Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2012

Categorizing my favorite moves in 2012 was so much more difficult for me than it was in 2011. I had obvious, definite picks to close out 2011, and I have found myself nitpicking over which movies ought to make my top 1o favorites list this year. If you remember from last year, I picked up a movie for the tenth spot that performed horribly for critics and audiences alike, but I stuck to it, just as easily as it was for me to say that The Artist and 50/50 were the obvious stand-out movies of 2011 for me.

I haven’t finished seeing all the movies I want to see yet, including Flight and Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I can imagine will most likely alter this list. My assurance comes from being a big fan of Robert Zemeckis films, and I keep hearing great things for Beasts. So there’s a good chance a couple of these movies may be bumped off to make room! Other movies I think could possibly make it onto this list are Amour and Life of Pi, but my hopes aren’t as high for these as they are for the former two films I mentioned.

And a disclaimer before the list: I really enjoyed both The Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty, but they’re both the kind of movie that won’t get repeated viewings from me because of the subject matter. While both feats of their own, I really don’t care to watch either again with how rough and gritty it was. Another honorable mention that didn’t make my list was Lincoln. I enjoyed it immensely, but it’s running time had me looking at my watch a few times. The performances were incredible under Steven Spielberg’s direction, and I’m rooting for John Williams’s score to win the Oscar.

As of now, here are my top ten favorite films of 2012!

10) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As of June last year, Seeking a Friend was my favorite film I had seen so far. It was a very different film and it struck a chord with me that no other end-of-the-world flick ever had. Steve Carell shined in his performance, and Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut was promising. More than anything, I appreciated the music and tone of this film. Scafaria stuck to her ending and I’m happy to add this movie to my top ten list of 2012.

9) Celeste and Jesse Forever

Another film I haven’t seen on anyone else’s favorites or top lists is Celeste and Jesse Forever, which made its first appearance at Sundance. Rashinda Jones both writes and stars in this film that offers an entirely different take on relationships. It’s complicated, but it’s a well-written, thoughtful screenplay that poses questions that are difficult to answer. Any Samberg shows more range than one would expect. I really enjoyed this movie and hope that it gets more exposed!

8) The Hobbit

After reading The Hobbit in January of last year, I grew more excited for the first film of three to be released in December. While there were disappointments, such as extended scenes and added parts that I believe took away from the film, I still really enjoyed it. Where The Hobbit didn’t lack was in the acting. It was great getting to see Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman star as Bilbo, and one of the strongest and best scenes of the film was the riddle scene with Bilbo and Andy Serkis’s Gollum.

7) Skyfall

For not being a huge James Bond fan, I really enjoyed Skyfall. I was hoping for something great after enjoying Casino Royale, and Skyfall does not disappoint at all. Daniel Craig does some of his best work here, and Javier Bardem makes for a great villain. The pacing and script are great and it gives a very satisfying end to the film.

6) Django Unchained

I wasn’t sure whether I’d love or hate Django going in, but it ended up being the former. For clocking in close to three hours, Django didn’t feel nearly as long as films like Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty, for me. It’s chocked full of Quentin Tarantino humor, and both Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio offer great supporting performances.

5) The Avengers

Earlier in 2012, I had seen The Avengers four times in theaters. If you had asked me in 2011 what movie I was planning to see the most in 2012, my answer would certainly not be The Avengers. But I’m completely won over, having seen Captain AmericaThor, and both Iron Man films multiple times before seeing The Avengers. It’s a solid film that delivers on multiple fronts, not only entertaining, but also works as an excellent inclusion of multiple characters to make one grand superhero film fit together.

4) Argo

Early in 2012 I had caught wind of a little movie called Argo to be directed by Ben Affleck. It was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I consider it one of the best films to come out in 2012. It’s unfortunate that the Academy did not nomimate Affleck for Best Director as he brought to film one of the most interesting and thrilling political stories. I’m rooting for Argo to perform well at the awards!

3) The Dark Knight Rises

I wasn’t expecting to place DKR so high on my list, but in conjuction with everything I’ve seen in 2012, I can’t not put it so high. Even with its many critiques by fanboys and critics alike, Christopher Nolan’s epic end to his Batman trilogy is so good that people really have to fight a bit to be critical about it. While Batman Begins is still probably my favorite of the trilogy, it’s a great problem to have to be able to pick the “worst” of the three when all were solid films. Nolan set a foundation for character films to follow by placing the bar high enough for critics to like and modest enough for audiences to really enjoy.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I first saw the trailer for Perks, I was convinced that it would be one of my favorite movies of the year. And while I’m usually wrong and set my expectations too high going in, Stephen Chbosky’s book and now film (which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for) won me over. It’s a coming of age story, but it’s written and acted out so beautifully, that I had a difficult time pinpointing what exactly it was about Perks that made it so likeable for me. The actors actually looked more of the ages they were playing rather than mid- to late-twenties adults playing high schoolers, as they do in most teen-based movies.

