Opinion: The top ten movies of 2012
There are two kinds of movie reviewers; those that see the traditional end of year top ten list as a chore, and those like me who see it as a perk. Anyway, here’s ten movies from 2012 that I liked.
A few words before the countdown
These are not the top ten furry movies, but movies period, of 2012, and they are all picked by me, not anyone else, based on movies I saw this year that were originally released to theaters in America in 2012. I did not see them all theatrically, but mostly.
2011 was pretty good for furry movies. I can’t say the same thing this year; only one movie really fits the bill of “anthropomorphic animal” movie. That said, animals feature prominently in another, animal costumes in two and another features a killer unicorn and a scene where a hot blonde makes out with a wolf, so there is that.
Before the countdown proper, I present a few preliminary picks in a variety of categories.
Best Furry Movie: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Ice Age: Continental Drift runner-up)
Best Non-Furry Movie: The Grey (Skyfall runner-up)
Best Re-Release: Beauty and the Beast 3D
Best Sequel, Prequel, Spin-Off, Remake or Other Franchise Movie: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Skyfall runner-up)
Best Adaptation: The Avengers (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey runner-up)
Best Completely Original Movie: The Grey (The Cabin in the Woods runner-up)
Best Animated Movie: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Wreck-it-Ralph runner-up)
Worst Movie: Prometheus (Chernobyl Diaries runner-up)
Most Disappointing Movie: Rise of the Guardians (Dark Shadows runner-up)
Most Pleasantly Surprising Movie: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Wreck-it-Ralph runner-up)
Movie I Liked No One Else Did: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (The Cabin in the Woods runner-up)
Franchise That Needs To Die: Aliens (Jason Bourne runner-up)
Franchise I Can’t Wait For The Next Installment Of: James Bond (The Hobbit runner-up)
Guilty Pleasure: The Expendables 2 (Hotel Transylvania runner-up)
Best Director: Joe Carnahan, The Grey (Joss Whedon, The Avengers runner-up)
Best Special Effects: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (The Avengers runner-up)
Best Hero: James Bond, Skyfall (Ralph, Wreck-it-Ralph runner-up)
Best Villain: Silva, Skyfall (the alpha, The Grey runner-up)
Best Score: Skyfall (The Dark Knight Rises runner-up)
Best Song: “Skyfall,” Skyfall (“Sugar Rush,” Wreck-it-Ralph)
Missed It For Last Year’s List: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Leafie: A Hen into the Wild runner-up)
Enough of that stuff, let the bodies hit the floor.
10. Moonrise Kingdom
I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I liked Wes Anderson as a director before he started directing movies about talking foxes. Admittedly, most furries don’t seem to like Anderson even when he’s making movies about talking foxes. I don’t think a movie about an orphan Khaki Scout, his girlfriend and a kitten running away from the world during a hurricane will do it for a lot of furries, but that’s their loss.
Anderson has an odd sense of humor that seems to consist of equal parts light whimsy, squirm-inducing social awkwardness and child endangerment – all ingredients at play in this movie, which features Andersen’s blend of reality with fantasy while exploring the incredibly uncomfortable yet endearingly sweet topic of young love.
I don’t care what he did. No, I do care. But I can forgive him.
Jack Black is the star of this movie, giving a performance that is nothing like what you would expect. As a murderer who also happens to be a mortician, he could easily have played the part as creepy (I think Black would make an excellent Bond villain some day), but the real trick is that he comes across as truly likeable; after all, this is the real life story of a man so well-loved by his peers that his trial had to be moved in order to get a conviction.
The movie uses documentary techniques to tell the strange story of a good man who befriends a terrible person – until one day he just snaps. The odd relationship between the murderer and the victim is all but inexplicable; it cannot be easily summed up. The movie features interviews of the friends and even family of the man and his victim; they are willing to forgive the man, but what does that mean?
8. The Dark Knight Rises
I think you may have the wrong animal, sir.
This movie took a tremendous tumble on my year end list in the last two months, due mostly to a movie farther up on the list that just did what this movie set out to do, except better. When it comes down to it, this is the weakest of the Christopher Nolan’s three Batman films, though I still like it better than Batman Begins due to a personal hatred of reboots and a personal love of Catwoman.
But it still is a grand conclusion to the trilogy, bringing pieces from the first movie back into play and shutting things down in what I thought was a satisfactory ending the first time around (more on that later).
There also seemed to me to be a conscious decision to not directly appeal to the Oscar crowd and just make a great superhero story; if the Oscar crowd can look past their biases, great. Unfortunately, doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen, but you just can’t win with those guys sometimes.
7. Django Unchained
The d is silent, hillbilly.
I didn’t use to like Quentin Tarantino movies, but I have an aunt who lists Pulp Fiction as one of her two favorite movies, and I respect her opinion, so I gave it a second try. One thing she pointed out that I was missing was that Tarantino movies are funny; you’re not always sure you’re supposed to laugh, but you do.
