By Gabriel “Big Gabe” Alcantara
For some, Easter Sunday is a day of observing and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For others, it’s all about candy and Easter egg hunting. For me, it’s the day I finally decided to put up my criminally overdue list for the best films of 2012. I must be out of my mind to put up a list that is normally relevant between the end of December and mid January during the end of March and indeed, I am but I don’t give a fuck. Look, I started writing this thing at the end of February. I took my time with it, didn’t work on it for a week, then I just plain forgot about it. Then I went to the SXSW film festival and I remembered that I never finished this damn thing. I spent enough time starting this list so I had to finish it no matter how late it was. So now, here it is for anyone that may give a damn.
Oh, man, 2012 was an exceptionally awesome year in film! I started making serious top ten lists back in 2009. Whether it was on Facebook or making videos on YouTube, I wanted my opinions published somehow. 2012 blows the past three years out of the water in my opinion, so much so, that I feel compelled to go beyond the usual ten and extend the list to fifteen. I feel that these films are so exceptional that I had to write about them all. Trust me, this has been the hardest “best of” list I have ever done, which is another reason why I’m so late on it. Gotta think before you act, yo! Well, that and the fact that I saw some of these films late. Usually, I make my lists out at the beginning of the year and stick strictly to the films that I saw within the previous year. Whatever films I didn’t see by year’s end were assed out with maybe one exception but that’s all. However this year, no, I HAD to see certain films before making an official list because I knew I’d feel like a fool if I didn’t hold off and include them. It turns out, I was right to do so. I’ll point those films out when I get to them. To be honest, although these films are ranked by me, I feel everything is interchangeable. I may see certain films differently when I watch them again, who knows?
Anyway, you’re hear to read an article, not a novel and since I have a lot to cover, I’d better get to it but first, as always… I gotta have some honorable mentions. Again, I just want to reiterate, this was a tough list to make. Not including these films in the list was heartbreaking because they are all so extremely good.
End of Watch – This is a gritty cop drama was highly entertaining and intense. It also had excellent performances by Michael Peña and Jake Gylenhaal. They had some of the best chemistry any screen duo had in 2012.
Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson does it again! I don’t love it beyond The Royal Tenenbaums or The Life Aquatic but I really think it’s quite a gem. Some scenes involving the pre-teen romance were a little uncomfortable to watch but it was tastefully done and it was honest.
Prometheus – I totally dug it. It’s hard to explain why but I loved the atmosphere of it, the beautiful visual effects and the intensity of it all.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – Although uneven in the comedic department, the drama and the unlikely romance between Steven Carrell and Keira Knightley more than made up for any issues the film had. This is seriously the most underrated film of 2012. I was touched by it.
Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap – For any true Hip Hop music lover, this Ice-T directed documentary offers honest, in your face interviews from some of Hip Hop’s greatest artists about their craft and what the music means to them. I wanted this on the list so bad but I have this odd, probably stupid rule against documentaries in my lists. Either way, check this shit out!
Okay, this is it! These are my picks for the Top 15 Best Films of 2012.
15. Wreck-It Ralph
This animated film about a video game bad guy wanting to become a hero felt so fresh and vibrant, especially coming from Disney. The voice work, animation, tone, pace, characters, humor; there’s just so much to love about Wreck-It Ralph. I laughed so much and enjoyed all of the retro video game references. I thought the relationship and interaction between Ralph and Vanellope was very cute and sweet. I was entertained throughout with no real problem other than wishing it went beyond the typical Disney formula. It would have been really cool if they tried something a little more edgy and less predictable but that’s a minor complaint. If you have a formula that works, you stick with it.
14. Zero Dark Thirty
Katheryn Bigelow, whew! Can that woman direct a gripping drama or what? Now, when it comes to a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, I’m sure they’re not telling us the whole story. If I did more research on the subject, I’d probably find tons of information debunking most of what this film presents. However, as a film, as a piece of dramatic entertainment, I thought it was riveting. Top it off with an outstanding, in your face performance by Jessica Chastian as well as a great supporting cast and you have a film that’s worthy of all the buzz it’s received. They could of made this into a flag waving piece of American propaganda but I feel they didn’t do that. I feel they portrayed this historical event as neutral as possible. Again, is it all true or not? We may never know for certain but what is certain is this was a damn good film. The reason why this isn’t as high on my list as it is others’ lists is because it’s not the most entertaining film of the year and it did leave me with a slightly unsettled feeling but it was intense and well crafted in so many ways.
13. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I think in some way or another if you’re in or past your teenaged years, you can relate to this film. When I can relate to a film in any way, that’s already an achievement. This is such an emotional film and so incredibly well written and acted. Not to mention, low-key. A lot of teenage films are so flashy and shallow but this film has heart and soul. The tone is perfect. It’s enough to make you cry at times. The characters are so well fleshed out that when they’re in pain, you’re in pain with them. When they are happy, you’re celebrating their happiness with them. And what a turn around for Logan Lerman. The dude has come a long way from being Percy Jackson and giving that terrible interpretation of D’Artagnan in Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers, yikes!
My goodness, this film was captivating. Why didn’t Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis hook up sooner. No matter, this film turned out better than I could of imagined. The beauty of this film, besides the absolute brilliance of Lewis’ Oscar winning portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, is the expert craftsmanship Spielberg shows in his direction and the subtle and gritty approach he took to tell the tail of the 16th American president’s struggles to abolish slavery. The film isn’t always exciting but that’s the beauty of it. Instead of having flashy imagery and choppy editing to speed the pace, it takes its time to realistically portray the events that lead to the end of the Civil War. It may lack some accuracy but I don’t care, it’s a great film with a surprising amount of humor and two excellent supporting performance from Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones who also received two well deserved Oscar nominations.
11. Safety Not Guaranteed
I absolutely adore this little indie flick about an intern for a a magazine who tries to get the inside scoop on a man claiming he can build a time machine. It’s quirky, funny, smart and the cast is great which includes the adorable Aubrey Plaza and the talented Mark Duplass who have terrific chemistry as the skeptic but intrigued intern and the possibly insane or brilliant grocery stock clerk determined to travel through time. The dialogue is clever and witty, seeing the relationship between the two leads grow is wonderful, the character development is spot on and the whole experience was rewarding for me. Please see this film if you haven’t already.
10. The Raid: Redemption
I am still blown away from the action of this movie. This is some next level shit. Simple story? Yes. The story of an Indonesian task force battling it out with criminals in an apartment complex seems very basic and although there are some interesting story elements, this film is all about the ground breaking action. The assault on the doomed task force is one of the most brutal gun battles put to screen and what follows is some of the most intensely insane and fearless fight choreography I’ve ever seen. This is a film Hollywood producers and directors should be examining because Welsh director Gareth Evans and this Indonesian production team has put most American action films to shame.
Ted was released June 29th in US theaters and I had no money to see it. While all of my friends and even some family members were quoting and loving this film, I felt like the only schmuck in the world who hadn’t seen it. I could of watched it online in decent quality but I was determined to watch it on blu-ray in the best quality for some reason. It was released December 11th on blu-ray but I had to spend all the money I had on Christmas gifts for my family, therefore, once again delaying my chance to watch Seth MacFarlane’s tale of a grown man and his walking, talking, womanizing, weed smoking plush bear. However, on Christmas Day, I received that magical film on blu-ray and it was the best present I received that holiday season. Sure, I expected it to be fun, crazy, raunchy and ridiculous but I was in awe with how funny, sweet and well made the film was. No joke fell flat for me at all. The writing is great, the cameos are hysterical, even the chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis was adorable. This movie did not disappoint, in fact, it surpassed my expectations and it reassured me that good comedy is still out there.
8. Marvel’s The Avengers
Yes, I decided to put the Marvel name in front of it simply because no one else does. Holy shucks, this shit was awesome! I was excited about this project ever since they brilliantly announced it at the end of 2008’s Iron Man. My anticipation only grew with the next batch of Marvel films that followed as they set up this colossal mash up of superheroes. As I was watching it, I kept ecstatically saying to myself “This is happening, this is really happening!”. Everything about this film is exciting and it only gets better every time I watch it. Every character gets their moment to shine so that there’s no room for disappointment. Even the commentary by director Joss Whedon on the DVD and Blu-Ray was hilarious. This is just popcorn entertainment at its finest and I couldn’t have been happier with how The Avengers turned out.
