Sunday, February 17, 2013

AngryVader's favorites of 2012

Okay, I've been putting off this post for weeks!  It's time for my token 'best of 2012' list, but I'm such a rebel (scum) that this isn't actually a 'best of' list, nor is it a top ten.  This is simply a list of my 13 favorite films from 2012.  Why 13?  I like 13.  Well, and I had a hard time getting the list down from 25.  It might be even longer if I wanted to mention every film I really enjoyed this year.

Also, the films on my list aren't even films that I would necessarily consider the best of the year.  Best of lists are kind of boring when you think about it.  You generally see a lot of overlap, and how many times do you need to hear that Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, or Les Misrables are the best films of 2012 (not that I 100 percent agree with those choices anyway).  It's not very interesting if we all agreed on the same ten films.

When I think of my favorite films of the year, it's not so much about 'greatness', but more about films that I wouldn't have any problem watching again.  Zero Dark Thirty is a perfect example of this.  Sure, it's a great film, but if I'm ever compelled to watch it again, it would be just for the last 30 minutes or so.  I'd probably skip the first two hours.  The Impossible is another example of a movie that I thought was great, but I'm probably never going to watch it again.  I'm even rooting for Naomi Watts to win the Oscar for her role in it.  As good as the performances were from something like The Master, I have no desire to ever see that again either.  Many of those films will be in my honorable mention section at the end though.

There's still going to be Oscar contender overlap, but I wanted to throw some love out there to a few smaller films that you may not have heard about or didn't get a chance to see.

One of the things I noticed when going over my previous reviews was that this was a real weak year for comedies.  Most of the mainstream comedies didn't live up to the hype, or were just outright bad, and many of the films I found funny weren't pure comedies.

The good news is that a lot of these are either on DVD now or releasing in the next few weeks, so you can give them a watch and then tell me why I'm wrong.  Just about every film on this list I've seen more than once and felt they held up to repeat viewings, which helped them make the list.

In no particular order:

Robot and Frank - If you think it's an odd title for a movie, I'm in agreement with you there.  I actually thought this was a documentary about modern robots considering it starred Frank Langella as 'Frank', and the design of the robot looked like robots you see in current electronic shows.  Once I realized this was fiction, I was still surprised by it.  Set in the near future, Frank's age is catching up to him and is losing the ability to take care of himself.  Growing tired of the long drives out to his house, his kids get him a robot caretaker.  Frank doesn't like this robot at first, but finds out it's much more useful that he initially believed.  As you may have guessed, Frank eventually bonds with the robot, and we get a funny and sweet buddy movie that I loved the hell out of.

4.5 Death Stars

Argo - This is a twofer in that it's one of the best films of the year, and one I enjoyed from beginning to end.  I've actually heard complaints that it paints the US in a positive light (that's a bad thing?), or that the events were arranged in the film to create more drama than actually happened.  Do these people understand what it takes to make an entertaining movie?  Well, Ben Affleck does, which is why he's the director, and his critics aren't.  If you're upset he cast himself as the lead, especially after seeing what the real Tony Mendez really looks like, would you have liked the film more if it had starred Luis Guzman (nothing against Mr. Guzman)?  Sorry guys, but when you direct and produce a film, it's your prerogative to cast yourself in the lead.  If it's a good movie, then that's more to your credit, not the opposite.  Anyway, Argo was exciting and much more fun that I was expecting.  If you haven't seen it yet, put it at the top of your list.

5 Death Stars

Silver Linings Playbook - Let me get my other twofer out of the way.  I think one of the things I really liked about SLP was that I spent the first 20 minutes or so not really liking any of the characters, and I wasn't buying into all the hype I heard about the film, but it grew on me.  I tend to give extra points to something that can win me over after a rough start.  I also like movies subvert the tropes of their genre (it's a romantic comedy at it's heart, but until the end never feels like one).  While both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were nominated for Oscars, I was more impressed with Cooper, who I haven't always been the biggest fan of.  It's unfortunate he's up against Daniel-Day Lewis this year.  I think they dropped the ball with the Jackie Weaver nomination though.  I thought she was good, but there were more deserving performances this year.  It might have been a makeup nomination for 2010's Animal Kingdom.

4.5 Death Stars

The Avengers - I'm going with this over The Dark Knight Rises, and while I liked TDKR, I didn't think it lived up to The Dark Knight. Plus, I actually had some plot issues with TDKR that kind prevented me from enjoying it more.  The Avengers, however, is that summer film that made me feel like a kid again.  It's already an accomplishment that after four years of hype it wasn't an unwatchable mess.  Not only was it not a mess, it was one of the most fun blockbusters in years.  It was so fun that it actually kind of ruined the summer for me, because as soon I watched it, I already knew that none of the other big summer releases or superhero films were going to be able to live up to it.  I've honestly watched it five times already, and it just geeks me up for more Marvel movies.

5 Death Stars

The Cabin in the Woods - Joss Whedon had a great year.  As a lover of slasher flicks (despite my usual trashing of them), I found this to be exactly the perfect send-up of the genre.  This movie was such a pleasant surprise that I still get excited when I get a chance to recommend it to someone that still hasn't seen it yet.  Just a few weeks ago, I was able to set this up for someone that still thought it was just a standard slasher flick, and I envied that they were going to experience that same feeling I got the first time I watched it.

If you still haven't seen The Cabin in the Woods yet and you have any kind of love for horror/slasher films, then this is an absolute must see.

