The Oscar season is upon us. That’s right, that time of the year when suddenly everybody’s a film critic, the words “Billy” and “Crystal” re-enter the English language, and for some reason dresses become important. To save you the effort of absorbing and decoding such a complicated experience we have compiled this definitive, unquestionable, last word on the matter list covering the best films of 2012. Every conceivable genre, sub category, and taste has been accounted for, and where we ran out of categories we just invented some new and weakly defined ones. There may be one or two duplications as well but who’s counting?
2012 was a year driven by a great yearning for change but also a stubborn and practical unwillingness to change anything at all. The industry remained addicted to comic books like a toothless, heavily pregnant single mother trying to squeeze the last puffs of life out of the crystal meth still clinging to their exhausted pipe. The world finally acknowledged the importance of independent women and rewarded their new found equality with a wave of supernatural love triangles which pondered what type of man is it best for a woman to marry. Reboots were rebooted, and there was the continued existence of Michael Bay for some reason. It was a good year all things considered.
Action film of the Year: The Raid
The best action film of the year, the best martial arts film in ages, and simply one of the most exhilarating cinematic experiences since the first Matrix. The fighting is super charged, intricately staged, and brutally violent. And if you really don’t have the patience to read words and watch images at the same time then the Cops fighting for survival plot line is simplistic enough to follow without dialogue. Any fan of the action genre who hasn’t watched this masterpiece is a fraud.
Blockbuster of the Year: The Hobbit
The occasional childish fairytale-ness to its fantasy isn’t enough to undermine this gargantuan epic of swords and magic. Set before Frodo and his much coverted ring, the Hobbit see’s Bilbo Baggins hired as a thief in an adventure into a Dragon’s lair. Perhaps a little loose with the fairly limited source material, and only the first part of a huge trilogy, Peter Jackson proves there is simply no one else suited to the job by crafting a bewitching 3 hours of swashbuckling adventure and wildly fantastical… err… fantasy. It is not often you walk away from a Blockbuster having lost track of time entirely. The Hobbit is a reminder of how good films used to make you feel when you were a wee nipper.
Series of the Year: The Dark Knight Rises
Not in the same league as its predecessor, the Dark Knight Rises was none-the-less a fitting conclusion to this dark and brooding action trilogy which remains the greatest comic book interpretation to date. Despite slipping into increasingly silly and convoluted ideas, everybody finally let loose a collective sigh of relief on seeing that the series had managed to end on a reasonable high. Maintaining the incongruous balance of hefty dialogue with popcorn fuelled action adventure Christopher Nolan has proven once and for all it is possible to make a man wearing a rubber bat-suit an interesting character. Turns out all you need is a voice of a terminal smoker who’s been punched in the thorax, and let him deal with the pitfalls of capitalism and terrorism. Nolan’s next trick will be rebooting the Power Rangers in a nihilistic examination of the financial crisis.
Thriller of the Year: Argo
A classic style thriller geared towards awards season success, Argo has plenty of substance behind its ensemble cast and late 70s period design. Ben Affleck directs and stars as an American spy who engineers an ambitious and completely ridiculous plan to free American hostages trapped during the Iranian revolution. It’s a true story, in a Hollywood sense, so no sniggering at the back when you find out what Argo actually is. The buttock clenching against the clock finale is a tad convoluted, there are one too many satirical winks at the film industry, and Affleck seems strangely incapable of moving his facial features for much of the film, but this is a highly entertaining and stylish thriller with a a strong beating pulse.
Comedy of the Year: Sightseers
There aren’t many comedies in this list, mainly because comedy has pretty much died as a cinematic art form. There is no laughter in our culture any more, only resigned weeping and disappointment. Ted fell a bit flat and Will Ferrell stopped getting a his free pass as the lacklustre the Campaign sank like a Victorian cruise liner. The rest were just shit. Thankfully Ben Wheatley, little known except for his darker than dark head fuck Kill List, popped up with this unexpected British Indie gem. With a typically dark underbelly, this tale of an odd ball caravanning couple on an “erotic odyssey” through the Lake District bucked the trend of disappointment by not only being funny but having an original and unique sense of humour. With shades of the League of Gentlemen this is a peculiarly British sense of humour which mixes dark horror and violence with bizarre characters.
