I don’t know what it can be attributed to, but 2012 FLEW by almost unceremoniously. Thankfully, this past year brought with it a massive heap of middling to solid cinematic endeavors, a vast majority of which I had the pleasure and sometimes displeasure of viewing and meticulously ranking. In addition to my run-of-the-mill theater ventures, I along with a pair of fellow cinephiles attended TIFF 2012 together – an event that was far and away the most memorable high point of my soon-to-be 25 years here on this earth, and words cannot describe how eager I am to tackle 2013’s festival offerings when the time comes. This in mind, I’ve once again compiled a list of my absolute favorites for you to potentially admire and compare to your own or even others’, so without any further adieu, I present to you my top ten films of 2012!
Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Argo, Cloud Atlas, Killer Joe, The Master, Paradise: Love, Prometheus, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Raid: Redemption, Rust & Bone, Seven Psychopaths
Looper is one of those films that can’t be ignored – an intelligent foray into the realm of contemporary sci-fi that sports all the makings of a classic, from a vivid futuristic aesthetic and plausible time travel logistics to a welcome, highly functional adherence to human emotion. Polarizing as its latter half setting shift may be, Rian Johnson’s provided viewers with a breath of fresh air that warrants the appreciation it’s garnered since its theatrical release. Full review here.
A gleefully self-aware throwback to the French New Wave, Frances Ha is at once comfortably familiar, endearing and very funny. Minimalistic as it is, Baumbach’s illustrated a character worth caring about, and coupled with great chemistry between leads, it all adds up to one thoroughly enjoyable experience. Full review here.
A recognizably underseen gem that thrives on simplicity of purpose, Jeff, Who Lives at Home mulls over the importance of connections in our everyday lives and the reality behind each one of us fulfilling our respective destinies. In once again pairing their mumblecore sensibilities with that of a tangible, more dramatic atmosphere, the Brothers Duplass explore these themes in a straightforward, highly entertaining fashion that’s bolstered by pitch perfect performances across the board. Full review here.
Serving as a more-than-worthy precursor for wildly imaginative genre-bending entertainment, The Cabin in the Woods will still unfortunately go down in history as “that film,” more specifically the one that “was confusing” to casual moviegoers on account of Goddard and co-writer Whedon’s uncanny ability to mix and match grisly genre conventions and a requisite amount of off-the-wall meta humor to satisfy those looking for something different. Different it certainly is, as The Cabin in the Woods fires on all cylinders from start to finish, noticeably poking fun at your run-of-the-mill teen slasher flick while incorporating an agreeably ludicrous (in a good way) central premise that’ll have you talking long after you’ve left the theater. Full review here.
Further solidifying my love for love in cinema, Ruby Sparks is an appealingly concise if overbearingly whimsical take on modern relationships and the various intricacies that coincide with them. From the importance of free will to authentic and emotionally rich tonal shifts throughout, it becomes easier and easier to forgive Ruby Sparks‘ shortcomings brought about by some typically quirky creative choices. Full review here.
An astonishingly humanized, existential and even spiritual take on a tried-and-true survival movie formula, The Grey prides itself on warranted brutality and heartfelt emotional sincerity from start to gut-wrenching end. Although somewhat hampered by an early 2012 release and gross mismarketing, Carnahan’s most mature effort to date still managed to find its audience, garnering a great deal of notoriety among those who appreciate it for the strong suits I’ve briefly outlined. Full review here.
Magic Mike is an unexpected rarity these days, coupling the more obvious trashy nature of the male stripper profession with something more, the latter of which may not be as readily apparent to those looking for an overabundance of bare skin. Deftly exploring both the ups and downs of said industry at its core, Soderbergh’s latest remains one of the more original efforts in recent memory as it avoids taking itself too seriously while alternately exploring the true nature of an individual struggling to break free from the mold he’s snugly fit into all these years. Full review here.
A morally reprehensible artistic triumph, Spring Breakers far from belies its title thanks to an abundance of booze, breasts and overblown criminal debauchery. Characteristic of Korine through and through, the film’s darkly comedic tendencies mesh seamlessly with its general outlandishness, and no matter how high or low you search, there’s nothing that can fully prepare you for how wild, crazy and visually stunning it all is. Full review here.
Awkwardly humorous, heartfelt and glaringly singular in nearly every aspect, Anderson’s latest is characteristically “him” and as such the best he’s put forth within the realm of contemporary cinema. A story about misunderstood youth and a subsequent, quirkily perceptive examination of first love, Moonrise Kingdom is easily the auteur’s most accessible work to date as well as his most mature, painstakingly crafted and beautifully realized right down to its set pieces and subdued yet effective emotional core. Full review here.
Continuing the alternate historical timeline he first employed for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino’s riotous genre homage/mash-up is everything you’d expect from the auteur and more. Sporting the unparalleled creativity, wit and glorified violence we’ve come to know and love, Django Unchained is a sprawling moreover epic and even important piece of American cinema that trounces a bulk of 2012’s film canon thanks to its nearly countless strong suits. Benchmarked by stellar performances, a tasteful eye for era-appropriate details and an obvious flair for the overdramatic, I found very few productions to be as wildly and consistently entertaining as I did Django and Dr. King Schultz’s keen-minded exploits. Full review here.