Five Years Later: 2012 Movies
Hey, it's the first Five Year Hindsight Awards! It doesn't feel like all that long ago but it is just long enough to get a second wind for a movie or a second realization that a movie has gone stale. This was a good year for science fiction movies and a not so good year for prestige films as it was the year Argo won Best Picture but didn't get nominated for Best Director. I have an incomplete list of nominees and a complete ranking of all 2012 movies that I have watched last year. Here are the actual Academy Award nominees and winners from the 2013 Oscars for reference. Instead of deciding between lead and supporting actors and actresses I have awarded two outstanding actors and two outstanding actresses as well as a best ensemble casting.
1. The Avengers
One of the most entertaining movies for repeat viewings, The Avengers has aged well even after several other waves of other team-up movies. It is the standard for not only expanded universe hopes of other franchises but for the MCU as well. It benefits from character building in Captain America, Iron Man and Thor movies that came before and Hulk is used as a force of nature rather than an established character. The villain is an established threat, the stakes are great, the team needs to come together, the script is humorous and the side characters establish themselves as the less powerful hearts of the movie. The signature of the movie is a continuous action shot that shows each member working together in creative ways to fight the aliens in a sequence that never fails to take my breath away. The score originally as a tool to build energy in the movie but now is an iconic source of nostalgic action.
Hindsights: Best Picture, Best Ensamble Acting, Best Visual Effects and Stunts, and Best Music.
The surprise movie of 2012, Dredd was one of the action movies of the decade and one of the most beautiful movies of the year. It didn't just have the hurdle of being an adaptation of a British comic book series, it had the giant task of rebooting after the Stallone mess of an adaptation in the '90's. Without a huge budget, this movie succeeds in creating a dystopian city that sprawls up into city sized buildings. The visual effect of the drug of the future that the villains are pedaling is mesmerizing, practically creating a cinematic high for the viewer.
Rian Johnson creates an incredible web of time travel and conflicting futures. Looper uses time travel, future vs. past self, and the idea of inevitability to investigate the concept of the origin of villainy and redemption. There isn't just a single future of lawlessness and overpopulation in this film, there is also Gordon-Levit's future on the run and Willis's future settling down in China and they are all have their own looks to distinguish themselves. It's a mind-bending movie in a number of ways, yet it is not convoluted and some of its themes are echoed in Johnson's latest film, The Last Jedi, where he shows other attributes of a villain's origin story.
Hindsights: Best Writing Rian Johnson, Best Cinematographer Steve Yedlin (tie).
Jeff Nichols is one of my favorite directors and somehow this was the last of his movies that I got around to seeing. I was missing out. This fits perfectly in the new genre of modern westerns that I have been enjoying over the last decade. I was scared away from this initially because I was not wise to the great change in McConaughey's career from rom-com six pack goofball to highly respected actor.
Hindsights: Best Director Jeff Nichols, Best Actor Matthew McConaughey (tie)
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This is a movie about high school made for adults. Ezra Miller steals the show by being both the dramatic heart and the through line of humor in his supporting role. The high schoolers never act like kids, the parents never play villains for villain sake and dammit if it didn't make me cry about a third the way through.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man
It's easy to forget that this is really a fun, well made movie after the mind-wipe of disappointment that the sequel was for the James Garfield Spider-Man franchise. Spider-Man gets to enjoy being a kid with super powers with a skateboard in an abandoned warehouse and a good chunk of the swinging action was practical with safety wires CGI'd out of the frame. Emma Stone makes Gwen Stacey such a hero without powers that Marvel didn't waste time writing her into Spider-Gwen in alternate universe comics.
7. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson made a bit of a road film as two mischievous kids go on the run together on a fictional island off of New England. My family used to have a house on an island very much like this off the coast of Connecticut that even had a boy scout camp in the middle of it and older brown shingled houses with more rooms than you would expect. While this doesn't have the soundtrack of other Wes Anderson movies, the music places the setting in an unknown time between the '50's and '80's.
An exciting historical drama, Argo is still a fun viewing, although it might not feel as fresh as it did when it came out. The movie gains a lot by casting character actors without household names with many of the key roles making the characters feel as though they are of the time and not familiar faces. I think this was the best movie that had any chances at awards in 2012 even if it isn't an all-time great.
9. This is 40
This was the best pure comedy of 2012 and has stood the test of time as an apartment favorite in the Talbot household here as a standby blu-ray to throw in when we can't decide on a movie. I'm not sure if all of the side characters track from Knocked Up to This is 40 but it works well as a spiritual sequel. The older Apatow steals the best line of the movie in a cut away where she is screaming about not having any clothes that fit.
