opinion about The Hobbit?

    1. I haven't seen The Hobbit! Not sure I'm going to... I just... I don't think The Hobbit the book = 3 2.5 hour movies. I'm scared. Haha.

    2. I was a bit worried going in, too, because even though I LOVED (ALL) the Lord of the Rings films I was disappointed about all the stuff that was left out - but The Hobbit was amazing! By my count there were only about 5 or so little tweaks, and it did not feel like an almost three hour film.

      He even (smoothly) incorporated a couple of bits from the LOTR books that were left out in those movies! I really suggest watching it. (and I normally am not into 3D movies either - but it's well done)

  4. Jennifer Lawrence just seems so down to earth and smart. I would love to hang with her.

    I thought Prometheus was judged harshly because people wanted Aliens. No matter how many times we were told this is not Aliens. I personally really enjoyed it. The acting was great and visually I couldn't take my eyes away from the screen.

    1. Yessss Prometheus was breathtaking when I first saw it... and then all this negativity came out about the script and the holes and I"m like... well, that didn't really take away from the movie while I was watching it. (Okay, except for when the two dudes are stuck in the cave and suddenly they're not scared and are like "'ooooh what are you weird alien?" But, y'know. Loved it.)

  5. Oh I adore you for putting 'Les Mis' on your didn't like list. You've got a great list here, which is sure to spark some conversation, and that's the point. You can't argue for a film if you only saw two this year.

    Great list!

    1. Thanks!

      I can't believe Hooper just got nominated for Les Mis. I just don't understand. Are the DGA members all fanboys of this guy? I didn't even like his directing in The King's Speech and he WON for that. It's just all absurd! To me!

  6. Yeah, I think Amour's avoidance of melodrama and unsparing, unsentimental clear-eyed view is what it so compelling...and I totally agree (you used the perfect word): resonant.

    Yes, you are the only person that didn't like Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He is, hands down, my performance of the year.

    Can't get The Master or Amour out of my head. Great list, Jessica!

    I also HATED, HATED, HATED Les Miz and Ted so we are in the same boat on those.

    1. Thanks for reading!

      I have followed your hatred of Ted all year... was actually the reason I didn't even want to see it, but was sucked into watching the DVD with family over the holidays. SO TERRIBLE! And Les Mis...oy.

      And I know I'm the only person who didn't like Hoffman! It's like blasphemy to say so, I know. Haha. It just seemed so... uninspired to me. Of course Hoffman can do L. Ron Hubbard-y. Inspired casting was Tom Cruise in Magnolia. I was pretty into Will Smith starring as Django, as Tarantino originally wanted, too. Would it have worked? Maybe not, but I probably would have been more excited to see Smith in Tarantino's hands than Jamie Foxx.

      It was a great year for movies! Looking forward to your Scene Stealers list!

  7. Great list Jessica! Many of our opinions line up fairly close. I particularly like your love for Anna Karenina as it is a film that I feel is not getting the love and attention is deserves. And is a much better theatrical adaptation compared to the rather flat Les Miz. Here is my Ten.

    I also gave Fassbender some love in a list of the great performances not to be nominated.

    1. Thanks for reading, Nathan! Dig your posts as well!