Thank Korean Jesus those Mayans were wrong about the world ending in 2012 because we wouldn’t reach every film geek’s favourite time of the year…making end of year film lists! Or as I like to call it, the most ‘list-ical’ time of the year.
While some may dismiss the exercise as just adding to the throng of lists already published, it’s fantastic to see so many people taking the time to share the films that made their year. End of year lists serve a great purpose in creating watch lists for people to discover films they may have missed or never considered. Part of being a film lover is the joy of discovery and these lists are maps that could guide you to your next favourite.
2012 was an amazing year in film and we were spoilt with superhero epics, the return of Paul Thomas Anderson and underdog documentaries managing to provide big surprises. But what is a great year in film without a few fellow film geeks to share it with? Throughout 2012 I have been humbled to share time with so many passionate film minds discussing, dissecting and peacefully arguing over different movies. Whether it was via Twitter, Facebook, the comments section on GWP or in person over a beer, I have cherished every moment of being able to experience the year in film with you. A special thanks to the Editor in Chief of Graffiti with Punctuation, Blake Howard, for giving me the space and support to share my reviews as well as all the writers of this cool little site. I must also thank the brilliant film critic, Scott Weinberg, for being an inspiration with his work when it comes to writing about film. Last but not least, a big thanks to the head honcho at Dark Horizons, Garth Franklin, who paved the way for Australian film geeks to voice their opinions on the internet. Getting to know one of my film geek heroes throughout 2012 has been an honour.
Now the sappy stuff is over let’s put some films in a list! Before we get numerical a few house rules are necessary. Due to the backward nature of film releases in my country of residence, Australia, this list will be comprised of new release films I saw in 2012. It is based on no particular release schedule and can therefore factor in film festivals attended, screeners and media screenings. Sadly, for some films in 2012 time wasn’t on my side and ‘Amour’ slipped through the cracks despite playing every film festival on the planet. The timing for a screening never worked out but it has been named on enough lists already, plus winner a little thing called the Palme d’Or to certify that it’s worth checking out. Other films I have been unable to see yet include ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Lincoln’, and they will contend as 2013 releases due to their delayed release in Australia (FYI mainly for American readers). There will also be no “honourable mentions” as this is a definitive list, not a cautiously tentative include everyone list.
Without further delay I proudly present the best films of 2012 according to Cameron Williams.
16. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Filmmaker Peter Jackson has crafted a film that’s was a wild and visually stunning quest through a fantasy world all done with the noble spirit of courage and goodwill. Jackson’s all-seeing-eye reached beyond the bounds of just ‘The Hobbit’ and the two films that are set to follow. Jackson is creating the full universe of Middle Earth on film and he’s working with the immaculate detail of a master craftsman to ensure ‘The Hobbit’ is not just going to be a standalone romp through another one of Tolkien’s creations. Despite audiences being divided on 48fps and 24fps, I truly believe that 48fps is the best way to view the film and the scenery and action was stunning in the format.
15. Cloud Atlas
Each day since seeing ‘Cloud Atlas’ I have not stopped thinking about the film and a little light bulb keeps going off in my head as the ideas explored within the film continue ignite my mind. In the fickle world of filmmaking with so many reboots, remakes and films based on theme park rides, it’s amazing that something as pure as ‘Cloud Atlas’ can make it off the lot of mainstream studio. Yes there are always films pushing the boundaries and creating art outside of mainstream cinema, but ‘Cloud Atlas’ is something bold on the world’s biggest filmmaking stage and I’ve never seen anything like it before – a genuine one of a kind film.
14. Searching for Sugar Man
A documentary about music that doubled as a manhunt for the mysterious artist known as Rodriguez made the soul sing. From the humble beginnings of one man and a guitar, through all the ups and downs ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is an amazing story. If music is the glue of the world then Rodriguez is the super glue.
13. Laurence Anyways
A grand story that broke down the love between two people to its purest form as a matter of the heart beyond the physical; that was delicately handled by the very talented writer and director, Xavier Dolan. Jaw dropping visuals, performances and a soundtrack bursting with electro synth and caresses from classical pieces made it easy to fall in love with ‘Laurence Anyways’
12. The Imposter
Plays out like town gossip blown out of proportion, but the reality of the events that take place are astounding and almost too good to be true, or are they? An unnerving experience and a brilliant piece of documentary filmmaking that peels back the layers on one of the most perplexing true stories.
Every successful musical act eventually puts together a “best of” collection. ‘Looper’ is the time travel film equivalent of a “best of” album. Writer/director Rian Johnson excellently took the best elements of time manipulation and brought those ideas together in a volley of bullets and drama.
10. Cabin in the Woods
A bloody open love letter to the horror genre put together by writer/director Drew Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon. It’s clear that the duo were fed up with how easily the horror genre has been used and abused. It’s a rebellion against the jokey sequels of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, languid found footage films, the gimmicks of gore porn and remakes. It’s almost like for every cat that has jumped out of a closet for a cheap scare in a movie, Goddard and Whedon we’re writing a scene for ‘Cabin’ in response to the mediocrity.
