By Ray Manukay
The Notable Films of 2012:
This year had some great films.
I honestly can’t think of a better year in recent memory, that featured so many impressive and genuinely enjoyable and thought-provoking films. Because of the sheer volume of excellent, quality movies this year it didn’t feel right that I leave some of them off my best films of the year list. So, in addition to my Top Ten Films of 2012, I’ve included some of my favorite films of the past year and separated them into different genres. (Yeah…this year was that good.)
Noteworthy Action Films of 2012:
Noteworthy Dramatic films of 2012:
Noteworthy Character Studies of 2012:
Noteworthy Comedies of 2012:
Noteworthy Animated films of 2012:
The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
And now, without further ado…
My Top Ten Films of 2012:
directed by LARRY CHARLES
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedy is arguably his best yet. Yes, The DICTATOR is scripted and it lacks the gonzo appeal, and dangerous, comedic energy of his previous films Borat and Bruno. But The Dictator still features his trademark mix of crude, inappropriate shocking moments of wit and pointed socio-political jabs. Take for example the final speech in the film:
“Why are you guys so anti-dictators? Imagine if America was a dictatorship. You could let 1 percent of the people have all the nation’s wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes and bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wiretap phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests.”
It’s both hilarious and painfully truthful. The essence of great comedy.
directed by TOM HOOPER
Yes, the voices could be stronger. The cinematography is dizzying and unusual. But there’s a reason that Les Miserables is arguably the most popular musical of all-time. The music is great and the story is emotionally stirring. There are lots of ways this film could have gone bad. (Think Rock of Ages or The Producers). Instead, we got a solid and entertaining film adaptation that can be shared for years to come. The highlight of the film is Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” It’s an instant film scene classic.
8. Holy Motors
directed by LEOS CARAX
So what in the world is HOLY MOTORS about? Well…it’s about everything and anything. A smorgasbord of storytelling. The film is part David Lynch, part Ridley Scott, and part Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It defies categorization and simple synopsis. HOLY MOTORS also hints at the true potential of film and storytelling. Which is limitless. HOLY MOTORS defies convention.
7.The Perks of Being a Wallflower
directed by STEPHEN CHBOSKY
As far as coming of age stories go, there hasn’t been a more touching, honest and sensitive portrayal of youth on film since STAND BY ME. ThE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER succeeds in capturing the real-life angst, awkwardness, pain and even magic of growing up. The film features some impressive performances from the entire cast, which defies their youth. Perhaps a testament to the excellent script and thoughtful direction of Stephen Chbosky.
6. Safety Not Guaranteed
directed by COLIN TREVORROW
More of a character piece than a time travel yarn, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is about human connection. Connecting, emotionally, and spirtually with the people in one’s past to advance one’s relationships in the present. It’s a film about examining who we are, faults and all to become the people we hope and wish to be. It’s about risking and investing in one’s self and also on others. No matter how scary or unlikely the connection may be. Because as terrifying or intimidating as time travel may be, it pales in comparison to exploring one’s own heart and soul.
5. Cloud Atlas
directed by LANA & ANDY WACHOWSKI, TOM TYKWER
Ambitious, sprawling, genre-bending, even epic. CLOUD ATLAS is alot of movie. Maybe too much movie for some people. Different stories, in different time periods, featuring the same actors, in different story-lines, all connected spiritually and emotionally. Yeah it’s a mouthful and definitely challenging storytelling. But it’s also great and fantastic movie magic. If one is looking for a can’t miss movie to check out. This is it. Because even if one isn’t crazy about the film as a whole. There is likely a storyline, genre or character in the film that will appeal to one looking for entertainment.
4. End of Watch
directed by DAVID AYER
I can’t think of a bigger challenge for a Hollywood film than to make LAPD street cops appear as heroes in a movie. With the history of well documented real-life corruption within the LAPD, and it’s often evil or general incompetent portrayal of the LAPD police force in film, it’s hard for audiences to feel anything but disdain for the Hollywood version of the LAPD. If anything LAPD street cops are often seen as obstructing clowns in films, not heroes. But END OF WATCH presents them as just that. The police officers in END OF WATCH are shown as working class, civil servants, not one-dimensional stereotypes. They have hopes,dreams, aspirations and human faults just like everyone else. But they also get paid to protect us. By the time the final Hollywood style shootout happens we are invested in these characters, almost like family. Amazing work and affable, effective performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.
directed by ANDREW DOMINIK
This little seen gem is on the surface a neo-noir crime drama with anti-violence overtones. But the reality is KILLING THEM SOFTLY is also a cautionary tale on capitalism. It’s a harsh criticism of American consumerism. It’s a critique of the kill or be killed, me first mentality that is crippling America’s economy. Pretty heady stuff for a crime thriller. Sad that the American audience didn’t embrace this film. But now’s your chance to check it out. Warning, however, it’s not for the faint of heart.
2. The Master
directed by PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON
Paul Thomas Anderson’s film THE MASTER is an actor’s showcase. It is a character piece exploring two seemingly extreme personalities, played by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. These are characters who are actually more alike than different. It’s about trying to find direction in the meaninglessness of life. Critics got hung up on the similarities to Scientology and the lack of narrative through line. The real magic of the film is the performances of Hoffman and Phoenix as well as a surprisingly strong one from Amy Adams. With Paul Thomas Anderson at the helm, the film is a testament to these great artists exploring the human condition at the top of their collective games.
directed by QUENTIN TARANTINO
Controversy aside DJANGO UNCHAINED is thrilling popcorn entertainment. Sure that’s an odd description for a film that uses pre-civil war, southern american slavery as a back-drop. But the trap of the film is to dig too deep into it’s meaning or message. Which… I honestly did on my initial viewing. After additional viewings and some consideration, I concluded that DJANGO UNCHAINED is truly and at it’s core a tribute to genre film-making. It’s escapist entertainment. It’s a spaghetti western wrapped in a southern black exploitation flick. If Tarantino were to neglect the more gruesome and disturbing elements of the black exploitation genre, the controversy would be his watering down of America’s dark history. Instead, viewers are discussing the subject of pre-civil war slavery. Even more than audiences of the overtly, anti-slavery, historical drama LINCOLN. DJANGO UNCHAINED is entertaining and thought provoking. While not being preachy or insulting. Exactly what great art is supposed to do.