Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Best of 2012: Movies

A quick guide to the movies I saw for the first time in 2012, sorted by their star rating on my blog.

I saw 130 new movies this year. Let's start off with the ones I hated and move up from there:

Half a Star:
The Evil Dead (1981) - Really got zero enjoyment out of this one.

One Star:
Bye Bye Birdie (1963) - A bizarre adaptation skewering a pretty decent musical.
Mr. Baseball (1992) - Nothing original about this at all.
Loving Annabelle (2006) - Clearly trying to say something deep, but just comes off as pretentious and cliche.
Deliverance (1972) - Didn't capture my attention at all.
Saw (2004) - Not because it was too gory, but because it was boring.
Faces (1968) - This movie felt like it was 10 hours long.
The World Is Not Enough (1999) - I can't even remember what happened in this movie.

One and a Half Stars:
Nell (1994) - Laughably sentimental and cliched.
The Revengers' Comedies (1998) - Just kind of... sat there.
Dracula (1931) - I admire its legacy, but it pales in comparison to the book and its sort-of adaptation Nosferatu.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) - Nice ending, but agonizingly slow and with very little character relatability.
2046 (2004) - Never gripped me.
Ulysses (1967) - What did I even watch?
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) - Really awkward, but Andrew Garfield is delightful.
Happy Gilmore (1996) - If anyone but Adam Sandler had been in this, it would've been pretty funny.

Two Stars:
The Hurt Locker (2008) - One or two great scenes, a lot of meandering.
The Yellow Handkerchief (2008) - This movie wanted to be great... It was just bland.
Footloose (2011) - The original is superior in every way, but there are a couple fun dances.
Win Win (2011) - Paul Giamatti should be more interesting than this.
Gladiator (2000) - Joaquin Phoenix was fascinating. Couldn't have cared less about Russell Crowe.
Superbad (2007) - More needlessly gross than I generally care for in my humor.
Fish Tank (2009) - Interesting characters not actually doing anything.
Hulk (2003) - This story is ridiculous, but I kind of enjoyed myself.
Independence Day (1996) - I kept zoning out, but what I saw was fine.
The Fifth Element (1997) - I don't get the hype.
The Money Pit (1986) - Not nearly as many laughs as there needed to be.

Two and a Half Stars:
Moneyball (2011) - I keep forgetting this was nominated. It's fine, but not great.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) - One or two clever laughs, but most gags go on far too long.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) - Overly dramatic at times, but kind of fun.
Spellbound (1945) - The love story here is much too disturbing to be overlooked as it is.
Meet Joe Black (1998) - Love the play... this version is missing the spark.
The Score (2001) - Oh, it's fine.
Bad Teacher (2011) - I liked this more than I thought I would, but it's still pretty meh.
Cape Fear (1991) - Apparently Scorsese thought the original just wasn't over-the-top enough...
Marathon Man (1976) - Too many silly moments, but it is fun.
The Descendants (2011) - The other one I keep forgetting was nominated. It's solid and forgettable.
Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road (2002) - A bizarre, surreal, ridiculous movie that has a strange charm to it, though it shouldn't.
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) - I was expecting and hoping for so much more...
The Help (2011) - I'm just not that interested in stories about women. Women in movies are never anyone I can relate to.
Stage Door Canteen (1943) - Fascinating as a pop culture time capsule.
Cracks (2009) - Really boring until about halfway through, when it suddenly kicks into gear and goes crazy.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) - Nothing wrong with this movie. I just didn't care.