9. Martha Marcy May Marlene
It’s easy to point the crazy finger at people who start a cult, but what’s even more frightening is that people are willing to follow. ‘Martha Macy May Marlene’ took a chilling look at a young mind lost to a cult and the lasting impacts. It’s a polarizing film with a powerful lead performance by Elizabeth Olsen. I’ve never seen a film that generates such a high level of anxiety by doing so little. Well done to writer director Sean Durkin, all hail Durkin!
A country’s people expect that their government will protect them. It’s the basic responsibility of any administration, yet so often a position of power is squandered for political gain or strapped down by red tape. ‘Argo’ was a brilliant look at the detrimental effects of major political decisions and the accountability a country has to its people when things go wrong – served up in a neat little thriller. Beneath the surface of ‘Argo’ was message about responsibility and the dangers of bureaucracy when lives are at risk. It was a joy to hold on tight and revel in the brilliance of a riveting film that was enthralling in execution and subtext.
7. The Avengers
Phenomenally awesome in every way. Writer/Director Joss Whedon crafted one of the most exhilarating blockbusters I ever seen while juggling the egos of each comic book character with razor sharp scripting and plenty of mind blowing action set pieces. Whedon delivered one of the best superhero films ever made while helping Marvel and Disney change the way franchise films are made.
6. The Raid
If you told me at the beginning of 2012 that one of the best films of the year was going to be martial arts film about a bunch of cops kicking arse in an Indonesian slum I would have questioned your judgment. After seeing ‘The Raid’ I’ll happily buy you a beer to say sorry as well as buying all the booze available for writer/director, Gareth Evans. Most mainstream Hollywood action films are spineless. Modern audiences have forgotten the feeling of a real adrenaline rush thanks to the watered down efforts of the ‘Fast and the Furious’ franchise, as an example of one of the main offenders. Evans single handily atoned for the crimes of every lame action film pumped out of the studio system with ‘The Raid’, and crafted one of the greatest martial arts films of all time in the process.
5. The Intouchables
No matter how hard we try to be politically correct people are always going to be labeled. Despite our differences most people just want to be treated equally. ‘The Intouchables’ focused on Phillipe (Francois Cluzet) a quadriplegic and Driss (Omar Sy) a welfare chaser (consider them labelled). Neither character was defined by a wheelchair or a dole cheque, but their common ground in friendship in this wonderful French film.
Easily the best documentary I saw in 2012. Undefeated’ was a reminder that there are good people doing amazing things in their community and it’s an emotional and inspirational experience. A wonderful documentary about sport that points life’s purpose in the right direction.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The trials of the teenage years manage to cross the boundaries of time and it’s a shared experience across each generation as we put the first stamps on who we are. That first poster of a band we display proudly on our bedroom wall or a bold hair colouring is the first real announcement to the world that we’re about to arrive. ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ beautifully captured a formative time in adolescence that was more than just a “coming of age” flick but a celebration of life. Author, Stephen Chbosky, managed to adapt his own book of the same name into a screenplay and took up directing duties on the film. A film full of wonderful performances and a cracking soundtrack as well. We are infinite!
2. The Master
An insightful and explosive examination of humanity in the aftermath of World War II; from the mind of writer/director, Paul Thomas Anderson. ‘The Master’ was one giant mutated onion of a film and film buffs only managed to barely scratch the top layer of this intricate film full of engaging ideas and a frank study of human nature. Anderson unleashed a dragon onto audiences and there were rewards for those who dared to try and tame it. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix were phenomenal as Lancaster Dodd and Freddie. A captivating film from start to finish that further cemented Anderson as one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation.
1. Django unchained
The greatest gift to cinema in 2012 came from one its biggest fans, Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino unleashed a tale of empowerment that was a cocktail of fairytale lore, blaxpolitation films and westerns of all varieties. Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson captured the crisp snowcapped mountains and warm sunsets that evoke the western magic of filmmakers such Sergio Leone, John Ford and John Sturges. The performances were outstanding with Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio all bringing to life the razor sharp scripting of Tarantino in style. Lots of film royalty made cameos as well as Tarantino’s usual brood of actors. The action was excessive and wildly entertaining while exposing an ugly side of American history that Tarantino picked at like an exposed wound. The music echoed the film’s genre mash-up style with tracks by James Brown feat. 2pac, the country twang of Jim Croce, the smooth tones of John Legend and the gangster rap of Rick Ross paired seamlessly with the work of Ennio Morricone’s score and a terrific main theme from Luis Bacalov and Rocky Roberts.
‘Django Unchained’ felt like a lifetime worth of love for cinema packed into a neat little package of pure entertainment with emotional depth and a powerful message. Thank you Mr Tarantino.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies