Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2012

Now it's time to wrap up this year with my Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2012! 2012 has been an AWESOME year for movies, in my opinion, but unfortunately I missed a lot of the big name films this year - The Dark Knight Rises, The Cabin in the Woods, Prometheus, Brave, Magic Mike, Argo, Seven Psychopaths, The Master, I COULD GO ON. Suffice it to say, this list is by no means a "Best of 2012" list. It's just my favorite movies that I saw. Also, it's not entirely my fault that I missed those movie. It's been a big year for me! I did graduate from high school and start going to college, after all. I'm still going to try to see as many Oscar nominees as I can before the Oscars, so I can let you guys know my guesses and things.

Anyway, let's kick off the list by looking at some runners-up. Here are the five Honorable Mentions who just missed the cut:

1. The Secret World of Arrietty
2. Lola Versus
3. Your Sister's Sister
4. Wreck-It Ralph
5. The Avengers

Now, here are my Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2012!  If I've written a review of the movie already, I'm just going to link to that because I... am really lazy.  But I will write out a little mini review of any movies I saw before I started this blog.

10. Ruby Sparks - Boy, was I wrong about this movie! It's such a brilliantly executed exercise in deconstructing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that I initially thought it was just an example of the trope. I didn't even want to see it at first, because I thought it was a dumb chick flick where the guy gets the girl of his dreams, but it was so much more than that. Ruby Sparks is about a guy who conjures a woman from his own imagination, yes, but it's more importantly about the reality that your ideal significant other, the one you picture in your mind and fantasize about, does not exist. When Paul Dano's character - which, can I just say, Paul Dano was SO GOOD in this movie, for reals - tries to make his perfect girl exist, it doesn't work, because it can't work, and therein lies the film's conflict. The plot progression was really good, and even the very, very abrupt tonal shift towards the end of the film felt like it fit. The ending was especially satisfying. This film really defied my expectations and I highly recommend it.

9. The Hobbit - My original review: "...I also found myself grinning many, many times throughout the film. It's always indicative of how involving the movie's world is when you actually respond to it through your body language and unconscious actions..."

8. Celeste and Jesse Forever - I still haven't gotten over how damn REAL this movie is. The relationships and the dates and the romance are so absurd and silly, but in the exact same way that REAL relationships are absurd and silly and don't make any sense. Yeah, okay, maybe your husband from whom you are separated probably wouldn't be living in your backyard... but maybe he would! You know? The silly little in-jokes between Celeste and Jesse were so similar to some of the shit I do with my best friends, and it really helped me get emotionally invested in the characters. It made me feel like they were my friends in real life and that I was just watching what was happening to them from afar, wanting to help them but unable to reach through the screen. The other characters - Elijah Wood's and Ari Graynor's characters, in particular - were just as real and just as lovable, despite being weird or blunt or tactless. Rashida Jones's performance as Celeste was so, so good. Like, I couldn't even handle it. I laughed a LOT - "I LOVE COCK!" - but I also cried and got angry and just reacted in general to this movie, which is what good art is supposed to make you do. God, this was a good movie.

7. Skyfall - Can you believe I had never seen a James Bond movie before I saw Skyfall this year? I couldn't believe it, either, especially after walking out of the theater with my brain sprayed all over the back of my chair - because it blew my mind. The opening chase sequence was incredible, and so were the opening credits, and the scene in Shanghai, and Silva, and Silva's escape, and Silva's plot, and the end, and Silva and Silva and SILVA!!!! By the end of the movie I was honestly rooting for Silva to succeed with his evil plans, because Javier Bardem was just that perfect and incredible in the role. Everyone was great in this movie - Daniel Craig and Judi Dench were almost as good as Bardem, but not quite, because he was perfect. I can't speak from personal knowledge because, again, this is the only Bond movie I've seen, but I've heard that this film has an unusually strong female presence, which is awesome, not to mention the fact that the main villain is obviously a queer man. It's appropriate that the overarching theme of the film is adaptation to a new time period and standing the test of time, and that the franchise is clearly adapting itself to modern expectations of representation and gender roles in tandem to the plot. I can promise you that this is not the last Bond movie I will watch.

6. Lincoln - My original review: "...Daniel Freaking Day-Lewis. I don't understand how he does this stuff. I don't understand how he can so perfectly embody these roles. Is he a shapeshifting reptilian?..."

5. Looper - My original review: "...It was predictable in the best way, in the sense that there were clues and foreshadowing that let you know what was going to happen, as long as you paid attention and were able to puzzle it out..."

4. ParaNorman - I absolutely adore Laika. I know they're a relatively young company and they really only have three full-lengths under their belt (Corpse Bride, Coraline, and this), but damn, do they have animation skills. I saw this movie with my brothers my first weekend home from college. They were pretty indifferent about going, but I forced them, and after we walked out of the theater they told me they were really glad that they had seen it. Pretty much anyone can watch ParaNorman and be entertained (except maybe for really little kids, they might be kind of scared at some points).

First, let's talk about the animation. It's fabulous. The scene in the bathroom, with the tiles? GOOD GOD. I also loved the character design. Nobody was particularly realistic-looking, but you could tell that the stylistic choices were made to convey the ugliness of real people. I especially loved Mitch and Courtney's designs, and also just them as characters (especially Mitch though. MITCH!) ParaNorman's plot was also excellent, and I loved the twist about the true identity of the witch. The best part of the movie, though, had to be the, for lack of a better word, lessons throughout the movie. I think it's really important for kids to know that yes, it's okay to be scared, but you can't let that change you. The film didn't really have an antagonist, either, which I loved, because it was true to life - there aren't really a bunch of bad guys and good guys, and you root for one and not the other. There's just people, and sometimes they can do terrible things, but that doesn't mean they can't grow or change. ParaNorman is a spectacular film to watch, both visually and emotionally.

