Honourable mentions: Skyfall, The Avengers, Moonrise Kingdom, Goon, Killer Joe
Dir: David Ayer
Strong police procedural drama which uses the found footage gimmick inventively to detail a grisly L.A backdrop. Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal are phenomenal as a pair of cops targeted by a major drug cartel. The action is well stitched together and purports an appreciatively organic sensibility, but it’s the full-blooded and intelligently detailed human component at the picture’s core which makes it so striking.
9. The Cabin in The Woods
Dir: Drew Goddard
By far the lower grossing Joss Whedon effort of 2012, “The Cabin in the Woods” is nonetheless the best thing he was involved with. Flipping our perspective on contemporary American horror (and its creators), “The Cabin in the Woods” manages to stimulate vast amounts of energy and humour in its pursuit of satire. It works as a horror picture too, but the real joy in digesting this jigsaw puzzle of a picture is through the juicy dialogue and intelligent manipulation of genre tropes. The film holds up well on a rewatch too, a bevy of smaller but equally pleasing details and jibes emerging from beneath the entertaining forefront. Wildly inspired and pleasingly respectful of its viewership.
8. That's My Boy
Dir: Sean Anders
For shame. “That’s My Boy” was roundly grilled by critics, appearing on numerous bottom 10 of the year lists. This is understandable. Its raunchy, irreverent, taboo slaying sense of humour will have overpowered some, but for me the product is a goofy joy. Adam Sandler looks to be enjoying himself, and the surrounding cast appear equally at home in this adorably absurd hunk of filth. I laughed a lot. I mean a lot. It’s not big or smart, but boy, does it have comedic stamina and imagination to spare. It has also stuck long in the memory, something very few studio comedies do these days. I respected “Ted”, but for me “That’s My Boy” is hands down the funniest, dirtiest laugher of 2012.
Dir: Steve McQueen
Not the first example of the UK release calendar screwing me over, although it's just the first of two on this list. I understand most readers will consider “Shame” a 2011 film, but we in the UK didn't get access until January 2012. As a result here it is. I won’t write too much, but I will highlight that it is a harrowing, involving and devastatingly powerful examination of addiction. Michael Fassbender was more deserving of the Oscar than any other performer last year, the Academy seemingly not evolved enough to reward a turn of raw intensity that also features some penis action. Tremendous stuff, although not for the easily perturbed.
Dir: Pete Travis
Probably the year’s most pleasing surprise. Streamlined, gnarly and phenomenally entertaining interpretation of the famed comic-book law enforcer. Karl Urban works wonders under a helmet for 90 minutes, giving a vocal and physical turn of thunderous impact. The action is creative, coherently shot and vigorous. For simple thrills and edge of your seat carnage, “Dredd” was as good as 2012 got.
5. The Muppets
Dir: James Bobin
Again, I’m aware "The Muppets" is a 2011 movie, but the UK got it late. Much like “Shame” it feels pointless to waffle on about “The Muppets” unduly, largely for fear of seeming dated, but suffice to say the picture was an uplifting and hysterical gift. Literally people on suicide watch should be granted a copy of this flick on Blu-Ray, it’d be far more cathartic than any medication. It’s just pure, unbridled happiness from start to finish, a fantastic ode to some of cinema’s most lovable rogues.
Dir: Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck managed his third home-run as a director with “Argo”, a brilliantly realized account of the Iranian hostage situation which unfolded under the Carter presidency. Acted flawlessly by a gifted slew of talent the film is by turns tense, affecting and even funny. A very complete picture and possibly Affleck’s most mature work to date. It also feels very aesthetically and historically real in its presentation, a sense of claustrophobia gripping the frames of the picture magnificently. A deserved favourite for many of this year’s awards.
3. The Grey
Dir: Joe Carnahan
I liked “The Grey a lot when I first saw it, but further viewings have only cemented my love of this philosophical gem. Featuring 2012’s best performance courtesy of Liam Neeson, the film blends survivalist thrills with existentialist overtones skillfully, debating the values of love and faith, with a pack of bloodthirsty wolves haunting the edges of the feature. The final scene is heartbreaking and represents courageously ambiguous film-making from Joe Carnahan, who finds a reassuring comfort with the material. That this is from the same guy who made “The A-Team” is pretty astounding.
2. The Dark Knight Rises
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Batman came back in 2012 and he was awesome. Not everybody will agree with me, but I found Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” to be a fitting and richly rewarding finale to the now classic trilogy. The blockbusting was great, but Nolan managed to wrap everything up neatly, showcasing staggering film-making capability and storytelling economy en route to the memorable finish. Tom Hardy also achieved the impossible, he for the most part filled Heath Ledger’s tragic vacuum as the villainous Bane. It may be a slightly controversial choice, but I was enthralled by the feature and far preferred it to the admittedly fun “The Avengers”.
1. Silver Linings Playbook
Dir: David O. Russell
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are very impressive in this gorgeous version of Matthew Quick’s novel, a film ripe with emotionally damaged individuals and pulsating currents of sensitivity. Dealing with themes like mental illness and heartbreak is never easy, but the picture manages it with such effortless honesty and bravado that it’s impossible not to be hooked. “Silver Linings Playbook” held me in a state of total investment for the duration, tapping into a groundswell of adult emotions along the way. As memorable as it is beautiful.
An article by Daniel Kelly, 2012