Documentary of the Year: The Imposter
Fascinating and perplexing documentary film which took inspiration from its subject and tried to pass itself off as something else. More a narrative piece of fiction full of twists and counter twists, the Imposter tells the true story of a serial impersonator and habitual liar who takes on the identity of a boy lost and long presumed dead. But from who’s perspective is the story being told and can we trust them? Can we trust ourselves? Can you even trust this review? Yes. Yes you can.
The “you’ll either love it or want to punch it in the face” film of the year: Moonrise Kingdom
Quirky comedy. Two words which perfectly sum up every Wes Anderson film ever made. Moonrise is far from the divisive filmmakers greatest achievement – it even occasionally pushes his dry and sardonic but coolly upbeat style a bit too far – but with impressive performances from the two child leads, several memorable cameos from the usual cast, and the typically colourful shots, it still makes the many recent imitators of the Texan’s once unique style look a bit ordinary. It was also nice to see Ed Norton back on screen demonstrating a previously hidden knack for tragi-comic timing.
Depressing Art-House film of the Year: Shame
Unlikely to put a smile on your face after a grinding week of modern life, Shame is a master-class in art house cinema. Every scene is packed with precision framing and clever use of bokah designed to have film students stroking their beards in appreciation. But this dark tale of seedy addiction full of damaged and unlikeable characters, and with Michael Fassbender’s penis slapping around the screen every ten seconds, this is certainly not one for the masses. If aesthetics, photography and subtle narrative are not your bag, or the gradual moral and emotional collapse of a man suffering from an ambiguous family past doesn’t sound like entertainment, then Shame will likely leave you cold. Actually, those who are attracted to the darker side will still be left feeling cold but in a strange, satisfied way. To the film ponce’s out there this is a disturbing and awkward wet dream.
Foreign Film – which for some reason doesn’t compete in the same categories as American and British films – of the Year: Rust and Bone
The French don’t do light hearted films. The only creative language they understand is pure darkness and despair from the damaged depths of human experience. Raw emotion and the breaking of conventions – its why we like them so much. In this unconventional love story, Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) explores the unlikely relationship between a bouncer who’s a bit of dick and a whale trainer. A simple story shot in Audiard’s typically striking and artistically accomplished style, all brought to life with superb acting.
Sick and Twisted film of the Year: Killer Joe
Astute satire highlighting societies negative perceptions of trailer trash? Commentary on modern American values? Who knows what point Killer Joe is actually making – if indeed there is a point. It doesn’t really matter when a film is so hard to take your eyes away. Killer Joe was a highly unpredictable and entertaining shock fest, harking back to the early Tarantino films but with a more disturbing flavour. At first it is difficult to decide whether the darkness is actually being played for laughs but by the end the ludicrous scenarios put this firmly in the category of dark comedy you can only recommend to a select group of your friends. Doomed forever to remembered for one particular scene involving a demented and sexed up Mathew McConaughey and a piece of fried chicken,
Drama of the Year: The Master
Scientology or not (though it is Scientology) Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest mammoth piece of dense drama is another towering example of the Directors claim to greatness. Joaquin Phoenix reminds us of his incredible acting chops as the rebellious and damaged war veteran as he falls in with a cult run by the manipulative and charismatic Master. The film becomes a psychological war as the Master makes it proof of his righteousness in bringing the troubled alcoholic under control but he finds the cause more troublesome than he anticipated. A draining and occasionally disturbing battle of the wills, Anderson has crafted another unconventional Master-piece – ey, see what we did there.