2012: A Cinematical Retrospective

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m into a bottle of wine. I’d say it’s about time to wrap up the year and ring in the new one by naming my favourite movies of 2012.

The Best Films of 2012

5.) ParaNorman, directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

While my unabashed love for stop-motion animation likely makes this pick a biased one, I can’t stress how much this deserves to be listed here. Every aspect of ParaNorman’s production, from voice casting to humour to aesthetic to music, was top-notch, and in an era where pop culture has become unfortunately oversaturated with zombies, it’s refreshing to see a work that turns the subgenre on its head (see also David Wong’s This Book is Full of Spiders). But I implore you to watch it all the way through for no other reason than it turning to a surprisingly complex—not merely for a family film—social commentary that rivals even the best Pixar films. Maybe the only “kids” film I’ve seen whose plot MAJOR SPOILERS hinges on the murder of a child.
4.) Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes
If I can find any pattern among my favourite releases this year, its movies that go in completely unexpected directions in their last acts. Where ParaNorman drops a shocking and disturbing revelation on its audience, Skyfall drastically diverges from the formulae and tropes laid down by the previous 23 Bond films and turns into an unprecedented study of its main character—even more so than Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale six years ago. Its climax alone sees Bond put on the defensive in a brutal twist on Home Alone, the unexpectedly moving death of a long time character, and a welcome paradigm shift that may see a return to the style of the older 007 films, albeit with a modern edge. Not since Batman Begins have I felt so excited for the future of a franchise.
3.) The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan
Rises did something I never thought possible, namely top Nolan’s previous The Dark Knight as the best Batman movie ever made. While maybe not as “pure” a Batman movie as its predecessor, the conclusion to Nolan’s trilogy exceeds by, like Skyfall, veering away from convention, putting its eponymous hero at an incredible disadvantage for the majority of the film and giving him the resolution that his counterpart in the comics will likely never receive. Coupled with fine performances by Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy—the last of whom used his swagger and vocal mannerisms to reinvigorate the gimmicky and stagnated character of Bane—great action pieces and at times unbearable tension, it’s one of the best blockbusters this year. It would have been higher on my list were it not for some unnecessary plot complexity, but regardless it’s still the best ending to any long form work I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
2.) Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott
Some reading this will take issue not only with Prometheus’ rank on this list, but its placement here at all. And they have valid reasons for feeling this way. As I said in my original review, Prometheus is like a very fascinating essay without the transitional sentences needed to make the reader’s experience as smooth as possible. Characters get lost for no good reason, major objects of interest are not explained within the film itself but in lengthy debates by its viewing audience, and traumatic—traumatic—occurrences are not mentioned in the scenes that directly follow them. But, holistically, these issues don’t weigh down Prometheus for me at all. In fact, I find I enjoy the film more each time I watch it—heck, had I viewed it one more time it might be at the top of this list. Regardless of what problems you might have with its story, Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien universe undeniably sports great performances, music and genuine Lovecraftian horror, and is maybe the best looking movie I’ve ever seen. Surprising as it might sound, I could easily watch it again and again, even more than any other movie mentioned in this article.
1.) Cloud Atlas, directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski
Good God, what a movie. I read the David Mitchell novel upon which this was based a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised at its excellence, and likewise had the same reaction to the movie. Cloud Atlas is a truly epic exploration of compassion, discrimination and oppression, while from a metatextual perspective showing how these themes can be depicted in any number of genres. Its six intertwining stories, spanning centuries, take the form of—in chronological order—a historical drama, a tragedy, a thriller, a screwball comedy, a work of political sci fi and a tale of post-apocalyptic survival, and actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae et al adopt a different character in each one. It’s a genuinely moving, funny and sorrowful work about storytelling and music and is visually just breathtaking.
And that’s it for 2012. Drink responsibly, drive safe (or not at all, for that matter) and have yourselves a Happy New Year.

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