The Best Films of 2012

This has been a very good year for mainstream cinema. Several truly great directors are finally getting the budgets they need to realise more ambitious works, many of which have come to fruition this year, and although some of our favourite directors didn’t have releases, we still found ten films that made us happy enough to share!

There are some honourable mentions. The ferocious Lawless, the touching Rust and Bone, the beautiful The Master, the charmingly crazy Seven Psychopaths and the fiercely grim Killing Them Softly have all just avoided a place on the list.

Unfortunately there will, once again be some titles missing from our list. We here in England are yet to see Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, The Impossible, Cloud Atlas, Lincoln and various other inevitable classics that we’ll tearfully resist including in next year’s list (a films year is the year in brackets after its title on IMDB!). Anyway, here’s the best of the films America deemed good enough to let us have this year:

1MARK DUPLASS and AUBREY PLAZA star in SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED0. Safety Not Guaranteed

An incredibly sweet science fiction romantic comedy drama. Ostensibly about a man who believes he can travel back in time and the attempts of a small group of journalists to get to know him, the film is in fact about missed opportunities and regret. Time travel serves not as the driving force of the film but as a metaphor for everything the main characters have lost and long for, and although the mission is never treated seriously by anyone except the inventor, the notion of changing the past is clearly ever-present on every character’s mind. The film lives on its charming characters and earnest performances delivering quirky comedy and genuinely sweet moments. Perhaps a tricky film to get hold of due to its limited release, but well worth the effort.

03-23hgames_full_6009. The Hunger Games

As a big fan of the book it was hard not to get slightly pissed off with how Hollywood the Hunger Games was, but in all it was a pretty spot on adaptation of the book, and it gave us another really bad ass female protagonist. As P and I were saying to each other recently, the real ‘baddie’ in The Hunger Games is the state. As with Dystopia as a Genre the state always plays a key role in being ‘the bad guy’ and it’s great to see this introduced into a storyline that is accessible to teens.

Katniss, (Jennifer Lawrence), isn’t your typical teen riches to rags protagonist. After saving her sister from having to take part in ‘The Hunger Games’ Katniss takes her place and thus signs what seems to be a death warrant: 24 teens go in, only 1 comes out: it’s a bit like Battle Royale, with more cheese and less gore. Katniss and Peta (the male from her district) head to the centre of their dystopian world to get ‘groomed’ and beautified for the ‘games.’ LUCKILY, Katniss is a demon with a bow and arrow (phew!) and ends up looking super-hot (as Jennifer Lawrence tends to do.) You can guess the rest. Good cinematic experience? Absolutely, the scenes of the Capital are something else, and the costumes and landscapes…that’s if you don’t mind shaky cam, that would be my only bug bear… too much shaky cam.

Sightseers-0088. Sightseers

The British Film Industry typically survives these days by folding into the American Film Industry. Many of the biggest American films will make use of British cast and crew and even locations, but the themes and settings tend to be American. However, there are several small budget productions which often produce extremely interesting results. It is these films that are able to comment on modern British life and attempt to capture something of what (if anything) it means to live on this small island. Ben Wheatley shocked and delighted many with last year’s gory horror thriller Kill List but it’s this year’s Sightseers, written by cast members Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, which brilliantly captures the bizarre humour and mild disappointment that seems to represent modern British life and culture.

Taking place on a supremely unhinged caravan holiday, the film details the travels and romance of two extremely disturbed people. The film is perfectly written with lots of very dark humour and bizarre sincerity, is beautifully shot with plenty of surreal imagery and a perfect use of the breath-taking Northern English scenery, and the soundtrack is alternately quaint and unnerving. The moments of violence are highly stylised and very intense, which is all the better for contrasting the hilariously mundane moments of this demented holiday. Easily the funniest, darkest and most intense movie about caravanning released this year.

_63779774_skyfall7. Skyfall

The 23rd James Bond film came at the 50th anniversary of the series’ first film and is a celebration of everything the series has meant over the years. The film carefully balances Bond’s campy past with the expectations of the modern audience for gritty realism. We have a hero who is damaged and vulnerable, but also fierce and not above the odd one liner. A villain who is camp but realistic, with a secret island base, physical disfigurement and ridiculous hair. We have epic action sequences, some of which occur in exotic locations like Shangai and Istanbul, some of which in the London Underground and a Scottish manor house. The film is all about balance. Old and new, humour and sobriety, excitement and pathos. The best bond film ever made? There’s definitely an argument for it.

