2012 was a terrific year at the movies. 2010 and 2011 both felt a little underwhelming at the time. There was some good work, to be sure, but the amount of work that felt new or exciting was less and less. However, this last year felt like an embarrassment of riches at times. Good stuff was coming out every week, and a lot of it had real merit. Below is my list of top 10 films for 2012.
Please keep in mind that I haven’t seen everything. For instance, Zero Dark Thirty isn’t even out here in the Seattle area yet, and from what I understand it’s a front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar. Also, I haven’t been able to see Argo or Life of Pi, and based on what I’ve heard, either one of those could easily make it onto this list for me. Not to mention other good things that I WILL get around to seeing, including We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Grey, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Goon, The Raid: Redemption, Killer Joe, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looper, Silver Linings Playbook, The Sessions, Seven Psychopaths, Compliance, and Arbitrage (see what a good year this was that even the stuff I didn’t get to see yet looks really good?).
As far as box office grosses go, Skyfall has turned into the most successful James Bond movie of all time. The fact that it is among the most personal and emotional Bond movies to date just goes to show that, even with hot women, death-defying stunts, a hit theme song, and big explosions, audiences still want characters to whom they can connect. Daniel Craig once again proves himself admirably as THE actor to play Bond. All of the bac-story with Judi Dench’s M and learning of Bond’s childhood gave a real personal connection. One of the best supporting casts for a Bond movie ever, with Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and Ben Whishaw, was very welcome. And Javier Bardem as the villainous Silva will go down as one of this year’s great baddies. Whether he is playfully hitting on Bond himself or taking his own jaw out to reveal his mangled visage, Bardem simply walks away with every scene he’s in. A really top-notch action movie.
9. Liberal Arts
Josh Radnor wrote and directed this ode to pining away for your college years, and the results are wistful. Playing one of those academics who never really escaped campus life and became a professional student, Radnor is Jesse Fisher, who is called back to his undergrad campus to help send off his retiring scholastic mentor. He starts a flirtatious but genuine friendship with a bright 19-year-old played by Elizabeth Olsen. It’s nice to see a film that tries to seriously deal with a significant age gap in a potential romance. They are both right and wrong for each other. And it’s no one’s fault; it’s just a function of how mature people are at different stages in life. Supporting players Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney are both phenomenal as teachers who are decades into their careers. Very well acted, sweet, and funny.
Simply the biggest, most pleasant surprise of the year. I still won’t spoil it for anyone. Just watch it. It’s a horror movie, but not in the way you expect. It’s VERY funny; it’s scary; it’s got a lot of blood and slaughter; it’s got a little nudity; it’s got scares. And if you still haven’t seen it, you need to. Seeing this in a receptive theater was the only time in memory that I’ve heard people jump because of the opening credits. Director Drew Goddard has made a big fat love letter to all the things people love about horror movies.