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Top 10 of 2012

24 Feb

By Contributing Columnist, Michael Mason @ATXMichaelMason

2012 was a great year for movies. Great award season stuff, great popcorn movies, great indie films, great genres, you name it. Cuts were tough this year but here’s my 10 faves of the year.

10. End of Watch
Um. Wow. Kinda expected a watered down Training Day for some reason but it takes about 2 minutes to figure out…this thing is for real. Some criticize the movie for being farfetched but I think it totally earns it. What makes End of Watch so great is the authentic feel of the officers. I really felt this is what many cops are actually like, with the aggressive ball-busting and the reckless adrenaline-infused approach to the job. Never seen a movie capture that quite right like this.

9. The Cabin in the Woods
Like I said, it was tough sledding making the top 10 list this year but I had to save a spot for this little gem from the spring. I’m not exactly a card-carrying member of the horror movie genre. The analogy I always make is to country music. The overwhelming majority of it is schlock for the masses but when it’s good it can BE REALLY AMAZING. Somehow this film takes a genre that I thought has already been overanalyzed and processed through the whole “Meta” thing, with your Scream films and what not, but this finds a way to spin horror films on their axis in such an inventive way. And oh my God how fun is this movie. The scene near the climax of the movie when we get to see horror movie conventions simultaneously explode on the screen is…pure movie fan bliss.

8. Jeff, Who Lives at Home
This film is my eighth favorite film of the year, but may be my sentimental favorite of the year. Maybe partly because I didn’t even especially like the film at least half way through it. It felt a little too “independent-y” for a while, which I don’t have a lot of patience for anymore, with the slow meandering story about this loveable stoner who means well. Then it starts to grow on you. Then, the climax happens and you sit there wondering how this little unassuming indie flick just ended their story in one of the most affecting emotional ways I can ever remember. Love this little damn movie.

7. Argo
Yep, it’s a fine year in film when Argo doesn’t crack your top 5. Love a great opening sequence that just grabs you and holds you down to that seat. This was certainly the case with Argo. The beginning felt so real and so damn interesting. Luckily, not being the world’s foremost expert in 70s political crisis, I didn’t actually know how this was going to end (although I had an idea). But, like most who did know the outcome, I suspect I still would have been riveted to the final second. Also, I’m a big sucker for behind-the-scenes Hollywood stuff, which all really worked well in this film.

6. Django Unchained
Nobody’s probably a bigger Tarantino homer than this kid so no real shock here. Have this one ranked 4th on my all-time QT list, albeit a distant 4th, behind Pulp, Reservoir and Bastards. Love the violence (sorry but it was awesome), as always love the Tarantino dialogue, the characters, the performances. How does he keep essentially doing the same half-tribute, half-genre thing and it still feels so new and exciting? His run is just amazing, like watching Michael Jordan put up masterpiece after masterpiece. Also I’d like to mention that as far as racial issues, thought this was 100 times more effective than some sanctimonious Amistad or The Blind Side or whatever else.

5. Lincoln
My love for Lincoln is perhaps only matched by my hatred for its trailer. What a pompous bloated ode to self-importance that thing is. So, as one may imagine, I was very worried what I was going to get from this film, one based on Team of Rivals, a book I read and really liked (and when I say I read I mean I ‘started reading it’). Lincoln was everything it should have been. I always like any biopic that takes a slice of the subject’s life, instead of the full boring video book report version of the subject’s entire life. Except for maybe the opening scene the movie is not full of itself; it’s very subtle and real. You get all the nitty gritty politics stuff as you would imagine it would have been really like, not a 3-hour love letter to a larger than life figure, even though the figure happens to be the greatest American to ever live. And…the performance. I don’t want to tell you Daniel Day-Lewis’s Lincoln is the best performance of the year because I DON’T WANT TO INSULT IT. The only arguments that we need to have on this performance sound something like, “Is this the greatest piece of acting a human on Planet Earth has ever done?” You know, stuff like that.

4. Moonrise Kingdom
So, I won’t say much on this film because I wrote all about it on this exact blog but let me at least talk about my love that it stayed with me all year long. My love for it has only grown. It redeemed a genre for me and is very close to my heart. And I can’t stop thinking about the impeccable craftsmanship that went into every scene.

3. The Dark Knight Rises
I’ve been really surprised that this film hasn’t held up throughout the year like I thought it would. If it feels a little overblown to you I won’t argue too much with you. (Maybe I would). But give it some credit, at its worst it is accomplishing so many things that almost no other movie is coming even close to. I’m not especially a Lord of the Rings guy but this big sweeping epic ending to this trilogy was everything Return of the King THOUGHT it was. Now THAT was over-bloated. This film gave us the perfect appropriate ending to the real trilogy of this generation.

2. Zero Dark Thirty
I won’t address the silly torture cloud over this film because it’s too monumentally stupid to even give justice to. Love Chastain’s performance, she is the strong female lead without ever bringing attention to the “female” part of it all. She’s just a strong lead. And she’s still feminine. It’s a tricky balance to make. The raid sequence was nothing short of amazing. A grab your throat, put you on your ass, chill you to the core sequence up there with your Saving Private Ryan Normandy invasion sequences of the world. Love that I understood a piece of recent history that I thought I knew well so much more profoundly than before.

1. Silver Linings Playbook
If I had to dissect this film it isn’t going to hold up against a Zero Dark Thirty or a Lincoln, which are nearly perfect films. I didn’t really buy how the final climax plays out. The film turns out to be a little more Hollywoodish? than maybe I thought I signed up for. So, why does it stand at the zenith of my list in such a year of studly movie after studly movie? Because…it just does. That’s why. There’s an unspeakable special feel that I get with certain films that let me know “this is the one.” This is the one that I want to think of when I think about that year in film. I don’t even get the feel every year. There are just those really special movies that give me this twinge that I can’t put my finger on but I just know…this is the one.

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