Wednesday, February 20, 2013

End-Of-Year: Favorite Films #16-35

My goal to post my list of favorites films of the past year before the Oscars are held this weekend is coming right down the wire, but without further a due here's the first half of my Top 35 films of 2012. I'll be posting my Top 15 in a couple of days!

35. Safety Not Guaranteed - It starts a bit slowly, but this quirky film about a man who puts an ad out in the newspaper for a time traveling companion is full of charm and originality. Lovely performances from Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass.

34. Django Unchained - Though it's my least favorite Best Picture nominee this year, it's hard not to praise this audacious film which has everything you love/hate about recent Quentin Tarantino films--the gore, revenge plot, and dark humor--but I was mostly impressed by the fun performances from the talented ensemble.

33. Smashed - While it was the great collection of actors that pulled me into the film in the first place, it was the raw and honest performance by Mary Elizabeth Winsted that I will take away from this really affective film about addiction.

32. Tonight You're Mine - Didn't think I would like this film much about two battling rock stars getting handcuffed together only to fall in love in the process. But even if the means of getting the two leads together were contrived, the undeniable chemistry between Luke Treadaway and Natalia Tena made it all work.

31. Take This Waltz
- I want to call this film a sensual coming-of-age tale wherein the luminous Michelle Williams plays a married woman whose world is rocked by falling in love with the sexy guy next door. Why wouldn't I like a film with that synopsis?

30. Skyfall - It wasn't my favorite Daniel Craig Bond film and I think Adele's theme song is way overhyped, but the way it smartly reboots the series while also giving homage to its past was well done. The breathtaking visuals as well as the superb acting from Javier Bardem and Judi Dench elevate the film. Plus Ben Whishaw as hipster Q!

29. 21 Jump Street - First, a word on Channing Tatum. How dare he give two good performances (in this one and Magic Mike) making me rethink my apathy towards him. But I seriously cannot deny how hilarious and, more importantly, clever this remake/reboot/whatever this is was. Maybe I'll just praise the script and the cast so I can still pretend to not care about Tatum?

28. Pitch Perfect - I've listened to the soundtrack more times than I can count and there are many moments of glee within the film itself including showing the world how great Rebel Wilson is, but a few underdeveloped plot threads and a less than captivating Road to the Championships hampered the film for me just a little bit. I kept comparing it to Bring It On, which the film practically aca-begs us to do, but as truly fun as it is, it just doesn't compare.

26. Amour - Despite knowing what the film was about heading into it, I still found myself ill-prepared for the heart-wrenching tale of a couple struggling with the tragedy of old age. Haneke's restraint made it possible for both Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant to shine. It's one of those films I probably won't ever see again, but very happy to have seen.

26. Silver Linings Playbook
- I still have reservations over many of the elements of the film, but I can't deny that this is Bradley Cooper's best performance since his Will Tippin days in Alias and with a smart script and a talented ensemble around him, the film manages to charm its way into my heart.

25. Lincoln - A slow beginning and a longer-than-needed ending were probably the only things I didn't like about this supremely handsome and dignified film that shows off the best of what Steven Spielberg can do working with the best in the field. Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as the 16th President is magnificent as expected. Focusing the film on Lincoln's quest to abolish slavery and end the war was an inspired choice.

24. Gayby - This is my one gay film in my list this year, but it's a good one that I highly recommend. The plot itself isn't even special (girl and gay friend want to have a baby together!), but it's very sweet and very fun mostly due to a cast of largely unknowns able to deliver one hilarious line after another.

23. The Hobbit - Yes, the film was long and the fact that there are two more films just as long is making me shake my head, but to be honest it was fine. It was more than fine actually since Peter Jackson was able to immerse me in his world of hobbits, elves, orcs, and dwarves that I fell head over heels in love with about a decade ago. Martin Freeman was perfectly cast and Andy Serkis was still able to amaze as Gollum.

22. Les Miserables - I have never seen any iteration of this musical before seeing this film and the first time I saw it I had mixed emotions. Lots of good things about it, but it didn't wow me like I expected. I saw it a second time and somehow something clicked. Maybe I finally got used to Tom Hooper's direction or to the "live singing," but it really connected with me emotionally. Anne Hathaway is great of course and Hugh Jackman was meant to play Jean Valjean, but I wish Samantha Barks or Eddie Redmayne were getting similar dues.

21. Your Sister's Sister - The casual charms of the film owe a lot to the wonderful and natural chemistry of the actors as well as to the script that is somehow both low-key and supremely engaging. Every emotion, revelation, confession, and beat in the movie feels real and, more importantly, earned.

20. The Master - This impeccably crafted film is certainly challenging, but I don't think this Paul Thomas Anderson classic is as impenetrably obtuse as many people think it might be. In the heart of it all is a man, curious and self-destructive, played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix and his journey to find meaning in his life. The collaborative portrait Anderson and Phoenix paint is bleak, engrossing, and immensely watchable.

19. Beasts of the Southern Wild - Talk about a great debut by writer-director Benh Zeitlin who offered us an imaginative and fantastic tale about a small community dealing with a devastating flood all through the eyes of a courageous and fierce little girl astonishingly played by the very young Quvenzhané Wallis. This film is at once magical, strange, and affective from beginning to end.

18. The Hunger Games - I remember marathoning the book series last year and just getting completely caught into this dystopian tale of revolution and survival by Suzanne Collins. So this film was definitely one of my most anticipated of the year and thankfully the film met my expectations. Not flawlessly, of course, but that's to be expected and Jennifer Lawrence actually exceeded my expectations as Katniss. Also... "That's mahogany!" has got to be one if not my favorite 2012 movie quote.

17. Perfect Sense - The premise of the film with everyone in the world losing their individual senses one sense at a time was brilliant as it was depressing and horrifying in many levels. Most of that probably had to do with the absolutely heartbreaking performances by Ewan McGregor and Eva Green whose characters tried to maintain their humanity and their love amidst this new, scary reality.

16. Brave - After taking a break last year, Pixar does it again with their first "princess" movie that only they can deliver i.e. with lots of heart, an engaging protagonist, and some truly gorgeous animation work that we all come to expect from the studio. Merida is one of my favorite characters of last year from her wonderful smile to her distinctive accent to the magnificent mass of red hair.

As I said my Top 15 list will be posted in a couple of days before Oscar weekend. And then I can finally put 2012 behind me once and for all!

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