08 January 2013

The Year It All Nearly Ended (Best Films of 2012)

2012 saw the world's collective obsession with the apocalypse take place on the silver screen on numerous occasions. Whether it was a downbeat comedy, team-up comic franchise, or exploration of our origins, most protagonists saw themselves battling a cataclysmic event. The planet has nearly been blown up, invaded by aliens, lorded over by evil geniuses and the like.

Batman, the Avengers, 007, Django, and even Abraham Lincoln fulfilled the collective wishes of moviegoers to have someone stand up for others in a time when seemingly there are no heroes left. Perhaps it is for this reason that so many of the year's best films were centered around good guys.

If it wasn't the end of the world, it was the end of line for the characters. Bernie desperately trying to avoid prison, Ottway fending off a pack of wolves systematically eliminating his crew, Bond facing a betrayal from one of MI6's own. The end days have been on the mind of many.

This year was also strangely reminiscent of the 70s: a time where character studies and genre efforts could be both commercially successful and high-caliber films as well. Flight and Argo both did well critically and commercially. An exploitation themed Western hit big screens on Christmas and grossed over $100 million—who would have seen that coming at the dawn of the aughts?

Despite the retro-fitting of these films, the fatalistic nature was still there: Flight depicts the end of a man's career and free life, Argo watches on helplessly as hostages are taken in the Middle East, Silver Linings Playbook lived in the shoes of a blue-collar Philadelphia family whose mental health too often rests with the city's most beloved/hated team. For these films, it is the death of a way of life.

We are the species most fascinated by our end, we are unique in that regard. Whether it ends with a whisper or bang, we are right there waiting for the fall.

And on that note I bring you my favorite ten films of 2012.

Just Missed It - The Master

10. Bernie
Comic, but never hurtful in its depiction of a man whose genial surface let him get away with murder.

9. Seven Psychopaths
Martin McDonagh's second U.S. release knows no limits in going for a laugh and for a film about getting a script finished in Hollywood, there lies promise.

8. The Dark Knight Rises
A lie built on hope turns ghastly when a masked terrorist throws Gotham off its axis and a disgraced hero must rise again. Rises may not be the best Batman film, but it definitely is the send-off that this icon deserved.

7. Argo
Ben Affleck proved he was capable of making more than crime films in Boston with this picture, it managed to keep breaths baited even though we all knew the ending beforehand.

6. Lincoln
Rather than glorifying our sixteenth president, Steven Spielberg deconstructed the myth and left us a man capable of doing the seemingly impossible.

5. The Grey
What could have simply been a vehicle for Liam Neeson to punch wolves became a tone poem that meditated on grief.


4. Django Unchained
Slavery. It's a divisive issue and one made all the more compelling when placed in the Tarantino-sphere, yet Django is more about the lengths that one man will go to save his wife.

3. Skyfall
James Bond turned 50 and turned in the best caper of his career. An aging spy tasked with resurrecting himself and his country connected in ways a Bond film previously never has. Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig killed the immortal hero and left in his stead a living, breathing man.

2. Looper
We never really escape our past and this inventive thriller from Rian Johnson couldn't have proclaimed that more boldly.

1. Zero Dark Thirty
"In the midst of the last thirty minutes of the film, a slowly building sense of tension creeps out from the screen and lures audience members to lean forward. The final op to take down the man who caused so much pain for so many years is a cathartic one. One handled with a tasteful grace."