It’s that time of the year again where we write up our “best of” lists. Before we go on I have to tell you guys that no matter how hard any film buff might try, they just aren’t going to be able to see everything, so there’s always one or two films that slip by me when I write these ‘best of the year ’ lists. For example, I haven’t seen Ana Karenina, Zero Dark Thirty, The Master, Argo, or Paranorman. But fear not, I will surely see them in the coming months and review them for your reading pleasure.
It isn’t easy coming up with these lists because there are lots of good films during a year and it’s kind of difficult seeing them all, even for a Film Connoisseur such as myself. Still, I tried to cut down the fat and truly come up with the best of the best of what I have seen. So without further ado I leave you with The Film Connoisseur’s Best Films of 2012, enjoy!
Title: The Avengers(2012)
Thoughts: So this movie exploded onto screens last summer and ended up being the ultimate super hero movie, audiences couldn’t have enough of this superhero potpourri, so much so that audiences where going to see it more than once; it went on to become the biggest money maker of 2012 along with Skyfall. It had everything and anything we always wanted to see in an Avengers movie. Great effects, explosive action, funny dialog, and good performance; also, a good representation of every character that appears on the screen, each hero was given its moment to shine. This was a thrill ride of a movie, reminding us what a good summer blockbuster is all about.
Quote: “Superheroes in New York? Gimme a break!”
Title: Life of Pi (2012)
Thoughts: I might not be much of a “believer”, but I still enjoyed the hell out of Life of Pi despite its preachy nature. Far be it from me to reject a beautiful looking film simply because it preaches a bit. Everything else that comes with the film is amazing, particularly the visuals that director Ang Lee conjures up, so much color, such beauty and depth. And you know what, even though it preaches a bit about believing in God, it also asks many questions about God through the character of Pi. Plus, Pi displays a certain love and wonderment for nature and the universe that I immediately warmed up to the character because of this. This is a film that’s best enjoyed in 3-D, so if you still have a chance to see it that way don’t let it slip you by, this movie is as good as 3-D gets. It’s kind of like Avatar in that it pushes what can be done with 3-D to its limits.
Quote: “Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it has been tested”
Title: Looper (2012)
Thoughts: Looper was the surprise hit of the year, like some of the best films, it came out of nowhere and critics and audience raved alike, this was a rare thing: an original sci-fi flick with brains! It wasn’t based on no books, it wasn’t a sequel, it wasn’t a remake it was just original and I dug that about it. Sure it's got similarities to Back to the Future and The Terminator, but it has enough originality in it that it becomes its own thing. This time travel movie concerns a group of individuals who call themselves Loopers, they kill people sent to them from the future by their employers. Who are these people they kill? And why are they killing them? Loopers don't care, they just want to get paid. This film comes to us from director Ryan Johnson, the guy responsible for Brick (2005) and The Brothers Bloom (2008), two films I didn’t particularly care much for, but if you ask me he completely redeemed himself with Looper, this movie rocked! Joseph Gordon Hewitt is on a roll! I caught hints of a possible sequel; could this be the first film in a series? It certainly felt like it, with all those unanswered questions and possibilities. Judging by Looper’s phenomenal Box Office intake, I think we’ll be seeing a sequel soon.
Quote: “The rule is, never let a target escape, even if that target is you”
Thoughts: There are few movies out there that distill genuine magic to them and Beasts of Southern Wild is one of them. A very strong willed little girl by the name of Hushpuppy is the character that whisks us away to her own magical world, ala The Wizard of Oz (1939) or Pans Labyrinth (2006), this is a film about a little girl who escapes the harshness of the real world by escaping to a fantasy world of her own creation. Though I gotta hand it to Hushpuppy, she might see fantastical creatures that are not real roaming her world, but she has no problems facing the real world as well; she has a fierceness to her that is admirable, she might be extremely young, but she faces this world head on, no matter how bad things can get. No matter how ugly the storm up ahead looks. This is a very beautiful film; director Benh Zeitlin does an admirable job of creating some truly beautiful images and pulling an amazing performance from an endearing little actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, in the role of Hushpuppy. This is a film filled with hope and love in the midst of a world being trampled by evil.
Quote: “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right”
Thoughts: Now here’s the most underrated film of 2012, Chronicle. It came out of left field for me, but when I finally got to check it out, little did I know how awesome a movie I was in for. I’m a sucker for a well made telekinesis movie, and this is one of the best ones I’ve seen in a long while. Add to that the fact that the film is heavily influenced by one of my favorite animated films ever AKIRA (1988) and you’ve got yourselves a winner. The film is told from the perspective of video cameras that the kids manipulate with the power of their mind and cameras found around the city where the events take place in; so at one given moment we get images from security cameras and so forth. The ending of the film is a full blast telekinesis fight the likes of which you have never seen. It makes you wonder what an Akira movie might end up looking like and why they are finding it so impossible to make. Highly recommend this underrated film!
