G-S-T Year In Review – Jessica's 2012 Wrap Up

Being the Indie lover that I am, I’ve decided to stick to independent titles only for my 2012 Wrap Up.

After a fairly disappointing 2011, this year brought us so many amazing films it is difficult to chose only ten to discuss here, and with the limitations of the categories below, I am leaving out so many wonderful films, both studio and independent based, that I probably walked out of thinking it was the best film I’d seen to date. That’s what made picking a favorite film for 2012 so difficult. It seemed that the more I saw, the more favorites I had to add to the list.

To name a few independent films that are not listed below but remain imbedded in my memory for one reason or another and will likely become favorites of mine for years to come: Ruby Sparks, Take this Waltz, To Rome with Love, Argo, No, Midnight’s Children, and many others I am probably now forgetting.

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That being said it was impossible for me to choose just one film as my favorite, so I decided between my top two and have listed them here as a tie: Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook, two films that could not be more different and yet are equally amazing.

  • Moonrise Kingdom is arguably Anderson’s best film to date. He perfectly depicts the struggles of childhood and adolescence. Those years when you often feel smarter, more aware and much braver than your adult counterparts. More than that, the film brings you back to your own childlike self, and the young stars of the film become relatable to an adult audience in a Holden Caulfield like sense, which is just lovely.
  • Silver Lining’s Playbook takes a look at the different levels of sanity and how Western society tries to define, label and control (by way of therapy or drugs) our human inclination toward insanity or “craziness.” In this film, David O’Russell conveys the beauty that can exist within the madness.

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Safety Not Guaranteed is now available on iTunes and I think this film will find the level of popularity via word of mouth that it didn’t quite gain during its short theatrical run. Aubrey Plaza shines playing opposite Mark Duplass, and the unlikely relationship that forms between the characters they play is endearing and heartwarming to watch as it unfolds on the screen.

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I didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did. In fact, I didn’t really expect to like it at all. Mostly because it seemed like everyone was comparing it to Bridemaids, a film I felt didn’t quite deserve the critical and popular gushing it received. However, For a Good Time Call surprised me. This film will resonate with young females because it shows the way female friendships actually work. Despite what a lot of movies want us to believe about female relationships – that we’re all really in competition with one another and always will be – true friendship between females, while rare, does exist. For a Good Time Call captures that friendship (and directed by a guy no less) in a way no other film seems to have been able to accomplish before. That’s just one of the more endearing bits I took away from the film and also from my interview with stars Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor.

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I know, I know, I’m speaking blasphemy here, but I really wanted to like Beasts of the Southern Wild, and I really tried to. I even watched it twice, but no such luck. Perhaps the hype around it before I finally got a chance to sit down and see it myself set my expectations too high, and while I’m not saying it was a bad movie, it definitely left me disappointed in the end. Don’t worry Marc, you’re not the only one who didn’t like this.

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While Bill Murray delivers laughs and Laura Linney’s portrayal of a scorned lover will likely strike a cord with anyone who’s ever endured a similar kind of betrayal, the film overall was just, ok. Hyde Park on Hudson is not altogether terrible, but not great either. The idea behind it was intriguing, the story of how England and America once again became allies, and the hilarious picnic luncheon that made it happen, but the stories of FDR’s mistresses took away from the historical significance of the event at hand, mudding the plot a bit too much, so that it never quite found it’s bearings again. One can’t help but wonder if told in a different way, with more focus, the film could have been so much more.

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Acclaimed theatrical director, Rufus Norris, makes his feature directorial debut with Broken, a film that is both daring in it’s story and, at times, painful to watch. The performance of young newcomer Eloise Laurence leads the film along in places where it may have otherwise gotten lost, and while it is far from perfect, the moments of stark realism and poignancy are so well captured it is a feat worth noting, especially for a debut.

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I had the pleasure of reviewing Satellite of Love before it’s premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival this past year and was immediately struck by it’s story. It’s a candid look at relationships that raises questions we’ve all asked at one time or another, but the filmmakers leave you with no solid answers and that seems to be the point. It is why you can’t help but keep going back to it, watching it again and again, as if it is an old friend that somewhere holds the answers to the mysteries of love and life we so desperately seek the answers to; the answers that in reality exist only within ourselves, and that vary accordingly.

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A film about two teenagers coming of age during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Elle Fanning plays Ginger, of the titular Ginger & Rosa and captures the audience with her performance, so that all the hesitation about life, the insecurity and the pain become your own (click here to read the review).

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This stop-motion animation in black and white is Tim Burton at his best, and back to his Gothic roots. Based on a short live-action comedy made before he ever directed his first feature film in the mid 80’s, Frankenweenie is the story Tim Burton seems to have been wanting to tell his whole career, and it’s wonderful to see it finally come to life in the way he first imagined it many years ago.

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Perhaps I am playing devil’s advocate a bit, but I can’t help but think of how Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” was badly received by critics when it was first published, and now here we are so many years later, and the critics are bashing director Joe Wright’s version of Tolstoy’s tragic love story. While I’m a fan of the original, Wright’s version of the tragic Anna Karenina is artistic, challenging, brave and ambitious in it’s endeavor to capture this novel’s world – one that manages to encompass an entire generation – in a new and beautiful way.

The characters dance around the scenes, as if performing a ballet, and the audience is given a glimpse of what is going on backstage, where props are strung about and characters are dressing and undressing for their next scene. Everything is exposed, and the actors simply melt into this world of production. Here Wright seems to be echoing that infamous Shakespearean phrase, “all the worlds a stage“. Essentially it’s a tragic love story that plays like watching a pop-up Princess book meets interactive dinner theater and I just LOVED it!