Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Top Five Films of 2012

Skip Down for actual list: Since roughly September, me and my two fellow Cynics have had the idea of a podcast based around our favourite and most hated films of 2012. We did one Podcast, which, due to the lack of motivation of a certain Cynic (the one who isn't Simon) has gone unreleased to the general public. Now the 2nd one didn't come around primarily (though not limited to) my own doing, as I've been on holiday. Now university has resumed for the other two, and thus the chances of the 2012 Cynics Film Podcast seems ever more remote. With this in mind, it is time for me to codify, on the stone that is the internet, my top 5 films of 2012 and some honourable mentions to fill in the gaps. So here is my personal list of 2012.

If Joss Whedon, Peter Jackson, Gareth Evans or Paul Thomas Anderson wants to print off this medal I spent 10 seconds creating on Paint, they are more than welcome to do so.

(Remember, I live in Britain, so things like Django Unchained, Wreck-It Ralph (though I think Animation will be covered seperately) and Cloud Atlas won't appear on this list, even if they might displace things on the list. Unfortunately, they are in limbo, neither 2012, nor 2013, those are the brakes)



5. Cabin in the Woods

The number 5 spot was hotly contested this year, as befits a fine year in cinema (at least compared to 2011), I had three or four films battling in my mind for the worst best movie of the year. I eventually settled on Cabin in the Woods, first, I really wanted to be able to give credit to Joss Whedon outside of his achievements in the Marvel universe, and this project is quite him in a way Avengers (though a great film, don't fire bomb me yet) never would be. Secondly, unlike the other three main films that were pencilled for this slot, Cabin in the Woods was a new IP, and had a budget of $100 million less than it's nearest competitor of the four, which is something that goes a depressingly long way in my books, not that I like to think of myself as some weird indie idiot who only likes a film if it was shot with a $300 dollar camera. Lastly Cabin in the Woods did something that needed to be done, and Joss Whedon was perfectly equipped to do, dissect, examine and offer opinion on the stagnancy of the horror genre, all whilst constructing a solid story and visuals.

Half the story is Scooby Doo-esque Horror set up of Stoner, Nerd, Main Character, Jock, Blonde Girl. Generic to of course, prove a point, though slightly unsettling at times, quite Buffy reminiscent

Half of the story is about these middle management bureaucrats.

For the risk of spoiling the plot for those who haven't seen it, I won't go that fair into it. It is a film which, as I've described in the paragraph above, isn't above sacrificing pace or plot to make a point. But safe to say that by winning out in this struggle of titans, I'm recommending Cabin in the Woods as something to watch, I have got it on DVD, interestingly, the only film in the top 5 other than number 1 and they aren't the only two available on DVD either. 

4. The Master

The Master was another one of great uncertainty as to whether it deserved a place on the list. It was basically a toss up between this and the Dark Knight Rises, before that got relegated to a fight against Cabin in the Woods which it ultimately lost as well. Argo and Skyfall were also in the running around about here, and I will probably give a few lines to each as to why they lost out. On the subject of The Master though, I think the reason it has ended up so high on the ladder of 2012 is it's full frontal assault on the subject of Problems and Humanity, it treats itself like a late 20th century Science Fiction novel, possibly deliberately given the debate around the fact just how much is Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Lancaster Dodd based on Science Fiction writer L Ron Hubbard.

Lancaster Dodd and L. Ron Hubbard. You decide.

Personally I think similarities only really exist if you are looking for them, they are there, but I, like I imagine many people (though judging by the box office, not too many people) went in expecting a heavy critique of Scientology, with Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a role quite different. But it isn't that movie, this movie, if anything, utilises the cult of the piece, called "The Cause", as a criticism of all Religion, not just the pseudo-religion of Scientology, though that is a train of thought for another article at another time. 

The Master is a movie that deals with the struggles of a soldier at the end of World War 2, due to the hype surrounding Lancaster Dodd and his Scientology comparisons, you may be mistaken for thinking Freddie Quell, Joaquin Phoenix, isn't the main character. He is. It is all about his problems, and like a partially inebriated Kilgore Trout he darts beautifully from maddening scene to maddening scene. There is very little arch in this, as I imagine there is little arch in the problems that faced men like Freddie Quell, and that is all part of it's beauty. Unfortunately it partially suffers for this in the 2nd half, but it did so whilst making a valid and necessary point. Paul Thomas Anderson's directing and dialogue, as well as the music also played large parts in it's winning the struggle for 4th.