Quote: “A lion does not feel guilty when it eats a gazelle, you do not feel guilty when you squash a fly, I think that means something”
Title: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Thoughts: Yet another underrated one in my opinion. I actually didn’t even bother with this one, because for some reason mixing Abraham Lincoln with zombies wasn’t all that appealing to me. But then I actually aw the movie and damn, it blew me away. I should’ve known better, it comes to use from Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, a.k.a. the guy who directed Nightwatch (2004), Daywatch (2006) and Wanted (2008). Though I’m not a huge of Nightwatch or Daywatch , Wanted was awesome in my book. There’s no denying this director has a knack for interesting camera angles, interesting use of computer effects and stylish visuals. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter excels in these departments, one jaw dropping scene involves Abe Lincoln chasing a vampire through a stampede of horses; wow, that scene is really something, made me wish I’d seen it 3-D. There’s an awesome climax, but I’m not gonna spoil it for you, my advice is go rent/buy this one, If you like your movies filled with style and atmosphere, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Without a doubt, to me this was the best horror film of 2012. Plus, seeing Lincoln chopping off vampires heads in slow mo is just a completely nutty visual, so off the wall it’s entertaining.
Quote: “History remembers the battle, but forgets the blood. However history remembers me before I was President, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth…”
Title: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Thoughts: Wes Anderson films all have this similar look and feel to them. One look at a Wes Anderson film and you’ll immediately identify it as such. It’s something about the colors, the art direction and the way characters talk and behave that achieve this signature Anderson feel, so in that sense, if you’ve seen The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) or Rushmore (1998), with Moonrise Kingdom you’ll feel like your revisiting Andersons unique cinematic universe. On Moonrise Kingdom we meet Sam and Suzy, two twelve year olds who’ve fallen madly in love. Neither one of them loves society all that much, so they run away to a secluded beach and share things they enjoy, like their favorite music, their favorite books and a kiss or two. Problem is that their disappearance causes uproar in their home town and so their parents and the local police and boy scout camp go on a search for them. Meanwhile, they are happy as can be sharing their admiration for each other and just chilling the hell out. The film is populated by an amazing cast of characters, we get some Wes Anderson regulars like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, and a whole bunch of actors that have never worked with Anderson like Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. I thought it was so interesting that the young actors who play Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) are two complete newcomers to the film industry who added freshness to the proceedings with their great performances. Highly recommend this sweet coming of age film where young love arises and decides to give their back to the crazy world they live in.
Quote: “We’re in love; we just want to be together, what’s wrong with that?”
Title: The Hobbit (2012)
Thoughts: Watching The Hobbit is like going right back to that Middle Earth that Peter Jackson brought through life with his first three Lord of the Rings films. On this first installment of the new trilogy, we meet a younger Bilbo Baggins as he embarks on an adventure with 13 dwarves and the wizard Gandalf. Their goal is to free the Kingdom of Erebor from the deadly, fire breathing dragon called ‘Smaug.’ Along their travels through Middle Earth they meet all manner of creatures and characters. The production values for this film are of the highest caliber, make up effects, wardrobe, and visual effects are all top notch stuff, you will truly be transported to Middle Earth for two and a half hours. That’s right, the film is long, but if you’re a lover of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien or fantasy in general, you won’t even feel them.
Quote: “Home is now behind you, the world is ahead!”
Title: Les Miserables (2012)
Thoughts: You guys might not know it, but I love musicals! And this particular one based on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is an event of a musical. It’s not just some silly happy go lucky musical you might forget as soon as you leave the theater (like Rock of Ages for example) nope, Les Miserables is one epic sized musical with fantastic production values and an amazing cast who by the way truly did sing every song right there on the set, none of the songs where pre-recorded. In other words, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are not dubbing their songs, when they sing, that’s how it really sounded when they were acting the scenes in front of the camera; as a result all the little nuances of their performances shine through more intensely. Anne Hathaway in particular sings a song that really got to me, it’s a song about poverty and how sad life is during harsh, poverty filled days. I literally heard the whole theater weeping after she was finished with her sad song. And the whole musical is this way, it’s a very touching film that makes you feel empathy for the less fortunate, it’s a film that truly explores the sadness of poverty and how it angers a nation, but it also speaks of new beginnings and the art of reinventing ourselves. If you love films like Annie (1982) or Oliver! (1968), two films that are also about orphans who are rescued by a do gooder from the clutches of evil adoptive parents, then you’ll love Les Miserables which has a little bit of these themes in them but also adds romance and revolution into the mix. This is an epic musical not to be missed.
Quote: “I had a dream, my life would be so different from this hell I’m living in..”
Title: Prometheus (2012)
Thoughts: Out of all the films made this year, this one is at the top for me because it’s a film with lots of depth to it and a commercial film that explores philosophical views as it entertains us is not something we see a lot of these days. I liked Prometheus so much I went and wrote a special “In Depth Analysis” of it in which I explored the different themes that the film touches upon. This my friends is a film that addresses many of the big questions we often end up asking ourselves like “Where do we come from?” and “Who made us?” and if someone did in deed make us, then why did they abandon us? It explores death, and our desire to live forever a theme that Ridley Scott explored previously in Blade Runner (1984) as well. But aside from exploring these philosophical views, the film is an extremely well put together science fiction film, the visual effects are amazing; this is probably the reason why it got an Oscar nod for best visual effects. Personally, I just love how director Ridley Scott uses all these filmmaking techniques to create an intricate and complex world. And I love how while the film touches upon all of these heavy themes, it still doesn’t forget to entertain and wow us. I’m of the mind that it didn’t even need to be connected to the Aliens universe, this is a film that could have stood alone without any connections to the Alien franchise, but I’m guessing this choice was made in the name of money. Still, the fact remains that this is a spectacle of a film and without a doubt, one of the best of 2012. Here’s hoping that sequel comes along!