4.75 Death Stars

Safety Not Guaranteed - Even when I saw this back in June, I predicted it was going to make my top yen list, and here it is.  This wasn't out in the theaters very long and didn't get a lot of press, despite that it stars three actors from popular shows (The League, New Girl and Parks and Rec).  While the plot actually revolves around an attempt at time travel, it never really feels like a sci-fi film.  What works for the film is its funny dialog, interesting story, and that no character feels wasted.  This is one of the few films I can recall where they'd cut to a subplot or secondary character, and you didn't lose interest in the film or feel like the movie slowed down as a result.

4.5 Death Stars

Looper - Speaking of time travel, Looper is one of the few films about it that didn't make my head hurt thinking of paradoxes and stuff.  Director Rian Johnson did a smart thing just using time travel as a plot device, and even he said in interviews that it's best if you don't think about it too much.  It's too easy to poke holes in time travel plots if you want to be a stickler about it.  What we end up with is a sci-fi film that's more character driven, and appeals to a broader audience.  One of my favorite things about it is that without even trying, there's a better origin story for Darth Vader in Looper than there was in the Star Wars prequels.

4.5 Death Stars

Seven Psychopaths - I'm biased on this one considering my love of writer/director Martin McDonaugh, who also did In Bruges.  Both films share that same violent, offbeat style, but with Seven Psychopaths, you get even better performances (Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken are fantastic), zanier characters, and a lot of self-referential humor.  McDonaugh kind of reminds me Tarantino a little bit.  I do think this is the kind of movie that you're either going to love it, or just not be into it at all.  I loved it from beginning to end though.

5 Death Stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - If you've ever felt awkward or out of place in high school, you'll identify with this one big time.  Perks is another movie that quickly won me over when I realized that it wasn't some kind of quirky, indie film.  You don't even realize it at first, but the movie takes place in the late 80's or 90's, which just illustrates how the themes of this movie are timeless.  As good as Stephen Chbosky's story is (and his direction), the real breakout of the film is Ezra Miller's and his funny performance.  The whole cast is great though, including Logan Lerman and Emma Watson (nice to see her moving on from Harry Potter).  I think you'll be really surprised at the heart in Perks.

4.5 Death Stars

Jack Reacher - I know fans of the books have been really critical of the decision to cast Tom Cruise, with some outright refusing to see the movie, but I'm one of the few folks that was completely unaware going in that this was based off a series of books (a running theme with me).  As a result, I didn't have any hangups about the casting going in.  In fact, I was more hesitant to see Jack Reacher because it looked like a yet another disposable action flick.  The story could have been tightened up a bit, and there were a few weak parts in the plot, but overall I really enjoyed it.  I was surprised at its humor, and had way more thrills than I was expecting.

4.5 Death Stars

Ruby Sparks - While I only gave this 4 Death Stars, it's an example of a movie that has been stuck in my head since seeing it.  It's kind of haunting.  It's also another film where you shouldn't dwell too much on the how or why, but just go with the premise.  If you do, then there's a lot of fun to be had.  The biggest flaw of the film is the final scene, which really undercut what had been a realistic (and dark) look at romance and relationships.  That's probably main reason why I dropped this down a half point or so.

4 Death Stars

Moonrise Kingdom - I haven't always been the biggest Wes Anderson fan.  Sometimes I'm just not able to get into how odd his films are, or think they are too quirky.  Moonrise is one of the times where all of the cuteness is a strength, and didn't feel as forced.  If you aren't familiar with Wes Anderson, Moonrise is a great starting point.  It's basically the story of young love, but fleshed out with unusual characters, situations and dialog.  In a lot of ways it feels like a modern day fairy tale.  There are more great performances and writing here (was nominated for best original screenplay, but I think it's Tarantino's year) as well.

4.5 Death Stars

The Raid: Redemption - Sometimes you want to see something that's a little light on story, but filled with action.  That's The Raid: Redemption in a nutshell.  There are plot similarities to Dredd, but The Raid is the closest thing to a live action video game that I've seen, except that it's actually a good action film, where most video game based movies are total shit.  It's Indonesian, but don't be put off by the fact that it's subtitled.  You won't even notice due to all of the awesome action.

There's an American remake on the way (that will make for an interesting comparison), as well as a sequel, so now's a good time to catch up with The Raid: Redemption.

4 Death Stars

Here's a small list of other films I really enjoyed this year.  You should give them a shot if you haven't seen them yet.  What were some of your favorites?

Honorable Mention:  Chronicle, Magic Mike, Ted, The Sessions, Hysteria, Bernie, Haywire, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Life of Pi, The Hobbit, Django Unchained, Dredd 3D, Skyfall, Dark Knight Rises, End of Watch, Sleepwalk with Me, For a Good Time Call..., ParaNorman, Brave, The Five-Year Engagement, Goon, 21 Jump Street, The Master, Killing them Softly, Wreck-it Ralph, Flight, Sinister, Pitch Perfect, 10 Years, Celeste and Jesse Forever.


  1. Great list! I included Seven Psychopaths on my top tier list as well...and I'm glad someone likes it as much as I do! Loved it from start to finish as well.

    I didn't think Weaver's performance in SLP was spectacular, but after watching it again, I noticed her subtle expressions that were heartbreaking without her saying a word...that was memorable upon my second viewing. I agree that Cooper > Lawrence in the acting category. But for such an unlikely pair of actors to couple together, they were fantastic!

    1. Thank you! I keep pushing people to see Seven Psychopaths, but I think there are still a lot of people that have the wrong idea about it based on the trailers and such.

      Interesting points about Weaver in SLP. It's one of the few on my list I've only seen once, but when I watch it again I'll have to pay a little more attention to Weaver's performance.