By Sandra Kraisirideja
I made the mistake of agreeing to publish a Top 10 list before I had a chance to power through the stack of for-your-consideration screeners piling up on my desk. I agree with Alex Billington of firstshowing.net that perhaps a better time to publish a Top 10 list would be in mid- to late-January. That will have to be my reasoning when it comes time to publish a list in 2013, but for now I’ve made my proverbial bed and must lie in it.
With some help from comingsoon.net I reviewed the list of movies released in 2012 and was surprised to find that my list of “wanted to see” was much longer than the list of movies I actually saw. And that’s the rub with Top 10 lists: they are based on what a person actually saw. There are quite a few movies I haven’t seen that I feel strongly would have made it on my list if I had seen them. “Django Unchained” and “The Hobbit” are just two that come to mind.
As I was compiling this article I decided I really needed two lists, a Top 10 based on what I was able to see this year and then a list of all of the movies that I didn’t see this year as an explanation as to why my actual list is so different from writers from other outlets.
My “wanted to see” list for 2012
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi
- 21 Jump Street
- Marvel’s The Avengers
- Snow White and the Huntsmen
- Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Ruby Sparks
- Celeste & Jesse Forever
- Craigslist Joe
- The Bourne Legacy
- The Words
- End of Watch
- Nobody Walks
- Chasing Mavericks
- Bones Brigade
- Anna Karenina
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Killing Them Softly
- The Hobbit
- Stand Up Guys
- Django Unchained
- Les Miserables
My Top 10 for 2012
This was just a mediocre documentary but it had an important message and provided a tool that parents could use to talk to their kids about bullying. If you are a parent with a kid in school you should rent this movie and then watch it with them.
9. “Magic Mike”
Director Steven Soderbergh managed to add some depth to “Magic Mike” while also delivering what women really wanted: plenty of ab-tastic shots of Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum. The movie actually met audience expectations and delivered what it said it was going to. Tatum also got to show a bit more range as an actor while also digging into his exotic dancer roots. This is a great movie to add to the list of ones to watch when you need some cheering up.
8. “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope”
I’m a bit prejudiced toward this movie as a resident of San Diego who has been attending Comic-Con off and on since the ’90s. I remember back when you could just walk up to the Convention Center during Comic-Con and buy a ticket to get in. Those days are long gone and Comic-Con is only getting larger. Director Morgan Spurlock smartly decided to keep himself out of the movie and focused instead on attendees representing the wide range of folks who go to Comic-Con every year. Those who go to Comic-Con know it’s not possible to see everything and I for one was glad part of the movie focused on the Masquerade Ball. I’ve never been able to see the ball, but I got to see a little bit of what goes on thanks to this movie. It also manages to be about comic books and not just about the Hollywood promotional machine the event has become. Spurlock gets the Hollywood folks in there by interspersing direct-to-camera interviews with actors and directors who are fanboys as much as they are Hollywood heavyweights. Kevin Smith offers up some of the funnier insights about Comic-Con and what it has meant to him. The movie can be watched for free on hulu.com so there’s really no excuse for skipping it.
7. “Jeff Who Lives at Home”
I caught this on Blu-ray and confess I wasn’t expecting much. The ads made the movie seem like a dumb comedy with Jason Segel cast as a stoner-loser opposite Ed Helms straight-laced overachiever. I was more than a little surprised to find it was a sweet, heartwarming movie that had an unexpected ending.
6. “Hit and Run”
Dax Shepard wrote and co-directed this hilarious comedy and pulled all of his good friends plus fiance Kristen Bell together to make it. Sometimes a pet project doesn’t work out very well, but that’s not the case with “Hit and Run.” Everyone looks like they are having way too much fun on set. Even Bradley Cooper’s crazy dredlocks work for his character. Hit this one up on iTunes if you missed it.
5. “Seven Psychopaths”
Writer-director Martin McDonagh and Colin Farrell make wonderful movies together. “Seven Psychopaths” is their second collaboration and it’s even more darkly funny than “In Bruges.” Featuring one of the most original and cleverly written screenplays this year, “Seven Psychopaths” has a style that reminded me a lot of Quentin Tarantino. McDonagh has the same ability as Tarantino to find humor in violence. Remember the scene in “Pulp Fiction” where everyone laughs after Samuel L. Jackson accidentally shoots the kid in the face? There’s a scene in “Seven Psychopaths” that elicits the same reaction. McDonagh also mixes a lot of philosophical observations into his dialogue, which elevates the movies beyond their basic premise.
4. “This is 40”
Judd Apatow has written a movie that is painfully hilarious for anybody 40 and older. Twenty-somethings most likely will not “get” many of the jokes and relationship dynamics that make the movie so funny. If you fall into this category make a note to revisit the movie when the time is right and it will make more sense to you, I promise.
3. “Safety Not Guaranteed”
If the Academy still remembers this gem from earlier in the year there’s a good chance it will be nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar. It’s hard to find original stories these days and even though this was based on an unusual classified ad, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is able to sustain enough of a storyline for a full-length movie. As far as quirky comedies go this is one of those movies that you keep on hand to help spread the word to anybody who hasn’t seen it. It will one day have the same kind of cult status reserved for movies like “Office Space” or “Napoleon Dynamite.”
2. “Life of Pi”
I was not familiar with the book when I saw “Life of Pi,” but I immediately downloaded it on my Kindle after seeing it. I think that’s the greatest compliment you could give a movie based on a book. I overheard somebody explain that they almost prefer to see a movie based on a book first because then it gives them a visual foundation they can use while reading the story. Director Ang Lee presents a visually compelling version of “Life of PI” and it would be hard not to see the world he created while reading the story. It’s not just the stunning cinematography that makes the movie work. The quiet performances by the young actor who plays the lead as well as the older actor who plays him as a grown man are perfectly juxtaposed in the narration. I wasn’t expecting “Life of Pi” to have such a haunting story and the movie stayed with me for days afterward.
There are two reasons why I loved this movie: the gripping 15 minutes of footage when the airplane goes down and Denzel Washington’s superb performance. His character is an alcoholic and drug user who is in such deep denial that he continues to use even after the plane he piloted crashes. Washington manages to create sympathy around the character and I found myself rooting for him as I would a dear friend. Like other great actors Washington just looks so comfortable and natural in whatever role he’s playing. He deserves an Oscar nomination although whoever is nominted will probably lose to Daniel Day-Lewis. The movie was marketed as a mystery but it’s really a character piece. Interestingly, John Goodman has a supporting role in both “Flight” and “Argo,” and both will probably be nominated for Best Picture. While he is memorable in both movies I think his character in “Flight” is more interesting. Director Robert Zemeckis handles the material beautifully and gives the movie a chance to breathe with wonderfully quiet moments that don’t drag the movie down.