Woah, Cloud Atlas at #1? And a dissertation on Magic Mike? This IS an interesting list. Thanks Jim! -Eric
Best Movies of 2012
by Jim Crose
1. Cloud Atlas – One of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. Editing was ridiculous, acting good. I felt the time switching was done perfectly. Anyone having trouble following wasn’t paying attention.
2. Les Miserable – Holy Shitballs. It’s overdone, melodramatic, over-the-top. There are many many legitimate criticisms, but my theatrical experience was amazing. More than once it broke me down into little bitty pieces and as a film going experience – cathartic and beautiful.
3. Magic Mike – I think this may be Soderbergh’s most naturalistic mainstream film. He forgoes the formalist framing of his more arty pieces as well as the self-conscious stylization of hits like Oceans 11 and Traffic. The flowing but seemingly unrehearsed framing made for an easy loose feel without overtly drawing attention to the camera itself. He cared more about the performances then occasional lens flare or washed out shots that others might spend hours trying to eliminate, possibly hurting the performances. The story was not what I expected – I figured we would see Magic Mike as a semi-successful stripper with a dream who goes through some trials and then ends up making his dreams come true. Instead we see a man who’s been working himself to death, supposedly to save up for his big business dream, but keeps getting shut down and never seems to get any closer. He trusts his mentor and club owner (McCaunaghy in a role that to me felt like Wooderson from Dazed and Confused moved to Tampa and opened a strip club) and gets burned for it. He takes a new lost kid under his wing, trying to lift him up and make him a success, and gets screwed for it. He tries to turn a casual hookup relationship into something more – and misses that as well. Structurally we start out traditionally, but later learn that the story we thought we started on isn’t the one we’re watching. What starts our as Buddy Love with Mike and the New Kid turns into a man realizing he’s been treading water for half his adult life and realizing the only way to move out of that rut is by completely cutting bait and taking a new, unknown direction.
I thought it was particularly interesting that a potentially movie shifting subplot involving some missing drugs and money was dealt with extremely quickly – because that wasn’t Mike’s story. A lesser movie would have made that the big third act action / salvation plot. Instead, we barely got a third act at all. After All is Lost, Mike basically realizes that he can’t possibly achieve success using his existing life plan and tries something else – which we never see because the movie ends at that decision point. It was risky, and people in the audience seemed surprised and upset at the ending, but I think they enjoyed the very well done dancing and eye candy enough to not be too disappointed. I was a little surprised that none of the strippers were openly gay, as my understanding is that many in that industry are. It was a deeply heterosexual film – it just showcased the extremely well built male form instead of the usual half-naked females. Although he did toss in some Olivia Munn boobs, for which I am grateful.
4. Looper – I can’t remember the last time I had less of an idea what was going to happen next throughout the film. I knew it was going to be good, and it surpassed that.
5. Argo – Great adult drama. Please make more.
6. Avengers – Best super hero movie ever. Best action movie I’ve seen in years. The Aircraft carrier was silly, and the set piece surrounding it defied logic, but it was still a hell of a movie. Black Widow stole the fucking movie. There was an absolutely genius beat in the final battle where the camera flows to each team members across a war-torn NY that I want to watch over and over.
7. Hunger Games – I’ve read the books and it was still way better than expected. I liked the way they used the omniscient POV to further explain the games and other events going on – stuff that was in Katniss’ head in the book. Extremely powerful without hitting you over the head with it. All actors, especially Lawrence, were great.
8. Moonrise Kingdom – Holy shit, I almost OD’d on Wes Anderson, but it was pretty fucking amazing. For something stylized within in inch of its life it was crazy good.
9. 21 Jump Street – Absolutely hilarious. Structurally it was impeccable. They did an enormous amount of work in the first ten minutes that set the stage for the entire rest of the film. Many setups and payoffs. Tatum and Hill had terrific chemistry. Extremely clever dialogue. Almost fell over laughing when they actually called out “And that’s the end of Act II.”
10. Project X – Best Found Footage movie I’ve even seen. I can’t defend it from any serious film criticism standpoint, but goddamn I enjoyed watching it.
