Let me first say that there are a number of films I haven’t gotten to see that might have gotten some type of shout out on this list: Argo, The Sessions, Holy Motors, Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, Wuthering Heights, Frankenweenie, Wreck-It-Ralph, The Impossible, Les Mis, Rust and Bone, The Grey. That being said, here’s everything I saw this past year:
The Other Son
Rise of the Guardians
The Dark Knight Rises
21 Jump Street
Beasts of the Southern Wild
A Late Quartet
The Expendables 2
Cabin in the Woods
Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Think Like a Man
Seeking a Friend For the End of the World
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
A few random awards:
Favorite Action Film: Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Could Have Been Great But WTF: The Possession
Most Pleasant Surprise: (Tie) Think Like a Man and 21 Jump Street
Movie With Fantastic Individual Scenes Better Than the Overall Movie: The Master
Sure to Become a Cult Classic: Cabin in the Woods
Favorite Villain: Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (even though the way they disposed of him in the movie was so below him. He deserved a way better exit than that.)
Movie That Struck a Personal Chord That No Other Movie Did: ParaNorman
Scene That Made the Whole Movie Worthwhile: Denzel grabbing the bottle in Flight. Painful in the right way.
Keira Knightley in Seeking a Friend For the End of the World
Tommy Lee Jones and Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln
Samuel L. Jackson, Leo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington in Django Unchained
Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Denzel Washington and John Goodman in Flight
Doona Bae and Ben Wishaw in Cloud Atlas
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe
Javier Bardem in Skyfall
Kevin Hart in Think Like a Man
Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers
Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry in Beasts of the Southern Wild
And now my top 12, in order top to bottom:
Django Unchained–It’s the movie that I will return to years from now, more than any other. It’s so much more layered than it gets credit for. It’s a game changer in my book.
Silver Linings Playbook–This movie is a master class in the power of specificity. I believed in these people, and it gave me something. I walked out better than I was when I went in.
Chronicle–The small scale superhero film that was better than any of the big ones. Maybe my favorite in years. Chilling.
Anna Karenina–This movie should have been a failure. That’s how radical reinterpretations generally go, they either tank or soar. Damn this was good. Damn.
Cloud Atlas–Like Django Unchained, this film will also be around in my head longer than many others. It was a hell of a ride. Long ass movie, and I don’t remember being bored at all.
Lincoln–Thank you Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg for proving how effective biopics can be in a focused setting instead of trying to cover the subject’s whole life. And damn it, I had tears down my face by the end. I had some hope in our country restored. No joke.
The Other Son–You may not have heard of this one, but if you care at all about the Israel-Palestine conflict and history, this is a film that takes you there, but in the way just about anyone can relate: parent and child.
Brave–I can’t believe I almost didn’t go see this. I almost feel bad for seeing it at the $2 theater; it deserved my money more than a lot of other movies. I have a sneaking feeling that this movie will rise in esteem over the years for Pixar fans. It seems kind of traditional, but it isn’t. It’s feminist. When female-centric action stories become “traditional”, that’ll be quite a damn day, but I’m not holding my breath.
Killer Joe–This kind of movie doesn’t work if it gets shy about its ambitions. Thank god, it is not shy at all. My favorite ending scene of the whole year.
Beasts of the Southern Wild–I had a couple of issues with this film, in terms of what it was trying to accomplish and in my opinion didn’t quite nail it, but this is still an original marvel. It’s also the only movie I can recall whose opening scene ripped tears out of my eyes. And it was the only scene in the movie that did that. That’s gotta count for something.
Moonrise Kingdom–Oh man. Kid love. This was adorable.
Looper–Let’s remember what high concept action can do. This is proof. Fantastic script. Well cast. A slow hitting doozy.