2012: A Short Look Back at What I Watched

I’m such a huge fan of movies, and taking a look now, boy did I see a lot of ’em this year! Here’s a sampling of the best and worst I watched this year:

Best 2012 Movie: (bearing in mind that I haven’t seen Lincoln or Beasts of the Southern Wild yet) A neck-and-neck tie between Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook. Moonrise Kingdom is such an immersive, total world, a world you want to live in, with all its quirky quixotic romantic characters, and its nostalgic colors and its delicious soundtrack. But Silver Linings Playbook, which I just saw today, is such an alive movie, and it moves you from laughing hard to nearly crying without jerking you around, or feeling contrived or unrealistic. So the tie is between a magical world, and one that’s real in the best sense of that word.

Best 2012 Blockbuster: Joss Whedon, how I love you! The Avengers, of course. It’s witty, it’s well-paced, it enjoys, honors and fulfills its genre requirements without succumbing to their pitfalls, and most of all, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Looked like it was for the actors too, which is the best kind of entertainment to watch. Best Blockbuster Runner-up: Skyfall. Definitely the best Bond film in a while, and I’ll put Daniel Craig on the same level as Sean Connery for best Bond. Again, a movie which fulfills all its genre requirements but is its own thing too, and all the actors look like they’re having a blast. Dark Knight Rises I defended at the time, but now I can’t remember much of it. It’s got great mise-en-scène, really great, but winds up falling short elsewhere.

Best Comedy of 2012: Cabin in the Woods. Please note: I do not like horror films. But this one is So. Much. Fun. A meta-genre-parody which is simultaneously a horror film and a send-up of one, it is smart, witty, and goes all the way. Incidentally, the Whedon/Goddard commentary on the DVD is as entertaining as you’d expect from two of the smartest geeks this side of J.J. Abrams.

Most Disappointing Use of Violence: Drive. For most of the film, it’s an odd but intriguing character piece with great mood and some great sequences, the best car chase scene I’ve seen in a long time, and a hot Ryan Gosling. But the shift to very, very, I mean very graphically depicted violence in the last third of the film is unnecessary, and doesn’t serve the story.

Most Satisfying Re-Watch of an 80s Movie: Footloose. It’s a really good movie! I’d forgotten how much of the story centers on the parents, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest. The soundtrack, for all its 80s-ness, is still pretty awesome, and Kevin Bacon is a kick to watch. And I think Chris Penn’s character wins even over Walter Brennan for most entertaining sidekick. Most Satisfying Re-Watch of an 80s Movie Runner-Up: No Way Out.  This Kevin Costner/Sean Young/Gene Hackman Cold War thriller is still suspenseful and engrossing. The soundtrack is somewhat more unfortunate, in an 80s-movie way, than Footloose’s, but still, it’s solid drama/thriller storytelling.

Most Disappointing Re-Watch of an 80s Movie: Ladyhawke. Alas, its 80s storytelling cliches have overtaken what I used to love about Matthew Broderick’s petty thief, Rutger Hauer’s knight and Michelle Pfieffer’s lady. Ah well. Sometimes they don’t hold up.

Most Enjoyable Old Romantic Comedy: a tie between How to Steal a Million and Hopscotch. Audrey Hepburn/Peter O’Toole’s charming, charming heist-and-romance-in-France is tough to beat, but Walter Matthau/Glenda Jackson’s delightfully clever one-step-ahead spy romp equals it.

Least Enjoyable Old Romantic Comedy: Sabrina. Oh, it pains me, it really does, to not like an Audrey Hepburn/Humphrey Bogart movie, but I have to say that the era’s attitudes about romance, about how much jerking around is alright to do to a young woman, really do now outweigh the charm.

But that’s alright because the Most Enjoyable Old Classic I Hadn’t Seen Before also has Humphrey Bogart: To Have and Have Not. Oh man, Lauren Bacall in this movie is the kind of woman to want to be. She is who she is, she is neither a wholesome girl nor a lush, and she is damned sexy. Bogart is wonderful, and I always love Walter Brennan’s sidekick characters.

Best Acting: Of all the movies I saw last year, and although I’ll be perfectly happy if Bradley Cooper wins an Oscar for Silver Linings (remember back in the Alias years when he was the friend who could never get the girl-type actor?), and Bruce Willis was fantastic in Looper (so was JGL for that matter), and Sam Rockwell’s performances in Moon are amazing, and heck I rewatched The Godfather this year, I have to give this one to Forrest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. Talk about a tour-de-force performance.

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