Dec 31, 2012

Top ten best movies of 2012

Digested all the blog lists summing up 2012 in increasingly shrill tones? Time to click the internet away until 2013? You don't get away with it that easily. There is one final list I would like to shove in your face.

These highlights of 2012 are incomplete because I'm not Mark bloody Kermode and I haven't got 92 hours a day to sit in a darkened room wondering how much better the movie would be in 2D. So I missed The Hobbit, Looper, The Raid, Argo, Holy Motors, Marley, Don't Think, Katy Perry's Part of Me and all those fancy films with subtitles.

Still, I love the cinema. It's the one time when I can truly get away from my troubles / my past / the bailiffs / the police. Here are my top ten movies for 2012, peppered with other titles that didn't make it into the final running.

10 - Ted

I wanted to dislike Ted. Talking teddies are in the same furry league as anamophic animals: all cutesie and moralistic. Leave it to Pixar to get that stuff right.

However, it works wonderfully in the paws of Seth MacFarlane, who played writer, director and bear. It's not subtle (like I said, it's Seth MacFarlane), but it's deliciously funny even before you take into account Patrick Stewart's bitter narration.

And if it gets a generation of plush toy-hugging kiddywinks into smoking crack, what's not to love?

9 - Skyfall

After an adequate cut-and-shut job in Quantum, Bond is back on form as a weakened Daniel Craig battles the mayhem of M's past.

The central premise of Skyfall - a lost hard drive - is so believable, we can forgive all the action film tropes (deux-ex-machina, plot-serving support characters). It's great fun and has a solid Bourne feel about it.

Sam Mendes has a clear affection for the franchise, and Bardem's baddie is psycho-Larry Grayson. Just let's not think about Adele's woeful rhyming couplets.


There are two films from 2011 which I wanted to mention. I spent such a long time wanting to see Another Earth, it just seemd so magical and different. I sat down to watch it this year. I fell asleep. This is no comment on the quality of the film, and it just means that the little paragraph raving about it in my 2012 summary has turned into this: a grovelling apology. Sorry, Another Earth.

I did, however, see Martin Scorsese's 2011 movie Hugo which truly was magical although not necessarily anything different. It does that Cinema Paradiso thing of romanticising the flicks to great effect. I'm a Scorsese sceptic (a 'Sceptsese') but Hugo hits home with every single beat. Didn't bother with 3D though. More about that later...

8 - Room 237

The Shining is a movie about a boy with a talking finger, right? Wrong. It's about the carpet. It's about Native Americans. It's about the moon landings.

Five bonkers Shining fans waffle for the entire film about their insane theories about the hidden meanings of Kubrick's horror masterpiece. And it's brilliant.

With more reveal moments than a Rihanna performance, Room 237 fizzles with celluloid geekiness as the theories unfold. Ultimately, though, it's a celebration of the human imagination - nutty or otherwise. Mostly nutty. Link

7 - The Muppets

Yes. The Muppets.

Animal is in rehab. Gonzo is a plumber. Fozzie is in a crap Muppet's tribute band. If only they could get the gang back together for one last time... a bog-standard career revival story becomes a moving celebration in the fuzzy hands of Kermit and his pals.

It's loaded with nostalgia, but the daftness is quite affecting and the Flight of the Conchords music (the white suit moment made me clap with glee) is worth the ticket price alone.

Intermission: thoughts about Prometheus

Die, die, die. I hope you all die. Oh look, you're walking over there. Oh look, now you're walking back again. There's a hostile alien environment. There's a weird gloop. There's a creature inside someone's torso. Someone's talking. They're still talking. Someone's got a mysterious map. If you join all the symbols on the map, it says I CARE ABOUT NONE OF YOU AND I HOPE YOU ALL GET EATEN BY THE ACTUAL ALIEN FROM ALIEN.

6 - Seven Psychopaths

I wrote about Seven Psychopaths on Screen 150, so go there. In short, Martin McDonagh's whimsical world is populated with Coen Brothers characters speaking Tarantino dialogue.

It has the courage to get the McGuffin of a plot where a gangster persues his dog's kidnapper, put it to one side, and let the first-rate actors go town on the best script I've heard at the flicks this year.

Just wait for the DVD to come out. I seriously think this film's IMDb quotes page will get very full. What? You think I'm not serious just because I carry a rabbit? Jeez.

