Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Best (and Worst) Films of 2012


 My Best Films of 2012 list is finally here! Like everything I write on here, this is just my opinion. I do want to hear what you all think, so please comment. Also, because of where I live it is almost impossible to see some of the best films of the year because they do not show most of them in my town. The main reason why this list is later than most is because I wanted to wait until Zero Dark Thirty came to my town and I wanted to see how good that was. So, here is my list. Tell me what you all think. What do you think were the best films of the year? Of course, like all of my lists this one is not ranked from best and they are in alphabetical order. Also, I am including a list of the worst films and the most overrated film of the year.

THE BEST

21 Jump Street
I thought 21 Jump Street was one of the best comedies in years. I have been a fan of the 21 Jump Street television series because you get to see Johnny Depp's acting skills at a young age. I think 21 Jump Street was the best comedy of 2012 and it helped make Channing Tatum a bankable star in Hollywood. I've seen the film twice and I thought it was funny both times. Some comedies aren't like that. There are very few similarities between the film and television series. Usually I would say that's bad, but 21 Jump Street does a great job at establishing itself as a completely different piece of work, while still paying some homage to the series. This is how you should do an adaptation. Pay tribute to the original series or film, but make it your own and make it a stand-alone film from the previous incarnation of the work. This film does that. Does that make sense?


Argo
This was just a phenomenal film. As a director, Ben Affleck knocks it out of the park with this one. He proved that he can direct a story outside of the Boston area. I can easily say that Affleck is a much better director than he is an actor. He shows us that he is a great storyteller and he can keep us on the edge of our seats. I think Ben Affleck could end up being one of the best directors of our generation and I'm dead serious when I say that. Affleck has made three great movies and they have improved each time. Gone Baby Gone was a great detective story, The Town was a great heist film, and Argo was just a great piece of cinema. It is a shame that he was snubbed at the Oscars this year for Best Director. However, the snub has actually given Argo a lot more attention. Every time Affleck picks up a Best Director award or Argo wins Best Picture, the Academy looks less and less credible. Affleck's snub will probably go down in history as one of the biggest in Academy Award history. Hopefully, it will not be long before Affleck picks up an Oscar for himself. Actually, by the way it's looking Affleck could end up winning an Oscar as a producer for Best Picture this year. It's possible.


Beasts of the Southern Wild
Most of you might not have heard of this film, unless you are an independent film fan. But, you might have heard of it since the Oscar nominations because the film gained four BIG nominations. This was a film that I had heard a little about during the summer. A co-worker mentioned it to me and I saw it being mentioned online, but it seemed like it disappeared for a while. Then I noticed that the film started to gain some steam in the Oscar race in December. So, I saw the film in my local video store and I rented it. I was blown away. Hands down, this was one of the best films of the year. It is almost hard to believe that all of the main actors in this film had never done anything before. The performances that standout the most are Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. Wallis is phenomenal in her role, but very few people are talking about Dwight Henry's performance. Wallis steals the show, but Henry has some beautiful moments. He is father who is not fit to take care of his daughter and he knows this. He tries to show that he does not care for her, but we can see that he does. The best moment of the entire film is at the very end between Wallis and Henry. When you see it you will know what I am talking about. Benh Zeitlin, the director, tells a wonderful story. I originally did not put it in my Oscar predictions for Best Picture, but after I saw it I realized just how great the film was and I would have voted for it. So, I am glad to see that it is getting the recognition it truly deserves. I hope more people will go out and watch this movie. 