7. Les Miserables
This was the very first production of Les Miserables I’ve ever seen and goddammit, I was blown away. Whether you’re into musicals or not (I personally am not), there’s no denying this is one hell of a spectacle. Everything about it had me mesmerized. The music, the visuals, the sets, the performances, the exceptional storytelling. This gorgeous film by Toby Hopper definitely sent me on a roller coaster of emotions. I’m not ashamed to admit that tears rolled down my cheeks, especially with Anne Hathaway’s heartbreaking performance. I couldn’t stop thinking about this film after I saw it and that’s when you know a film has done it’s job. I never expected to love this film as much as I do. It deserved every award it receives, especially Hathaway’s Best Supporting Actress win. Oh and by the way, I didn’t think Russell Crowe’s singing was THAT bad… Oh, Okay, it was pretty crappy but it didn’t ruin the film for me.
6. Silver Linings Playbook
This was one of the films that made me wait on doing this list because I saw it after 2012. Now some might label this a romantic comedy and that’s fine but I prefer to think of it as a dramedy with romance. Silver Linings Playbook is far from being perfect but it feels perfect to me. It has typical romantic and family drama cliches and at times is predictable but none of that bothered me because I loved the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as well as each actors’ performance. I felt for both characters who both suffer from bi-polar disorder and was rooting for these two fine leads as a couple. And let’s not forget Mr. Robert De Niro. It sure was great to see him in a great movie for once. All in all, I loved this film and it left me in a great mood.
5. The Grey
The Grey has a fine list of reasons why it’s so great but Liam Neeson’s hard edged performance is on top of that list. Imagine you and a few other men surviving a deadly plane crash in the middle of Alaska where you must face the blistering cold, limited supplies, oh, and yeah… you and those men are stalked and hunted down by a deadly pack of wolves. Now imagine you are the only level headed man with the knowledge and skills to survive such elements and you must lead those men to safety. That’s the type of character Neeson plays and boy, does he play him well. Another great aspect of the film is each of the almost certainly doomed men are fleshed out characters that you actually feel for instead of just being meat for the grinder. The acting is great in this film and R rating is very useful because of the language used to show real, raw emotion. Joe Carnahan, who’s had some missteps in his directing career, brings us an emotional, exciting and philosophical drama that really should be experienced at least once. I, for one, am up for the journey any time. It’s such a great film.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
Okay, time for me to fanboy out! I honestly don’t give a damn how flawed this film is, it’s high quality entertainment to me. Yeah, yeah, say it… “There’s not enough Batman.” Ah, shut up! To me, that’s the beauty of it. It’s Bruce Wayne’s story and for the first time in the series, I can truly, honestly say I give a shit about him. Christian Bale’s performance is masterful in this third film. All of the performances are excellent including Anne Hathaway’s ultra confident and fearless portrayal of Selina Kyle and Tom Hardy’s brilliantly menacing portrayal of Bane. Christopher Nolan closes out his Batman trilogy in such a grand, thrilling and emotional way that I can honestly look past all the flaws and illogical moments and just pass them off as “movie magic”. It’s not that I don’t notice them, it’s that because of the amount of excitement and powerhouse escapism this film provides… I just don’t care. It’s get better every time I see it. No, it’s not as monumental as The Dark Knight and I never expected it to be but it satisfied me to no end. Seriously, you try making a better closer to a Batman trilogy than Nolan if you think this film was a disappointment.
Oh, Argo, Argo, Argo, wow! This was the last film I HAD to see before making this list official. From the first time I saw the trailer to Argo, I knew this was going to be a good film but as time went on and people were hyping it up, I started to get worried. There’s been quite a few times were a film has been hyped up for me so much that by the time I see the actual film, I end up liking the film but I feel it’s overrated. Drive and Looper are two good and recent examples. That was not the case with Ben Affleck’s incredibly intense, expertly edited, well acted and involving fact based drama. I loved it and I was hooked every single minute of the film. In all fairness, Argo may not be the most revolutionary film to come out in years but there’s something truly special about it. The story of a family man risking it all to save the lives of others always gets to me. And let’s not forget the two brilliant performances from Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The story is so compelling and to know it really happened, although I’m sure many things were added for dramatic affect, makes this film a national treasure. Although Argo is not my number favorite film of 2012, I am so happy that Mr. Affleck’s film went on to win Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards even though the Academy truly fucked up by not nominating his directorial work.
