If it were up to the Mayans, last month would have marked the end of civilization as we know it. If that were the case, politically, socially, environmentally, financially and any other major issues ending in –ally would have remained unresolved. However, cinematically, 2012 was in a perfect position to say “adios” if needed as it proved to be one of the most impressive years in film in recent memory.
To commemorate these achievements, I have decided to compile a list of what I think are the top best films of 2012. Roger Ebert does it and so do all major critics for all the esteemed publications. So, what makes me qualified? Well, for starters, I spent the first half of the 2000s at my local video store — the now defunct Planet Video in Los Angeles. Every Thursday, I would go and take advantage of their three-rentals-for-$5 deal. Soon after, I discovered that I could check out five times the amount of movies for free at my local library! The latter half of the decade I spent working at a swanky movie theatre in LA. I had finally reached my life’s ambition: free movie tickets and 50 percent off concessions! This one time, I sold Stevie Wonder a ticket to “Drag Me to Hell.” It’s a true story, and so basically I’m qualified.
Top 5 Films of 2012:
1. “Django Unchained”
Quentin Tarantino brought in the culprits responsible for America’s greatest sin and gave them their just deserts in a movie that’s part spaghetti western, part revenge flick, and all around badass. Race is always a delicate subject in film especially when dealing with slavery. They range from the intense (“Do the Right Thing,” “American History X” ) to the sentimental (“The Help”). Tarantino, though, has carved out a very unique niche for himself since his scalping Nazis masterpiece, “Inglourious Basterds”. The good guys win and the bad guys lose horrendously in Tarantino’s ballsy retelling of history. There is plenty of violence here. There is far too much use of the N-word here. However, one cannot fault the man who is responsible for starting many important conversations as a result. Do not let the campy visuals, stylized dialogue and out-of-place hip-hop tracks fool you. This is a movie with a lot more depth than it lets on.
2. “Zero Dark Thirty”
While I thought that “The Social Network“ was the definitive film of our generation, it is Kathryn Bigelow’s film that sums up the world’s fear, uncertainty and anxiety post-9/11. This film, which chronicles the decade long tracking and killing of Osama bin Laden, leaves its audience with the most provocative question of any movie this year. Where do we go from here now that we have caught the bad guy? It also introduces us to the most compelling portrayal of a female professional in Jessica Chastain’s performance as Maya, the CIA officer who ferociously led her team to bin Laden’s capture. This is a character that belongs with Jodie Foster in “The Silence of the Lambs” and Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News” of all time great and complex female characters. Apparently there aren’t too many picks from Hollywood these days — or ever.
3. “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Young girls rejoice! You no longer have to look up to Bella Swan, or for that matter, Katniss from “The Hunger Games.” I introduce to you Hushpuppy, the pint-sized heroine of Benh Zeitlin’s stunning directorial debut. This was the movie that set the bar very high very early on this summer. Talk about a life-affirming film. This ecological fable is cinematic magic in its purest most independent form. This film beautifully captures the resilience of the people still inhabiting the damaged yet soulful Louisiana bayous ravaged by environmental disasters. As Hushpuppy says, the film reminds us that all of us are “a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.” At 9-years-old, Quevenzhane Wallis has become the youngest lead actress nominee at the Oscars and Benh Zeitlin is sure to become a game changer among directors.
Bette Davis said, “Getting old is not for sissies.” The three couples who walked out of this movie when I saw it, all of them senior citizens, clearly did not get the note or they understood it all too well. Michael Haneke’s meditation on the deterioration of life is not for the lighthearted although it is very hopeful. It tells the story of an elderly Parisian couple who are forced to deal with the rapidly declining health of the wife after she suffered a debilitating stroke. The movie is at times harsh and brutally honest about what it means to be at life’s end. Sometimes the wife does not want her children to see her in this state. Sometimes the children just do not understand. Sometimes the husband may have a violent lapse in judgment. Haneke challenges us to accept that it all comes from love and that sometimes the best thing we can do is let our loved ones die in peace and maintain their humanity in the process despite ourselves.
Hell hath no fury like a secret service agent scorned. I am finally convinced of Daniel Craig’s interpretation of James Bond and my faith in this franchise has grown exponentially because of this near-perfect action masterpiece. It is by far the most compelling of all the Bond films. Javier Bardem has a knack for creating very unusual and highly effective villains with the most bizarre hairstyles. Think of his Oscar winning turn as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.” His Silva belongs in a cell with Hannibal Lecter and the Joker as one of the quirkiest and most dangerous movie villains ever. And Kudos for finally giving Dame Judi Dench a classy and heart tugging story arch with her iconic character M. This Bond entry hit all the right notes including Adele’s ultra-cool title track. Not to mention that this movie had plenty of complexity, tragedy and dare I say poetry. But let’s steer away from that mushy stuff. True to Bond form, there is plenty of action, awesome cars, and beautiful women. Let us not forget that bod: James’s bod. Double o yowza!