My Favorite Films Of 2012
This is a multipart column I am really looking forward to. I am going to get a chance to honor my favorite films of 2012. Since this blog is new and I didn’t get to review any of these films before, this year’s list will probably be a little longer than future years will be. The list will be in eight parts counting down to my favorite film of the year which will be in the final column. To judge what I really consider my favorite films I used a simple criteria. They were films that I knew I would want to revisit again and again and films that already are or will be part of my movie collection. In other words, movies that I’m going to spend my hard-earned money on. I will say that this is been the strongest year in quite some time as far as a number of films that I am truly passionate about. All in all, I would say the top 20 on this list are outright classics for me while many of the others could prove to be as well after multiple viewings.
To see where each of the films stood in relation to other critics and two other fans, I’m going to include their rankings on the Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database websites. That will be followed up by my thoughts on the film and a favorite performance or moment which I will try to keep spoiler free.
40-Pirates: Band of Misfits-Not nearly the masterpieces that the earlier works of Aardman Animation (specifically Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit) were but even second tier work from this remarkable studio is worth multiple viewings. In under 90 minutes, the film offers a ton of great sight gags, typical dry British humor, and some wonderfully politically incorrect moments. The top one for me was seeing the elephant man as the butt of the joke; something that the typical animated family film would never dare to do. There is little story here, but the abundance of eye candy and activity going on in all corners of the screen largely makes up for the lack of it. An excellent voice cast rounds off the experience.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% (119-19)
39-Bernie-I went into this movie knowing nothing except that it was a Richard Linklater directed film starring Jack Black. My total ignorance of the subject matter (which is very rare for me) allowed me to be surprised again and again by developments all the way through to the end credits. Therefore, I’m going to give next to nothing away here. I’ll just say that it is a consistently offbeat, quirky comedy that deftly blends the line between fiction film and documentary filmmaking. Jack Black gives a complex, amusing performance as a small-town mortician, Shirley McClain is wonderful as the crotchety old woman the town can’t stand who befriends him, and Matthew McConnaughy has never been funnier than he is here as a self promoting D.A.. Best of all, however, are the many small roles portraying the people of this small town in Texas. A marvelous, entertaining surprise of a film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (110-10)
38-The Raven- I enjoyed this critical and commercial flop as a guilty pleasure. I am someone who loves the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and while this film doesn’t come close to doing them justice, it does pay respect to some of the author’s greatest works. John Cusack is quite good as Poe, portraying him as a mixture of a misanthrope and romantic hero wrapped up in one. The killer is inspired by Poe’s novels so his grisly murders and methods are entirely appropriate. Although the finale is somewhat uninspired, the journey to get there is worthwhile. At the very least, if this film gets a few people to discover one of the great short story writers, that is a good thing.
Rotten Tomatoes: 22% (27-97)
37-The Woman in Black- A good old-fashioned ghost story anchored by a strong lead performance from Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. Indeed, Radcliffe’s contribution is vital as the entire middle section of the film features him alone in an old house. It’s actually a bit reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Castaway and Will Smith in I Legend in the sense that it’s up to him to carry all the action by himself for long periods of time. The back story of the ghost is serviceable if unremarkable. The real strength (and always a key to any ghost story) of the movie is the sense of atmosphere provided by a disturbed town, a creepy house, and a misty swamp. They provide a great backdrop for all the real and imagined scares in the film. There are several jump out of your seat moments, and Radcliffe’s character and his back story provide some heart to the horror. It also has one of the best openings of the year, an unsettling triple suicide.
Rotten Tomatoes: 65% (112-60)
36-The Secret World of Arrietty- Another work of art from the Walt Disney of Japanese animation Hiyao Miyazaki. While Miyazaki did not direct this film, he adapted the screenplay and his fingerprints can be felt all over it. All his trademarks are here including a complex and compelling heroine, a love and respect of nature, and an attention to every detail that suits the story perfectly. The movie is based on the series of books called The Borrowers about a species of miniature people who live in houses unseen by humans. Amongst the film’s many triumphs is successfully capturing the feeling of wonder that a young boy would experience upon the discovery of something so magical. The young boy also has a tragic back story which adds even more layers to the whole proceeding. The author of the original series, Mary Norton, reveled in attention to detail in every aspect of her creation’s lives. I don’t think she could have asked for a film version that would respect that vision any more closely. Every frame is a work of art and the home of the borrowers is filled with little touches that will require multiple viewings to take in. My favorite Miyazaki film since Spirited Away.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (109-7)