GFBR’s Top Ten Films of 2012
2012 is done and in the books and with the Oscars looming just over the horizon, and we here at GFBR have taken some time to consider the year in film. 2012 was a hell of a year with box office records being smashed, Disney buying Star Wars, and several films spurring discussion of hot button issues such as racism and torture.
We’ve taken a look at more than our fair share of films over the twelve months that comprised 2012 (seriously, you don’t even want to see the number of movie tickets we’ve got laying around our houses) and come together to rank the year in film.
A little preamble: the order of the films you’ll see below was decided by each of the Film/TV section writers comprising a list of fifteen favorite movies. Each movie was assigned a score based on their position on those individual lists which dictated their position on this final list. After the list was compiled, a discussion was held and an executive decision was reached between us wherein two films were swapped. In the interest of full transparency number four and number five on this list were flipped after a short discussion.
Without any further ado: Giant Fire Breathing Robot’s Top Ten Films of 2012!
Tie 10 — Wreck-It Ralph
Billy: You’re probably thinking that a top ten list with eleven entries is a bit of a cheat, and I’ll be honest–it is–but, when that cheat allows us to include Wreck-It Ralph … well, it’s for the best. It’s not often that Disney Animation’s CG animated features can compete with Pixar, but Wreck-It Ralph absolutely does. Hell, I’d go so far as to say that Ralph absolutely beats Pixar at their own game for once. A funny, smart, and heartwarming homage to video games, Wreck-It Ralph is a movie that could not have been made a decade ago. It’s the rare video game cash-in that actually cares about getting it’s references correct and not talking down to the medium. On top of that, the film is filled with some great original songs, excellent voice performances from Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly, and price of admission included the transcendent animated short Paperman. Regardless of whether you like video games, or get most of the references, Wreck-It Ralph is an incredibly fun time at the movies.
Tie 10 — Life of Pi
Jim: Easily the best use of 3D yet (yes, even better than Avatar), Life of Pi was the best technical achievement of the year. But, like any film based on a book (especially one so often termed, “unadaptable”), the heart is in the story and the emotional connection to Pi’s journey on the raft. Rather than getting bogged down in debating the ending, I’ll simply say it was a challenging film that asked me to consider how I felt about humanity and faith while telling a gripping story.
9 — Beasts of the Southern Wild
Jim: A truly universal epic; a story that could have easily been written by Homer with as many engaging metaphors as there are actual plot developments. The relation to Hurricane Katrina and the modern world were easily exchangeable with any other setting. The inhabitants of Bathtub are cut off from the rest of the world by a levee, but I love stories that remove us from a relatable setting if they have something worthwhile to explore about humanity. And, I loved Quevenzhane Wallis’ performance that the picture’s unbridled and childlike unconquerable optimism in the face of the harsher realities we face.
“A thousand years from now, the scientists of the future will know, once there was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.”
Billy: Joss Whedon is a very talented man. Yes, we all saw The Avengers (missing from this list, but just barely) break box office records left and right this year, and you may have heard that the director took a week off during production of that superhero juggernaut to actually film another whole movie, but the depth of Whedon’s talent goes much further than that. In Cabin Whedon takes the horror genre, presents all of it’s tropes and cliches, and then reconstructs them in such a way as to explain every horror movie ever made. No joke, Cabin in the Woods posits that all horror films–all scary stories–are real and exist in this universe, and Cabin gives a reason for this. It makes the film more than a horror parody. It’s more than its shocks, its scares, and its laughs. It’s the rare horror comedy that doesn’t just makes light of the tropes, it gives these cliches a reason for existing. Leave it to Joss Whedon to make me think completely differently about horror films. But outside of this, Cabin is just great fun! With plenty of laughs, scares, and blood, Cabin in the Woods is a fantastically fun movie in it’s own right.
Billy: When I tried explaining this indie film to friends, I had a bit of a difficult time, “It’s about time travel, but not really. There’s a guy who claims he can time travel and these magazine writers are trying to covertly get the story. But, it’s really about the choices we make, and lamenting the past. And, it’s about seizing today, and not being cynical.” I may have sounded like a crazy guy. I was drawn to the film initially by the premise: A man places a classified ad looking for people to go back in time with him. The name coming from a final warning that the time traveler’s safety is not guaranteed. Time travel was the catalyst that brought me to the film, but strong performances (that nicely eschew more well-known roles) from Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza, a heartfelt and lightly funny drama from the smartly written script, and some great music endeared Safety to me and landed it a place on this list.
