Wednesday, 19 December 2012

My Top Five Films of 2012

So, since every website I ever visit seems to be rounding up the best stuff of the year, I thought I'd do the same. Looking back at all the films I've seen this year, it seems to me that 2012 has been a bad year for cinema. Maybe with the Olympics dominating the summer and the US Elections taking over pretty much the rest of the year, the studios decided to just not bother too hard this year. Or maybe I'm just pickier than usual. Either way, I've seen some real stinkers this year - The Bourne Legacy, Dark Shadows, Prometheus. And that's before you get me started on The Hobbit. Okay, so I haven't seen it and never will, but come on, it's the biggest movie of the year and it's The Hobbit. The Hobbit.

So, all complaining out of the way, here are my top five films of the year. In reverse order, obviously, to make it super tense.

5 - Anna Karenina
I may well be one of the only two people who actually saw this movie (and we actually saw it together) but I think it deserved a lot more attention that it actually got. I didn't know the story beforehand, the words Anna Karenina conjured up images of people in furry hats walking through snowy squares and not a whole lot else. It took me a little while to get into this film (maybe five minutes or so) because of the strange way it was orchestrated. The whole film is set up like a stage production, which I didn't expect, but turned out to be both wonderfully done and mesmerising to watch. I'll also admit that I'm not a huge fan of Keira Knightley, Jude Law or Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but there wasn't a weak link in the acting chain, and the supporting cast were just as good. If you didn't see this in the cinema then you really missed out, but get the DVD and curl up with it on a cold night.

4 - The Hunger Games
Teenagers fight to the death on television. When I first heard about this film, I became a little obsessed. I fully intended to see it and then devour the books (because I prefer to do it that way around) but then the book was a set text for one of my university modules. I read it in an afternoon. The next day, I read the second one in an afternoon. I was worried the film would be a disappointment, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. I think Jennifer Lawrence was well cast and any excuse to gawp at a Hemsworth is fine by me. I'm still not completely sold on Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, as both love interests have to have something going for them in a love triangle and he is completely outshone by Hemsworth. My only real issue with this film (other than the fact that it takes so long to get to the actual Games, but this is an issue from the book, too) is that it was edited down to get a much more financially-rewarding 12A certificate. Blood splashes or no blood splashes, I don't really think it's suitable for under-12s and the film should have been kept as it was.

3 - Silver Linings Playbook
The most recent of the films on this list, and another one starring Jennifer Lawrence. This one also has Bradley Cooper, though, so it was pretty much guaranteed a spot on this list. No, that's very shallow of me, and not really true at all. The chemistry between the two leads helped a lot, but I think the film had a strong premise and excellent writing, and would have found its way here even without the two main stars. It's a bit of a sappy film, there's no denying that, but it's also so funny. After I'd seen it, I heard it described as a romantic comedy and baulked at the idea - to me a romantic comedy is a nonsense bit of fluff most likely starring Katherine Heigl - but after some thought, I realised that this is a romantic comedy, but it's more than that. It's what all romantic comedies should be. It's romantic and funny and moving and in a short space of time you really grow to care about the characters. It swept the board at an award ceremony recently and I really hope it gets some Oscar nods. It fully deserves them.

2 - The Help
I thought long and hard about including this film, since it was technically released in October 2011 and was nominated for the Oscars this February. But I saw it - in an actual cinema - this year, so I've decided that it counts. I didn't think I'd be interested in this film, I'd already passed over on reading the book the summer before it was released because the premise - black housemaids in the 1950s - bored me so thoroughly, but then they cast Emma Stone and I started paying it a little more attention. Like Silver Linings Playbook, it is as funny as it is moving. I can't speak to the accuracy of its portrayal of life for black housemaids in Mississippi in the 1950s, but I can speak to the heartbreaking moments and the scenes that made me cry with laughter. It's a stunning film that boasts an outstanding cast and deserved a lot more Oscars than it went home with. You should definitely try to see it and then read the book. It's a very faithful adaptation, but the book explains why everyone calls Eugenia by the nickname Skeeter...

1 - Lawless
And so the very prestigious honour of being my top film of the year goes to Lawless - a film about bootleggers, based on a true story and starring Tom Hardy. And some other people, but Tom Hardy stole the show, as he so often does. It's hard to know what to say about this film, which really just needs to be experienced. It's brutal and violent and unflinching. It's also funny and kind of sweet, really. In places. The love story that unfolds between the God-awful Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska could melt even the stoniest of hearts. To be fair, LaBeouf did not spoil this film. He didn't add to it either, and I think almost any other actor could have done the job better, but he didn't ruin it. The movie does belong to Tom Hardy, though. I said it in my review of the film at the time, but I think it bears repeating now - he manages to be menacing while wearing a cardigan. A cardigan. If that doesn't make him one of the greatest actors of our time, I don't know what does. If you haven't seen this film, you need to correct that immediately. And then get cracking on the rest of the list.

Honourable Mentions
There were a few more films that I wanted to mention, but couldn't. I thought about doing a top ten, but I didn't have enough films I loved to fill one out, so here are the few that would have been in the list but couldn't quite break the top 10:

- Looper - Bruce Willis had hair and the time-travel stuff was a little wonky, but otherwise an enjoyable film.

- The Perks of Being a Wallflower - a gloom-drenched misery-fest which was also kind of great. And much better than the book.

- Breaking Dawn Part Two - a fitting end to the Twilight series, that managed to provide laughs, tender moments and, most importantly for someone who has read all of the books, a few surprises. I've never experienced an atmosphere like the one at the midnight screening, and for that reason alone, this film deserved a mention.

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