Best of 2012 (Matthew’s Take)

I couldn’t decide how to divvy up this year’s awards. Should I split the films into genres and rank them that way? Should I just put out a best and worst list of the 10 films that fit best into that category? Should I make up silly names and base it off silly things? I had a tough time deciding. I figured that the convention for 10 best/worst would be sufficient, so that’s what’s going to be done here.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are still a great deal of films, probably both good and bad, that I still haven’t seen. That’s one of the disappointing things of living in Canada and not being a professional critic. Many of the December limited release films don’t come out here until mid-January at the earliest, with a select few only getting a release in Toronto, not in Calgary. And, of course, I didn’t see some of the year’s earlier films, either. So, if the list is missing something that you saw and adored, that might be the reason. Or we just disagree. That’s fine, too. We can disagree. Almost none of you will agree with my top pick. I’m aware of that before anyone tells me. I don’t care.

Without further ado, here is my rundown of the films of 2012.

Best of 2012

Here are the best films of 2012, as picked by me.

#10

Django Unchained

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I didn’t like Django Unchained. The fact of the matter is that I did. It was one of the most well-made movies of the year, and probably would have been higher had it not disappointed me. I likely went in with expectations that couldn’t be matched regardless of the final product, and that’s my fault, but Django wasn’t anywhere near as good as it should have been, mostly due to its length and lack of interesting dialogue.

However, it brings up an important issue, has some very good performances, gives you a lot to think about and reflect on, and I can certainly see the intent behind it. It’s absolutely worth watching, especially if you’re a Tarantino fan, and I definitely plan on seeing it again once it hits home video.

#9

The Raid: Redemption

Based purely on its action, The Raid deserves to be listed in the best movies of the year. This is one thrilling experience, and has some of the most entertaining action scenes I’ve ever seen. Some of the parts of this movie are unbelievable.

That’s all it is, however, which is really the only problem that it has. It doesn’t have much of a plot or real characters, but easily overcomes that because of how impressive its action is. It’s forgiven for almost all of its faults because of this.

#8

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A lot was made about The Hobbit before it was released. It was split into three movies, which seemed like a cash grab. It was filmed in 48 frames per second (FPS), which can take some getting used to. I was skeptical, but about 40 minutes into the film, I was won over. I was back in Middle Earth and I loved it.

The action is fun, the characters are full of life and laughter, and I can completely see Bilbo’s story taking up three movies after seeing the first chapter. The 48 FPS thing still needs ironing out, but I like its potential and I didn’t mind it at all after the first 20 minutes or so. This isn’t quite Lord of the Rings‘ caliber, but it’s close and absolutely worth seeing.

#7

Lincoln

Lincoln is an actor’s best friend. It gives actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones the perfect platform on which to earn much acclaim. The story is simple and not showy, allowing them to overpower it and becomes the focal point. While the film was about the President’s attempt to end slavery — and about nothing else, which is why it’s not higher on the list — Day-Lewis commands the screen and turns in the best performance of the year.

Steven Spielberg also does a fantastic job of sending us back in time, with gorgeous sets and seemingly realistic costumes. However, it’s still the actors that make Lincoln the great success that it is. The most surprising thing about it is that it’s funny, and will make you laugh more than many “comedies” that come out nowadays.

#6

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games was probably the second most surprising film of the year. I didn’t expect it to be good. I liked, but didn’t love the first book in the trilogy, and I thought it would be very difficult to make a successful adaptation, particularly with a PG-13 rating and Gary Ross at the helm. Boy, was I wrong. This is a fabulous adaptation and a very enjoyable movie.

It’s thrilling, action-packed, and has a shocking emotional punch — although I don’t know if it would have quite the impact if you hadn’t read the book. Certain plot points are skimmed over, to keep the film under 2.5 hours, but it’s still an involving and enjoyable movie.

#5

Argo

I didn’t like The Town, Ben Affleck’s film prior to making Argo. Lots of people did, but I wasn’t a fan. However, with Argo, Affleck has made his best film to date, and one of the top contenders for this year’s Best Picture Oscar. This is a thrilling political drama, based on a true story, that is intelligent and interesting, and also highly entertaining. It’s also kind of educational, even though Canada’s role was relegated to the very back seat.

It’s strange to see a movie based on true events, where you know the outcome, still be so thrilling in its final moments. Lincoln also did this, but Argo does it to a greater extent. You should know what’s going to happen, but because of how well-made it is, you’re a little unsure. You’re biting your nails even though you know how it turns out. That’s impressive. Mix in some good performances and a lot of humor, and you’re looking at a great movie.

#4

The Avengers/The Dark Knight Rises

I couldn’t pick. I know, I’m weak, but I really enjoyed both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, so I couldn’t decide which one would be ranked higher than the other. They’re such different movies that it’s not even like you can weigh their qualities and pick; they’re almost like polar opposites for the superhero genre, both really well-made but neither better than the other.

The Avengers is a more joyous experience. It’s more fun, has more laughs, and has better action. The Dark Knight Rises has far more emotional weight, tells a more complex story, and has stronger characters. They might not appeal to the same people. You probably liked one more than the other. I can’t pick. I really enjoyed both of them, but for different reasons.

#3

Cloud Atlas

It takes real guts to make a film like Cloud Atlas. You can see why, considering it wasn’t a box office success and, as of writing, still hasn’t been released in Europe. It’s a daring picture, taking six stories in different time lines and merging them together with a central theme and actors who weren’t limited to their real life race, age or gender boundaries.

Was it confusing? Maybe a little, at least, while you were getting adjusted to it. I loved this movie. It is so ambitious that even if it didn’t all work, I would be inclined to laud it simply for the audacity it took for it to get made. That it’s an incredible watch makes it all the more wonderful. I still can’t believe how David Mitchell’s novel made it to the big screen.

#2

Pitch Perfect

While The Hunger Games was one of the most surprising films of the year, Pitch Perfect easily took the top spot in that regard. 15 minutes into the film, I hated it. 20 minutes in, I started to warm to it. 25, and I had started to really enjoy myself. I mean, did anyone expect an a capella Step Up to be worth seeing? I certainly didn’t.

Do you know what? It’s incredible. It’s the funniest film of the year, and it’s also one of the raunchiest. This is in spite of the PG-13 rating. I didn’t laugh more at any other movie of this year. The musical elements are also fabulous, and even most of the drama works quite well. It’s the cynical Glee, except so much more enjoyable than any of the films that it’s mocking. And more affecting. It gets to have its cake and eat it, too.

#1

The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption

I feel committed at this point. If I didn’t list Scorpion King 3 as the best movie of the year, would there be riots? I kind of hope so, but then I remember I’m nowhere near as important as I like to think. Anyway, this is the most enjoyable moviegoing experience I’ve ever had. It’s possible that it will be topped. I doubt it. I’ve seen this thing more than a half-dozen times since its release date, and I still love almost every frame of it.

It’s really hard to describe why I love SK3 as much as I do. I do enjoy B-movies, which it most certainly is, but it’s more to do with how silly it is, yet how well-made it is given the expectations I had set out prior to seeing it. The second film was so bad that this couldn’t possibly fun. But it is. It’s so, so fun. It’s cheesy and ridiculous, but that’s why it’s compelling.

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