Monday, January 28, 2013

The InSneider's Top 10 of 2012 ... and more

Overall, I think 2012 was a pretty good year for movies. 

Sundance set the tone, starting the year off strong with "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "The Sessions," "Safety Not Guaranteed," "Compliance" and "The Imposter." 

We saw teenagers finally get the movies they deserve, with "Project X" and "21 Jump Street" adding a memorable laugh track to the drama of "Chronicle" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," not to mention "Moonrise Kingdom," which featured the sweetest teenage romance in years. 

We saw two Roberts -- De Niro and Zemeckis -- do the best work they've done in years with "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Flight."

We saw time-tested subjects such as mental illness ("Silver Linings Playbook"), marriage ("This Is 40") and time travel ("Looper") explored in exciting new ways.

We saw people survive shipwrecks ("Life of Pi"), plane crashes ("The Grey"), car accidents ("Frankenweenie"), natural disasters ("The Impossible"), the justice system ("West of Memphis") and perhaps most impressively, slavery ("Django Unchained").  

We saw lots of sex including surrogate sex ("The Sessions"), phone sex ("For a Good Time, Call...), simulated sex ("Holy Motors"), drunk sex ("The Master"), grandparent sex ("Hope Springs"), best friend sex ("Savages"), Russian sex ("Anna Karenina"),  alien baby-making sex ("Prometheus"), finger-lickin' chicken sex ("Killer Joe"), too much sex ("Thanks For Sharing"), Batman sex ("The Dark Knight Really Rises"), Robert Pattinson limo sex ("Cosmopolis") and Kristen Stewart car sex ("On the Road"). Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

I really struggled with the order of this year's Top 10 list. I realize I'm cheating a bit with my top choice, but it'd be boring if I moved it to 2013 and became the millionth person to declare "Zero Dark Thirty" the best movie of the year, which it probably is. 

You know the drill, this is my ever-evolving personal list of favorites, not a list of "the best" of the year. It's certainly not set in stone, as an earlier post points out 100 movies, including "Amour," that I failed to see in 2012 and hope to catch up with soon. As much as I'd like to, it's impossible to see everything because there are so many hours in a day and some of those are reserved for HBO's "Girls." Yes, I'm drinking that show's Kool-Aid, back off!

I realize I'm rambling now, so without further ado... please enjoy my Top 10 Movies of 2012, with a bonus list of the Worst 10 Movies of 2012 just beneath it. While comments and tweets are welcome, spare me actual hate mail. I never open it...


1. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES - What can I say? I fell for Derek Cianfrance's follow-up to "Blue Valentine" from its very first frames, a tracking shot that perfectly sets the tone that follows. One of the finest American films I've seen in years, this multi-generational crime drama is a shot in the arm for a genre that has grown complacent. Courageous performances anchor this heartbreaking story about desperate fathers and the sons who must pay for their sins. Don't miss it come March!

2. ZERO DARK THIRTY - An incredibly well-researched procedural as masterful a film as that other tale of obsession, "Zodiac." Another brave piece of filmmaking from the talented team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. When she's allowed to act human, Jessica Chastain is an absolute firecracker. 

3. THE IMPOSSIBLE - The movie I cried at the most this year. I called my family after seeing it in Toronto. We watched it together over Thanksgiving and it was equally devastating. Call it manipulative all you want, but I go to the movies hoping to be manipulated, wanting to feel something. No 2012 film accomplished that better.

4. THE RAID - The year's best action movie, no contest, as well as the best foreign film of the year. Amazing fight choreography set to a great score by Linkin Park. Pure balls-to-the-wall adrenaline, I couldn't have asked for more from this intense experience.

5. THE SESSIONS - Director Ben Lewin deftly balances comedic and dramatic tones in this heartbreaking true tale of poet Mark O'Brien. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt deliver two of the year's best performances in this surprising crowdpleaser that had me laughing and crying.

6. MOONRISE KINGDOM - The best depiction of young love in years. Only Wes Anderson could pull off the tone achieved here -- a sweetness that's sadly missing from most American movies lately. 

7. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK - This throwback to the madcap comedies of Preston Sturgess was a star-crossed romance like no other, featuring two winning turns from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, giving the best female performance of the year. Cooper shows off more range than he's ever had the chance and even Robert De Niro is on his game. David O. Russell is one of the most unique and necessary voices making movies today.

8. THE GREY - More than just your average man vs. beast or man vs. nature tale, this was a fairly profound survival story about man vs. himself. Some won't be able to see it as anything more than 'Neeson With Wolves,' but there's more going on here than meets the eye, which is why it has stuck with me since its January premiere.

9. COMPLIANCE - I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I saw it divide audiences at Sundance. Craig Zobel's thrilling docudrama balances such a careful, natural tone, it's easy to see how this actually happened in real life. A true conversation piece, impossible to forget.

10. RUST AND BONE - Jacques Audiard's searing drama features two dynamite performances from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts in one of the year's most unlikely but refreshing romances.

As for the WORST 10 MOVIES OF 2012, I've decided to limit myself to one-sentence descriptions. While there may be a 2013 release atop my Top 10 of 2012, this is my list and I make the rules, so I can make them as inconsistent as I want. Thus, I'll spare a pair of upcoming horror movies I saw in Toronto and keep them in mind for next year's Worst Of list. Apologies in advance...


10. LAY THE FAVORITE - A disappointing effort all around, I have no clue how this laugh-free "comedy" was directed by the same bloke behind "The Queen."

9. JOHN CARTER - Not since "Lost in Space" have I been so bored with an expensive sci-fi epic.

8. DAMSELS IN DISTRESS - Set in a completely unrecognizable world, this pretentious dance craze just wasn't for me.

7. THE DICTATOR - Funny for a few minutes before the joke got old and I wanted the grating Admiral General Aladeen to sentence me to death. 

6. ON THE ROAD - A meandering movie that nearly had me on the road back home after the first hour.

5. COSMOPOLIS - A disappointing, aimless film of false profundity that seems to resent its own audience.

4. ATM - Another pointless contained thriller that wears out its welcome in a hurry thanks to characters that are so unlikable, it's a wonder they don't put the audience out of its misery and kill each other early on. 

3. SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN - The less said, the better. Let's move on...

2. TAKEN 2 - A lazy sequel that repeated the same beats as the original, wasting all the goodwill it earned. 

1. DETENTION - Ridiculous to the point of absurdity, this experimental stew of hyperkinetic nonsense was more or less unwatchable despite the good intentions of its director, who I enjoy following on Twitter.


Alex Thomas said...

I'm so pumped for The Place Beyond the Pines!!

Quite enjoy this list, Moonrise Kingdom, Raid + Zero Darh Thirty were all in my top 10 as well, and I also loved The Sessions and The Impossible.

Hated Compliance though.

From your worst of list, hard to argue with any except that I really enjoyed The Dictator! I also thought Taken 2 was ok, I mean, it had nothing on the original but I was still entertained.

The InSneider said...

Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment rather than a porn link...