The term “Best Bond Ever” was thrown around like candy when this was released back in November. How can it be possible to label a new entry into a 50 year old film series with 22 previous films the best Bond film ever? Oh, Skyfall proved to be worthy of the title. I, as a lifelong fan of 007 films hate to say it but this really is the best James Bond film I’ve ever seen. Previously, I actually would of said that about Casino Royale because it took the series and rebooted it in a much more realistic and dramatic fashion and to me, it was a better interpretation of what a character like James Bond, a stone cold killer spy, should be. No, I’m not saying Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond. I’m saying they took the character a flipped the script. Gave us something new and I dug it. What they did do with Casino Royale however, was along with the removal of the campiness the series had, which I was fine with, they did take the fun out of the series. Although I love Casino Royale, it’s not always a fun film because it’s very serious and gritty. Enter Skyfall, a film that maintains the grittiness and serious tone of Casino Royale and manages to sneak the fun back in. There are quite a few nods to the series which were really cool. A new and younger Q is brought in with surprisingly effective and cheeky results because he and Bond take some very funny jabs at each other. There is a lot of subtle humor to the film, as well as some very dramatic themes such as the relationship between Bond and M, the personal vendetta the villain has against M and Bond being physically and mentally weakened after getting shot in the field. Sam Mendes directed this fun so brilliantly that for the first time in a long time, the series feels like it has a soul. The performances are better than they have ever been. Javier Bardem is sensational as the villain. Although some of the action sequences are rather brief in comparison to other Bond films, they are so well crafted, exciting and very effective. The film is also gorgeous. It’s by far the best looking Bond film. Skyfall surpassed all my expectations and gave me a deeper love and appreciation for the 007 series. To me, it feels like the perfect Bond film with the right amount of action and thrills along with storytelling that is compelling and emotional, two things you don’t expect from a Bond film. I love it!
Now we come to the number one spot and the first film that made me want to wait on doing this list. I tried to see this film before the end of 2012 but instead saw it a few days after the ball dropped from Times Squire. My favorite film of 2012 is another Quentin Tarantino masterpiece. Of course I’m talking about…
1. Django Unchained
I might be the only one who ranked this film at the top spot of 2012 and that’s fine with me. I was on such a high after seeing this film. It gave me every thing I wanted from a film. I love westerns for one thing but to have QT direct a film that paid homage to spaghetti westerns, oh, hell yeah! This my now my second favorite Tarantino film behind Kill Bill. The characters were all interesting and entertaining. The performances from the cast were flawless in my opinion, but the exceptional performances come from Christoph Waltz, who I was pleasantly surprised to see win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Samuel L Jackson and the truly engaging Leonardo DiCaprio, who should of received a nomination at least. I mean, come on, he literally shed blood while making this film. The story about a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who becomes a bounty hunter to save his wife (Kerry Washington) from slavery is pretty damn simple but as we all know, Tarantino can make simplicity go a long way. This film was an epic adventure with some gloriously bloody violence. Once again, QT picked some interesting music choices to complement the film and it’s tone. The humor was terrific but what made the film great for me was the relationship between Waltz and Foxx. I enjoyed their chemistry together. I mean, I totally bought it. Now, I know the film has received plenty of controversy on the use of the N word and some have criticized it for not treating the subject of slavery with respect. That by turning a dark period of America history into an action movie is wrong and disrespectful. I say… fuck that noise! The film was meant to entertain and holy shit, it entertained the hell outta me! Django Unchained may not be the deepest and most thought provoking film on this list but it’s my favorite film of 2012 period.
Well, there it is. I’m done with 2012, finally (sighs with relief). Now what? I hope to never have a best of list this late ever again. This was ridiculous, sheesh. Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed my over indulgent article. Please leave some comments below. Let me know if you agree or disagree with this list. Call me a fool, call me out on any mistakes you see, whatever you want. Just don’t spam shit about penis enlargement or anything like that.
Oh, and guess what? My worst of 2012 list is coming too. Yup, can’t let that go either. Gotta call out the bullshit I saw this past year. It’s only right.