5 - The Artist

I'm not a film critic, so I don't have the luxury of advance screenings. So it goes that The Artist, which was released here in the UK on 30th December 2011, counts as a 2012 film. And what a film.

It may not the first time we've seen a black and white tale of movie makers struggling in the transition to talkies, but The Artist's light touch brings us a perfect balance of drama and humour - as well as hugely effective use of its silence.

It's worth seeing again without all the, er, noise generated by the critics a year ago.


21 Jump Street is a stoopid buddy comedy about cops impersonating high school students to bust a drugs ring. The Woman In Black is about a grieving lawyer poking around a village terrorised by a ghost. One is funny and one is scary. One of them has someone being kicked in the goolies. One has someone stepping on a teacup. One has Channing Tatum. One has Harry Potter. Both have vomiting of some kind. Neither are in my top ten.

4 - Chronicle

If Donnie Darko had true superpowers (and no, "thinking of rabbits" doesn't make you superhuman), then you'll probably get Chronicle. It has that free-wheeling freshness that made District 9 similarly entertaining.

Careless teenages are afforded telekinetic abilities, forcing them to either grow up or stay as isolated teens forever. A science fiction story becomes a study of loneliness and anger.

I wrote about this on Screen 150, but essentially it's a stupid premise handled with a fresh eye and an intelligent mind. The plot piles what-if upon what-if until we end up... well, that would be telling. "Andreeeeew!"

3 - Cabin in the Woods

Oh crumbs.

Cabin In The Woods is a horror film, except it's not. It's about college kids in an isolated cabin, but it's not. It's about horrific blood-soaked deaths, but it's not.

This film is unreviewable, so I'll keep it vague. AAAAARGH! AAAAAAARGH! AAAAAAAAAAARGH! WHO THE HELL IS THAT? WHAT IS HAPPENING? OH MY CRAPSIE! AAAARGH! Multiplied. A super-charged tour-de-force where the merest "ding" of a lift's arrival will give you the terrors for weeks afterward. Highly recommended.


Unlike many of my friends, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. Much of it doesn't make sense and I suspect the sheen will wear off with a second viewing, but I was in awe at Christopher Nolan's complete world-noir. I'm yet to see a better trilogy, so I was somewhat gutted to bump this from the top ten in favour of James Bond. The nagging plot holes probably sunk the Dark Knight this time.

Meanwhile, The Master may be the darling of everyone's best-of list, but I couldn't shake its poor ending. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams build the tension terrifically, so believable is the madness in the methods of Hoffman's titular Master. But the movie went for what I can only describe as an 'I drink your milk' moment and it didn't work. Still a cause worth watching for, though.

2 - Moonrise Kingdom

A boy goes missing and Edward Norton's slightly pathetic scoutmaster is on the case. Except, the boy is busy discovering being a grown-up with a weird girl carrying binoculars.

Moonrise Kingdom is constructed from the strange storyboards and camera cues in Wes Anderson's mind, but unlike some of his previous films, it serves this beguiling and hilarious film brilliantly.

Moonrise is a joy from start to finish. Hollywood stars (Willis! Swinton! McDormand! Bill blimming Murray!) play support to the child leads, themselves nailing the uncertainty of adolescence as the ominous clouds roll over the coast. It's eccentric, unsentimental and quite beautiful. This is Life Aquatic On The Shore.
1 - Life of Pi

Young Pi loses his parents to the sea and finds himself in literal choppy waters: uncertain fates await him as he battles to survive with only a vicious boy-eating tiger for company.

Life Of Pi is an incredible achievement. Not only does it map out the dramas of the supposedly unfilmable book with remarkable clarity, the hyper-realistic CGI is unlike anything else I have seen. Anamorphic animals? This tiger's wrath is visceral throughout.

You could argue it handles the novelistic metaphors a little ham-handedly (God, nature, all that stuff), but Life Of Pi is a near-perfect cinematic experience that had me gasping, looking away from the screen, laughing in delight and crying floods of tears. Ooo. Best not mention floods. Sorry, Pi.

The man who brought us Crouching Hulk Hidden Mountain may have brought us his most amazing film yet. Well. Unless you watched it in stupid 3D.

The 3D. Bah humbug. I don't want a pair of odd glasses to come between me and an immersing cinematic experience. Anything that takes your eyes a step away from the action is not a good thing. I saw Life Of Pi in 2D and, honestly, it's fine. It's amazing. It's my film of the year and is up there with Where The Wild Things Are. Anamorphic animals. Again.

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