by Bob Devine
So what are the best films of 2012? Recently I was afforded the opportunity to catch up with most of the potential awards movies, several of them while traveling, and I thought it would be good to list some of the year’s best films from the perspective of someone who likes movies for their stories and their ability to flip the switch and make you feel like you’ve seen something different than what’s come before. So with that said, here we go:
1. “Lincoln” – The President sets out to free the slaves, and Stephen Spielberg manages to restrain himself from overdoing this film and saves the sentimental moments for when they’re needed. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis becomes Abraham Lincoln for the viewer, and will almost assuredly win the Best Actor Oscar this year.
2. “Life of Pi” – I didn’t even see it in 3D, and it’s still a visual feast. But the story of a young lad’s perilous journey on the seas in the company of a tiger is more than a vision. It’s a symbolic tale of a potentially much more brutal struggle for survival, but as Pi states toward the end, which story would you rather believe?
3. “Searching for Sugar Man” – Kudos to the people who brought this film to the big screen, because this story about rock musician Rodriguez provides hope that the actions we take today can sometimes benefit far more people than we’ll ever know. It also shows that sometimes the truth makes a far better tale than fantasy. Run, don’t walk, to see this movie… then go out and buy the soundtrack.
4. “The Impossible” – This film works so largely because it does not shy away from the visuals of the 2004 tsunami, but instead takes the viewer right into it and after several harrowing minutes, pulls the viewer back to safety and proceeds to display a lesson in humanity that overrides any potential sensationalistic tendencies.
5. “Zero Dark Thirty” – Jessica Chastain nails this role as a CIA operative involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The gathering dread of those who couldn’t find public enemy #1 is on display for all to see. This film was in process before bin Laden was found and fortuitously had the last act handed to them in time to be included in the movie.
6. “Flight” – Many people complained because they thought this would be a lot of popcorn fun wrapped up in an action movie. It wasn’t. Instead it’s a soulful reflective look at an addicted man (Denzel Washington) ultimately hitting rock bottom, and his struggle to find a way back from the edge of nothingness and a mostly wasted life. When viewed from that lens, it’s a powerful portrait piece.
7. “Safety Not Guaranteed” – A breath of fresh air that is witty, while being hip and nerdy at the same time, taking an unconventional story about possible time travel to unconventional places, replacing cynicism with wide eyed curiosity. I couldn’t help but cheer at the end, regardless of the outcome of the journey.
8. “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” – This movie starts out with some conventional trappings and then slowly evolves, hooking the viewer with the evolving circumstances of the film and the intelligent dialogue of the leads (Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, and Amr Waked), until one wonders whether they’re really watching a movie about fishing or rather a metaphor about faith and reason. In the end it’s probably a bit of both. Emily Blunt should have gotten an Oscar nomination for her performance.
9. “Cloud Atlas” – I found it to be insightful, even if I don’t fully grasp everything that happened. As I left the theater it struck me that this movie might very well become a classic whose appreciation for it grows as the years go by. I want to watch it again. I had a thought that if I were to watch both this and “Life of Pi” a few more times, I might just figure out the meaning of life.
10. “Silver Linings Playbook” – Jennifer Lawrence is a winner and somehow takes every role she’s given and breathes life into it. What could be a formulaic romantic comedy is powered by her unhinged performance in the wake of her husband’s death, in the company of Bradley Cooper, who holds steady in his role as a slightly off balanced man trying to recover from a bad marriage.
11 A. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Young Quvenzhané Wallis is great in her role as young girl emerging from a flood in the Louisiana bayou with wisdom beyond her years.
11 B. "Promised Land" - This movie took flack because it is a cause movie, even while being a cause worth considering, as the issue of "fracking" for natural gas is by no means a settled issue. But the visuals of small town America, along with a couple twists and inspired performances by Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, and John Krasinski, make this film enjoyable enough to get on the list.
12. “The Avengers” – Perhaps the best superhero movie ever made to this point, with the possible exception of “Batman Begins.”
13. – “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” – A great look at India through the lens of several retirees hoping to find some new meaning in life. Judi Dench could and maybe should have earned an Oscar nod for her role.
14. – “Django Unchained” – Probably one of the best for Quentin Tarantino with some emotional depth to Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington, as slaves struggling for freedom, and Christoph Waltz dominates the scenes when he is present, but I don’t feel the glorification of gratuitous violence deserves to be held up as matching the quality of story that some of the other films offered.
15. – “Moonrise Kingdom” – I found it interesting, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that it was trying too hard to be different, offbeat, and retro, which made me feel like it was less authentic, but still an enjoyable watch overall. So that’s it. Agree or disagree, these are the films that moved me in 2012. Here’s to more quality films in 2013.
(Notes of omission - "Argo" and "Les Miserables" were not on my favorites list for various reasons... I did not omit them by accident. And "The Hobbit" was a tough choice that could have settled in as high as number 12, but ultimately ended up falling just short on my list because of some of the liberties taken in the first film which have me wondering how it will be tied together. If the future installments bring about a more seamless vision with the changes, then the first film might gain some in standing, but it's a wait and see attitude for me. Also, I have not seen "Amour," "Bully," and "The Intouchables" at the time of writing this, which could affect the list once I've seen them.)
Bob Devine is the coordinator for the Pocatello Film Society. For more information, go online to www.pocatellofilmsociety.com.
by Bob Devine