We occasionally like to do a best of list and let you in on the tastes and viewing habits of us Turtles. This time it’s Stuart giving a run down of his favourite films that were released (in the UK) in 2012. In no particular order…
TOP 10 FILMS OF 2012
Before I start I should make clear two things: I enjoy watching films in the cinema, it’s very rare that I dislike a film so many other films could have made this list. Secondly, it’s difficult to see any films that don’t get a wide release because of where I live. That means I have to wait for the DVD to watch some films and I will often choose to go and watch a potentially substandard film at the cinema instead of watching a DVD at home. I just really like sitting in a cinema.
Moonrise Kingdom is a delicate and otherworldly film by Wes Anderson. Set on a New England island it is set in a heightened reality where very human characters exist and struggle. It tells the story of young love attempting to blossom whilst adults struggle to deal with the disappointments and stresses of their lives. It’s funny, evocative and touchingly mature about the portrayal of the physical and emotional awakening of the extraordinary, teenage leads.
One of the best science fiction films in recent memory: as effective and visionary as The Matrix, as cerebral and thrilling as Twelve Monkeys and as complete and confident as Moon. The nuance of the universe created, along with the economy of exposition means that you can enjoy a film that was sold as an all-action thriller but is really a morality tale about love, consequences and the significance of good parenting. It also has one of the most shocking moments of 2012 and four superb lead performances.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
The most anticipated film of the year and the potential to create the most perfect, supreme and challenging superhero trilogy ever made. Including this film I will confidently assert that Christopher Nolan has not made a single mis-step in his career. I was left stunned and devastated after my first watch, the second allowed me to revel in the glory of the visuals and the sheer audacity of the storytelling. When I discovered there were people who didn’t like it (people who I like and thought had good taste) I was at a loss as to why. In answer to a few problems that people have had with it: he’s Bruce Wayne, of course he could traverse the world if he needed to, yeah that type of machine is explained well enough and looks real enough that it probably is possible, I could understand every word he said, it’s a comic book movie, the stock exchange scene didn’t start at lunchtime, grow up, the autopilot is explained enough.
21 JUMP STREET
I saw 21 Jump Street whilst on holiday and was looking for something to pass the time for two hours. I’d never seen the original series, didn’t know anything about Channing Tatum and had been slightly annoyed by some Jonah Hill performances in the past. I laughed the whole way through, it balanced action with humour cleverly subverted the classic high-school jock/nerd stereotypes. It even had a funny “ooh, they’ve taken drugs and the world is now viewed differently” sequence.
END OF WATCH
A film about characters, featuring long, static shots of two best friends teasing, opening up and generally making you hope that the dangerous streets of LA don’t get the better of them? A cop movie that’s less about the criminals and more about the personal lives of two good men and the families they go home to? Yes, it’s those things. It’s brilliant and has superb performances from the entire cast.
I got to see this film in an empty cinema (save for my sister (we’d gone together, it wasn’t serendipity)) and was delighted to be able to appreciate it in all its glory, without dealing with those irritating people who often go to the cinema at the same time as me. Stop-frame animation is rarely used for feature films and such films rarely make much money. This year there were a few released and this was, by far, the highest grossing – taking around $100 million worldwide. With a production budget of $60 million and a marketing budget thrown in it’s unlikely that much profit was made. Which is a shame because Hotel Transylvania (a computer generated animation) took over $300 million worldwide. The reason for this diversion into the economics of differing animations is that it’s a great shame that ParaNorman wasn’t more celebrated: it’s a clever, scary and exquisitely made film that does that rare thing of being a children’s film that will be appreciated by adults in a different but just as fulfilling way. The film opens with a spoof of a zombie movie, has a gay main character not to make a plot point or an issue of it but just because some people are gay and that shouldn’t be an issue, and has dead bodies and zombies and a haunting musical score. I loved it.
The trailers for this film really sold the wrong film, but, like Looper, it did so for the best reasons: to get audiences who want thrills and violence to buy tickets to see slow-paced contemplative films. Given Neeson’s twilight reinvention as an action hero it was inevitable that it would get marketed as another in his canon; earning the film the pseudonym “Liam Neeson: Wolf Puncher”. The truth is that the film is melancholic, oppressive and very dark. The film opens with a suicidal Neeson working in darkest Alaska, protecting oil workers from wolf attack, the plane crash that follows is brutal and distressing, the 90 minutes of attempting to survive is completely enthralling. The criticisms of the portrayal of wolves are irrelevant, they are the macguffin to push the survivors to their very limits and it’s a shame that the film was so overlooked by most.
It’s The Muppets, they’re back, they’re singing, they’re dancing, they’re cleaning up theatres through the power of montage. The sad thing is that most people knew from the second it was announced whether they would go and see this film: to some the return of Kermit and the gang was the best news ever, to some it was just a load of puppets. The reason that’s sad is because some people missed out on seeing a funny and cute movie with great songs and Chris Cooper rapping. My only disappointment was the marginal screen time of Pepe, the shrimp. I mean King Prawn.
The fact that I first became acquainted with Bradley Cooper through his performances as the geeky friend of ass-kicking Sydney Bristow in Alias meant that I knew he had it in himself to play someone other than an arrogant alpha male. It was a delight to see him do that, to see Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro as troubled parents and even Chris Tucker play an interesting, funny minor character. It’s been well discussed how good Jennifer Lawrence is because it’s completely true, she is superb. The story is classic romantic comedy but it manages to elevate above with smart characters, great dialogue and all those excellent performances.
Ben Affleck has quietly built a formidable career as a director and his latest, based on the true story of an absurd and unlikely rescue mission to revolutionary Iran, may well be his best yet. He directs the film with great style but without showing off, fusing newsreel style footage with claustrophobic close ups of the to-be-rescued and wide, bright angles of the rescuers developing their plan. The pressure is expertly cranked up, building to scenes of pure, white knuckle tension as the unlikely group spin a tale far more unlikely that anything Hollywood would come up with. As a fan of films such as The Parallax View it was a real joy to see a classic 70s style thriller up on the screen again.
Casa de Mi Padre (joyous Will Ferrell return to form, completely in Spanish), Jack Reacher (unexpected, menacing and with a great car chase), The Bourne Legacy (thrilling, worthy “sidequel” with a brilliantly chilling laboratory massacre scene), The Raid (brilliant throwback to classic action films), The Master (stunning performances, beautifully shot), Young Adult (funny and very touching), Chronicle (Seattle-set, found footage movie about teenagers becoming superheroes).
HAVEN’T SEEN YET BUT IMAGINE WOULD BE IN TOP FILMS
Berberian Sound Studio, Headhunters, Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Innkeepers, Sightseers, Searching for Sugar Man.
DON’T COUNT AS WEREN’T RELEASED IN 2012 IN THE UK:
Lincoln, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty.
WORST FILMS OF 2012:
Chernobyl Diaries is the only film I didn’t enjoy.
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