The Dark Knight Rises
I know some people will completely agree with this, while others will disagree with it completely. In my opinion, The Dark Knight Rises was one of the better films of 2012. Is it better than The Dark Knight? Not at all, but it is a great follow-up. People can say it is predictable, they can question the plot holes, and they can poke fun at some of the dialogue. The Dark Knight Rises is a great ending to one of the best cinematic trilogies of all time. Yes, it is predictable, but Nolan gave us all what we wanted. We wanted it to be like that and gave it to us. Nolan tells this story on such a large scale. It is an epic. Christopher Nolan filmed a lot more for this movie. I know this because people who worked on the film have talked about it. Most of the things that were cut dealt with Bane's origins (which would have been awesome to see). However, Nolan is a great filmmaker and he sticks to his original vision. I'd love to see a director's cut of The Dark Knight Rises (and even The Dark Knight for that matter). But, Nolan feels that the version you see on the screen is the director's cut. Being is this man can do whatever he wants now, then I would probably agree. I think if Nolan wanted to release a three and a half hour film Warner Bros. would have let him. That's how much they trust this man. And guess what? We all would have went to see it because we trust him too. The Dark Knight series is what big-budget films should be. They shouldn't be these huge films with lesser known actors (I'm talking about you John Carter). They should be this huge event with actors like Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, etc. The cast of the The Dark Knight series will go down as one of the best casts of all time. After re-watching both The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, I would easily say The Dark Knight Rises is the better movie. The second viewing of The Avengers wasn't as exciting. I can see why people called it an overrated film. My only problem with The Dark Knight Rises is that it switches aspect ratio. So, when you watch it on your television or computer it very noticeable. Regular moviegoers might not notice it, but it drove me CRAZY watching it because it would switch back and forth.


Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino is an interesting director. Love him or hate him. He loves to pay tribute to the films that he grew up on (he grew up on some interesting films by the way). In Django, Tarantino mainly pays tribute to the spaghetti westerns, but he gives us a new spin on it. I've heard him describe this film as a "southern" instead of a western. Like most Tarantino films, the script is clever and interesting. He mixes violence, drama, and comedy all together. There are some phenomenal performances in this film as well. The standouts in my opinion are Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, and Samuel L. Jackson. I personally feel DiCaprio and Jackson own each frame they are in. The only problem is they are not in the film long enough. That's what helped Waltz get an Oscar nomination. Tarantino filmed this as a four hour epic and then cut it down. This film is divided into halves. When you see it you should notice where it is divided. The soundtrack is amazing, the script is good, and the performances are great. My only complaint about the film is that it feels like there are multiple endings. I know why Tarantino did it and it might have been the only way to tie up all the lose ends, but I just sat there at the end saying to myself, "Okay, get on with it". Now, some would complain that the film is violent. Yes, it is violent, but wasn't this time period violent? Also, famous African-Americans in the entertainment industry have complained about the language that is used in the film. However, those people who complained have yet to see the film. Here's my issue with this so-called "controversy". If you take out the language then you are sugarcoating the time period. If you take out the use of the n-word in a Civil War period piece then you are not being historical accurate and you are not showing just how bad it was for Blacks at the time. The language represents the time in which it is set in, not our time. The language represents the characters of the story and the time period. Now, I know their are differing views on this and I can understand them. But, what I don't understand is how people like Spike Lee and Katt Williams, who use the word constantly in their works by the way, complain that Tarantino is insulting their ancestors because he is using the N-word in his Civil War film to show how bad it was during the time. However, Williams and Lee use the word in their present-day works and it is mainly used in conversations. But, they state that Tarantino's film makes people more acceptable to the word than their films or standup acts? I might be wrong, but that just sounds like a horrible argument. Especially since they haven't seen the movie. And, I've had this conversation with multiple people of different races who have or have not seen it. They all agree with everything I'm saying. Now, I can go on and on all day on this issue. What was I saying? Oh, yeah...Django Unchained was a great film. Period.


End of Watch
This is a late addition because I just recently finished the film a couple of days ago. I could not ignore the fact that it was not on my original list of Best Films in 2012. I had heard it was good and it did well at the box office, but it had not garnered any award nominations really. That is a shame by the way. This is easily one of the best and most creative films of 2012. I remember Roger Ebert saying it is one of the best cop films in most recent years. I would agree with Ebert and I would even venture so far as to say it is one of the best cop films I've ever seen. It is realistic, gritty, occasionally funny, and definitely dramatic. It gives one of the most in-depth looks into the lives of police officers that I have ever seen before. It is ambitious and daring. A lot of the film seems like it is crafted together as a found-footage film, but then sometimes they break that and it isn't. It can be hard to tell what's being recording and what's not. It's probably the best use of the found-footage idea that I've seen. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena give two phenomenal performances. Both of them slip into these roles with ease and they are totally believable. It might seem like I throw this term around a lot sometimes, but End of Watch is definitely one of the most underrated films of 2012.


