Before we start anything, Happy New Year to all! 2012 has been rather kind to me, so here’s to a similar 2013!
To be totally honest, 2012 was a bit of a slow starter in terms of films. I can’t really compare with 2011, as I had a huge cinema gap in my calendar then. But all I know is that for a long time, I was rather disappointed with the state of my top 10 films for the year. Things have gotten better as we got nearer the end of the year and the start of the awards season. Below is a list of 10 films that were released in the UK in 2012 and that really worked for me. They may not be the best movies of 2012, but they are the ones I liked the most.
Unfortunately, I have missed a few that could have changed this list, like Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunt or Magic Mike. Others haven’t yet been released in the UK like Cloud Atlas or Zero Dark Thirty. The full list of 2012 releases I’ve seen is here at Letterboxd HERE.
10. Moonrise Kingdom – Dir. Wes Anderson
I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson’s work. He brings something very original to cinema, something that doesn’t work with everybody but that definitely hits the spot with me. I don’t think he’s ever made a movie I didn’t like (although I’m yet to watch Fantastic Mr. Fox). Moonrise Kingdom didn’t disappoint and as if his usual team players weren’t awesome enough, Anderson managed to cast a very refreshing and hilarious Bruce Willis as well as a rather fun Edward Norton; both of whom it was an absolute delight to see again on the screen in such roles! Moonrise Kingdom was stunning to look at and listen to and the story was sweet and funny. It took me a little longer than usual to get into, hence why it only ranks at 10, but it is still one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
9. The Avengers* – Dir. Joss Whedon
I’ll be honest, I went to see this at the cinema thinking I would hate it. I even went to see it in 3D to give myself one more excuse to hate it. Boy, I was wrong! As much as I would rate most of the Marvel movies that came out prior to this one as ‘average’, this one could well be one of the best superheroes movies I have ever seen. Whedon did an incredible job in uniting all those characters from fairly different universes into one story without losing any of their individuality. It’s funny, it’s perfectly paced, the special effects aren’t half bad and beyond everything else, it’s entertaining! Essentially, that’s everything a superhero movie needs to be and there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t sit in my top 10.
On a side note, I have been debating with myself for a while now on whether I prefer The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises. I have come to the conclusion that The Avengers works perfectly as a stand-alone film, whereas The Dark Knight Rises is great as part of the trilogy it belongs to. This understanding also explains why I do actually love The Dark Knight Rises in spite of all its wrongs, but this is a debate for another time.
*or is it Avengers Assemble? This whole title malarkey is very confusing!
8. Berberian Sound Studio – Dir. Peter Strickland
To this day, even after having seen some excellent, excellent releases, I believe Berberian Sound Studio has the best first 60 minutes of any films released in 2012. I remember being halfway through the film in the cinema and realising that I was watching something very special, something that could well be the best film of 2012 without any doubt. Unfortunately, the film loses itself a little bit in the last 30 minutes, leaving the audience with a rather underwhelming finale. A real shame as this film could have become an instant classic, at least for me. I could go on for hours about how special it is. Toby Jones is absolutely astonishing and if I could, I’d give awards to the Art Department and of course, the Sound Department. The work achieved by the sound team is so good, I could just listen to the film with my eyes closed. In fact, I may have to do that once I get my hands on the DVD. This film is wonderfully disgusting-sounding and oddly disturbing.
7. The Master – Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
This film I wasn’t too sure about, because about halfway through I changed my mind about it. Halfway through the film, I realised there was a lot more to the character of Amy Adams than what was being shown on screen; and so by the end of the film I was left with the feeling that I wanted to find out more about that woman. I’ve fought with myself a long time about it, but I came to the conclusion that she was not what The Master was about and I just had to accept what Anderson wanted to show and tell us. Once I’d accepted that, I only had to focus on how rich a script Anderson had offered, how incredible a film he had made and how exceptional a performance Joaquin Phoenix had delivered. I know I haven’t seen all the films of 2012, but of what I’ve seen, this is THE lead performance of the year with no competition possible, not even from my own top 5 list. The Master ranks at 7 but this is because there is still so much for me to discover and understand from it. I’m very much looking forward to watching it again.
6. Sightseers – Dir. Ben Wheatley
Sightseers is perfect. This is pretty much all I have to say about it. It’s incredibly dark, yet hilariously funny. It’s full of laugh-out-loud things you really shouldn’t be laughing at. It’s perfectly played and its ending is perfect. It’s changed caravanning forever and it’s made some of England’s smallest museums become places we should all go on holiday to. It’s local and yet there’s a bit of all of us living in England in it. It’s typically British and I genuinely can’t find anything wrong about it.
5. Shut Up & Play the Hits – Dir. Will Lovelace & Dylan Southern
One of two documentaries to be in my top 10. I found hard to know exactly where to put this one in the list, because it’s very difficult to rate it the same way I would rate a regular film but I think halfway through is about right. Shut Up & Play the Hits documents the organised death of band LCD Soundsystem. I absolutely love the band and sadly never got the chance to see them live. This film shows images of their last ever gig at Madison Square Garden, some footage of the day before and the day after the gig as well as an interview with James Murphy about the history of the band. The live footage is some of the best music footage I have ever seen. It’s wonderfully shot and the rest of the footage pitches between party and sadness. The interview brings a very interesting insight into the head of frontman James Murphy. It genuinely made me feel like I was there, and in fact, people were singing along and dancing in their seats in the screening.
4. Looper – Dir. Rian Johnson
Here is another film I couldn’t find a thing I didn’t like about. It’s cleverly made and it keeps you thinking for a while. The future looks so familiar, making it so credible. It’s packed with sci-fi references but always treated with respect and the film has very much its own style and atmosphere. The more graphic scenes have something very beautiful about them, whilst the scenes that invite your imagination to do the work are sometimes painful to watch. It’s incredibly smart and superbly acted. Another great performance from both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.
3. Killer Joe – Dir. William Friedkin
This film has changed the way I will see fried chicken forever. In fact, I haven’t been able to eat any since I’ve seen it. Anyway… Matthew McConaughey is seriously terrifying and delivers one of his best performances in this. The supporting cast is equally wonderful. Killer Joe isn’t really the kind of film you can recommend. You can, but it may need to come with a warning for some people. This is one fucked up movie, coming from one fucked up mind; and it’s all kinds of awesome. I still think about it on a regular basis.
2. Amour – Dir. Michael Haneke
Amour is a wonder. It’s not just the best film I have seen this year, it’s also one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. I’ve written a full review of the film HERE if you’re interested. Amour is a film you need to see at least once in your life and one that will stick to you possibly forever. There is a part in the film where Georges tells Anne a story of a film he once saw, and how the film moved him a certain way; there is no doubt Amour is such a film. It’s very difficult to watch and yet it is one of the most beautiful films there is. You must watch it.
1. Chasing Ice – Dir. Jeff Orlowski
I know, I’ve just said Amour was the best film I had seen all year, and yet it ranks in second position. This is because back in April, I saw Chasing Ice, and this documentary has been with me ever since. I think about it constantly, every day. I’ve told so many people about it. I’ve told so many people to go and see it. I’ve always believed in climate change but I’ve never seen such tragic footage of it. Chasing Ice offers horrifyingly stunning images of melting glaciers and how fast the change is happening. And yet, it shows you facts without ever finger-pointing. This is what a documentary should be. This is an important piece of work. This is the film that touched me the most in 2012.