1) Silver Linings Playbook

And my top favorite film of the year is Silver Linings Playbook. It’s my favorite film of 2012 because it has the two qualities that attract me most to any film: strong writing and interesting characters. Based off the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings tells the story of a man who is blissfully unaware he has issues. Bradley Cooper gives a stunning and turning performance which will hopefully afford him better roles in the future. Again, Jennifer Lawrence gets nominated for an Oscar, and rightfully so. It’s an interesting and different film, directed by David O. Russell, who’s known to like telling stories of dysfunctional families, his latest film being The Fighter. Even De Niro gives an unforgettable and entertaining performance in this movie. Moving, endearing, and performance strong, Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite movie of the year.

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Welcome, 2013: Free Screenplays, Interview with a Quvenzhané, and an Angry Tolkien

The Oscar nominations are in, and I find it interesting that 2012 film does not a pose a strong #1 film that will take down Oscar this year. Perhaps that will happen regardless, as it does most years, but with so many great movies that came out, I really do wonder who will take Best Picture.

Within this past week alone, I have seen Django UnchainedSilver Linings Playbook, and The Impossible. I’m gearing up for Zero Dark Thirty‘s release tomorrow. Oh, and I’ve made a list of movies to see yet before Oscar date February 24:

When all the top 10 lists start popping up, I can’t help but mentally compose my own for the movie year of 2012. So many of the heavy-hitters didn’t get released in Chicago theaters until early 2013, so I’m battling to see many of the films in their short theater runs before they slip away, their DVD releases not arriving until after the Academy Awards air.

I am only dying to post my Top 10 Favorites of 2012, but before I do that, I need to cross a few of those off my list. It’s difficult to catch all the great movies before the Oscars, but my goal is to post a top 10 list by the end of January. In the meantime, I’d like to offer up some film goodies:

  • Oscar Screenplays Available for Download — Now I cannot take credit for this because my boyfriend, Matt, knows how much I love film, and he found this online. Perhaps you’ve already seen these, or you’re not one for screenplays. Even so, this is quite the motherload of screenplays for several critically-acclaimed films of 2012. I know they’ll be available only for a limited time, so I’d recommend downloading your favorites while they’re available.
  • Roger Ebert’s Interview with Quvenzhané Wallis — Quvenzhané Wallis is the youngest person to ever get nominated in Oscar history. It’s a pretty extraordinary achievement! Now while I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild yet, from the trailer, the interview, the article, the reviews of this film and her performance, I can only imagine how powerful her performance must have been.
  • Christopher Tolkien Disenchanted with The Hobbit film — This is quite the read for anyone interested in the Lord of the Rings world J.R.R. Tolkien created, be it the books, maps, languages, or most well-known, the Peter Jackson film adaptations. After reading this, I can’t help but see both sides of issue. Credit goes to my friend Deb for the find.

As of now, one of the movies I saw this week holds my #1 slot for favorites films of 2012, with a couple films following that I haven’t see on anyone else’s top 10 list.

What’s your #1 film of 2012? What are your first thoughts on the Oscar nominations?

AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Not Avengers. Not The Hobbit. Not the first of The Hunger Games or the last of Twilight produced the most anticipated hype for movies in 2012. I still believe that The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. You can even add in a Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino flick near Oscar movie season, and I still hold firm in casting Nolan’s ending Batman in that top spot.

And with so much hoopla surrounding a film, only the inevitable seems probable, right? In other words, it’s not really possible for a movie to fulfill the impossible expectations that we, as film viewers, critics, audience, or even your average, everyday film-goers, have placed upon the film and shoulders of one Christopher Nolan, right?

Code language aside, The Dark Knight Rises was faced with an uphill battle the moment The Dark Knight hit theaters back in 2008. With a Batman movie receiving that kind of critical acclaim and love from critics and audiences together, how could the now much-recognized director deliver on an even higher and better level? He still has all the same people in his pockets–his brother, Jonathan, as co-writer; his cast with Christian Bale and Michael Caine leading; his composer, Hans Zimmer; his executive producer, Michael Uslan–the list goes on of course. But can the same team of people create an even better film?