Jack Reacher
This was a movie that I was really surprised about and some might disagree about this appearing on my list. I was expecting a watered-down action movie when I went to see it. I was not expecting much of a story. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Christopher McQuarrie, the director and writer of the film, crafts a great story. It is very reminiscent of the 1930s and 40s detective films and film noir films in my opinion. Now, it isn't like the film noir movies stylistically, but the story is similar. The character of Jack Reacher is very similar to a nowadays Sherlock Holmes. Tom Cruise plays the character well and it is a role that I enjoyed him in. Cruise is an actor that is starting to grow on me. Most of us might disagree with some of his personal views, but he has put out some great movies and some good performances. I think Jack Reacher is entertaining and has some great action sequences. Some of the car chases are some of the best I've seen in the past ten years. They are that good in my opinion. The last film that I remember that had better car chases was Ronin. That's a big compliment by the way.


Lincoln
Now, I know a lot of people are trying to decide what film should win big at the Oscars. Should it be Argo? Should it be Life of Pi? At the moment, I would vote for Lincoln. Some might say that it doesn't break new ground and some young film critics might call it boring. It is just Spielberg being Spielberg. But, when did that become a bad thing? Lincoln is a phenomenal and captivating film in every aspect. After I walked out of the theatre, I thought to myself, "Now, that's going to get the most Oscar nominations this year". I told that to a lot of people. Most people were like, "Okay, sure Brandon. You think that. You can't possibly predict that". Well, when the Oscar nominations came out guess which film had the most nominations? That would be Lincoln. Spielberg hits it out of the park with this one and only he could tell such a honest and beautiful story of this legendary figure. And, Daniel Day-Lewis is probably the only man who can play this part. Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay and it is great. Spielberg puts together a great film with the art direction, the story, and a number other technical aspects. What I feel is the best part of the film are the countless performances. I mean you have some great actors in some tiny parts, but yet they are memorable. This film has an all-star cast that includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, Hal Halbrook, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, David Oyelowo, and the list goes on and on. I never would have thought I would say that one of the best performances out of that group of people was James Spader. You could tell Spader was having fun in that role and the scenes where him and Day-Lewis were in together were great. Most of the movie actually only takes place in a few central location. Even though it seems like the characters are just talking, there is so much action going on. The characters are so great that we are captivated by them for the entire movie. I was on the edge of my seat for the last hour for some reason and I can't explain why. It wasn't because there was some big huge action scene, but because the plot was just so interesting. We know that Lincoln will die at the end, but it takes a great filmmaker to keep us interested in a story when we already know the outcome. That's Spielberg for you. His film is a rarity in my opinion. Everyone who has seen this film and talked to me about always has something to say. It creates conversations. It is relatable to today's world, even though it is set in a time that is so different from ours. People who rarely go to the movies have come to talking about the film.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I loved watching all of these films, but this is one the main films on this list that I cannot wait to see again. I think it was a wonderful adaptation of Stephen Chbosky's novel. Chbosky, who also directed and wrote the film, brings new life to this story for a new medium. He is loyal to his book, but he creates something new as well. He made some great choices in what to change. For a directorial debut, this is great. Like a number of the films on this list, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has a wonderful cast and most give memorable performances. You have Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, and Paul Rudd. The only thing about this film that I wish there was a little bit more backstory to Rudd's character. There was more in the book. However, Chbosky does add some moments between Rudd and Lerman that almost make up for the deletions. This was one of the most underrated films of 2012 and I feel it is a film that will gain an audience over time. I stated one time that this is our generation's Breakfast Club and I still stand by that remark. Like The Breakfast Club, I think this will be a timeless teen film. By that I mean, the problems the characters face will probably always be happening in the lives of people. That's what John Hughes films are still popular today. They deal with these characters who are trying to find out who they truly are and The Perks of Being a Wallflower does that as well. Another reason why I call it timeless is because we do not exactly know what year this is set in. There are some references to the early 1990s, but it doesn't blatantly come out and say, "Hey, this is set in the 1990s". They aren't jokes about the size of the telephones and they don't make many references to the outside world like politics. That is not something that is talked about because none of that affects the story. They stick to the story and the characters and that's what makes the film so great. I would like to see this got some well-deserved Oscar nominations , but sadly it was not nominated for anything. Hopefully, though, it will gain a following once it hits home video and starts to be shown on television. That's when The Perks of Being a Wallflower will gain a whole new life.