11. Premium Rush – Way better than I expected. It was nice to see a film obviously shot on site. The courier world is one I don’t think I’ve ever seen. The plot moved nicely, the time floating ended up working well and this movie deserves way more interest than it received.
12. Safety not guaranteed – Cute story well told. Aubrey was adorable.
13. Bachelorette – Leads did a good job. It felt very close to the spec I read. Enjoyed it. Raunchy and funny.
14. Chronicle – I fucking loved it. I totally bought into the arc of the villain. The hoops necessary for the found footage conceit did get a bit tedious, but overall I thought they did it well – and once they went with the remote controlled camera they war able to actually use nicely framed shots. Final sequence was badass.
15. Bernie – Awesome. Linklater’s semi-doc style worked perfectly. My only complaint was what seemed like a lack of Bernie in the third act.
16. For a Good Time…Call – Very funny. This movie should get much wider attention.
17. Pitch perfect – Super funny – love that kind of story. Entertaining as hell.
18. Anna Karenina – I loved the theatrical conceit and was impressed it didn’t get too precious or overwhelming. The story drug some, but the actors were good, the look was great and it did a great job distilling a huge novel into two hours.
19. Haywire – The 70’s style was fantastic, the main character was very good for a novice, and her action was terrific. Marketing was terrible – it’s not a Bourne movie, it’s a Steve McQueen film. Good slow pacing, jumping around in time worked, all the actors were good. Liked it big time.
20. MiBIII – Way better than I expected – and Brolin killed it as young Agent K. Nice sappy ending and fun set pieces. Going back in time gave a needed jolt to the universe.
21. Lockout – Despite the fact that it felt like an Escape From … movie, I liked it. It knew what it was, and it had fun.
22. Deadfall – Nice and tense – a good story. It was obvious that they would all end up together in the end, but the progress as they got there was very good. Good, not great.
23. The Grey – Very good movie that I’m unlikely to watch again. A wonderful meditation on life and death. Man v Nature. What do you live for? The man who chooses to sit and die by the river was the best scene in the film. Again, not good marketing.
24. Man on a Ledge – Liked it a lot. Not great, but straight forward, good momentum. No major twists but fun. But I’m a sucker for a heist film…
25. Snow White – I liked it, it was a good take on the story, but I felt like it was too slow. And that chick still can’t act.
26. Dredd – I’d heard it was better than I thought, and everyone was right. A good contained story set in that universe.
27. Bourne legacy – Well done but I’m just not sure we need more stories in that world.
28. This Means War – not bad by any means, just purely by the book. It was slick and fun and the acting was decent, and McG did one of his better jobs showing us the action and telling the story.
29. Joyful Noise – I suppose that it’s intended audience would like it a lot.
30. One for the Money – Eh, it was ok. Enjoyable but predictable – I had no real problems with it.
31. Wanderlust – OK, but I felt the obvious improvised stuff wasn’t that great and it was too loosely edited. Several minutes of Rudd in a mirror being not very funny? Lame.
32. Safe House – Boring. I like both the leads and just didn’t give a shit at all for anyone during the story.
33. Skyfall – lots of silly plot holes. It looked beautiful but didn’t make much sense. Upon further thought, ranks in the lower end of enjoyable Bond movies just because it tried so hard to be modern but made no sense.
34. John Carter – It wasn’t just poor marketing – it was also a generic, decent looking fantasy epic. I like Taylor Kitsch from FNL, but he was too young and too subdued for this. Didn’t buy him. Actors were hard to tell apart, costumes were boring. And the worst of all – his “abilities.” Sure, Mars is like 2/5 Earth gravity, so he’s stronger and can jump and run better. But he jumped, swear to God, 100s of feet. And swung around man sized boulders like a whip. It just totally lost me. I’d give you fifty, but some looked like jumps of a thousand feet, or literally flying back and forth hopping off columns. Stupid
35. Total Recall – boring, future-generic dystopia. I almost fell asleep. Two super hot chicks in catsuits can’t save a generic dystopian setting and ludicrous plot.
36. Taken 2 – TERRIBLE. A complete hack job paycheck movie.
Thanks Jim! I will avoid Taken 2 and if I ever get to Mars, will not expect to jump 1000 feet.. -Eric