Three Stars:
One, Two, Three (1961) - A mediocre Billy Wilder overall with a great final scene.
The Ring (2002) - The final scene makes it all worth it.
Rushmore (1998) - It's pretty funny, I guess.
Marie Antoinette (2006) - This movie worked for me in a way I really wouldn't have expected.
21 Jump Street (2012) - Surprisingly entertaining.
In Time (2011) - Awesome premise, didn't work out quite as well as I'd have hoped.
Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) - Light and fluffy Bergman is fun.
A Dangerous Method (2011) - Fine, but I was hoping for more psychology and less romantic drama.
City Lights (1931) - Solid Chaplin.
Bowling For Columbine (2002) - I don't remember what my beef was with this, but I feel like I had one...
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) - Excellent second half, meandering first half.
Brave (2012) - Even Pixar's weaker efforts are better than most animated flicks.
Les Miserables (2012) - Two great performances, incredible visuals, a lot of effort... but unfortunately also a lot of terrible singing.
The Player (1992) - Never blew me away, but kept my attention all the way through.
Thor (2011) - Kenneth Branagh brought a very Shakespearean feel to this movie and I loved that a lot.
The Edge of Heaven (2007) - Admirable rather than enjoyable.
Anonymous (2011) - Very silly but pretty entertaining.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011) - A second watch could move this further up on my list. Interesting.
War Horse (2011) - This movie is more emotionally manipulative than it has any right to be, but it somehow worked on me.
The Woman in Black (2012) - Mediocre horror story with suddenly incredible ending.
It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010) - Zach Galifinakis NEEDS to do more serious movies.
Office Space (1999) - I feel this would be funnier if I watched it with friends.
The Battle of Algiers (1966) - I don't even remember this, to be honest. Probably this ranking is too high.
The Seventh Seal (1957) - Interesting images that stuck with me, but I don't get it.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) - The most cheerful superhero movie I've seen in awhile. Refreshing.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) - Not my favorite Tarantino, but as always he has style.
In the Mood For Love (2000) - Meh, it was fine.

Three and a Half Stars:
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) - A charming and entertaining effort from Aardman Animation.
Gentleman's Agreement (1947) - A well-acted movie that deserved the awards it won.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - A fun movie, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be much Batman in it...
Evil Dead II (1987) - 10 times sillier than the first one and therefore 10 times more fun.
My Date with Drew (2004) - The likeable protagonist is the best reason to watch this movie.
Saving Private Ryan (1998) - Effective, although now at the end of the year I can't remember why.
The Departed (2006) - Good acting all around in a genre of movie I don't like.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) - Pretty much exactly what I said for The Departed.
The Duellists (1977) - Stretched out forever, but the basic idea was fascinating and the ending superb.
The Band Wagon (1953) - A couple of great song-and-dance sequences, a lot of weird ones.
Drive (2011) - Ryan Gosling is the main reason to watch this movie, although it's decent on its own.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - I was impressed with this movie, but I think I was supposed to get more out of it.
Hugo (2011) - A visually beautiful movie with a pretty good story.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) - The titular characters are fascinating to watch.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) - I think I liked it better than the 2009 original, but my goodness, what a complicated plot.
Bridesmaids (2011) - Best female-centered comedy I have perhaps ever seen.
Dark Shadows (2012) - Completely campy... and such a blast.
De-Lovely (2004) - Much lovelier music than I expected, leading to a very entertaining musical, although it does go on quite long.
My Week With Marilyn (2011) - Much more interesting than most biopics.
Mars Attacks! (1996) - This movie is ridiculous enough to keep me from loving it, but I sure did like it a lot.
The Tree of Life (2011) - It's much too long and difficult to follow for me, storywise, but moments of it are absolutely gorgeous.
Scotland, Pa. (2001) - I remember liking this movie, but to be very honest, I can't remember much of it now.