With the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, perhaps there were minor (or major) script changes following The Dark Knight. Regardless, following TDK‘s massive success came the decision to finish the series with a final film, thus creating another trilogy film set–and according to some (and me in that group)–the best film trilogy made yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This Is Not a Summary

I met up with my film buddy, Fredo, from FilmYarn yesterday to record a podcast on the film. When he posts it, I’ll be sure to include a link here. Before recording, one idea we talked about was how oftentimes many film reviews are just pretty summaries of the film. Am I guilty of doing that? Oh yes. Multiple times, in fact. But in order to offer something I hope will be a little fresher, I’m working extra hard with this “review” in order to make it not just a film review reiterating plot points, but something a little different, and hopefully something that will boost some outside-of-the-box thoughts and discussion from you guys.

My Initial Reaction(s)

I forced myself to not write this review until I had seen the film at least twice. Often when I see a film a second time, I have a very different reaction. I’m happy to say that this was the case, even though I didn’t even allow 24 hours between my two viewings.

After I saw TDKR for the first time, I loved it. Thought it was great. But I couldn’t dispose of the nagging feeling in my head that TDK was better, superior, and overall the better film of the two. And that was frustrating, because this was the END! Never again will I get to see a new Nolan Batman film and compare. Regardless, I went back the following day and caught an afternoon viewing with a friend who had yet to see it. The result this time?

Still, I loved it. But my complaints had narrowed considerably. I liked it probably ten times better than the first viewing. Partly, because I caught quite a few more things the second time around, and was able to better relax while watching. Any movie that has a decent amount of depth and plot usually requires me to view it twice minimum in order to get out as much as possible about a film.

Comparison to Its Older Cousin, Spiderman 2

Although this may seem like an odd comparison, I felt like I kept seeing parts of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 while watching. Spiderman 2, was, in fact my favorite of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, as well as the best-reviewed of the three. That point aside, consider the plot of Spiderman 2. In the opening scene, Peter Parker loses his job. Mary-Jane is with another guy. Peter gives up being Spiderman for a short time. The guy is picked apart and stripped down. It isn’t until he hits his lowest point that he regains speed, reclaims his title as Spiderman, fights the bad guys, and reunites with the girl.

In TDKR, in an effort to not spoil or give anything away (in this section), I’ll hold off on revealing too much. Essentially, however, the same idea takes place; any person who has viewed the trailer can piece that together. The idea is in the title–the action on Batman’s part, “rises”–implies that he must be low in order to rise. This idea moves me into the next thought I had . . . .

Metaphorical vs. Heavy-Handed

Fredo and I argued about whether TDKR treated its theme as a metaphor in a literal sense, or was it really just Christopher Nolan being heavy-handed in over-exaggerating the theme? I, for one, vote on the side of metaphorical. Picking up where I left off, Batman is in a low place, and therefore must rise. Several parts of the film adopted the idea of being low in order to rise. Various scenes were filmed underground. Bruce Wayne/Batman started off the film in a low place–weak mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even the time of day/weather played a role in literally rising.

Fredo saw this use of emphasizing the theme of rising as more like banging the audience over the head with a hammer constantly. It wasn’t just enough to have Batman rise to the occasion, to rise to the problems of Gotham and put his best foot forward; Nolan had to emphasize the idea of rising in multiple outlets and formats throughout the film. While I very much appreciated the purposefulness of it all, others, like Fredo, did not.

For those of you who saw the film, would you consider the film more metaphorical, or handled far too heavy? For those of you who have not seen it, please take this idea in mind and let me know what you think when you do see it!

It’s Such a Nolan Film

Anyone who has seen multiple Nolan films will agree that TDKR follows the same formula of his other films. Every scene, every piece of dialogue, every action, every tangible and intangible element has a purpose and point for being in its place at its time in the film. Everything is planned out. His films are literally puzzles, and each scene acts as a piece that must be placed at a specific time and place in the correct space.

The element of time, while is important for the film, doesn’t bear the necessity it does in his other films. In Memento, the time functioned in a more nonlinear structure. In Inception, time could be extended in various levels of dream stages, thus elongating itself in order for certain actions to take place. Nolan’s Batman films don’t quite restructure time like his others; however, time plays an essential role in certain actions needing to take place.

The film contained quite a few flashbacks in order to successfully tell the story. Nolan loves him some flashbacks. He makes great use of the device in The PrestigeInception, and Memento. The flashbacks tell a great story that reveals pertinent information in the film. 

