2012 will go down in history as the year Christopher Nolan completed his epic Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises (not even the best film this year where you couldn’t understand what Tom Hardy was going on about, as Lawless proved). TDKR crashed into cinemas with a roar so loud everyone forgot about The Avengers and started posting on Facebook about how Michael Caine made them cry or how this trilogy was the best trilogy ever (It’s either the Three Colours trilogy or the Indy trilogy around here by the way…there is NO fourth Indy film, quiet at the back).
However, 2012 was also filled with quite a lot of gems, some hidden, some in plain sight. Nostalgia for the Light and The Imposter were quite incredible documentaries about extraordinary circumstances which flashed in and out of cinemas without pausing. Ted proved that a three foot bear that drinks, smokes and has sex could be funny (who knew?) and in no way conjured up any memories of Howard the Duck, thank god.
Woody Harrelson gave his best performance in years in the gritty, nearly plot free, LA cop movie, Rampart, his performance given extra weight by wholeheartedly committing to going to town on some girl he picked up in a bar’s feet.
David O’Russel, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and a spiky De Niro dazzled Toronto, winning the People’s Choice Award (fast becoming one of the more reliable audience barometers) with Silver Lining’s Playbook and Ben Affleck blew his previous efforts out of the water by directing Argo, a tense, taut, political drama in the vein of The Parallax View or All The President’s Men, well done him. None of those made our end of year list. Here then, based on a confusing amalgamation of Australian and UK release dates and several, quite heated and expensive phone calls between Manchester and Melbourne are Early Bird Film Society’s top ten films of 2012. In no particular order!
The Raid: Redemption (@noonanjohnc)
Indonesia’s answer to Die Hard, directed by Gareth Evans, proved that sometimes a threadbare plot is excusable if your hero spends two hours killing people with his little finger.
Sam Mendes goes all Nolan on us and reboots the reboot with this introspective entry in the Bond canon.
We said: Take out the recognisable traits of the 50 year old franchise and you still have a taut, entertaining spy thriller, which is more than you can say about other franchises such as Twilight and The Dark Knight.
Woman in Black (@noonanjohnc)
Ickle Danny Radcliffe gets all grown up in this fantastic return to form for Hammer Horror.
We said: This is faded yellow pages containing dark secrets, shadows created by candle light, children crying at the bottom of the marsh and whispers the colour of dust. This is Hammer Horror at its finest.
The Avengers (@noonanjohnc)
Yes, The Dark Knight Rises is the technically superior film, but the Avengers was balls to the walls fun from beginning to end.
We said: Like Thor and Captain America, it reminds you that, yes, films like this can never be more than fun and explosions, but that doesn’t mean they have to be instantly forgettable (Hello Spiderman 3).
Killer Joe (@noonanjohnc)
Made in 2011 and released in 2012, Matthew McConaughey does terrible things to terrible people with delicious fried chicken in William Friedkin’s controversial film.
Defiantly pretentious, obliquely satirical and anchored by a confident performance from Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolis confused, infuriated and divided audiences everywhere it was released. This film is included in our top ten almost purely for having the audacity to exist at all. “We need a haircut…” is a favourite line for the year as well.
We said: Cosmoplolis is laugh out loud po-faced, serious to the point of incredulity, only when an acceptance of “oh…this film isn’t even fucking kidding a little bit” levels is reached does a thoroughly enjoyable and deeply motivated film emerge.
Take This Waltz (@DonDubrow)
Funny, heartbreaking and real, Sarah Polley’s sophomore effort exposed love crumbling and building in equal measures in Toronto centred by a brilliant Michelle Williams who EBFS is now officially in love with.
We said: Where Take This Waltz excels is in it’s script, it’s structure and it’s drama (inextricably linked, obviously). Polley has crafted the story so each scene feels utterly compelling and necessary as we find out what makes these characters tick.
The Cabin In The Woods (@DonDubrow)
Unofficially our FILM OF THE YEAR, purely by being basically the only film the two of us agreed on. More funny than scary, this is still top-notch, knowing horror, not so much mugging at the screen as mugging the audience into participating in the slaughter of pretty people. The grand Guignol finish just keeps on giving.
Beasts Of The Southern Wild (@DonDubrow)
Seemingly from out of nowhere, this joyous depiction of environmental breakdown seen through the eyes of Hushpuppy, a precocious child in Louisiana, was a tale of humanity and our place in the universe told with a smile on its face and a warmth of the heart that is impossible to manufacture.
We said: A film that is unlike any other and through sheer force of will (and a joyous score) imprints itself in your memory, simultaneously showcasing mankind’s tenderness and will to survive and the incredible toll our planet is taking to keep us here.
The Master (@DonDubrow)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to There Will Be Blood is another two hander as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jaoquin Phoenix drink, argue and maybe fall in love a little bit in fifties America. Wellesian in scope and displaying a sense of human drama that Chekhov would have been proud of, PTA has delivered another set in stone classic that demands endless rewatches – Three times at the cinema for us.
We said: What Anderson has achieved with The Master is merely add to and enforce his body of work detailing America as, once again, being the land of opportunity, where anything is possible but absolute power corrupts absolutely.
So there you go, a pretty good year all things considered. Special mention must go to a film that almost snuck into our list. Holy Motors had film of the year written all over it as Carax played with his audience like a master, teasing them and leading them down rabbit holes in the frantically insane tale of a mimic moving through different roles in Paris. Unfortunately, the theatre we watched it in was evacuated twenty minutes from the end and it was the last showing so we couldn’t review it in case it all turned out to be a dream or Matt Damon’s flashback or something (even though he wasn’t there for the first half of the film). Still waiting for a DVD release in the UK. Humph.
Anyway, roll on 2013…