Year in Review
The Best Films of 2012

It’s been a long time (since the dueling neo-westerns on 2007, at least) since we’ve had such a rich selection of films in one year. 2012 delivered on blockbusters, it delivered on indies, but most importantly it delivered high concept. From the intertwined timelines of Cloud Atlas to the moebius strip that was Looper to the parlor-room politics of Lincoln it suddenly became okay again for movies to be about ideas. Even if those ideas didn’t always pay off (we can talk at length about whether any of those films, ultimately, deliver on their promise), it was still exhilarating to find films unafraid to swing for the fences.

This list, a tally of votes from staff, contributors, and fans, is a reflection of the ideas that moved us this past year. (It’s worth noting that the number one film took this in a landslide, winning double the votes of the film in second place.)

10.) Silver Linings Playbook

Early on, Bradley Cooper tells his therapist that he’s spent his whole life undiagnosed as a manic depressive and had thus had to “white-knuckle” it his whole life. That was the key to the movie’s draw, for me. How many of us have felt that way at some point?  What happens when you can’t hold on anymore? I was with the character the entire time because of that one fearful and yet resigned line-delivery from Cooper. Waiting for him to “let go” was scarier than any horror movie.

-Ryan Roach, Film Editor

9.) The Cabin in the Woods

A great, original story that can function both as a straightforward fantastical tale about gods and monsters and the humans caught in between, or as a loving critique of lazy horror movies and a call to arms to make better ones, even if refusing to adhere to formula might make the gods angry. It also features one of the most energetic and surprising third acts of the year.

-Ryan Roach, Film Editor

8.) Brave

A gorgeously animated movie about a strong-willed young Scottish girl who disobeys her family. This leads to her father being hobbled in a bloody nature-based attack, her mother is turned literally into a black bear, and her three moronic twin brothers quickly follow into lycanthropy.  The family is very nearly destroyed.  The moral of the story was either that people can overcome any adversity if they truly believe in themselves and fight the good fight, or possibly it was that everyone would have been alright if she’s just done what she was fucking told.

-Michael Patrick Duggan, staff writer

7.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

There seem to be two basic opinions on Peter Jackson’s latest foray into Middle-Earth – people either enjoy the Hobbit for what it is, or are angry that it even exists. The announcement that J.R.R. Tolkien’s 310-page children’s novel would be expanded into an epic nine-hour trilogy in the style of Jackson’s adaptation of the “actually an epic-trilogy” Lord of the Rings novels was seen as a cynical cash-grab. And it is, just as when JK Rowling’s plodding final Harry Potter installment was split into Harry Potter Slow Dances in the Woods and Harry Potter Watches Lots of People Die. But now that the first of the Hobbit trilogy is here, it’s time to accept it on its own merits, for what it is rather than what we fear it might be. It’s an entertaining, adventurous movie, which sets up an epic storyline destined to pay off in the final installment, while allowing us a chance to gawk at glorious New Zealand landscapes and expertly rendered special effects. You know, just like The Fellowship of the Ring twelve years ago.

-Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

6.) The Master

So much has been written about The Master that it feels pointless for me to once again sing its praises. Instead, let me tell you why you should see it. I’ve been surprised at how many people have said to me, “I heard it’s great but it just doesn’t seem like my thing.” Now there’s no denying that The Master will be a divisive film but it is impossible to judge what you will think of it from commercials, trailers, or even reviews. Seeing the film is a twofold experience: on the one hand, you have your normal experience of watching and judging a film, but in this case you also have the added experience of coming away with your own sense of the characters. Director Paul Thomas Anderson gives us a set of players that are almost impossibly real while at the same time almost completely unknowable. Your opinion of Joaquin Phoenix’s character will no doubt be different, perhaps radically different, from mine and my opinion is, in turn, completely different from someone else’s. That’s not something most films offer and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by sitting this one out.