10. Room 237
It's hard to tell if this is fan theories, film criticism, conspiracy theories or fan fiction of The Shining, but it is incredibly watchable as a movie about the different ways that a single movie can be seen. It creates its own menace of horror mixed with humor and a little history in a this psychological study that shows a movie can be an ink blot test.
Hindsights: Best Documentary.
11. The Impossible
I've found this movie to be one of the most affecting movies I have ever seen in so many ways. It is hard to breathe as the tsunami hits and pushes the family members into different directions. I hit my peak of squeamishness as Naomi Watts deals with his leg injury as it is only revealed with slight, gruesome peaks. It swings from severe anxiety as the family members who had been together lose each other, then hits with such incredible weight as they come back together again.
Hindsights: Best Actress Naomi Watts.
12. The Cabin in the Woods
Drew Goddard and Joss Wheeden subvert horror tropes in such a satirical way, with so much thought, that they manage to change genres from horror to urban fantasy as the movie plays out. The surpasses the B-movie status it appears to inhabit at the beginning of the movie to being a cult classic.
13. The Master
Originally, this was a huge disappointment of a movie for me and it's a good thing I went back to revisit it five years later. After knowing that this is more of a character study than an expose of a cult and that the characters that are being studied are different flavors of terrible people it was easier to watch without expecting the characters to change for the better. Joaquin Phoenix is amazing in his way of changing his posture into a hunched over troll, the physical degenerated symbol of his inner scumbag.
Hindsights: Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix (tie).
This probably gets a little favor from me because I am a sucker for Hitchcock movies and Psycho. When this movie came out Universal released an amazing box set of most of Hitchcock's greatest movies, most with exceptional supplemental documentaries. This takes us back into old Hollywood and the actresses of the film Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette and Jessica Biel steal the movie away from Anthony Hopkins's titular role.
15. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
The "Last Man on Earth" comedy of the end of the world coming make this seem as though it will just be an apocalyptic comedy but it becomes something much more touching as the main characters get to know each other. Kiera Knightly gives a great performance of comedy and heart in the face of impending doom and paired with her charming and dramatic turn in Anna Karenina she gave two of the top performances of 2012.
Hindsights: Best Actress Kiera Knightly (awarded for Anna Karenina, too).
16. Frances Ha
Greta Gerwig cowrote and stars as a quirky yet nuanced young woman finding her place in the world as she tries to figure things out after college. This was my introduction to her as I think it was for most people and she has very much hit the ground running as she is now an Oscar Nominated director for Ladybird. Noah Baumbach directed movies can be a bit difficult to sit through while still rewarding the viewer with the complete viewing experience, but this gives just a bit more subtle comedy to keep the anxiety level in a reasonable place.
17. Zero Dark Thirty
By re-watching this I realized that the criticism that this glorifies torture might be misplaced as it shows enhanced interrogation as taking a lot of time and not getting any actionable information that changes any results compared to conventional intelligence gathering that create the break in the story. There are specific shots that stuck with me from my more recent viewing that I really appreciated, one in particular where the aftermath of an explosion is shown from very far away above the smoke plume with a slowly moving shot. It still has problems, but it is made to be discussed and debated and even if it isn't 100% factual, it still doesn't give logical credit to torture for finding Bin Laden.
Hindsights: Best Cinematographer Greig Fraser (tie).
18. Django Unchained
Jaime Foxx gave so much to this movie, he even acts while performing a very technical horse stunt at the very end of the movie to give the audience a victory dance after very disturbingly violent series of events. This list wouldn't have felt complete without either a western or a Tarantino movie.
Hindsights: Best Actor Jaime Foxx (tie).
19. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan gives a crisply shot movie with a driving score and an ambiguous ending to his Batman series. The movie is made by Anne Hathaway's Cat Woman and the mind blowing aerial sequence in the very first scene.
20. The Hunger Games
It can be hard to remember that the Hunger Games series of movies started with a gripping, realistic fight to the death game show installment that was less teen love triangle drama and more "holy crap these kids are killing each other" echo of Battle Royale... with a better story and better acting.
Honorable Mention: Wreck-It Ralph
Oh boy is Wreck-It Ralph sugared up and frantic at times. It was a down year for animation, but "Ralph" gives viewers a taste of several genres while providing a few surprise
Hindsights: Best Animated Film.
I did watch Lincoln and it didn't impress me any more than when I saw it in a theater where an older man was loudly snoring. Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his role, however I don't even find his portrayal to be as interesting as James Spader's in the same film.