By Bob Ignizio
I watched a lot of movies in 2012. They came not just from Hollywood, but from all over the world, and spanned just about every imaginable genre. The quality of these films was just as wide ranging, which means that while there were an awful lot of mediocre and outright bad films, there were also a number of really good ones. Maybe even a few with the potential to go down as classics. Even the big budget Hollywood popcorn movies this year were, by and large, pretty enjoyable. So all in all, 2012 was a pretty good year for me at the movies.
That being the case, it actually took a little thought to pick my top ten this year. Nonetheless I have done so, although if you have the time and inclination, I would say many of my “honorable mentions” are at least as good as the bottom five on my list. As in past years, I'm allowing movies that might technically be 2011 releases for consideration as long as they didn't open in the Cleveland area until 2012. By the same token, films that only played a handful of cities for Oscar consideration and haven't yet opened in NE Ohio are not eligible, even if I happened to see them at an advance screening. My list, my rules.
It should probably also be noted that there were some releases I wish I had seen that, for whatever reasons, I just didn't get around to. ARBITRAGE (Review by Pamela Zoslov), CHICKEN WITH PLUMS, CLOUD ATLAS (Review by Matt Finley), END OF WATCH, THE INTERRUPTERS, KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Review by Marcie Gainer), KUMARE (Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.), MONSIEUR LAZHAR (Review by Ben Lybarger), ASEPARATION (Review by Pamela Zoslov; technically 2011, but opened in Cleveland in 2012), SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (Review by Pete Roche), SHAME (another 2011 film that opened here in 2012), and SKYFALL (Review by Pete Roche) all piqued my interest, but time ran out before I managed to see them. So without further ado, here is my list of favorite non-documentary films from 2012. In the cases where I have written a full review for the films on my lists, I have linked to those reviews. In a few cases, which I have noted, I have linked to reviews by other writers for the Cleveland Movie Blog.
Bob's favorite films of 2012
10. LAWLESS – A somewhat fictionalized account of real life moonshiners The Bondurant brothers that owes much to the films of Sam Peckinpah. Great soundtrack, too.
9. COMPLIANCE – A disturbing look at just how far the average person will go to try and please someone they believe to be in authority. Unlike most “based on a true story” films, this one is almost completely accurate, and yet you'll have trouble believing it.
8. THE AVENGERS – Is it a great movie? Probably not, but for actual comic book fans (like me) this was the movie that finally put the kind of action found on the pages of superhero comics every month on the big screen. Plus they finally got the Hulk right, and as anyone who saw the movie and loved it can tell you, that's no small thing.
7. ARGO (tie) – Ben Affleck directs a classic seventies style political thriller based on one of the stranger stories to come out of the Iran hostage crisis. Affleck is good in front of the camera, too, but there's no real star here, just a top notch ensemble cast.
7. THE ARTIST* (tie) – Look, by this point you've already heard enough about this one. It did win a few awards, after all. While technically a 2011 release, it didn't open in Cleveland until 2012. I liked it a lot, so it's on the list.
6. HOLY MOTORS – A series of surreal vignettes tied together by an amazing performance from Denis Lavant
5. MOONRISE KINGDOM – Two precocious adolescent outsiders fall in love and go on the lam in what may be Wes Anderson's best film to date.
4. THE CAT VANISHES – Forget HITCHCOCK, this was the best cinematic tribute to the “Master of Suspense” this year.
3. ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA – A beautifully shot epic about truth and lies, and how the latter can sometimes be less harmful than the former.
2. TOMBOY – A wonderful, matter-of-fact film about a young girl trying to work out her gender identity.
1. DJANGO UNCHAINED (Review by Marcie Gainer) – The plot synopsis for DJANGO UNCHAINED sounds like a mix of sub-Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and the infamous slavesploitation epic MANDINGO. But like Roger Corman before him, Quentin Tarantino understands that one can sometimes address serious, even taboo social issues in the context of lurid entertainment in a way that is still sincere and respectful, and in doing so reach a wider audience than a more serious film might. Tarantino's film is hugely entertaining provided you have a stomach for the graphic violence, but there are moments where the fun stops and you have to confront just how horrific slavery really was in ways few, if any, other films have ever shown. Jamie Foxx exudes the bad-ass cool of a young Fred Williamson, and Christoph Waltz more than holds his own as a bounty hunter who ultimately proves to have maybe too much of a conscience for his own good. And Spike, sorry your own film from this past year (REDHOOK SUMMER) was an interesting failure at best, but at least I actually watched it before making that assessment.