6 — Skyfall
Billy: When I wrote about Skyfall for GFBR back in November, I remarked that it was the Bond reboot that Casino Royale should have been. Casino was a reboot that shucked the things that made Bond …well, Bond, while adding to the series a new gritty aesthetic. Skyfall keeps the gritty realism but reintroduces Q, gadgets, and a couple other Bond staples that I dare not reveal here. Skyfall delves into James Bond’s history, finally giving 007′s backstory some much needed heft. Bond was always sort of a cipher–a suave dude who always got the girl, and could stop the villain and save the world while making the perfect quip. But who is Bond, really? Past Bond films had no interest in this, but Skyfall gives us this information and a reason for Bond to be doing what he’s doing. Add to that a villain who is sympathetic while also dangerous, and you’ve got the makings of one of the very best Bond films. Casino Royale was a good film, but Skyfall is a great one.
5 — Django Unchained
Jacob: Quentin Tarantino’s latest film follows the story of a German bounty hunter, played by Christoph Waltz, who talks a slave, Django played by Jamie Foxx, into helping him track down a group of fugitives in exchange for Django’s freedom and a chance of rescuing Django’s wife, Broomhilda played by Kerry Washington. Along the way we run into antagonists Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Stephen, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Like many of this year’s great films, Django’s cast is outstanding. I cannot imagine anyone else in the lead and main supporting roles. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson all deliver some of the best performances of their careers. Especially Jackson, whose character was a complete shock to me. The film was also engaging enough to make its 165 minute run time fly by. I think that 165 minutes is not the ideal length for this film, but they were a fully entertaining and engaging 165 minutes. Although not a perfect movie, Django was one of the better theater experiences I had in 2012. Entertaining while also thought-provoking, Django is well worth the time.
4 — The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Jacob: As my personal favorite movie of the year, The Perks of Being a Wallflower marks the only film of 2012 I saw more than once in the theater. The story of Perks is a simple one at heart: a troubled teenager stumbling through life finds himself as he enters high school and is accepted by an equally dysfunctional group of misfits. Numerous films with similar concepts find themselves sitting eternally in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart, but with Perks the care with which the story was written and the performances of the entire ensemble raises this considerably in my opinion. The movie is based on a novel by the same name, but Perks is different than most book adaptations in that the novelist, Stephen Chbosky, is also the writer and director of this film. That is, to me, one of the explanations for the intensely personal nature of the film. Without ruining the film for those who have yet to see it, I must address that each of the films characters are deeply flawed and troubled teens. Discovering the root of these troubles and watching them be dealt with, and in some small way overcome, was my single most satisfying movie experience of the year.
3 — Silver Linings Playbook
Jacob: Silver Linings Playbook is perhaps the film most deserving of praise this year for one simple reason: it should be terrible. Before people began watching it all I heard was stupid title, stupid story, and what is David O Russell thinking? Now nearly the only thing I’m hearing is how great the film is; something that I completely agree with. Where this film could have easily devolved into a classically bad romantic comedy, it instead plays against the tropes and becomes an extremely emotionally fulfilling film. The way David O Russell crafted the movie also reflects the emotional state of the characters. As the film begins and the characters are fully into their emotional distress the movie reflects this tonally. It is slightly manic and aggressive in a way that keeps you glued to the screen. This is then flipped on its head and the film develops a more uplifting tone as the characters begin to better deal with their emotional distress. Whereas many films in the Oscar conversation are capital D dramatic with dark and serious tones, Silver Linings Playbook reminds us that great Oscar nominated films can also be uplifting.
2 — Zero Dark Thirty
Jim: From Mark Boal’s tense script to Kathryn Bigelow’s masterful direction, Zero Dark Thirty is the best thriller in years. That’s a remarkable achievement since every person that sees this film knows that Osama bin Ladin is in the house in Abottabad and what the outcome of the raid will be. The incredible detective story cares less about making any moral or political statement on the flashy issue of torture, and instead is more concerned with the hard work of many people including the strength of will of Jessica Chastain’s Maya required to resolve the largest manhunt in human history. In lesser hands, this story would have been a patriotic, flag-waving affair that rings hollow in it’s one-sidedness. Instead, it was a terrific story that manages to take a story the whole world knows and forge an emotional connection to what’s happening onscreen.
1 — Les Misérables
Billy: I’m not a musical guy. I’m not. It takes something really special to make me interested in a musical; puppets, rock and roll, and frickin’ cannibals have all played a part in making me love a particular musical. So, I was concerned about how I would receive Les Mis–a musical where every line is sung–a very traditional musical. Thankfully, my concern was all for naught as within moments of the theater lights going dark, I was locked in. The story of Jean Valjean being the best goddamned person alive and trying to dodge the law while raising his adopted daughter is a sad one, but absolutely worth seeing. Strong performances from Hugh Jackman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, and Amanda Seyfried made the film good. But, the absolutely transcendent performance of Fantine by Anne Hathaway stole the film in only fifteen minutes of screen time. It doesn’t hurt that I was weeping like a baby by the closing credits. Les Misérables is truly an achievement and absolutely deserves the title of Giant Fire Breathing Robot’s 2012 Film of the Year.