Top 10 of 2012
Cinematically, 2012 has been a bit of a dud. Sure, there have been some amazing films come out, but they haven’t had the coverage they deserve. The big pillars of Geekdom, such as Avengers Assemble, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and Skyfall all either didn’t fulfil their potential, or were downright terrible in the “oh god, rip out my eyeballs and perforate my eardrums now, CINEMA IS DEAD TO ME!!!” kind of way. That said, if you looked behind all of the shite, there were some gems to be discovered. Without wasting any more of your precious time, I present to you, faithful readers, the inaugural Reel Talk Top 10 Films of the Year. These are my choices alone, and I stand by them for reasons I hope Cineastes and Regular Joes alike will take into consideration when berating me in the comments section. Also remember one man can only watch so many films in a year (and I’ve only been doing this for 6 months), so if I’ve missed anything you feel deserves a place, let me know.
10) The Master
Not so much a movie, but a cinematic experience. It was hard to explain this experience at the time, and still defies analysis and categorisation. Joaquin Phoenix was born for this role, and no doubt is a dead cert for that Best Actor Baldy. It may not be for everyone (and I can’t lie, it was pretty unforgiving), but you won’t see much like it this year or next. To call it “the Scientology film” doesn’t do justice the film any justice, such is the scope of the movie on display.
A Pixar film is more often than not going to make my film of the year list. The animation studio consistently makes high quality films for children, whilst maintaining an ethical stance in terms of teaching kids valuable life lessons and morals. Brave is no different, giving us a historical epic and a strong feminist message at the same time. Merida doesn’t depend on men to get shit done and forges her own destiny, with touching and hilarious results. As always, the visuals are breathtaking and the story is smart enough for adults to enjoy (a Pixar hallmark).
8) Headhunters (Hodejegerne)
Headhunters is a typical Scandinavian thriller, focussing on art thief Roger Brown(Askel Hennie) and his deadly game of cat and mouse with latest target Clas Greve (Jaime Lannister). Headhunters doesn’t take itself too seriously, and although it is a bit silly in parts, the film is genuinely exciting and unpredictable. It also has that ice cold Scandinavian sheen which makes for a movie that’s very easy on the eye. The Nords are having a good run on the big and small screens at the moment and their popularity continues to grow. With films like Headhunters, it’s easy to see why.
7) The Raid: Redemption
The Raid is absolutely Guano Loco, and one of the most enjoyable movie experiences of the year. Plot is irrelevant in these East Asian action flicks, and The Raid is about as loosely framed as my Christmas Top 10 was. Instead, we get a badass one man SWAT team punching, kicking, throwing, shooting and cutting his way through a drug cartel’s fortified tower block. If that 24 word sentence didn’t excite you (possibly even sexually), then The Raid might not be for you. Forget The Expendables, and let The Raid show how it’s done. Yes, it might be mindless, but it isn’t stupid. The film is very well made and thought out, using traditional staging methods and eschewing CGI trickery, making the blows feel brutally real. Some inventive choreography and death scenes keep the relentless pace moving, leaving you breathless and giddy by the end. At one point I even giggled like a schoolgirl, and for that alone it could’ve made the list.
6) Life of Pi
One of this year’s big ones and a very late entry onto the list, Life of Pi captures the magic and brutal realism of the source novel. It was great seeing Richard Parker realised on the screen in front of me, plus Ang Lee and the cast (for the most part) really nailed the tone of the novel.
5) Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson takes a stab at the coming of age first love story, but with a quirky blazer-wearing twist. Anderson films have always been a joy to watch, and once again his classic razor-sharp dialogue shines through, made even cooler by having acerbic kids give it a go. The usual dependable Anderson regulars complement the newcomers to create another classic to add to the Auteur’s smartly dressed collection. A few cynics out there say his films are style over substance, with too much snark and whimsy, but to that I say: “go fuck yourself”. Not exactly witty or original I know, but there you go.
The only ‘Chick Flick’ on the list, this fuzzy little Indie charmer sucker punched me on release, with some assured and mature performances from the young cast. It explored that difficult teenager phase with sympathy and genuine warmth, without steering into pretentious territory (too much). Nostalgia for the 90s doesn’t half make me feel old. See it with a new or established favourite member of the opposite sex for additional good guy/girl brownie points.
Played almost like a non-satirical, non-murdery American Psycho, Shame reunites director Steve McQueen (not that one) and Michael Fassbender, and is a dark, fascinating and uncomfortable study of sexuality. The film is beautifully shot and scored, leading to a mesmeric contrast with the smut occurring on screen. This is bold and cynical filmmaking from an exciting prospect that seems to get the very best out of The Fass (McQueen’s first feature, Hunger, stars Fassbender and is fantastic but not for the faint hearted), and uses the visual skills gained from his past career as an artist to the upmost.
For a while, this was my film of the year. As well as being a pretty solid crime drama, it also finds time to be a critique on corporate America and the country’s party political ‘democracy’. It’s gritty, brutal and uncompromising, with the film’s sparse style punctured every now and then by nauseating violence. This is real pessimistic and nihilistic filmmaking at its very best, with no happy endings for the majority of our lowlife scumbags. The cynical script is witty and bitter, and the cast (Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, and Richard Jenkins being the best of an amazing bunch) all bring their A games to create a powerful piece of affecting cinema, played hard and cold.
The best film of the year by a country mile. Sightseers is an unholy union of sex, murder and caravanning, and is laugh out loud hilarious. The kitchen sink realism and mundane reality of a caravanning tour of Britain is brought to life by Steve Oram and Alice Lowe (who play Chris and Tina, our midlands Bonnie and Clyde), under the superb direction of Ben Wheatley. It’s the blackest of comedies, but played deadpan straight. There is also a quirky warmth underneath that keeps you rooting for the two antiheroes. It is a truly British oddity, and a celebration of the things Little Englanders might get up to behind closed doors. If offbeat unusual comedy is your bag, then Sightseers is essential viewing, and the most fun I’ve had at the pictures this year. It deserves all of the plaudits and awards you could possibly throw at it, and shows just what genuine talent can do if given half the chance.