Unfortunately (spoiler alert) our Bond Girl, the alluring Bérénice Marlohe, is dispatched somewhat unceremoniously somewhere around the mid-point of the film. Along with Naomie Harris’ clumsy (though charming) field agent and Dame Judy Dench’s third act transformation from lion in a cardie to damsel in distress (and a cardie), we have some rather lacklustre female characters. But in the context of Solitaire, the girl Bond tricked into sex, Aki, the Japanese secret agent killed off and replaced, and Pussy Galore, the lesbian Bond was able to sleep with (because all lesbians just haven’t met the right man yet!), it’s more an unfortunate continuation than a step back. If you can keep your mind of it, there’s more to enjoy here than any previous Bond film and all but six of this year’s films.

664280-the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I wanted there to be an argument. I was ready. I didn’t know who would be on which side or for that matter care, but I wanted there to be an argument. I WAS READY. I was prepared to be on either side: The Hobbit, or our number one, which would be at the top of our list? I wanted there to be an argument! But, there was no argument. Don’t get me wrong, I loved The Hobbit, but it doesn’t stand up to the number one. (Mind you, not much does.)

Saying this, there are a staggering amount of good bits, Ian Mckellen alone being one (oh that beard), with that glint in his eye, and the youth that he has somewhat lost in LOTR. The small Elijah Wood Cameo. The way Cate Blanchett hasn’t aged a day in the last ten years. The dwarf songs, the pale Orc, the brown wizard, it’s all much more jolly and child friendly, but at the end of the day, so is the book! I’m not going to insult J R R Tolkien by recounting the story of the Hobbit, as if you haven’t read it by now! But to say that it is one of the greatest fantasy stories of all time…is somewhat of a given.

looper5. Looper

For the purposes of this paragraph, we will be referring to Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jo Go Lev. It’s fine, he loves it.

Reasons to love Looper: 1. Bruce Willis, Juicy Brucey, om nom nom (can you guess if P or K wrote this yet?). 2. Jo Go Lev, Love, Love, Love. 3. Emily Blunt plays a hot farmer girl who has guns. 4. Time Travel, and with none of this ‘oh we’re gonna try and EXPLAIN how time travel works all of a sudden’ shit, it just works, in the future, deal. To explain, you know, simply…

Jo Go Lev works as a ‘Looper’ who are trained to kill people who are sent back from the future (where time travel HAS been invented) to the present (where time travel HASN’T been invented.) Follow? So Jo Go Lev then explains that at some point in a Looper’s life they get sent back to be killed by their past selves, in order to ‘close the loop,’ so the Loopers don’t piss off the big bad guys from the future. Enter Bruce Willis. You see, Bruce Willis IS Jo Go Lev, who has to kill Bruce Willis without knowing that Bruce Willis IS Jo Go Lev and in turn Jo Go Lev will become Bruce Willis so Bruce Willis must already know that Jo Go Lev is Bruce Willis but doesn’t know it. Follow? So then Jo Go Lev works it out and vows to kill Bruce Willis who has vowed to kill three children who may or may not turn out to be really evil in the future. Enter Emily Blunt, who has a real evil looking kid. So Jo Go Lev is protecting Emily Blunt’s kid who Bruce Willis has vowed to kill who Jo Go Lev has vowed to kill even though Jo Go Lev IS Bruce Willis in the future. It’s all very trippy. There’s lots of cool special effects and Bruce Willis does A LOT of running, which I am a big fan of. Jo Go Lev is unbelievably cool, think how cool he was in Inception with an extra slice of cool because he gets it on with Emily Blunt and ends up as Bruce Willis. Oh and some people are telekinetic, you know, cause.

(P note: It’s also quite interesting how the film invokes classic film noir in a sci fi setting whi… K note: Shut up! Jo Go Lev!)

moonrise-kingdom-06-470-754. Moonrise Kingdom

HEALTH WARNING: If you are IN ANY WAY allergic to Wes Anderson (as some people are), DO NOT watch this movie. Watching this movie was the most Wes Anderson experience of my life, I felt like if P and I had been being filmed watching it you would have only seen from the bridge of our noses upwards. However, if you are a fan of Wes Anderson’s style and humour, Moonrise Kingdom is one of the sweetest movies of 2012.

