Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Best Movies of 2012

Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"
As I was making my list of the best movies of 2012, or what are my favorite films of 2012, I noticed some patterns. As usual, I reject the big-budget and most of the genre pictures. Out of the 20 titles that I really enjoyed, only four were major-enough to get wide releases. Mostly, I went for the smaller, more independent films, but analyzing the content of those films, particularly my top five, there is a trend I had of movies centering on children.

Even the films that didn't quite make my top 20 but would have made my top 25 involved children in starring roles or even adults who behave or are treated like children. Most often, the children in the movies I ranked are ones dealing with the fact that they've lost or are losing their parents or in some way have to become adults early because their childhood or innocence is taken.

I've also noticed that a few of the films on my list involve isolated individuals. They're isolated due to circumstances within their control like their addictions or they're isolated due to circumstances outside their control like how they're born or just incidents that happen to them. Why I identify with those isolated individuals will surely be the subject of my future therapy sessions.

But first, despite being a bad year for animated films, Tim Burton has received acclaim for Frankenweenie, which knowing Burton's history with Disney and his short film is funny. Speaking of Disney though, its animated films didn't add to the conversation this year, but the Mickey Mouse house can mark 2012 as its highest-grossing year ever with over $1.53 billion in revenue, according to Box Office Mojo.

Disney took a big hit with John Carter but turned around and broke all records with Marvel's The Avengers. Surely, it used the profits from that superhero mash-up to buy George Lucas' empire. Disney now owns Lucas' companies and the rights to future films and properties, and it has green-lit three new Star Wars sequels.

Netflix pulled a bit of a coup when it outbid the Starz channel for the rights to all Disney movies. In the meantime, besides TV shows, documentaries are the best films to stream on Netflix. This year saw some really good docs. All the titles on the Oscar shortlist are proof of that.

The Netflix deal signifies the fact streaming movies is the way entertainment is going. It also signifies the fact that people no longer see movies as a physical medium but more and more as a digital medium. The documentary Side by Side explored the physical vs. digital medium debate, but in theaters in the past four months, that debate had two extreme examples.

First, there was The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson's character study loosely-based on Scientology features bravura performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Second, there was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Peter Jackson's adaptation and continuation of Tolkien's famous tales. Anderson shot The Master on 70mm film and insisted it be projected on 70mm projectors. Jackson shot The Hobbit digitally and insisted it be projected on digital projectors in the high-frame rate.

Because most theaters have converted to digital exhibition with only a handful capable of actual 70mm projection, Jackson's movie, even if it didn't have the pedigree behind it, would still win over Anderson's movie in terms of box office returns. There were a lot of complaints about the look of The Hobbit, but regardless any one on the side of Anderson is fighting a losing battle. Men like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan are on Anderson's side and the money they bring will bolster that side for a bit. Yet, we'll see how long the physical medium can last.

Best Theatrically-released Movies of 2012

THE KID WITH A BIKE by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD by Benh Zeitlin
MOONRISE KINGDOM by Wes Anderson
UNDEFEATED by Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin
BULLHEAD by Michael R. Roskam
MIDDLE OF NOWHERE by Ava DuVernay
THE GREY by Joe Carnahan
ARBITRAGE by Nicholas Jarecki
RUST AND BONE by Jacques Audiard
THE INVISIBLE WAR by Kirby Dick
ZERO DARK THIRTY by Kathryn Bigelow
CLOUD ATLAS by Tom Tywker, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
THE IMPOSTER by Bart Layton
PARANORMAN by Chris Butler and Sam Fell
FLIGHT by Robert Zemeckis
MICHAEL by Markus Schleinzer
DARK HORSE by Todd Solondz
ROBOT & FRANK by Jake Schreier
10 YEARS by Jamie Linden
SLEEPWALK WITH ME by Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish

Best DVD-released Movies of 2012

A SEPARATION by Asghar Farhadi
WEEKEND by Andrew Haigh
HIGHER GROUND by Vera Farmiga
THE SEMINARIAN by Joshua Lim
THE FALLS by Jon Garcia
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! by Matthew Bate
THE SWELL SEASON by Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins and Carlo Mirabella-Davis
RETURN by Liza Johnson
YOU'LL KNOW MY NAME by Joe Raffa
ROMEOS by Sabine Bernardi
THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM by Todd Rohal
PARIAH by Dee Rees
MARGARET by Kenneth Lonergan
AUGUST by Eldar Rapaport

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