-Donald McCarthy, staff writer

5.) Prometheus

A gripping (if unnecessary) prequel to the Alien franchise starring the super-sexy Charlize Theron, the equally super-sexy Michael Fassbender, and several people who are also probably very sexy.  The big thing about this film is that it answered some critical questions about the Aliens… while also raising new questions that might afford 20th Century Fox an opportunity to answer in the future, while also making an enormous fortune.  That said, I figured it all out back in 1997 when they came out with the Alien Resurrection movie and Sigourney Weaver had to kill her hybrid alien baby by using her own acidic blood to burn a hole through a view-pane, violently sucking it through the tiny hole into space while simultaneously grinding it up into hybrid alien baby space pudding.  At that time, I turned to my movie-watching companion and said, “clearly, the aliens were just a secret weapon designed by an alien master race bent on the complete domination of the universe.”  To which my companion replied, “I bet that humanity was also created by the same alien master race, and that’s why Sigourney Weaver can have alien babies. But I guess we’ll never really know.”   Alas, we do know.

-Michael Patrick Duggan, staff writer

4.) Safety Not Guaranteed

There will always be a warm spot in my heart for a story of two loners who find their perfect partner in an unlikely place. Safety Not Guaranteed sells itself as a high-concept story of a man on a mission to go back in time (based on a real personal ad placed as a joke by a bored editor), but ends up–as all good stories do–more about people searching for magic in the banal. Aubrey Plaza brings a surprising openness to her performance (proving she can do more than play “sarcastic bitch”), and is well matched by the soulfulness of Mark Duplass as a man out-of-joint with time.

-Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

3.) The Dark Knight Rises

As much fun as The Avengers was, it seems quite childish and silly compared to Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece of a final touch on the Batman franchise. One of the harshest, darkest mainstream films in recent memory, The Dark Knight Rises sets the bar impossibly high. Not just in terms of superhero movies, but in terms of great cinema, period. Can you imagine if they had made this movie with Michael Keaton?

-Gabriel Ricard, staff writer

2.) The Avengers

Blockbusters are supposed to be this fun, but they’re not supposed to be this good. Marvel’s herculean task, combining the very different story threads and personalities of their four superhero franchises into one cohesive storyline, was destined for success the minute they announced Joss Whedon would be helming the project. A master of character and plotting, and a hardcore nerd to boot, Whedon was exactly the right man for the job. His capable guidance made the team’s internal battles more compelling than whatever it was they were battling against (aliens, right? I think it was aliens).

-Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

1.) Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is my favorite love story because it’s about kids that just cannot be fucking stopped. Kids. At war, with the adult world trying to stop them. That’s my life.

-Bud Smith, writer

LISTS OF NOTE

Ryan Roach, Film Editor

1.) Silver Linings Playbook
2.) Life of Pi
3.) Zero Dark Thirty
4.) Moonrise Kingdom
5.) The Dark Knight Rises
6.) The Imposter
7.) Django Unchained
8.) The Cabin in the Woods
9.) The Master
10.) Looper

Gabriel Ricard, Staff Writer

1.) Moonrise Kingdom
2.) The Dark Knight Rises
3.) We Need to Talk About Kevin
4.) Django Unchained
5.) Skyfall
6.) Hyde Park on Hudson
7.) Argo
8.) The Avengers
9.) Lincoln
10.) Prometheus

Tanya Bryan, poet/writer
(Documentaries only)

1.) Samsara
2.) The Island President
3.) The City Dark
4.) Beauty is Embarrassing
5.) The Search for Sugar Man
6.) Ping Pong
7.) Marley
8.) Kumare
9.) The World Before Her
10.) This Space Available

Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

1.) Safety Not Guaranteed
2.) The Avengers
3.) Sleepwalk with Me
4.) Cloud Atlas
5.) Django Unchained
6.) Looper
7.) The Cabin in the Woods
8.) Zero Dark Thirty
9.) The Queen of Versailles
10.) The Hobbit