3. Safety Not Guaranteed - I definitely wasn't expecting to like this movie as much as I did. The trailer was exciting, yeah, but it didn't capture the wonder and humor and pure emotion of the film, and how could it? It's, like, 2:30 long. The premise seemed kind of funny and cutesy, and it had Aubrey Plaza in it, so I figured it had to at least be kind of good. I went to see it with a few friends at the Floyd, our campus theater, and was promptly blown away by how good it was. Tears were shed quite a few times, I gasped and whispered "No!" at appropriate moments, but best of all, everyone cheered and clapped at the perfect ending, including me. I don't know how people at other movie theaters reacted, but I'm sure it was similarly - you cannot help but applaud the stirring finish of this movie.

But what made this movie so good? You would definitely have to contribute it to Aubrey Plaza, whom I love, and Mark Duplass, whom I saw quite a bit of for the very first time this year (this movie, Your Sister's Sister, an episode of The Mindy Project). They both did an incredible job and had amazing chemistry with each other - I'm tearing up right now just thinking about the camping scene. The song that Duplass plays is so beautiful. Jake Johnson and Karan Soni both did great jobs as well, and I loved their little side plots. The movie is just so sincere and heartfelt, and when you find yourself doubting Kenneth's sanity, your heart breaks because you, like Darius, want to believe that the world is a more amazing place than it is. And maybe you can't really time travel, but that doesn't mean that you can't find something beautiful and amazing to strive for.

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild - When my film committee friends told me that this film had already been shown last year, I was devastated that I probably wouldn't be able to see it before the Oscars. But then! One of our scheduled films never arrived, so we decided to re-show this movie, and thank goodness that we did! It was absolutely gorgeous and spectacular. Every single shot was beautiful, and I'm not even exaggerating here. The way they depicted the world through the eyes of Hushpuppy was so accurate that I felt like a little kid long after walking out of the theater, and it honestly made me uncomfortable! Nobody wants to be like a child when they're 18 years old, and be forced to see the world as this unfathomable mystery, terrifying and loud and completely foreign yet filled with the potential to be totally magical. I mean, I still feel that way, but not to the degree that I did when I was little.

But seriously, we can't talk about this film without talking about Quvenzhan√© Wallis. Where did they find this girl? She's one of the best actresses I've ever seen and she was FIVE YEARS OLD when they filmed this movie. She's impossibly good. She manages to deliver her lines with a perfect blend of the straightforward wisdom that comes from simple observation, and the naivete of a child her age. Her ability to transition from stoic silence to a powerful roar of strength was completely unbelievable to watch. And we can't forget to mention Dwight Henry, who portrayed Wink, Hushpuppy's father, and who, if I'm not mistaken, was completely new to acting when he was cast, which is insane, because he was SO GOOD! The way he interacted with Wallis was so realistic and emotional that you almost couldn't stand it. I don't want to give anything away, but his interaction with her at the end of the movie was so powerful that I can't even write about it right now or else I'm going to start crying. You are doing yourself a disservice if you do not see this movie. Seriously.

And my number one FAVORITE movie of the year is...

1. Moonrise Kingdom - If you read my Something Great Sunday post yesterday, you might have an idea of how much this movie means to me. If not, I'm going to try and describe my feelings toward it as best as I can, although it's very difficult for me to put them into words. I saw this movie with my dad and loved every second of it. At first, it didn't displace Rushmore as my favorite Wes Anderson movie, but when I saw it again in college, it did. I just watched it again a few days ago, and it was even better. There's something about this movie that makes its quality go up every single time you watch it, because every time you know the characters and the island of New Penzance just a little bit better, and you love them even more than you did before.

All of the performances in this movie are wonderful, particularly Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Frances McDormand, whose performances all had in common their deep concern for the main characters, Suzy and Sam. Willis, Norton, and McDormand all worried about the kids not just for the kids' sakes, but, for Norton's part, because he cared so much about giving his scouts a good experience as a child before they had to become an adult, like him - after saying that his real job was as an 8th grade math teacher, "In fact, I'd like to change my previous answer. This is my real job. I'm a math teacher on the side." Willis and McDormand's characters, I believe, saw in Sam and Suzy the potential for real true love, which McDormand is lacking in her relationship with her husband, and which Willis seems to have felt for McDormand, although she "didn't love [him] back."

The real stand-outs, however, are Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who played the two young runaways Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky. Total unknowns, and yet their performances as a pair of troubled twelve-year-old's in love was so honest and realistic - their awkward attempts at sexuality, Sam's endearing attempts to impress Suzy with his survival skills, Suzy's ferocity in trying to protect Sam from the other Khaki scouts - and were especially emphasized by the little touches, like Suzy dumping out Sam's pipe after noticing that he had fallen asleep while she was reading, and how they clung to each other when they were discovered. I can't get over these two kids, guys. I can't get over this movie. It's so awe-inspiringly beautiful, and I've pretty much accepted the fact that it is one of my favorite movies ever, and not just my favorite of 2012.

Alright guys, that's it for these end-of-the-year lists! 2012 was amazing for all forms of media, and I'm so excited to see what 2013 is going to bring. And you can be sure that I'll keep you up to date on everything I watch, read, listen to, and play. Thanks for reading!

- Maddie

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