Quote: “Every king has his day, then he dies. It’s inevitable, that is the natural order of things.”
Title: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Thoughts: The Dark Knight Rises was a special film for me because it is a film that speaks a about problems that society suffers from right now. The rich become richer and the poor stay poor, there’s more poverty in the world. The wealth is unevenly spread and as a result, the less fortunate are suffering because of this, the cost of living is getting to high, education has reached prohibitive prices, gas prices are sky rocketing every day and the question inevitably arises “when will this ever end?”. Taking that in consideration, in The Dark Knight Rises Bane, the main villain of the film attacks the bankers of Gotham in order to bring the city to its knees, similarities to Sept 11th 2001 didn’t escape me. Bane takes the city hostage in order to “give it back to the people of Gotham”. Of course, he’s just another schmoe taking advantage of the pain of the people in order to fulfill his own agenda. Which of course lets us know that when the masses are in pain and angry, they are vulnerable and can easily be taken advantage of by opportunists. It’s a film that addresses classist issues through all of its characters, for example Bruce Wayne is stripped of his riches and is now a poor man, I loved that about it. Wayne, the multimillionaire is suddenly left on the streets, now, Mr. Wayne feels firsthand what it means to suffer poverty. Also in this film, Catwoman is a woman who struggles to survive and warns Wayne that “a storm is coming” and that when the poor decide to revolt, shit is going to hit the fan. Alluding to the idea that the economical chaos in the world can only bring forth more chaos. A brilliant film that speaks about many of the ailments that society is suffering from now an important film in my book, much like the The Dark Knight (2008) which did a similar thing, these are super hero films with a social conscience. Mr. Nolan, my hats down to you for speaking about such relevant issues with your films, and giving us a spectacle at the same time.
Quote: “There’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us”
Title: Skyfall (2012)
Thoughts: Turning Bond into a vulnerable spy as opposed to the indestructible cartoon he’d been for such a long time is something that has been attempted (in my opinion) from Die Another Day (2002) onward, but it is Skyfall that truly achieved it. They’ve gone and stripped Bond down, he is no longer in tip-top shape, he isn’t even fit to be an agent anymore! This film takes Bonds famous gadgets and vehicles and throws them out the windows. For this mission he only gets a gun, and a radio, that’s it! On this film his car doesn’t turn invisible, it’s a 1968 Aston Martin! So basically, Bond is stripped of everything that made him indestructible. This story isn’t about a villain hell bent on world domination, nope, on this one we got a villain with a more personal agenda and by the way, this is a villain wonderfully portrayed by the amazing Javier Bardem. But at the same time, what makes this one of the best Bond films ever is that it gets very personal with Bond himself, this villain goes for the jugular, for Bonds mother figure: M. It asks questions like is Bond too old to be Bond? Is M too old to direct MI-6? The answer is, old people can still kick your ass! And if that isn’t enough, everything is new in this film, a new MI-6, a new ‘Q’ a new ‘M’, this my friends is a Bond film that re-invents Bond and repackages him for a new generation.
Quote: “Dignity? To hell with dignity! I’ll retire when my goddamn job is done!”
Title: Django (2012)
Thoughts: Django Unchained is Tarantino finally making a Western, though if you ask him he’ll tell you he’s made a ‘Southern’ because the film actually takes place in the south of the united states as opposed to the west. That’s right ladies and gents this here tale takes place in Mississippi, during the time of slavery, the ku kux klan, plantations and ‘Mandingo fighting’. Django Unchained is the story of Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter who partners up with a slave named Django so he can capture a trio of murderers. After doing so, Schultz decides to help Django save his wife from the clutches of a slaver known as Calvin Candie, played by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio who by the way turns in a very entertaining performance as the main villain. Interesting how the Academy chose to ignore DiCaprio’s performance this year. Django Unchained was nominated for various awards but nothing for DiCaprio whose performance in Django stands out for its charisma and intensity, but whatever, who understands the Academy right? Still, this Tarantino outing garnered five Academy Award Nominations for best film of the year, best supporting actor, best original screenplay, best cinematography and sound. I’m glad that at least Christophe Waltz’s performance was noticed because his character is a true delight. This film, as are many of Tarantino’s films is a fun time at the movies, it’s bloody, it’s filled with entertaining characters, it has that special brand of Tarantino dialog which is a delight to listen to, it has an amazing cast who turn in equally amazing performances and it aims its guns at racism, what’s not to like? It gets my vote for film of the year, go see it!
Quote: “Django, the ‘D’ is silent”