Will’s Top 10 Films of 2012

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu

The-Master-trailerWell, another year has passed and awards season is starting to cook up. That means it’s time to look back on 2012 and see what was the best of the best.

Granted, my opinion is only my own and sometimes I’m not in the majority on certain things. This is not so much a list of movies that were the complete and utter best, but rather the movies that left the biggest impressions on me. Movies that made me laugh, movies that moved me, and/or the ones that simply touched my heart. As film is subjective, not everyone will agree with my picks. But no matter, here are my top 10 films of the year:

Note: I have yet to see every movie this year. Films like Seven Psychopaths, Amour, Holy Motors, End of Watch, Smashed and others I have yet to see. If a film you loved didn’t make the list, it may just be that I didn’t see it yet.

Honorable Mentions: Magic Mike; Oslo, August 31st; Miss Bala; Searching for Sugar Man; Safety Not Guaranteed; Cloud Atlas; Les Miserables

 10. Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom may not be my favorite Wes Anderson film (I still love The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore more), but it undeniably remains another great hit from the impeccably brilliant filmmaker. Working both as a love letter to his childhood and a childhood fantasy on its own, Moonrise Kingdom is hilarious, charming, and simply adorable. It reminds you why Wes Anderson is one of the best filmmakers working today.

9. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in a Steven Spielberg movie. If this movie blew, then the Mayan prophecy would have been true. While Lincoln may get a little too Hollywoodized at times, it provides some of Spielberg’s most reserved and mature filmmaking yet. The attention to detail in everything is spectacular and it adds so much depth in addition to the film’s great script. But what really makes this movie shine is the award-winning performance by Day-Lewis, whose remarkable performance as the 16th president carries the film’s emotional weight and really captivates this film’s occasionally raw pathos.

8. Frankenweenie

After striking out twice with Alice in Wonderland and this year’s Dark Shadows, I feared that perhaps Burton had lost what made his films so special. But, thankfully, Frankenweenie is not only a good film, it’s one of the best films Burton has ever made. Beautifully animated in stop-motion and shot gorgeously in black and white, Burton was able to harken back to his childhood love of monster movies and filmmaking, and his passion and creativity shows in every reel. It’s a welcomed return to form from one of my favorite filmmakers.

7. Life of Pi

Finally, a movie that depicts religion without getting too preachy or self-riotous. Easily one of the most beautiful movies of the year, both thematically and visually, director Ang Lee seems to do the impossible: make a movie about a boy and a tiger on a boat for an hour-and-a-half so completely engaging and moving that even the unreligious would find it captivating and moving. It also features the best CGI I have seen this year.

6. Zero Dark Thirty

Considered to be one of the most controversial movies of the year, it deserves all the attention it has gotten. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker, a film that I personally found good not great, Zero Dark Thirty is able to bring what worked great in Hurt Locker, but also improve on what the previous film lacked. Following the compelling transformation of C.I.A agent Maya’s in her many year search for Osama Bin Laden, the film is able to capture a raw sense of realism and intensity while also giving the audience a true sense of character development and focus throughout. The last 40 minutes alone is some of the best filmmaking and editing I have seen in years.

5. Sleepwalk With Me

While I have loved comedian Mike Birbiglia for years, I had to admit that I was uncertain about his filmmaking debut. Besides Seinfeld and Louie, most comedians’ transition of their material to the screen has been dodgy at best. Luckily, Birbiglia’s filmmaking debut as director, screenwriter, and lead actor is unbelievably magnificent. While a bit uneven, Birbiglia is able to portray so much humor, honesty, and vivid emotions to the screen that it’s amazing that he had no experience with filmmaking before. While not as great as Louie, Birbiglia is able to bring his stage material to the screen without usual trappings like forced stand-up jokes in sitcom-esque situations and provides not only one of the best comedies of the year, but also one of the best films ever made about stand-up.

4. The Dark Knight Rises

Does it have some plot holes? Sure. But, for me, this movie completely lived up to my lofty expectations and more. Concluding his epic trilogy, Christopher Nolan is able to explore superhero movies in ways no filmmaker has ever tried before, while providing some of the most exhilarating filmmaking of the year. It’s not The Dark Knight, but I think it gets pretty close.  And it doesn’t hurt that I’m in the movie. Or maybe it does.

3. Django Unchained

Continuing his revisionist filmmaking brought on in his last picture, Inglorious Basterds, writer/director Quentin Tarantino creates one of the most entertaining, enthralling, hilarious, well-made and rewarding movies of the year with Django Unchained. Leonardo DiCaprio gives, I believe, his best performance to date, and Tarantino’s dialogue remains insanely clever and sharp. It’s an excellent, original film that shines on the filmmaker’s spotless resume.

2. Silver Linings Playbook

Movies like Silver Linings Playbook remind me why romantic comedies today don’t deserve so many free passes. Easily one of the best acted, written, and directed movies of the year, Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that could have gone so wrong, yet defies every obstacle in spectacular form. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence both give their best performances to date, and deserve all the awards recognition they have gained. Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that’s so honest that it feels real, and I simply didn’t want it to end. It goes alongside Annie Hall, (500) Days of Summer, Punch Drunk Love and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time.

1. The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson has already stamped himself as my favorite filmmaker working today with movies like There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, and Boogie Nights. And, once again, he creates his magic with The Master.  Shot incredibly well on 75 mm film, P.T.A. gives us three amazing performances in the form of Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, and also continues to give audiences so the most refreshingly original and captivating scenes on film. It’s a heavy film, and one that isn’t getting all the love it deserves right now. But don’t be surprised if, in 10 or 20 years, people hail this movie as a masterpiece.

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