Ensemble Cast from Heaven

In his review of the film, Richard Roeper called watching this cast work as “movie heaven.” Even with TDKR‘s flaws, the cast really pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a weak force on screen. Anne Hathaway was a stand-out just for not screwing up the role. Viewers went into the film with the lowest expectations for her, and she turned around and surprised many of us, including me.

Complaints have been made regarding Tom Hardy’s Bane. I talk more about his motivations in the Closing Thoughts/Queries section, but speaking just on his performance, I’d have to say he was nothing short of excellent. Talking with that device over his face had to be pretty difficult to deal with. He was menacing and expressed himself through his eyes, and while he might not have “stolen” scenes, he certainly took center stage when he was on screen.

The scenes shared between Christian Bale and Michael Caine were some of the strongest. My one big frustration (SPOILER) was Alfred going MIA the entire second half of the film.

Full Circle . . . for the Fans

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

And now I can’t hold back from spoiling parts, because in order to appreciate the idea that TDKR fulfilled Nolan’s Batman in such a satisfying way, one has to point out those lovely gifts Nolan wrote into the film. Getting to see Liam Neeson in a few short scenes as Ra’s al Ghul was such a treat. To learn of his connection in TDKR with Miranda Tate as his daughter, his heir who desires to finish his legacy, really makes it feel like we’re watching a finished, fulfilled version of Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy returning for a couple short scenes as a crazy version of himself (was he really being Scarecrow?) felt like Nolan just saying to the fans, “Here ya go, fans. Enjoy.” Even when the prisoners were released to run about and eventually engage in battle, I was again reminded of Batman Begins. I felt like TDKR had quite a few parts that mirrored Batman Begins.

Closing Thoughts/Queries

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • What did you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin? Do you think the idea of leaving the Batman legacy to Robin was a smart choice? I, for one, enjoyed the reveal at the end, even though there were little hints dropped throughout the film if you hadn’t already caught on that JGL fit the Robin profile exactly.
  • Did the ending feel like Inception to anyone else aside from me? Two different people afterwards asked me if that end scene was a dream. I’m not sure whether to laugh or consider the possibility! But really, I don’t believe it was a dream.
  • Can someone please fill me in on what exactly Bane’s intention was? He kills, kills, kills. He constructs these nearly flawless plans to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. You can’t tell me he did this all for the love of a woman. While the fake-out at the end revealing Miranda Tate as the villain was a little surprising, it really makes Bane’s motivations fall apart at the seams.
  • Did anyone else wish that the Joker story would have been closed? Every villain in all three films–except the Joker–was brought up in some way. Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face/Harvey Dent, and of course the two in the film, Catwoman and Bane, all had a place.
  • So many films end with the hero sacrificing himself by destroying something bad in order to save a place. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo sacrificed himself to destroy the Ring to save Middle-Earth. In The Avengers, Iron Man sacrificed himself to destroy a missile to save New York City. In Captain America, the captain sacrificed himself. Even Jack Bauer in 24 was about to fly a plane down in order to save the world, or something like that. The Dark Knight Rises follows suite: Batman sacrifices himself to destroy a time bomb to save Gotham. Yet all the heroes live in the end. Would it have been a better ending for Batman to die?
  • We have to compare (of course), so did you dig The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises more? Was either one a better film than the other? While in some aspects I consider The Dark Knight the better film, I couldn’t imagine Rises being any better than it was. It completed a trilogy. It brought the series full circle. It even had hints of humor that the previous two films lacked. It pulled out all the stops, was epic in almost every proportion possible.

I’ll really miss this series. I believe it’s the best film trilogy made yet. Although the goodbye is bittersweet, I can’t help but wonder, what is Christopher Nolan going to do next?

Favorite Five Films of 2012 (January–June)

I’ve been seeing some of these posts pop up on friends’ sites, so I decided to add my own. I actually have found the first half of 2012 to be relatively uneventful and dull at the movies. There have been just a few hits that I’ve seen, and even fewer films that have resonated with me. I really see the 2012 movie year starting in July as not only big films like The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises arrive on the scene, but also films like the next slice of the Bourne series hits theaters; the Total Recall reboot; the end of the Twilight mess series; the next movie featuring Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down); Tom Hooper’s sophomore Oscar attempt/highly anticipated musical, Les Miserables; Quentin Taratino’s next big looks-to-be-a-hit Django Unchained; Leo DiCaprio’s latest attempt at getting recognized by the Academy/major book-to-film adaptation (The Great Gatsby), and many, many more films I have left out.

