2012's been a decent enough year for film. There was no new Human Centipede film, Star Wars Episode 7 has been planned (good or bad? you decide), Christopher Nolan completed his Batman trilogy in style, 3D continued its strangle hold on the Hollywood blockbuster and there's hope yet that the Academy judges may throw us some well deserving Oscar nominations. I've enjoyed lots of films this year, i've been surprised by films I looked down on and disappointed by films in which I had high expectations, from comedies like Wanderlust and The Watch to horrors like Cabin in the Woods and to fantasy epics such as The Hobbit, 2012 was eventful. Here's my film year in review:
Best Sci Fi/Fantasy:
It was a definite toss up between Looper and The Hobbit for best sci fi/ fantasy, but Looper just takes it for me. Coming from nowhere last Autumn, Looper creeped up on us once the dust had settled from a massive blockbuster summer which included Brave, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers to name a few. Looper became the first genuinely enjoyable and original sci-fi film for years with not only a brilliant cast (Joseph Gordon Levitt is fantastic, in what has been a good year for him) but some superb cinematography. We also have to appreciate Bruce Willis, who's performance is under stated, his portrayal of an angry, twisted man is one of his best in a while. It also possibly had the best second act of a film all year, totally changing the nature of the story as the focus shifted to a small boy on a farmyard. As I said in my review back in October, Looper is smart and intelligent and easily one of the best sci fis in a decade.
Best Action film:
Again another Autumn release, James Bond rocked up in October with style, action, thrills and apparently Heineken beer, not his usual martini. And that wasn't the only change to the Bond franchise in Skyfall, we were introduced to a charming new Q (played by Ben Whishaw), as well as Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and a new head of the British Secret Service in the form of Ralph Fiennes, as Judi Dench's M was tragically lost in the movies' finale. Not only was Skyfall absolutely thrilling, but it was also intelligent and emotive, exploring Craig's Bond like never before. There may possibly be nods for technical Oscars for Skyfall, but it surely deserves more, especially for the stalwart Judi Dench, who has proved to be of consistent appeal during the Bond movies, even during Pierce Brosnan's lack luster series. I hope it is somewhat recognised this coming awards season.
This was always going to be tough, it came to a three way toss up between Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Moonrise Kingdom, and Silver Linings Playbook, and after eliminating the latter, I could not choose between these two fine pieces of cinema, so have chosen both! Of course I loved Silver Linings Playbook, but both of the above films were for me, this years absolute stand outs, and my personal two favourite movies this year. Beasts Of The Southern Wild was nothing short of beautiful, epic, fantastical and masterful. From the very opening sequence of Hushpuppy, running frantic through the marshlands of the Bathtub, swirling sparklers and screaming to the world to its tragic yet brave ending, I loved every minute. It is superbly shot, vivid, bright and dizzying, and brings a sense of wonderment that I did not get from any other title this year. I stand by what I said in my review back in November, Quvenzhane Wallis who plays Hushpuppy, deserves at least an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, it's time for the Academy to step up. Moonrise Kingdom was also brilliant, it was a critical comeback for Wes Anderson who earned his best reviews in years for this spring release. With charming yet surprisingly mature portrayals from its young leads, Moonrise Kingdom reminded its audience what it meant to be young and to be in love. It was a film of friendship and humour, it was a lovely alternative to the over played and highly saturated dramas Hollywood has turned out in the past couple of years. As per with Anderson, it had its affable quirks and it's obvious Bill Murray inclusion, but it was this years most eccentric, witty and heart warming release. Like Looper it also benefitted from its casting of Bruce Willis who has a surprising turn as a charming Police Officer, it's been a good year for John McClane!
Best Comic Book Film:
2012 was a great year for comic book movies, unlike in previous years where they were either hit or miss. There were no Fantastic Fours or Spiderman 3s this year, every super hero film was thrilling, while all were critically praised. That made this decision particularly tough, I enjoyed all three of this summer's comic book releases; The Dark Knight Rises, Avengers Assemble and The Amazing Spiderman. However in retrospect, I decided to choose Amazing Spiderman. The Dark Knight Rises, while intelligent and superb, became too over hyped on release, and then in early autumn, it received a backlash from Batman and Nolan fans alike for too many plot holes among other criticisms. In general movie goers should take a step back from the TDKR and the trilogy in general, and critique it properly in time. The Amazing Spiderman however, I felt was hugely under rated. On release it did well, not just at the box office but critically too. But there wasn't as much hype in comparison to Avengers and TDKR, and that's why I think The Amazing Spiderman gets my vote. There was no massive expectation before viewing, people weren't quite sure what to expect. Not only was Andrew Garfield immediately better than the last Peter Parker, Toby McGuire, but the general direction of the film was all round superb. It used a new villain in the form of Rhys Ifan's frightening and vicious Lizard and we had the delightful Emma Stone starring as Gwen Stacy, not the annoying Kirsten Dunst as an incessantly moaning MJ. We also explored more of Peter Parker's background through his parents, something which Sam Raimi's trilogy didn't get off the ground with. And now with Jamie Foxx cast as Electro for Amazing Spiderman 2, the series looks to go from strength to strength.
Most Underrated film:
Ruby Sparks was easily the most underrated film of 2012, it was charming, endearing and deeply intelligent. Yet it is also a brilliantly dark film exploring the ins and outs and tangled complications of relationships. The second act brings on this dark twist as it is wonderfully acted out by the two main leads, Zoe Kazan (also the screenwriter) and the ever-consistent Paul Dano. The two are a delight to watch on the screen together, and Kazan's debut script is quick, witty and flows from scene to scene with laid back ease. While it received good reviews on release, it was never particular advertised well and thus didn't garner as many fans as it should. But with such a wonderful story, and with hints of Woody Allen and Charlie Kaufman, Ruby Sparks should no longer be slept on, and deserves all the plaudits that other awards garnering dramas are getting. Also under rated this year include the Andrew Dominik film, Killing Them Softly, which despite critical acclaim, did not bode well with audiences. I found it to be entertaining and suspenseful, while Brad Pitt gives a brilliantly under stated performance.
In retrospect of my post, I find 2012 in review to be about young actors and actress'. My favourite films this year, whether it be Looper, Moonrise Kingdom or Beasts Of The Southern Wild, all centred around young charming protagonists. And the actors and actress' which portrayed them on screen all deserve recognition in what are moving, humorous and mature portrayals. They outshine some of the most respected actors working alongside them. So 2012 has been a hopeful year, as cinema is surely being passed into the right hands.