Zero Dark Thirty
I waited a while to see this film, so my expectations were really high. Were most of them met? Yes, they were. I think Jessica Chastain gives a great performance. It is a challenging role to take on and she does it well. She is my pick for Best Actress this year...at the moment. I think Zero Dark Thirty was a great film. The last hour of Kathryn Bigelow's film delivers tremendously. I will say that it starts off slow in my opinion, but it definitely picks up. It is, however, always intriguing. The ending sequence of the Seals raiding Bin Laden fortress is one of the best in the past couple of years. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. It was one of the best films of the year, but after Bigelow did not receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director it feels as if Zero Dark Thirty has been losing Oscar momentum. Affleck's snub I think helped Argo, but Bigelow's snub has hurt Zero Dark Thirty. And, in all honesty, it shouldn't. Bigelow and Mark Boal (the screenwriter) craft a great story with a great cast. Bigelow is the type director that puts recognizable faces in in smaller roles. In The Hurt Locker, she had people like Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce in minor, one-appearance roles. In Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow places actors like James Gandolfini, Joel Edgerton, and Mark Strong in minor roles, while filling her leads with people like Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke. It easily one of the best films of the year. My only complaint is the length of it, which is my complaint with most movies today.




Honorable Mention
Lawless
Paranorman
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Men in Black 3
Moonrise Kingdom

THE WORST

Dark Shadows
The film sounded promising. Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, and a film adaptation of a popular Gothic soap opera. What could go wrong? Well, a good bit actually. I won't go into much detail, but the script is the worst part about this film. Most of it does not make sense and it just feels like the writer had no idea how to handle the material. It felt like they just tried to throw in every type of monster or ghoul. And, when they were introduced, most of them did not make much sense. Depp was good as usual, but it is a forgettable performance in a forgettable film.


One for the Money
Not much to say about this one. It was boring and forgettable. Some might have enjoyed it, but I did not. It was predictable. It brought nothing new. It just fell flat.


Rock of Ages
Going into this film I had high expectations. I thought it was going to be great. Tom Cruise is growing on me and I am starting to like most of his films. I will go ahead and say this, I was impressed by Cruise's performance in Rock of Ages. He was easily the best part in the film. I would even venture so far as to say who could have gotten a Golden Globe nomination or something. That's a big maybe though. His songs were the best and he had the best acting performance. Everything else in the movie just falls flat. The story is predictable. There are some good actors in this film, but they aren't given any good material to work with. Tom Cruise is great in the film, but not even Cruise could save this film. He is the only reason why I would re-watch this film.


This Means War
It was just forgettable. Not even Tom Hardy could save this film. The story was okay, but the ending was horrible. The climax is action, action, action, and then everything is over in one minute. There was no resolution to it in my opinion. The comedy was cheap and it could have been a lot better.

The Most Overrated Film of 2012

Looper
Yes, you read that right. I will strongly say that Looper was the most overrated film of 2012. Some might also say The Avengers. The reason why I say Looper was the most overrated film of the year was because so many people praised it's story and originality. I agree the story is rather creative and the concept is original. I know it is hard to do a movie that deals with time-travel, so I understand if there is a little flaw in the story. However, Looper  has one of the biggest plot holes I've seen in the past decade. I don't understand how Looper was getting so much buzz for an Oscar nomination for writing. As a writer, the ending makes no sense. It was like they tried to connect the story together, but they couldn't. But, they hoped the audience was stupid enough not to question the story. Some people either love or hate this film. I hate it simply because of the ending. I think the acting is great and the action scenes are great, but when your story makes no sense then you do not have a good movie. The film had a cool style, but nothing, and I mean nothing, makes up for this flawed story. It reminds me of In Time, and in all honesty, that story was probably a lot less flawed. Men in Black 3 is a better time-travel movie than Looper. Yeah, everything about this film is great, but the story ends up not making any sense. So, at the end of the film I thought to myself, "Why did I watch this movie? And, who thought no one would catch that?" Maybe you disagree with me. I know some of you will. But, we all have our opinions. So, tell me.


Okay, so I've told you what I thought were the best and worst films of 2012. Now, I want to hear what you think. Do you agree? Do you disagree? What were the best and worst films of 2012 in your opinion?

**These are the films I have yet to see: Silver Linings Playbook, Cloud Atlas, Skyfall, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Flight, Amour, The Master, and Hitchcock.

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