Honorable Mentions: BERNIE, BLACKTHORN, CABIN IN THE WOODS (Review by Matt Finley), THE CAMPAIGN (Review by Pamela Zoslov), CARNAGE, THE DEEP BLUE SEA, GOODBYE FIRST LOVE, GOON (Review by Matt Finley), THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, THE HOLE, THE HUNTER (Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.), I WISH, KILL LIST (Review by Matt Finley), LAST RIDE, LEAVING, LET THE BULLETS FLY, LINCOLN, LOOPER, NOBODY ELSE BUT YOU, PROMETHEUS, A ROYAL AFFAIR, THE TURIN HORSE, THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS
And a few I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about, but that nonetheless left lasting impressions on me: BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, GOD BLESS AMERICA, and THE MASTER.
Favorite Documentaries of 2012
5. DETROPIA – A fascinating look at a city at the crossroads between death and rebirth.
4. THIS IS NOT A FILM – An Iranian filmmaker documents how his work got him in trouble while trying to get around a ban on making more movies (hence the title).
3. RESURRECT DEAD: MYSTERY OF THE TOYNBEE TILES (review by Charles Cassady, Jr.) – Strange artifacts bearing a puzzling message have been placed all over the world, and this film aims to get to the bottom of the mystery.
2. SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! (review by Charles Cassady, Jr.) - A bunch of surreptitious recordings of a bizarre odd couple arguing led to an underground pop culture phenomenon. Profane and at times just flat out wrong (not in the sense that it's inaccurate, but in a "man, that is so wrong" but I'm still laughing kind of way), but nonetheless hilarious if you're wiring is as twisted as mine.
1. LAST DAYS HERE – When you first see Pentagram vocalist Bobby Liebling in this film, you're sure he'll be dead by the time it's over. Thankfully, the damaged rocker's life takes many surprising and hopeful twists, and LAST DAYS HERE ends up being a surprisingly hopeful film about a rocker getting a third (maybe even fourth) chance, and finally making the most of it.
Honorable Mention: AI WEI WEI: NEVER SORRY, BEAUTY IS EMBARASSING, CORMAN'S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.), THE IMPOSTER, THE INVISIBLE WAR, PARADISE LOST 3:PURGATORY, QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, THE ROCK A FIRE EXPLOSION
And finally, the movies I really hated this year. I won't include BATTLESHIP since I let the movie beat me and walked out before it was over. Hey, we all have those days when our stamina is flagging, and to be fair, everything on this list is easily as bad or worse than what I saw of the multi-million dollar board game adaptation. The only difference is my own personal tolerance for cinematic punishment was operating at a higher level when I saw these turkeys. They all wasted enough of my time as it is, so I'm not wasting any more writing up blurbs for them, or even ranking them. Alphabetical order is all they deserve. Okay, maybe I should at least say that THE WATCH (Review by Matt Finley, who didn't hate it nearly as much as I did) and TIM ANDERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (Review by Matt Finley) tied for the title of my most unpleasant viewing experience of the year, but that's it.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, ACT OF VALOR, ALEX CROSS, CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.), CONTRABAND, CORPO CELESTE, DARK SHADOWS (Review by Matt Finley), DETACHMENT, THE DEVIL INSIDE (Review by Matt Finley), PROJECT X, THE RAVEN, SAFE HOUSE, SLEEPING BEAUTY, THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND, TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (Review by Matt Finley), V/H/S, THE WATCH (Review by Matt Finley),WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Review by Pamela Zoslov)