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The Projectionist’s Top 12 Films of 2012

The Oscars are upon us, and I’ve compiled my own best list at the last minute.  This year was better than many years in recent memory, and the list was actually difficult to pare down to just 12.  Why 12?  I’m being difficult.  But I’m consistently difficult: I’ve done a “Top 12″ every year I’ve created such a list.

Of course, like always, I haven’t seen every last movie in 2012.  Nor do I proclaim my list to be particularly different from many others.  Although in past years, I’ve given movies like Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol the number 1 slot, so you never know I guess.

12. The Amazing Spider-Man

Lost in the war between The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises was this movie that came with a lot of baggage due to the fact that Spider-Man 3 was so poorly received and that it seemed much too soon that Spider-Man even needed a reboot.  But Marc Webb’s new version is very well done, even though it covers much of the same ground we saw before.  But undeniably, Andrew Garfield is an excellent webslinger, and I that scene in the sewers where Spider-Man is detecting movement through a series of interconnected webs.  I liked this better than both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, and well, that would make me pretty unpopular with the nerd crowd.

11. Sinister

I guarantee you won’t find Sinister on your average “Best” list, and maybe it’s not as good as it really could be (mainly because of that stupid ending), but I found this movie incredibly disturbing in all the right ways.  Mainly because, this time, the found footage is actually “found” by a protagonist and is discovering these snuff films just like we are.  And those films…holy crap.  If it weren’t for a fairly letdown reveal, Sinister would have much higher.  But it was the first horror movie in awhile that actually made me jump.  That’s worth something.

10. The Cabin in the Woods

The best movie Joss Whedon was a part of this year was this horror spoof that may have had the most memorable 10 seconds of the year of any film in 2012, and if you saw the movie, you know what 10 seconds I’m talking about.  Long in production hell, the film is very smart on horror tropes and what might be causing them.  I loved that different countries, displayed on monitors, had their own interpretation of horror, especially the Japanese one.  Another movie that was derailed by a really stupid ending, though.  Everything is great until then.  Still, a highly entertaining film.

9. Django Unchained (not reviewed)

Quentin Tarantino usually makes my list, although this time he’s much, much further down than usual.  While Django has a lot of the things that are exciting about Tarantino: great script, assured and creative direction, and fantastic performances from Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz, there was apparently something in the air about endings this year, because Django takes a long, unnecessary diversion after killing two of its most interesting characters, and the whole reason why this diversion even happens is so that one little plot point about Django’s character can pay off.  Still, despite that, it’s another fun Tarantino trip.

8. Seven Psychopaths

Really one of the most creative movies of the year.  Martin McDonagh, who brought us the great In Bruges, did this meta look at the screenwriting process, starring Colin Ferrell basically playing McDonagh.  The movie is filled with quirky characters, hilarious dialogue, and a great performance by Sam Rockwell.  It should have been given a lot more love when it came out in theatres, but maybe it’ll find an audience on video.

7. Life of Pi

Ang Lee might be consistently underrated, or forgotten, by much of the film-going public, even though he’s constantly in the Academy’s good graces.  But I’m not sure “Ang Lee” means much business-wise to the average movie-goer.  It doesn’t matter.  He’s one of the most consistently good directors there is, and Life of Pi is a beautiful film about storytelling.

6. The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie about Scientology had way too much hype as the “Best Movie Ever Seen By People” before it came out.  And when it arrived, many were upset that it wasn’t the damning screed on Scientology that they had hoped.  But considering what happens in the movie, I think PTA did a good enough job pounding on any kind of religion that springs up like this, and Joaquin Phoenix is as good as advertised.  The movie is hard to penetrate, but some of your best movies are.  Once you give it time and chances, it usually rewards you even more than you thought later.  It’s 6th here mainly because of that coldness, something even a misanthropic movie like There Will Be Blood didn’t have.  But this movie is worth mentioning.

5. Lincoln

Steven Spielberg finally comes out with something worthy of his powers, something he hasn’t done in a long time.  Lincoln is buoyed by how much Spielberg actually steps out of the way in this one, a movie he could have turned even more gooey by trying to make everything more important and emphasized through his trademark camera movement.  The movie has an outstanding script, with Daniel Day-Lewis being generally awesome as always.  I generally disliked Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln and the completely unnecessary Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his son Robert, but those don’t weigh the movie down nearly enough to knock it out of this list.

4. Looper

I really enjoyed Rian Johnson’s take on time travel, even though it has some freaky time travel rules, but which make it all the more entertaining.  While the movie tends to end up copying the plot of The Terminator, I haven’t seen a movie take on time travel this way in a long time, to give it a little bit more thought than usual.  Most time travel movies don’t think there are consequences to going into the past, but this one has them in mind.  A movie-stealing turn by Jeff Daniels is worth the price of admission.

3. Silver Linings Playbook (not reviewed)

This movie is getting well-deserved accolades.  David O’Russell, who was best known for a tantrum with Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees and had offset a career that included movies like Spanking the Monkey, Flirting With Disaster and the awesome Three Kings, has now made two movies in a row with this and The Fighter that have restored his reputation as one of the better filmmakers going.  Silver Linings Playbook is always entertaining, putting two damaged characters together and spewing impolite dialogue at each other.  The reaction after Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are given their score at the dance competition is one of the best of the year.

2. Argo

Ben Affleck has made three movies in a row that have restored his reputation as someone worth talking about in Hollywood.  And yet, he’s somehow not nominated for Best Director here, which is extremely strange considering the unanimous praise this movie got culminating in a Best Picture nomination.  It goes to show that the people who decide these things have a long memory and still can’t get Ben Affleck’s “J-Lo” phase out of their heads.  Either that, or they took too much stock in Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Argo is an ever-entertaining film about the Iran Hostage Crisis, and even though a few of the things in the movie didn’t happen in real life, that doesn’t necessarily hurt the overall presentation.

1. Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow was also shafted for Best Director, another curious snub considering the incredible job she does with this search-for-Bin-Laden feature.  The best mysteries always seem to be solved when finding a pattern that isn’t obvious, and Jessica Chastain’s Maya finds that pattern, but is shut out by the overwhelming amount of information vying for attention.  Seeing her struggle, and then finally make headway, is great…seeing what her suspicions lead to, which is the assault on Bin Laden’s compund in Pakistan, is the kind of film-making that leaves you with white knuckles by the time it’s over.  Maya’s tears at the end of the film are well-deserved.

Again, how does Bigelow not get nominated?  A true travesty of this year’s Oscars, that’s for sure.

The Projectionist’s Bottom 12 Films of 2012


Comment from Jonathan
Time: February 26, 2013, 11:49 am

Good list; I still haven’t seen a few of these (Argo and Lincoln being the biggest examples). Out of everything I’ve seen my three favorite films this year are Safety Not Guaranteed, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Looper. Nice to see the love for Cabin in the Woods and Sinister; the latter would easily make my list and Cabin would probably be just outside of it. I actually loved the ending of Sinister. And glad to see I wasn’t the only one who really liked Amazing Spider-Man.

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