It’s that time of year again. The time when we all gather around our fireplaces with the people we love, think back over the past year and compile lists of our favourite things throughout the year. While it may take a few more weeks to finish my Top Five Lists of 2012 list one topic I am prepared to talk about is my favourite films of the year. At the same time I am a man who believes that one must acknowledge and learn from their mistakes and this year is anything if not rife with opportunities to learn. As such, I will also be listing what I consider to be the worst films of 2012. Keep in mind, however, that I am only including films I have seen on these lists, so while I’m sure that The Master has some of the best performances of the year and that Life of Pi is stunningly beautiful and life-affirming I can only see so many films in a year. So without further ado I give you my Top Five and Bottom Five Films of 2012
Top Five Films of 2012
5. Skyfall (Sam Mendes)
Well written and wonderfully acted, Skyfall‘s greatest success is its ability to justify the continued existence of James Bond in a world of technology, transparency and Jason Bourne-style action heroes. It is also worth noting that it is the only film released this year entertaining enough to make me feel compelled to go see it a second time.
4. Avengers Assemble (Joss Whedon)
There are films that actively encourage analytical thought. Films that make you want to sit and discuss their content, debating themes and the use of mise-en-scene. Then there are films that exist purely to entertain and Avengers Assemble succeeds in this regard with great aplomb. Action packed, hilarious and exciting in equal measures, this is a film that will keep your attention throughout. Any film in which you can say your favourite part is ‘the bit where Iron Man went into space’ is certainly a film that will entertain.
3. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
I feel almost compelled to include a foreign language film in this list lest I fail to get a date to the annual Pretentious Film Critic’s Ball. Thankfully, Holy Motors, Leos Carax’s first feature film in 13 years, is a truly great film that genuinely deserves its spot on this list. One of the most interesting films you will see this year, Holy Motors offers a unique study of modern cinema. This is fuelled in no small part by the wonderful performance, and indeed performances, of Denis Lavant. If you want to see a film this year that not only thinks outside the box but also gazes into the box the whole time then look no further than Holy Motors.
2. Looper (Rian Johnson)
Looper is by no means a perfect film. You can complain about it being overly long or having skittish pacing. That being said, the interesting discourse with the problems of time travel, both physically and ethically, featured in this film is enough to get it a place on this list. This is complemented by the weight of the performances in the film, alongside the world that director Rian Johnson creates, a dystopian future that feels real enough to add tangible weight to the film.
1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
Director Wes Anderson really ups his game with what is easily one of his best live-action films. Moonrise Kingdom retains his trademark quirkiness, humour and colourful aesthetics but where the film truly excels is in the way it can melt the heart of even the coldest cynic, creating a sense of humanity that allows you to connect with the characters in a way that Anderson has never really succeeded in in his previous attempts. It is this mixed with the all-around stellar performances by the ensemble cast that bags Moonrise Kingdom the top spot on my Top Five Films of 2012 list.
Bottom Five Films of 2012
5. John Carter (Andrew Stanton)
Why might a film fail financially? It might have characters so ludicrous that the audience can never truly connect with them, it might have an incomprehensible plot that makes the film generally inaccessible to anyone or it might be based on such a niche and poorly written source material that the studio has no desire to adequately market the film. Or perhaps, like John Carter, it falls foul of all these pitfalls. There is a reason why this film is now recognised as the biggest box office flop of all time, and that reason is that John Carter is just a very bad film.
4. Liberal Arts (Josh Radnor)
Liberal Arts is a true example of an emerging subgenre of filmmaking that can best be described as pseudo-intellectual, cliché-ridden indie movie nonsense. While the film clearly thinks it is a lot cleverer and funnier than it actually is I would almost be willing to ignore this were it not for the film’s complete and utter lack of subtlety. Liberal Arts is a film that beats you over the head with its themes until you beg for death and then afterwards asks for a nice pat on the back for being so clever as to have themes in the first place.
3. Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris)
Listing my complaints about this film would be like just copy and pasting my views on Liberal Arts. The key difference with Ruby Sparks is that it goes out of its way to have a horrendously quirky plot and unlikeable characters while at the same time failing to approach what could have been an interesting subject matter, the ability to exert complete control over your partner, with any degree of tangible depth.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb)
This is a film whose only entertainment value is how laughably bad it is. With the worst use of 3D I have ever been forced to sit through and ridiculous scenes such as the one where Spiderman learns how to use his powers in an afternoon by re-enacting the warehouse dance scene in Footloose, or the overly dramatic slapstick scene involving cranes, the ironically named The Amazing Spider-Man is, simply put, one of the worst superhero films of all time. And yes, that does include Daredevil.
1. About Cherry (Stephen Elliot)
About Cherry is a truly deplorable film. Claiming to tell the tale of a young girl who empowers herself through her involvement with the porn industry I might have been able to buy into this premise had the eponymous Cherry not been portrayed as a hapless child with no autonomy who gets into porn by accident and stays in porn because its simpler than taking control of her own life. The film also features a number of pointless star-studded cameos including a grossly under-used Dev Patel as the voice of reason who is chided by Cherry every time he talks sense and James Franco who, likely in preparation for his role in the upcoming Oz the Great and Powerful performs his great disappearing act and just vanishes from the film halfway through. To be honest, however, I doubt you will be able to keep watching the film up until that point.
And with that the year that was 2012 comes to an end, not with a bang but with an exasperated sigh. Now we can start to look forward to 2013, the first year I have been genuinely excited for in a long time. With so many great films to be released I’m not sure what I want to see most of all. Perhaps I should make a list.