3. The Avengers

For better or for worse, Joss Whedon's The Avengers will probably be the film 2012 is remembered for. Either as the peak of the Super Hero genre, the lacklustre ending to the Dark Knight trilogy (though still a great trilogy, I hasten to add), or it'll be known as the great herald of a new era of Super Hero movies, where they fully embraced the continuity so long prosperous in the Comics they are based on. A change that wasn't just being built upon in the Marvel universe, but would ruminate through to DC as well, prompting them to hurry their own Justice League schedule.

The Avengers (Avengers Assemble if you are British): Happened

Justice League Movie: Hasn't happened. (If does happen, won't look like this

The Avengers managed to do all that continuity unifying stuff, and then still manage to be a great movie, a bit simplistic at times, it didn't make very good use of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and you could tell there were a couple of strains in the transition of making the Norse God of Thunder hang around with an American Super Soldier and a Techno Playboy in a way that your average Joe audience member could relate to. But it turns out Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are actually pretty good play mates, Iron Man and the Hulk especially being my favourite pairing. Interestingly though, and I think linked to one of the reasons that this is lower down on the scale of top 2012 films, I haven't bought the DVD of the Avengers, and I don't think I will, it was an event, a spectacle, other than to re-watch Joss Whedon's magic dialogue dance all over my appeasement senses. 

I imagine soon I will write an article about where I think Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2 will go, as I'm seemingly the resident Comic Book Guy, though thankfully I look slightly better than that Comic Book Guy...possibly. 

2. The Hobbit

Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth is something I have been excited about for a while, I kept up with the video diary entries, casting, the Comic-con appearances. I think there was a danger that I was hyping it up too much, so I calmed my inner fan boy and started to focus on some of the negatives. The Hobbit had a very ropey start, several directors, the drop out of Del Toro, the news of it being split into a trilogy was also controversial. Before I continue, I will ominously state that is my top 5 films of 2012, and that is because. I really like this film, and I can completely understand why others don't. 

I think the main thing that makes me think my enjoyment of this film might differ to others is this. I could name all the Dwarves (Yes, no f, Tolkien) before the film came out. The easy way to remember them is so they rhyme, like in the book. Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Ori, Nori, Dori, Oin Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and Thorin.

That should probably illustrate enough that I just really like the Tolkien canon, people groaned at the idea of extending The Hobbit and including aspects from such stories as the Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales, I was like, "Yes, that". The Hobbit is an indulgent film, like a stroll around a forest (which incidentally, a fair portion of it is). It has 3 hours to cover a third of the Hobbit story, so roughly 150-200 pages, which might just be the best ratio of minutes to pages outside of films based around short sci-fi stories such as Minority Report. 

But this is where I make an exception, a theme in the films you like the most, they challenge the rules and make something special. In this case they take what seems to be invariably the powerhouse franchise of my generation and do a celebratory bow for the behemoth that was the LOTR Movies, in the only way you can with Tolkien, another 9 hours of sweeping landscapes, Hobbits, and overly important jewelry. You should not expect this to be the Lord of the Rings however, this is another story told in the same world, with a few of the same characters (though they load in a few more of those same characters for trailers and gasp moments in the cinema). It also had the bonus of leaving me optimistic the 2nd and 3rd films would not be terrible either, now I look forward to the Desolation of Smaug, and the beautifully named There and Back Again. 

Gandalf the Grey: Pipe Weed Radaghast the Brown: Magic Mushrooms.
Being an Istari is clearly stressful stuff.

One last thing, if I don't get to write a review about the Hobbit separately  then let it be known, I loved how they portrayed Radaghast the Brown.

1. The Raid

Tada, there you have, the best film of 2012 for me was The Raid. Selected for the effect? Slightly. But that shouldn't detract from the fact that I believe The Raid to be the best film I saw last year. Why? Well, I will tell you after this brief summary.