Here’s a movie that is often hard to laugh at; it’s brutally ugly and I believe the guy in front of me at my screening came dangerously close to losing his popcorn during a particularly gruelling shootout. It seemed to me to be the culmination of both the Tarantino movie and the Western movie at the same time; we’ve always known the deaths were a little too clean before. We may still laugh, but this time the laughs are more uncomfortable than they ever have been before.
I will never be good, and that’s not bad.
Movies, especially kid’s movies, like to tell us that who we are on the inside is what counts. In the world of video games, what characters are on the inside is pre-ordained by their code. If they are a villain, they are bad on the inside, just about literally. This is the story of a guy who decides to do something good, rather than just be good.
This movie is also a love letter to video games; I was pleasantly surprised to find that this applies to all video games. The new FPS and its heroine are treated with the same amount of respect as the old arcade standby; there isn’t a “new is bad” moral here. I am pleased to note they did manage to sneak a princess in; this is a Disney movie about video games, after all. There isn’t an “old is bad” moral, either.
5. The Avengers
This would never work unless they had something to …
This is not the movie that toppled The Dark Knight Rises. It did do a better job than Batman at just being a fun superhero movie, though you can’t blame Batman for being so serious. However, for degree of difficulty, this movie’s success is unparalleled; nobody thought an Avengers movie was going to work five years ago, but here we are.
Director and writer Joss Whedon also wrote my favorite comic book run of all time (the original Astonishing X-Men run), so I already knew he could do a superhero team story, if not exactly movie. The film ends in a special effects blow-out, but Whedon avoids turning it into a glorified fireworks display by giving each team member personal reasons to take out the villain. They’re angry, and the bad guy doesn’t like them when they’re angry. Especially not the one in the purple shorts.
4. The Cabin in the Woods
I’m sorry I let you get bit by a werewolf at the end of the world.
Taking up this year’s obligatory, “Hey, it’s Sigourney Weaver!” spot is the horror movie to end all horror movies. If you only see one horror movie in your entire life, see this one. Not necessarily because it is the best ever, but because it so neatly summarizes the entire genre. The first two-thirds follow the rules of the genre like a religious ritual, while the last is every horror movie ever made playing at the same time.
We’ve seen so many zombie/redneck slasher movie before, but why? Lazy hack writers, this movie answers. Sure, they get the job done, but there is so much more to the genre; don’t you want killer unicorns, mermen, robots, werewolves, clowns, scarecrows, centipedes, giant cobras, witches and sexy witches, too? Yes. Very much so. Well, good, all you have to do is push this button … Oh, and by, the way, this is the movie with the wolf makeout scene. Fun for the entire family!
Last rat standing.
A couple years ago, critics were saying Jason Bourne was the new James Bond. So, how’s that working out? What did these critics expect, James Bond to die? I won’t say nobody does it better, but I will say nobody else does it, period. That’s where Bond beat Batman this year; Skyfall began where The Dark Knight Rises ended. One hero threw in the towel after three movies; another one will return. Oh, and one of those movies is this close to making the Best Picture Oscar nominee list. Sometimes, you do win.
But enough about the franchise, what about the movie itself? Skyfall is a rather odd Bond movie, after all is said and done. There isn’t really a Bond Girl; oh, there are Bond girls, and a woman finishes the movie in Bond’s arms, but no capital G, “Oh, James!” Bond Girl. This is Bond as Gothic melodrama, complete with a monstrous villain stalking his victims from a deserted manor house over a frozen moor, through an abandoned graveyard into a decrepit chapel. So, what is Skyfall? Bond’s past, of course.
2. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
It was always impossible. That’s why the people loved it.
How did this get here? No, seriously, how did this get here? How can the third Madagascar film possibly be any film critic’s, even a furry film critic’s, second best movie of the year?
Some people like to point out that animation is a medium, not a genre, but to those people I would point out that a medium’s qualities suit it for certain genres. Animation is best suited for the impossible.
So, Madagascar 3 does the impossible, again and again. Tigers jump through tiny rings, zebras and sea lions are shot from cannons, not-sea lions and jaguars become trapeze artists, giraffes and hippos dance on wires — and did I mention they all talk, too? Heck, they even managed to make Katy Perry’s “Firework” cool. For like five minutes, admittedly, but whatever. This movie does the impossible over and over. Maybe it’s not so strange it ended up my second favorite movie after all.
1. The Grey
You are going to die. That’s what’s happening.
This was the first movie I saw in 2012, and it took on all-comers to become the year's favorite. It's a horror movie, in a way; the monsters are a pack of wolves. The alpha is a big, black, ugly thing. It drools. It perfectly straddles the line between arthouse metaphor and B-movie monster – except those were always metaphors, weren’t they?
A plane crashes; there are a couple of survivors, who are picked off one by one by the wolves, by the elements, by stupid little accidents. What’s the point? This movie is cold; by that I don’t mean it is set in the cold. I mean it feels like you are actually frozen while you watch it. The movie is so bleak, so unforgiving, so big, black and ugly and it takes you to such dark places that it becomes, in the end, strangely uplifting.