Two young lovers run away from home and Scout camp, meeting in a wheat field to be together. Their parents and Scout group (respectively) set out on a search to find them. That’s kind of it, essentially. Of course, as is with Wes Anderson, the beauty lies in characterisation and style. Bruce Willis as the lonely but lovely policeman, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as the overbearing lawyer parents, Tilda Swinton as the scary social services lady and Edward Norton as the sweet unsuspecting Scout Master. You’re routing for the kids for the whole movie, hoping they have a happy ending and find a way to be together in spite of the terrible grownups. As I said above, it’s very Anderson, the camera positions, the staging, the costume, set, props, it couldn’t be anyone else; but I love Anderson, and I loved it.

The Cabin in the Woods3. Cabin in the Woods

Being self-referential hasn’t worked for everyone. You may well recall last year’s review of Scre4m or this year’s review of The Expendables 2 depending on what order I upload these lists. But Cabin in the Woods is able to justify its knowing self-assuredness within the plot and therefore is able to make affectionate comments about the tropes of the horror genre whilst also indulging them. The audience is treated to plenty of scares, gore, humour, and even some nudity but also a genuinely clever plot, lots of fun subversions and an ending that completely dispenses of all pretence and vanishes into its own sense of fun (despite the somewhat grim subtext).

2AvengersScreenshot. The Avengers (Assemble)

At the moment we are going through something of a summer blockbuster renaissance. Directors like Chris Nolan, Rian Johnson, Duncan Jones and even Quentin Tarantino are proving that you don’t need to be intellectually baron or feature racist robots to deliver big action or pull in big crowds. Yet some complain that standards are too high. There are too many dark moments in modern movies and flawed aging heroes encountering personal, psychological difficulties as well as physical challenges. We, of course do not join these people, but we are happy that we have a decent alternative.

Twww_buzzfocus_com_GH-37401_Rhe Avengers (Assembled) represents everything one might reasonably expect from a summer blockbuster without reaching the unreasonable demands that are somehow occasionally being met these days. A functional plot guides a character driven film through some fun and inventive action sequences towards a pleasingly simple moral of co-operation and friendship. The real selling point of the film is Whedon’s superb dialogue. The verbal duels between our heroes are just as pleasing as the physical brawls that punctuate the film though never overstay their welcome. Each character is given time to shine without anyone hogging the limelight or being left out. The film easily pleased both fans of the source material and the casual moviegoer.

The success of this film has sparked off the next generation of Marvel films and with big names attached to the project (Shane Black directing Iron Man 3?!), and DC doing its best to enter into the comic book movie arms race, it’s a pretty exciting time to be a nerd.

the-dark-knight-rises-20111221000535242-3580022_640w1. The Dark Knight Rises

An obvious choice. No other experience at the cinema offered the same anticipation, thrills, emotion, and genuine enjoyment as the third and final part of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. An ambitious plot pitching one man’s torment against an entire city under siege, exciting and terrifying villains, some charming new allies, brilliantly choreographed action sequences, another fantastic score from Hans Zimmer, stunning visuals, beautiful cinematography, great production design, impressive practical effects and plenty of political and psychological depth to explore. Although the ambition and scope of the story does make the narrative seem overly dense and a little exhausting, this is still an obvious choice.

the-dark-knight-rises-20111222000218817-3580590_640wSurprisingly some internet users will find this to be a controversial choice of favourite film. As with all popular and critically acclaimed films there has been a backlash. It seems that the film lifted its political ideology from Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” and some people found the moral of revolutionaries often being worse than the dehumanising societies they rebel against and the manipulation of socialist fervour for cynical personal gain was inconsistent with the ultimately optimistic tones of the previous HA! Just kidding! No, apparently the film is terrible because it never explains how Bruce Wayne got back into Gotham City, or because it went from day to night really quickly or some stupid shit we couldn’t care less about. We will concede a little narrative clumsiness and some unsettling moral ambiguity but nothing big enough to make this anything other than our favourite film of the year.

This was a year in which the two highest grossing films of the year are our two favourites. A very good year indeed. Stay tuned next year for Transformers 4. Fuck.

Next will be the most disappointing films of 2012! Yay!

P and K for Perfectly Kewl!

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About Nerds Get Bored
We're Nerds, and man, do we get bored. Our Twitter: @nerdsgetbored

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