Four Stars:
Nosferatu (1922) - Most terrifying vampire movie I've ever seen.
The Artist (2011) - Lovely homage to silent cinema.
Beetlejuice (1988) - Totally not what I expected, but much funnier.
Trainspotting (1996) - Every moment of this movie is interesting.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) - Some absolutely superb acting, but what else can you expect, given the caliber of the cast?
The Blair Witch Project (1999) - Supremely effective horror flick, easily the best of the found footage flicks.
Army of Darkness (1992) - Abandons all hope of being a genuine horror movie and becomes a parody instead.
50/50 (2011) - Very moving and genuine portrayal of a story that's been told many times before.
Rock of Ages (2012) - Enjoyable enough, but Tom Cruise is what gives this movie the rating it has.
The Great Dictator (1940) - Easily my favorite Chaplin thus far, though it's silent like his most famous ones.
Jake's Women (1996) - Quick-paced, enjoyable script by Neil Simon and good performances.
Carnage (2011) - Wonderful adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play from a few years back.
Contagion (2011) - Quite a good disease movie, nice and suspenseful.
Bernie (2012) - Easily the best movie Jack Black has ever done, IMHO.
Ordet (1955) - A very moving film about belief and religion, even if the ending is a bit of a stretch.
The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall (2012) - Now this is what Phantom should sound like. Take that, Gerard Butler.
Rise of the Guardians (2012) - Surprisingly touching, given that it's a kids' movie.
Short Cuts (1993) - Nearly every story in this ensemble flick is fascinating.
Mrs. Brown (1997) - Well acted and well scripted, though at the end of the year I do feel the 4-star rating might have been a little high.
The Exorcist (1973) - Not scary so much as haunting and tragic, but great with that.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - So much funnier than I thought it would ever be.
Nowhere Boy (2009) - Strong emotional thread carried it all the way on this one.
Young Adult (2011) - Funny and entertaining, takes all the cliches about "going home again" stories and spins them around.
The Dictator (2012) - One or two moments that really didn't work, but overall, extremely funny.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) - Terrifying, chilling, and fascinating.
Never Let Me Go (2010) - Great premise with some very good acting, even from Keira Knightley, who I usually hate.
The Hunger Games (2012) - Extremely solid adaptation of the first book.

My top 10 I saw in 2012 (in order from least awesome to most awesome)

10. Four Lions (2010) - A dark comedy that would have been even higher on this list if I wasn't so ambivalent about the ending.

9. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) - The little kid is a wonderful character and a joy to watch, even if the story gets ridiculous at times.

8. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - My favorite Miyazaki so far. Perfect blend of whimsy and realism for me.

7. Take Shelter (2011) - Michael Shannon is an incredible actor, and he is the life behind this movie.

6. Breaking the Waves (1996) - A hard movie to watch, but one that greatly impacted me on an emotional level.

5. Submarine (2010) - The best quirky indie young adult movie I've seen in a couple of years.

4. Inglourious Basterds (2009) - Breathtakingly original and absolutely fascinating every step of the way. I didn't begrudge it its long running time at all.

3. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) - I did not in the least expect to like this movie, much less love it, but somehow nearly every joke works for me.

2. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - Quite possibly the best horror movie I've ever seen, and certainly the best movie made in 2012.

1. Vanilla Sky (2001) - I do want to see Abre los ojos, but in the meantime, I was completely blown away by this movie. It's so very haunting in its story and its visuals, and I couldn't stop watching.


  1. As I made my way through this post, I did not expect to see Vanilla Sky at the #1 spot. Very cool. I love that film. Lots of great stuff in your top 10 overall. I haven't seen Extremely Loud or My Neighbor Totoro yet, but everything else on there is pretty great. You have fine taste!

    1. Haha, thanks! Yeah, Vanilla Sky took me completely by surprise. But it was incredible.

  2. I recall discussing several of these with you throughout the year, but there are three things I want to add here.

    1) I can appreciate your point about Paul Giamatti in Win Win, but given how many other times you found yourself appreciating one actor/character while being disinterested in another, I find it conspicuous you had naught to say about Alex Shaffer's performance as Kyle.

    2) So you didn't care for the humor in Superbad and you didn't go for The Help because you don't generally like movies about women since you rarely relate to anyone...but you really enjoyed Bridesmaids. To every rule, an exception? :P

    3) Once more, I apologize for Mr. Baseball.

    1. 1) To be very honest, I barely even remember Kyle now. I had to work really hard to remember the basic plot of the movie. So he must not have gripped me very much.

      2) Bridesmaids is absolutely the exception to the rule for women-based movies. However, I don't generally have an issue with raunchy humor. Superbad, however, used it to make its characters genuinely unlikeable for me.

      3) Totally OK. Only movie I've ever actually regretted watching was Mallrats. Other than that, it's nice to occasionally have terrible movies to balance out all the ones I rate high.