Best of 2012

Reel Review Roundup’s Best of 2012

I had not realised how many films I had seen this year and how many were terrific until I tasked myself with creating a best of list. Guys, this list was hard. I had so many great films to choose from (two film festivals in one year grants access to so many gems) that I agonised over this list and briefly considered blowing it out to a top 20 list. Also, this list was dominated by enough documentaries that I could conceivably have made a separate top 10 documentaries list. But that would mean extra work and I am on holidays here. I had to make several tough decisions to make cuts to this list, these are the ones that survived the carnage.

Top 10:

10) The Words – Not popular with critics, or audiences, this tale of a struggling writer who finds an old manuscript, publishes it as his own and becomes a worldwide sensation drew me in with its take on the lead character’s moral dilemma. Finally, a film that takes its time making the characters’ initial decision as real and believable as possible. Three storylines from different times were seamlessly edited together, all equally gripping. Bradley Cooper at his (so far) best.

9) The Grey – The year’s most white-knuckle thriller that tackled faith and fate. A bunch of men who survive a plane crash but must battle the elements of the Alaskan wilderness and a pack of territorial wolves struggle with the question of why they are being put to this ultimate test of survival. While the dialogue isn’t the most subtle when exploring  the themes (no need to spell it out, we do get it), this is more substance than one usually is faced with when watching a thriller.

8) Prometheus – While others loathed the characters’ supposed dumb decisions, clunky dialogue and barely-there links to the Alien franchise, I was drawn to its astounding ideas and themes of creation and the relationship between creators and their creations. Sure, that final third is a doozy – what we learnt from Prometheus is that you cannot have your heroine running around post-surgery with a severed head. It just does not work. Audience members also bemoaned the lack of answers to so many questions asked. My favourite part was using my brain to try and come up with my own interpretations.

7) The Avengers – After not enjoying the slew of films that were leading up to this point in which a collection of superheroes join together to fight evil, imagine my pleasant surprise when this witty and thrilling action film blew its predecessors out of the water. Others have tried and failed to give pathos to action films, juggle several characters and have each one just as important and fleshed out as the others and also pander to fanboys but also appeal to new audiences. Joss Whedon actually did it.

6) The Intouchables – Another film about the disabled, The Intouchables has a more standard, conventional plot – grumpy, middle-aged paraplegic befriends rough, former criminal from the wrong side of the tracks. But there is more realism to this story than the seemingly Hollywood cookie cutter plot suggests. The emotions are genuine, the actors are sensational together and the script is hilarious. The ultimate feel-good film.

5) Starbuck – This is how you make a film about alternate, modern families. Not Suitable For Children and Friends With Kids (both on my worst list) tried and failed by taking obnoxious, selfish characters who never wanted children, turn to their best friend of the opposite sex and go “Hey let’s make a baby.” Starbuck looks at family values in a new, refreshing, charming and heartfelt light. Again the character is selfish (it is necessary for him to grow), but not irredeemably so (an important key). If you are not sitting in a puddle of your own tears by the end you are made of stone.

4) Looper – A science fiction that makes you think but doesn’t leave you confused, that borrows ideas from other films but reinterprets them and makes them its own, and doesn’t forget one of the most important parts – the characters. Looper manages to be thoughtful, tender, thrilling but most importantly complex and challenging, without being alienating – what more could you ask for?

3) The Sessions – a surprisingly candid and frank look at the taboo topic of how disabled people have sex and how they deal with their sexuality. Heavy on laughs – this isn’t an out and out depressing look at the struggles of the disabled – and humanity, this is about people discovering each other, and is not just aimed at those that are wheel chair bound. Hawkes gives a warm and mostly horizontal performance but his trepidation about hiring a sex therapist makes the character real.

2) Margaret – long, messy (due to infamous post production issues) and challenging but most of all, gripping. From the astounding opening scene in which Alison Janney is hit by a bus that kicks this epic story of a bratty teenager’s journey into action, to the final moments, this story has you. The teenager in question, Lisa, is obnoxious, self righteous and lost. Her story and the actions she does is often confusing, nonsensical and also right on the money. And Anna Paquin balances all facets of this complex, multi layered character with aplomb. This 150 minute version was the hacked one the studio wanted released. I haven’t seen the 186 minute version yet, but i cannot wait.

1) The Imposter – Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. An absolute stunner. The kind of documentary that the saying “truth is stranger than fiction” is made for. A teenage Texan goes missing then seemingly resurfaces three years later in Spain. But that’s not the end of this jaw droppingly fascinating story that has more twists and “no freaking way!” moments than a season of a daytime soap opera. And just remember – this actually happened.

imposter1

Honourable mentions:

Hugo

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present

Carnage

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Undefeated

The Interruptors

The Dark Knight Rises

Your Sister’s Sister

The Color Wheel

Shame

Arbitrage

Killing them Softly

Argo

Skyfall

The Raid

Killer Joe

Beauty Is Embarrassing

Weekend

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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4 Responses to “Best of 2012”

  1. I love a list that defies consensus.

    Prometheus wasn’t to my liking but I applaud your devotion. I’m a John Carter backer so I feel your pain and isolation 🙂

    Bring on 2013!

  2. Awesome list Julian! Prometheus almost makes my Top 10 too 🙂 Intouchables I have 6th as well.

    Might check out The Words!

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