My irritation with our collective fetishization of list-making stems partly because I share this fascination to a pretty strong degree. It’s an obsessive-compulsive, neurotic impulse that allows me to indulge in some deep Freudian desire for hierarchically ordering all the phenomena in one of the only areas of my life where that’s possible. Not particularly helpful for me on a psychological level, but more importantly, I don’t think it’s helpful in assessing and thinking about films to insist on concretely attaching them to some superlative or other—best, worst, weirdest, etc. The way I view a film at the time will be different from the next time, and there is no ultimate, objective determining criteria that can be used to judge a single film. Even more so, the off-the-cuff, jocular tone that I’ve embraced with this blog forestalls any kind of truly insightful, sober analysis. That being said, I’m going to do this anyway, because I’ve watched over 125 films/miniseries/tv series in the year 2012 (not counting the ones before this blog’s inception on January 30, or the ones I merely re-watched), and I want to take stock of what I’ve seen in some meager way.
Links to my initial reviews are hyperlinked to each title.
FILMS ACTUALLY RELEASED IN 2012
Moonrise Kingdom: What a great little movie. I think with this film, Anderson is sort of perfecting what he does in his chosen vernacular, and also pushing the boundaries of it. This is in some ways his most dangerous movie, as he skirts some pretty dicey boundaries of what can be funny—pain, violence, depression, not to mention adolescent sexuality, which, as I mentioned in the review, is a topic I’d think is generally too uncomfortable for us puritanical North Americans. But in this movie, all of it is treated so gently, so carefully, that any skepticism in that regard can be safely put to bed. Anderson here has created a really sincere ode to childhood and its painful extinction, as well as a genuinely hilarious set of characters, dialogue, and situations. His moments are absolutely delightful to watch, and this movie is full of those moments, perhaps more than any other. Those two lead kids—Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward—deserve all the praise in the world, because without them, this movie wouldn’t have half the heart that it needed to stay afloat. But, as it turns out, it got it, and it’s a great movie.
The Paperboy: This is still fresh in my memory as a really compelling, mature, modern pulp thriller. I thought at the time that, being surrounded in the theaters by tons of ultra-mega-movie Oscar bait, it would pretty much pass unnoticed, and unfortunately I think I was right. Check this movie out!
The Master: I put this movie this high on the list out of fear of dating myself, because the first time I saw it, I can honestly say I didn’t “get it” really. Either that, or I got it and wasn’t as impressed as I’m supposed to be. I do really admire PTA and I’ll definitely give it a fair crack and watch it again. I obviously agree that it’s a visually stunning eyefeast, and the characters are compelling, but I guess I was hoping for some kind of thesis, some kind of position for the film to take. If I don’t find it, that might be my own fault—I get that—and so I do include this one pretty high on the list. Who knows? This might be my favourite film a year from now.
Looper: This was a really enjoyable movie. Pretty much everything I have to say about it is in the original review. Jeff Daniels!
Skyfall: I actually saw this in theaters a second time, but I’m not sure if it’s changed my opinion much. If anything, I can see more clearly just how obvious and unsubtle and conservative it is. I’m not sure how much of a 180-degree turn this actually is—a generation from now, kids might think Skyfall is just as tacky and overdone as Octopussy. But, again, thanks to Roger Deakins, it’s one of the most beautiful action movies ever made, and I’d watch it 100 times just for those Scots shots at the end.
The Grey: This movie really got me fired up on Liam Neeson, but I have yet to really follow through on that particular fascination. I missed Taken 2 (although I’ll be getting to Taken 1 pretty quick here). If you like direct, bare man-vs-nature movies, watch this. If you don’t, don’t.
The Dark Knight Rises: I re-watched this too, simply because I was pretty confused by it the first time around. I mean, I liked it: it was compelling, it had some great, memorable shots, it had some great acting (for a superhero movie). It was possibly the best way that a Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan could have ended. But it still strikes me as maybe an example of why superhero movies don’t always have to be as grave (and operatic and life-and-death and full of poignant social commentary) as these movies have now demanded the genre be from now on. It got me thinking “Hey—maybe Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze wasn’t so bad after all.” If there is a social commentary in there, it exists more in the form of markers and gestures rather than a cohesive position. And also, it’s a guy in a bat costume with a funny voice—how serious do we really need to get?
Argo: I just saw this not long ago, so my opinion hasn’t really changed. Perfectly good movie, go see it with the whole family, swears and all. I maintain right now that it’s one of the least offensive depictions of the Middle East in recent memory, and considering that Iran is the new cartoon supervillain of the media now that Iraq has fallen and Bin Laden is dead, it’s downright liberal of this movie not to go out of its way to depict them as unreasonable savages, foaming at the mouth for American blood. In that sense, it’s a pretty damn impressive movie.
The Avengers: I saw a list somewhere naming this as the most overrated film of 2012, and I only disagree to the extent that I didn’t really expect it to be that good. It is what it is, no more, no less.
Prometheus: This might have got shit on, but I think it at least merits a re-watch, if only for the cast. What drew me in to begin with was seeing Fassbender, Rapace, Theron, Pearce, and Elba all in the same movie. For that reason alone, I’m willing to give this one a second chance. But I understand why people hated it. Maybe it is a pretty bad film.
And in no particular order…
PERSONAL FAVOURITES FROM THE LAST 12 MONTHS: (Not necessarily films that I objectively assessed to be the best examples of film art, but films that were fun to watch, which I’m likely to re-watch)
ACTUALLY “GOOD” FILMS I SAW IN 2012
(Films that, to the best of my better reckoning, are actually of pretty high quality)
FUN MOVIES I SAW IN 2012
(Maybe not necessarily the best films ever made, but damn fun to watch)
FILMS I REALLY DIDN’T DIG IN 2012 (Films I thought were actually kind of crappy and unenjoyable)