The Raid (Also known as The Raid: Redemption in what can only be executive meddling) is about a squad of Indonesian Police special forces who have to assault a slum apartment block famously known as a lawless gangster stronghold and capture the ruthless gang lord at the top. The actors are all Indonesian, the director is a welsh man who lives in Indonesia called Gareth Evans, the entire thing is spoken in Indonesian. I will now proceed to tell you why it is amazing.



1. It was new and exciting, just like Cabin in the Woods, a project completely detached to any canon or franchise, relying off the fame of nothing to sell.

2. It was shot on a budget 30 times smaller than Cabin in the Woods, over 200 times smaller than the Avengers or the Hobbit. Despite this, it continued to be the most exhilarating action movie I saw last year, nor did it ever look cheap.



3. The story, though not the main player in a production like this, is not neglected, it is concise, appropriately filled out, with enough vision in it to enable the sequel that is planned, whilst in itself, being a tightly knit plot that never gets in the way of the action scenes, and only serves to enhance them at certain stages near the end.

"So long, gay Bowser"

4. The action is so good, I must state again, the film's director, Gareth Evans, clearly is having a love affair with the Martial Art on display called Pencak Silat. The Raid and its choreographers use this fighting style brilliantly throughout the entire film, with both the lead actor and the squad captain hopefully being recognised after this film. The set pieces throughout it are still so memorable.



5. The tone throughout is so intense that at times it feels like a Horror movie, it's shifts into bouts of dialogue that will define the next few scenes of actions are spoken so passionately by a cast unfamiliar to western eyes that it is genuinely refreshing. The atmosphere in the apartment block at points brings oppressive to a new level without really trying.

The Raid seems to be the perfect combination of factors which will hopefully launch many a career. Gareth Evans, the director and Iko Uwais are the two that spring to mind, having already confirmed that they are working on a second Raid, which I will inevitably will be monitoring and waiting to see.

 I also heard there is going to be an American remake of the first, which seems completely unnecessary, and I will only watch it if it looks like the quality of it will match The Raid, though I'm naturally sceptical...you could almost say...Cynical.

Conclusion

So yes, The Raid: Redemption wins it for me, feel free to tell me what your best movies of 2012 were in the comments. I'll admit I didn't see them all, most of the people who drive me to the cinema were away, curse them, though I saw most of the stuff I thought looked good, save a few like Dredd and Brave. 

I've decided to shift the Honourable Mentions to another article because some sites seem to have a habit of making one article stretch over five or six pages so why the hell can't I have two? Exactly. I'll put the link up when it is done for the Honourable Mentions, both good and bad, of 2012.

11 comments:

  1. You don't mention The Life of Pi. This was a film based entirely in a lifeboat with only one human cast member (for most of the time) and yet your attention was held throughout. Not easy. Maybe this didn't come out until 2013...

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    1. Unfortunately I didn't get to watch Life of Pi. Though I believe it will be getting an Honourable Mention award in the next article. By the by, have you read the book?

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  2. I read the book years ago but had forgotten the end so still managed to enjoy the film.

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  3. The Hobbit has to be one of the best films last year as you rightly said. It was wonderfully cast and just pure escapism. Certainly a film to see on a big screen where you can feel transported to another world.

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  4. I have a question. If you could only watch one film for evermore which one would it be?

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    1. Personally I would say a silent film like Metropolis or the Birth of a Nation. I think if it had to be repeated over and over again, just the music would be much more pleasant/bearable than voices.

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    2. Surely you should pick a porno, anything else will get boring and unstimulating. But where a man can always be bored by dialogue, music and cinematography, of a giant oiled ass he can never bore.

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    3. I hope one day in 2070,when they make the next assassin's creed, they meet you and the one thing you are famous for saying and therefore invariably say it around the main character is that.

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    4. It would be an honour. I wasn't expecting a legacy in any way so I'll take this over nothing. Although it is a shitty kind of immortality.

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  5. Billy Bob says you wouldn't tire of porn and yet i refer him to his article on internet porn where he says the opposite.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this very nice post. Actually, I've already watched those movies and what I've like the most is the movie of Avengers. Because they had a lot of very awesome effects there.

    Producer Chris Young

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