square-eyed-geek’s Top Ten Best Films of 2012

This year’s 2012 list will be missing a few notable films that are most definitely going to be included on other people’s lists. Unfortunately life got in the way for me this year so there’s been a few that I’ve been unable to see (Argo, The Master, Rust and Bone) which would probably be in this top ten had I seen them. I hang my head in shame. That being said, I’ve done my best to list the ones I have seen and thought were the best (and even if I had seen some of those missing films, I doubt my top 5 would change). I’ve also included films RELEASED THIS YEAR, so films such as The Artist, while being in other people’s top ten best films of last year, are included here (as it was released in the UK in January). So without further ado, in ascending order, here’s my top ten of 2012!

10: The Dark Knight Rises

This third and last film in the Batman trilogy could have been a huge disappointment for fans. Luckily the film was in more than capable hands with director Christopher Nolan who delivered the darkest and most thrilling film of the series. Christian Bale is, as usual, amazing as Bruce Wayne/Batman. However new additions Anne Hathaway (as Catwoman) and Tom Hardy (as Bane) nearly eclipse him and everyone else onscreen creating their own versions of characters previously seen in other Batman films. It takes a while to get going with a boring first half (mostly for scenes in which Bane and Catwoman are absent), but once it really kicks in, The Dark Knight Rises rarely stops for a breath with plenty of action scenes and an iconic ending to nicely round off the trilogy.

9: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Although this has just been released, it’s already in my top ten of this year. Yes it’s flipping ridiculously long in parts and certain inclusions, while they create a satisfactory story, do leave you wondering why they’ve been added… But still Peter Jackson has managed to pull it off yet again and create a great start to a new trilogy. The dwarves are all excellent, in particular Richard Armitage as their serious/grumpy leader Thorin Oakenshield, but the film really belongs to Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo Baggins, providing comic relief throughout the film as the nervous Hobbit, while also being able to play serious when he needs to. The design throughout is rich and detailed, New Zealand again being used to create a beautiful Middle-earth, and the action set pieces are thrilling and expertly directed by Jackson. More importantly it leaves you eager to see the next two films of the trilogy (and I’m intrigued to see just how they ARE going to split this into three films). (Full review still to come!).

8: Shame

Artist turned director Steve McQueen creates a visually poetic drama about a man in New York struggling with a sexual addiction. Michael Fassbender bares all and was robbed of an Oscar nomination for his amazing turn as said man trying to get his life back together, while coping with the return of his wayward sister (Carey Mulligan, also excellent) and trying to hide his true self at the same time. Fassbender shows Brandon as a conflicted soul, making you feel sympathetic towards him, rather than view him as a sleazy individual. The numerous sex scenes throughout are sometimes difficult to watch as they feel so intrusive and realistic, but McQueen expertly uses them to portray Brandon’s addiction and how much it encroaches on his everyday life.

7: The Artist

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo

Ok, so this was released on December the 30th in the UK last year and we’ve already had all the Oscar wins for it and so on, but I’m including it in my top ten of this year as it’s such a gem of a film (and most of us in the UK only got to see it in January). Jean Dujardin plays silent movie star George Valentin whose world is torn apart when sound starts to be introduced to pictures. But with the advent of sound new actors are discovered, including Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) who slowly climbs the ladder of stardom while Valentin struggles to keep hold. Completely silent yet entirely riveting throughout, mostly because of the Oscar-winning performance from the charismatic Dujardin and also from Bérénice Bejo (who should have won an Oscar too), as well as an amazing soundtrack and expert direction from Michel Hazanavicius. And it has THE cutest dog in the world in it (Uggie!). The Artist is a heart-warming film that is a love letter to the silent era of cinema and is absolutely beautiful to watch.

6: The Cabin in the Woods

Scary fun times from Joss Whedon with the help of director Drew Goddard and a whole load of horror clichés. A stereotypical group of teens go on a trip to a creepy cabin in the woods and things start to get weird… But whatever you think might be about to happen (and why), you’re wrong. Written by Whedon and Goddard they create a fresh, very funny gory horror that both sticks to the rules and completely turns them on their head. The ending is one of the most bizarre things you are likely to see this year (or in fact EVER). That this was stuck in distribution hell for three years is an absolute crime.

5: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s latest is a cute tale of young love and includes his regular cast of oddball characters. After a chance meeting two twelve-year-olds, Sam (a well-prepared Khaki Scout) and Suzy (a girl who fantasies about adventure), fall in love and decide to run away together to live in the woods, leaving the distraught adults searching for them. The composition throughout is astounding, Anderson creating almost symmetrical shots that look like lavish, colourful paintings, and the direction used for numerous long take scenes is expert and well-choreographed. It includes two great performances from young leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, and the eccentric and funny adult turns also make it a worthwhile watch, mostly from Edward Norton as the Khaki Scout leader and (of course) Bill Murray as Suzy’s kooky father.

4: Sightseers

Director Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace and Kill List) creates another hilariously dark film about a couple on a sightseeing tour in their caravan which takes an unexpectedly (murderous) turn. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram take on writing duties this time as well as playing the couple (Tina and Chris), creating two characters that you can’t help but like, no matter what despicable deeds they’re up to. Their script is also one of the funniest of this year, while Wheatley’s direction shows the darker side to the beautiful countryside, as well as to them. (Full review still to come!).

3: Looper

An original time travel premise involving contract killers in the past who ‘dispose’ of people sent back to them from the future (or something) and Rian Johnson’s clever script is what makes this film truly gripping. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the ‘Looper’ who is contracted to kill his future self (played by Bruce Willis) is superb, his mannerisms and performance making him really seem like the younger Willis (bit of a dodgy prosthetic nose though). Fast-paced action scenes make it even more watchable and writer/director Johnson creates something that feels truly unique and uncategorical, and that feels like it is both a Hollywood blockbuster and an indie drama at the same time.

2: Lawless

Written by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat, this is the story of the real-life bootlegging Bondurant brothers in Depression-era Franklin County during the Prohibition. The (sometimes unbearable) build-up of tension makes it gripping throughout and it is a tough watch in parts, in particular for the more intense, gory moments. Everyone in it gives some of their best performances as well, in particular Tom Hardy as Forrest, a man more of grunts than words, Shia LaBeouf as the on-the-rise younger brother, the brilliant Jessica Chastain as Maggie, a woman with more grit than many bargain for, and Guy Pearce as the creepy Agent who keeps a close eye on the brothers. Expertly written by Cave and beautifully directed by Hillcoat who makes the scenery shine and the era really come to life, this is the must watch drama of the year.

1: Avengers Assemble

Urgh, that title. Despite that, Joss Whedon’s film is my favourite of the year. I actually felt a little silly putting an action-packed superhero flick at number 1. But after careful reflection I’ve realised it definitely is not only the best film released this year, but that it also DESERVES to be the best. A film that has been five years in its build-up could have failed miserably, not only through its production, but through the heavy anticipation that was then not lived up to (which often happens to me when I’m looking forward to a film coming out). However writer and director Joss Whedon has managed to create something that actually exceeds the expectations of everyone, comic book fans and others alike. Being able to write a satisfactory story that has 4 main characters (Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor) and 4 minor, yet still very important characters (Nick Fury, Loki, Black Widow and Hawkeye) and keep a balance between all of them, is a massive achievement for Whedon. Clever writing which ties all these characters together, as well as delivering a pay-off to the 5 films before it, the inclusion of an excellent cast (especially new addition Mark Ruffalo as the new, much better version of The Hulk), and most importantly writing that delivers laughs a plenty, all add up to make this a FUN film that’s entertaining to watch. And that’s why it’s my best film of 2012.

(Those that just missed the top ten: Magic Mike, The Muppets, Ted, Anna Karenina, Haywire, The Five-Year Engagement).

And that’s it for 2012. Let me know what you think about my top 10 – anything you disagree with? Do you think something else should have been at number 1? Send me your comments! And Happy New Year to you all!

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~ by square-eyed-geek on December 31, 2012.

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