Unfortunately, I have missed out on a few films that I think could have made this list, namely The GreySalmon Fishing in the YemenMy Sister’s Sister (geez, big year for Emily Blunt, eh?), Being Flynn, and Moonrise Kingdom (this is killing me as I’m typing this–wish I would have seen this while it was in theaters).

Honorable Mentions

The Woman in Black — You can see my post on play and film comparisons/contrasts.

This Means War — While the film was silly and thoughtless in parts, it was entertaining to watch throughout.

Five Year Engagement — The Sesame Street impersonations were worth the admission price.

5) The Hunger Games

This movie makes it on the list for a lack of better options. From a film perspective, it had its issues, but was very moving and done well in enough parts that I was able to get sucked into the story. The supporting cast performances really held the film together, and Jennifer Lawrence owned the lead role.

4) 21 Jump Street

Some of the best movies tend to be unexpected, and with leading dudes Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, expectations were flying especially low in my mind. However, the film exceeded many film critics’ opinions as well, landing a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. It was hilarious, it was well-acted, it was entertaining, and it had one great cameo in it. I look forward to watching this again.

3) The Avengers

I won’t admit to the number of times I saw The Avengers in theaters, but it’s safe to say that I loved the film. Great direction and writing from Joss Whedon lended itself nicely to the collaboration of multiple superheros sharing the screen in a project that clearly took years to fully develop. Hilarious and action-packed, The Avengers fed comic book and movie geeks alike the pure geekdom on screen that we crave.

2) Friends with Kids

loved this movie. It was so unexpected and underrated for how hilarious and touching it was. Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and starred in this film, and she deserves some serious recognition for accomplishing those feats. Westfeldt and Adam Scott shared a natural chemistry on screen, and the duo provided a fresh perspective to an idea that, while appearing impulsive and clumsy on the surface, really works well for a film.

1) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Perhaps I’m still on a high from seeing this film a little over a week ago, but I have yet to get the film out of my head. I’m already wanting to see it again. I’ve already downloaded half the songs from the soundtrack. This movie is a fun, thought-provoking treat from the hands of rookie director Lorene Scafaria. It’s heartfelt, it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s entirely worth watching in my humble opinion.

OK, what has been your favorite film of the year so far? What do you think of my favorites? Any hidden gems from the first half of the year that you’d recommend I see?

Ten Facts about Joseph Gordon-Levitt

It’s no surprise that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is hitting the spotlight more than ever in the past couple years. He’s played roles in some big films as well as taken part in smaller projects that mean a lot to him. Instead of giving another biography about the dude, here’s a list of 10 facts (generated from various websites) that I found interesting.

10) JGL owes a warm thanks to James Franco. Why? Because of Franco’s scheduling conflicts, JGL replaced him in his supporting role as Arthur in Inception. His role in the thriller connected him to director Christopher Nolan, who now cast him in his up and coming batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

9) So far, Gordon-Levitt has received only one high awards nomination for a film: Golden Globe for Best Actor in (500) Days of Summer.

8) Despite his growth and up and comingness (like that word I just made up?) in film, JGL never received credit for a silent and momentary cameo in the Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody 2008 mediocre flick, The Brothers Bloom.

7) Back in a 1998 interview with Conan O’Brien, JGL explains that he has “two” last names because his parents were hippies, and they figured, why should a woman lose her last name? His mom’s last name is Gordon and his dad’s last name is Levitt.

6) After starring in The Lookout, a film reviewer from the San Francisco Chronicler said that Gordon-Levitt “embodies, more than performs, a character’s inner life.” I think his role in this year’s 50/50 only further proves that insight.

5) It’s been said that JGL has an uncanny resemblance to former 10 Things I Hate about You co-star Heath Ledger.

4) Prepare yourself for a very Joseph Gordon-Levitt 2012. So far he is slated to star in five films: The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper, Lincoln, and the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.

3) JGL is one humble dude. He is quoted saying,

“The whole concept of celebrity pisses me off. While I’m not a celebrity, it’s such a weird concept that society has cooked up for us. Astronauts and teachers are much more amazing than actors.”

2) Gordon-Levitt’s brother, Daniel, died at age 36 of drug overdose, just in October of last year.

1) JGL was also not the first pick to play the real life character Will in 50/50. James McAvoy, the original pick, had to leave after just a few days of filming due to a family emergency. Seth Rogen and Will Reiser, who were currently living together at the time, thought first of Gordon-Levitt for the role after McAvoy’s departure.