G-S-T Year in Review – Andrew’s 2012 Wrap Up

I’m willing to admit that last year, I talked 2011 a bit more than necessary. Not that my feelings on the year were dishonest; contrary to many, I thought well of 2011, a year that didn’t contain a plethora of lasting classics but still offered a lot of excellent cinema for our viewing pleasure. But to call it a “great” year may have been a stretch, and I’m willing to admit that now in light of the fact that 2012 has, in fact, been a great year.

How can you trust me on this one? Simple: I’ve written my top ten list, re-written it, scrapped that, started over from the beginning, edited, edited, edited, and brooded for hours on my final picks before finally just saying “that’ll do” and leaving each film I’ve chosen set in stone. I cannot say that I went through a process a third as drastic as that last year. 2012, put simply, contains an embarrassment of fantastic films, not to mention near-endless variety in genre and story modes. Whether you wanted thoughtful and original sci-fi or horror, raucous and heartfelt comedies, engrossing and intelligent biopics, tightly-spun action, big-scale spectacle, or intimate human drama, 2012 had something for you– The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Argo, Oslo, August 31st, Skyfall, Django Unchained, V/H/S, The Grey, Lincoln, The Raid, 21 Jump Street, Cloud Atlas…the list goes on. And on. And on.

And I only have room to highlight ten of those pictures. (Though be warned that I have some sharp thorns for three of them.) Cruel fate. This is also to say nothing of the movies that I missed— like The Master, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Zero Dark Thirty, Kid With a BikeKiller Joe, Amour, and many more.

But you’re not here to read my prattle about all of that– you want my list of ten, I’d wager, and on behalf of that I’ll cut myself off and direct you to our first category:

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What else can I say about Rian Johnson’s third picture that I haven’t already? I’m not sure that this is all that surprising a pick, but be that as it may Looper remains a powerful, affecting, smartly constructed bit of soft, pop-science fiction that shows an increasing range in one of America’s most compelling young directors.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild came out of nowhere to win over audiences both at Sundance and in its theatrical run, so I’d call it something of a Cinderella story. It’s also a story about dual-relationships, the schism between abusive and loving fathers, the foolishness and freedom of the residents of the film’s happily impoverished utopia, the protection and bondage of “civilized” life– all in service of a portrait of nature, the giver and taker of life, as well as contemporary America.

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Another movie I’ve written too much about. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll love The Cabin in the Woods— and even if you aren’t, you might anyways. No other movie released this year works so well after so many repeat viewings; the last 20 minutes alone can be watched over and over again and lose none of their gonzo, gory impact.

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Put it this way: I hated, hated, hated this movie. I’ve seen some stinkers this year, but none felt so soulless as Battleship, Hasbro’s latest venture out of the toy aisle and into the multiplex. It’s also one of three movies in 2012 in which Taylor Kitsch struggles to read as military and fails utterly. Studios generally have to do a lot of work to make me actively root against their films, but Universal succeeded in this endeavor effortlessly.

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How did I miss this movie? How did it fly under my radar, and nearly everyone else’s, for so long? How did Bernie not become a bigger hit? How? I realize I may be a bit smug for listing this here when I only just ran my review for it last week, but Richard Linklater’s latest may well and truly be the best thing he’s done since 2004’s Before Sunset. Since he hasn’t exactly been silent in that nine-year stretch, that’s saying something.

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Silver Linings Playbook isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the means, but after coming out of TIFF to thunderous applause and near-unanimous praise, I expected something far less conventional. Or, more accurately, something that ends on a much less conventional note. There’s something to be said for formula done well, and that’s precisely what this is: formula done well. Nothing less, but certainly nothing more.

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You’d think Tom Hooper could have slam-dunked an adaptation of one of the world’s most iconic musical. As my introductory guide through the stage version of Les Misérables, though, the Oscar winner let me down; his vision is staid, his imagination limited, and his craftsmanship is repetitive and sloppy. It almost overwhelms the great work done by the likes of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, who deserve a much better stage on which to perform.

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Maybe this is a tad too obvious, especially given that the G-S-T wrap-ups are meant to circumvent predictability, but no matter how many talented performers turned out great, memorable performances in 2012, few can really touch Daniel Day-Lewis even on his worst day. He’s a chameleon, a changeling, one of the most gifted actors walking the face of the planet– and a too-perfect stand-in for America’s greatest president.

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I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting Leos Carax’s surrealist opus Holy Motors a number of times in the coming years; it’s impossible to digest it in full after just one viewing. Even two don’t fully do it justice. Despite Holy Motors‘ elusive meanings, I can say confidently that it’s a magnificent work for anyone unafraid of non-traditional narratives, one that examines the ways in which we buffer ourselves in our daily interactions with other people– and salutes and eulogizes the actor’s trade.

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Wes Anderson and I have had some hard times together– I outright loathe The Darjeeling Limited and find The Life Aquatic to be a victim of his stylistic quirks– but 2010’s Fantastic Mr. Fox brought us back together after a brief hiatus, and his real-life fairy tale Moonrise Kingdom may solidify our relationship forevermore. Maybe his best film, but more importantly the most perfectly made and well-realized movie of 2012, not to mention one of the gentlest, sweetest, and most charming.

  • Yes! I’m glad to see Moonrise Kingdom at the top; it was also my favorite movie of 2012. Looper is another great choice and right up there for me.

    • Andrew Crump

      Oh my, I love Moonrise Kingdom; just a gorgeous, vivid, lush, film. And I think Looper gets better with every viewing!

  • Bravo on the eclectic collection that has me saying ‘what!!!’ But thats okay when it comes to lists. Its half the fun.

    • Andrew Crump

      I agree completely, Ric– it pays to be thoughtful and creative with your top ten lists (though it also pays to just be flat-out honest)!

  • Dan Fogarty

    It’s a solid list, man. I wont reopen our differences on “Cabin”, and the only thing I have to say about Battleship is “Alex Hopper.” 😀
    I really liked “Silver Linings” I dont think its as formulaic as you accuse it of! 🙁
    It’s hard to imagine anyone but Daniel Day Lewis being called performance of the year, isnt it? He was ridiculously good.

    • Andrew Crump

      ALEX HOPPER

      Silver Linings is a fine movie, and I like its central performances– but that last act leans REALLY heavily on expected rom-com beats; the high-stakes, all-or-nothing bet, the dance competition, the appearance of Pat’s ex, etc. Doesn’t make it unsatisfying, but it does keep it from being as great as it could have been.

      I really would have named Dennis Lavant from Holy Motors if I felt like I could get away with using that film in two different categories. But DDL is amazing, and I don’t feel bad for going with the most obvious choice because it happens to be the truest.