Sunday, January 27, 2013

ABANDONED THEATER: Robby's Top 20 Films of 2012: 10-1

(Abandoned Theater is the segment of YPOIW where TJ and others (but mostly TJ) discuss another one of our great passions: film. Today however Robby is going to chime in on a two-part series of his top 20 films of 2012. He already published the first half of his list here, here is the second part where we get to the nitty gritty: his top ten films of 2012.)

10. Amour

My experience with Michael Haneke is, truthfully, a rocky one. He's made films I've liked and films that honestly run the gamut of offending me. But Amour is more than a refreshing change for Haneke, in fact I think it's easily his most human film ever. The title is the French word for "love", and a Haneke film with that title seems almost destined to have been given the title ironically. But not here. Amour is an real, earnest depiction of love, and what love might truly mean in the end of it. Who would've thought a Haneke-directed film about a slow death would be more alive than most films are?

9. Goon

Goon is the type of comedy that I'd want to revisit at least once every few months. The fact is that this little film about a bouncer-turned-hockey enforcer with some of the most brutal fight scenes and some of the dirtiest one-liners last year also had one of the biggest hearts in a comedy that I've seen in a long time. Sean William Scott delivers a surprisingly mannered performance as the "goon", a lovable oaf with iron fists. There haven't been many great hockey movies since Slapshot I think, but Goon stands as a very worthy successor to that.

8. The Comedy

This has been one of the more divisive films of 2012, and it makes sense. There's no way in hell this was going to be an acclaimed piece of work. It has the divisiveness and offensiveness of a Harmony Korine film. But it also has the artfulness of something like that. Over the past few years "raunchy" R-rated comedies about 30-40 year old manchildren goofing around and avoiding responsibility have seen a rise in popularity; it was about time someone made a piece of work on how shallow and unfulfilling that lifestyle really is. This type of behavior is so exaggerated in The Comedy that it couldn't possibly be rationalized as being okay, and Tim Heidecker gives one of the best performances of 2012 as the poster child of that kind of destructive way of life. Is The Comedy a cautionary tale? Is it a portrait of a meaningless existence? Is it a bold generational statement? Check "all of the above".

7. The Avengers

Marvel has had an unreal stride of bringing quality and class back to superhero films, and they've ingeniously tied them together over the years to finally bring us The Avengers. An equally smart move was to put Joss Whedon in the director's chair, and his mastery of dialogue and characters is what brings this film to life. With a film so packed and in a sense with so little time with any one character, Whedon finds a way to let the audience get to know the character fully, to the point where even the smallest roles are memorable. A death of a character midway through the film, a character that could be considered somewhat disposable in earlier Marvel films, is so gripping and important partly because Whedon has taken such great care of every one of these characters. Let's hope more writers of superhero films take note.

6. Moonrise Kingdom

Like Michael Haneke's case in my #10 pick, I think Wes Anderson has made easily his must human film in Moonrise Kingdom, at least since Rushmore. In many of his films since then, I think the intensity in Anderson's art direction and finite details often took prevalence, with things like story and characters being built around them. In Moonrise however, Anderson presents a moving, and sometimes melancholy tale about the frustrations and burdens of childhood and adolescence. I haven't seen children depicted so realistically and bleakly since Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are. Wes Anderson made a film about the troubles of this time, and a wish and hope to transcend the bitterness of adulthood, and it might prove to be his masterwork.

5. Jeff, Who Lives at Home

The Duplass Brothers are a unique voice in independent film, and I think this is their best project yet. This is the kind of indie that so inspires me and makes me optimistic about American independent cinema. This kind of film, to me, used to happen 3 to 4 times a year. Now it seems it only comes across once every other year. In fact I think the last time I was so inspired by a picture of this nature was Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right. It's a film of such small scale, but beautifully captures large ideas of fate, and figuring out your place in this world. No matter where you are in your life, you're likely to find something to relate to in Jeff, Who Lives at Home.

4. Lincoln

I'm as much of a Spielberg skeptic as I think many people are, and I wouldn't have been surprised if Lincoln ended up being War Horse 2, tonally. Instead Spielberg made a brave film that is so political that Dreamworks wouldn't release it until after the election. Lincoln's greatest accomplishment is that it's a film that respects history and understands its relationship with the present world; perhaps in the same way that movies can be a reflection of the real and present world. Tony Kushner's script, which is the best of any 2012 film, reminds us that what we now see as self-evident political truths took a lot of hard fighting to achieve, and in many cases, came close to never happening at all. Lincoln is a film that can inspire you in the same spirit the real man inspired America.

3. Holy Motors

Here we have one of the most complex and complicated pieces on my list. But even if I don't understand everything about Holy Motors (and if you say you do, you're lying), it is one of the most enthralling and inspiring viewing experiences I had in 2012. It is one of those special films where it feels like you're participating directly in the action, even in just figuring the damn thing out. It's certainly comprehensible though, Holy Motors ends up dealing in universal themes relating to identity and feeling a lack of connectedness in a big world. Leos Carax creates not just one, but multiple universes coinciding with one another, and Denis Lavant gives without qualification the performance of 2012. His agility and virtuosity in the craft of acting is nothing less than awe-inspiring. After watching this the first time, I wondered how it was going to fit in my 2012, and if it even could; now I cannot imagine my 2012 without it.

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a portrait of cinematic bliss. It's a film about a love for life despite the horrors and adversities of it. That a film so majestic and far reaching could be made at such a bare, grassroots level is beyond inspiring to me. Beasts is one of the most joyous cinematic experiences I've ever had.

1. The Cabin in the Woods

So, yeah. This is it. The Cabin in the Woods is certainly not a critic-like or particularly artsy pick for the best film of 2012, and some of y'all might be scratching your heads or rolling your eyes that I put this on top in place of some of the more acclaimed films of last year. To put it simply, I put The Cabin in the Woods in my top spot because I felt that I must. Horror is a genre that I grew up with, a genre I love and that I've unfortunately seen take a decline into the becoming some of the trashiest fodder of Hollywood studios. And to see a film that acknowledges and satirizes the formula would've been great, but instead Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard did something even better; they made a game-changer. That's a term that's thrown around far too liberally, but what makes Cabin a game changer is this: it calls for the game to be changed.

Oslo, August 31st
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Raid: Redemption
Shut Up and Play the Hits
Your Sister's Sister

21 Jump Street
For a Good Time, Call...
Pitch Perfect
Sleepwalk with Me

(Thanks alot for sitting through Robby's top 20 films of 2012! For more fun, be sure to follow him on Twitter @ClydeNut!)

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