Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Mark Ahn's 10 Favorite Movies of 2012
The honorable mentions (movies I really liked but didn't make this list): Django Unchained, Seven Psychopaths, The Master
9. The Raid: Redemption - I liked this year in movies because there were quite a few "smaller" films that I really liked, and this one was a pleasing bolt out of the blue that came out in March. Action movies touting new (to film) martial arts forms tend to be hit or miss (Ong Bak, anyone?) because they end up being a highlight reel of fights, but there's nothing to hold it all together. This movie is not too different from that formula, except the leanness here has a purpose, not just a red flag for a total lack of substance. Loved the simplicity of the premise (good guys have to fight their way out of the bad guys' base) which was just enough narrative before making way for the terrific intensity of the fight scenes, which literally had no strings attached. Mad Dog is one of my favorite henchmen ever. Keep making movies, Gareth Evans!
8. Moonrise Kingdom - It has been said that this movie seemed a little like Wes Anderson's greatest highlight clip package, but for a director of this quality, there's a lot of highlights to pick from, and I don't think that necessarily makes for a bad movie. There are all the hallmarks of his style (primary colors, period rock, dry dialogue, child/parent angst, Bill Murray), but what I liked the best was the relationship between the two primary characters, Sam and Suzy. Anderson's movies have covered the particular loneliness and anxiety of children before, but the budding romance between two pre-teens is new ground, and realistically and lovingly handled.
7. Argo - My favorite performance of Ben Affleck playing a Latino guy. Along with Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck is establishing a rep for brainy, substantive, well-made movies with a realistic (I'm tired of "gritty") feel. Love this movie's ensemble of actors (including John Goodman, who's had a solid 2012 himself), Hollywood subterfuge, compelling true events, and the tension that maintains throughout the story. The cherry on top is the best usage of a movie's title in a line of dialogue for the year, for sure.
5. Skyfall - Thank you, Sam Mendes, for making a Bond that was worthy of the franchise's 50th anniversary. Thank you for getting a more varied performance from Daniel Craig, giving a little more credence as to why many consider him their favorite Bond. Thank you for taking care of Judi Dench. Thanks for Javier Bardem. Thanks for making a digitally-filmed movie look so good (you too, Roger Deakins). Thanks for not getting crushed under the weight of a long and dubiously important past, but making something new that still gave us the standbys we like. Thanks for tapping into the spirit of the series, paying homage to it, adding your own meaningful contribution to it, and then pushing it into its next phase with momentum.
4. Looper - I don't want to think too hard about time travel, either. I really loved that Rian Johnson's muse, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, shows that he's on his way to carrying a bigger movie all on his own, playing well here off Bruce Willis's intertia. Ultimately, my favorite part of this was Johnson's success at creating an original science fiction movie; the difficulty of science fiction is that there is an expectation for something that doesn't currently exist (like time travel), but it still needs to be realistic enough that an audience buys into it. It must present something very alien, but still very familiar, and this movie gets it right with its small touches and the lived-in feel of its universe.
3. Safety Not Guaranteed - Patrick already wrote far more extensively about this one in his review, so I'll just say again: hurray for smaller movies!
2. The Avengers - This is high on the list because it's sort of a lifetime achievement award. It's obviously good and highly entertaining on its own, but it's so good that I don't even want to think about more Avengers or Marvel Comics movies, although those movies' existence will help set this one's important. I want to enjoy the moment for this movie because so many things had to go right for this to even happen, and the enormity of the execution, the depth of the vision, and the good fortune that went into that is staggering. Just to keep score, five separate movies had to be relatively successful, all five of those movies had to be cohesive enough to describe a common universe, they had to get a director who had the right eye for detail, and for goodness's sake, they had to get the Hulk right. Bravo, Marvel, you did something unprecedented (as far as I know) in movie history.
Ok, I take it back. When's Avengers 2 coming out again?