Delon Villanueva – Top 10 Films of 2012

by Delon Villanueva

Oh, boy. Where do I begin? At this point, many of you have read plenty of top ten movie lists, as it’s been the new year for a couple of days. What can I possibly bring new to the table? Well, looking at my list right now, I can tell you that it may be controversial. At least, that’s what my Facebook friends who’ve already seen my list are telling me. Though I don’t want to delay you any longer from reading what I have to say, but I just want to keep a few things in mind here.

Number one: just remember, it’s all opinion-based. It’s fine if you disagree with some or all of my choices. In fact, it’s great! Movies are art, and art is subjective and open to discussion. They need to be talked about. Number two: I know I just said they’re art, but…please, don’t be the person who assumes I’m some stuck-up, snobbish movie buff that only likes obscure indie films. You know, that stereotype. I’m willing to put any movie on my list, because well, it’s my list! It’s not even the list of this year’s best cinematic achievements. It’s just a bunch of movies from this year that I really liked. Really, really liked. And don’t worry, there’s runner-ups. So, you can relax. Are we cool? Cool. NOW LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS!

 

DELON’S TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2012

 

10. The Cabin in the Woods: Although I don’t watch a whole lot of horror movies, it’s blatantly obvious that Hollywood puts out a lot of generic rubbish these days, and The Cabin in the Woods definitely knows that. The movie is an incredibly creative deconstruction of the genre that embraces and pokes fun at its flaws, clichés, and even its audience. Although it leans more towards being a comedy, hardcore horror fans will love this movie for its respect towards the style and how it reinvents it. This insane flick would have an association with Joss Whedon. With this and The Avengers, it’s great to see his film career finally take off.

9. ParaNorman: You know, this movie and Wreck-It Ralph may still be tied for my favorite animated film of the year, but for my top 10 movie list, I made a place for ParaNorman. It’s a fantastic family film that, unlike most of today’s kids movies, doesn’t mind getting dirty or even being socially aware. On the surface, it’s a fun and spooky tale of ghosts and zombies, but underneath, it has a lot to say. It calls out modern society’s intolerance towards the unknown and their fear of understanding it through the story of a seemingly odd but wise boy who lives in a small town of ignorant and inept people. I mean, who got all of that from the trailers? Add in its incredible stop-motion animation, and you’ve got yourself a pretty special movie.

8. Safety Not Guaranteed: Although it’s easily the simplest and smallest movie on my list, Safety Not Guaranteed packs in a big heart that no one suspects, but is very welcomed. It’s an adorable indie comedy about time traveling, but it doesn’t try to focus on the sci-fi aspect. Instead, it reflects on the personal stakes of time traveling and why we would ever consider doing it. We all regret certain things in our past, but there are times when we have to let go and give life a second chance. Safety Not Guaranteed perfectly displays that, with a very talented cast consisting of Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Mark Duplass (The League), and Jake Johnson (New Girl).

7. Looper: This movie almost didn’t even make my top 10 list, but I guess peer pressure got to me. I really enjoyed Looper when I saw it in theaters, but the reason I why didn’t “love” it at the time was probably because I was really hoping it would be my #1 movie of the year. I kind of regret having those expectations, because when looking back, Looper is still an awesome film that deserves a lot of attention, as it’s easily one of the best sci-fi movies in years. Like Safety Not Guaranteed, it’s a time-travel film…but with lots more violence. Yeah, a whole lot more. It’s got a very creative and original story (WE STILL HAVE THOSE?!) and the perfect casting pair of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the same character at different ages. This is director/writer Rian Johnson’s breakout year because of this movie, and I’m so excited with what he comes up with next.

6. Argo: Ben Affleck can officially be taken seriously. Argo is one of the most thrilling movies I’ve seen this year as a result of Affleck’s great directorial scope of storytelling and a tight, well-paced script. Even if you knew how the true story ended going into this, the movie creates likable and relatable characters so well that you’re literally with them throughout this whole nerve-racking escape plot. The movie also has surprisingly great humor, as it manages to fit in plenty of Hollywood mockery done by some very memorable supporting roles from Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The amount of entertainment value in Argo is really just astounding. It’s no wonder it’s such a huge contender this Oscar season.

5. Skyfall: Like Looper, this is another movie that I began to have more appreciation for after letting it sink in. Skyfall is bold, slick, and most of all, epic. This is the 007 movie that fans have been waiting for. It confronts James Bond with some of his most difficult challenges yet. Other than the beautiful opening and the very satisfying finale, the movie doesn’t focus too much on the action, but it’s a risk that pays off so well. Its contrast between “old-fashioned” and “modern” makes for an extremely compelling Bond story, more than what most people would have guessed. It’s also got some award-worthy performances, such as Javier Bardem as the mischievous Raoul Silva, and Judi Dench in her most demanding role as M. Skyfall is a crowning achievement in being the best blockbuster of the year.

4. Moonrise Kingdom: If you don’t like Wes Anderson’s dry, Instagram-filtered style of filmmaking, this movie will definitely not change your mind, but I love it. Moonrise Kingdom is another grand entry to Wes Anderson’s filmography. It’s a very charming and vivid film on the innocence of young love. The cast features traditional Wes Anderson actors Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, but it’s also got the unique choices of Edward Norton and Bruce Willis, who fit right into the quirkiness. Though we can’t forget the main focus of the film, Sam and Suzy, played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. The cute and funny banter between the two is what makes this movie so believable and nostalgic. To top it all off, the film is full of Anderson’s trademark camera shots and vintage quality that make studious filmmakers go crazy for. It’s easily the most artsy movie on my list, but for good reason.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower: John Hughes would be so proud. We’ve had a fair share of teen comedies over the past couple of years, but it’s been a while since we’ve gotten a really good coming-of-age drama. The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn’t just good. It’s beautiful. My generation finally has that movie that we could all connect to our youth. To put it simply, it is a film that tackles growing up in a very mature way. We’ve all had our range of issues, but everyone can relate to the character of Charlie in some way. I was so overwhelmed with how close this movie hit home, and the same will probably happen to you, too. The book’s author, Stephen Chbosky, directed and wrote the film, and I have to say, why isn’t this done more often? If more movies can turn out like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by all means, do it. An amazing cast, a moving story, a mesmerizing soundtrack; this movie just worked so well.

2. Life of Pi: One of my biggest surprises this year. It’s not that we weren’t expecting this to be a strong Oscar contender (in fact, it just seemed like plain ol’ Oscar bait to me at first), but I did not expect to love it as much as I did. Life of Pi is an eye-opening movie if you let it be. It’s a polarizing spiritual journey; being lost at sea has never felt so emotionally jarring. The movie finds ourselves at our lowest points, and still manages a way to miraculously bring us back up. That says a lot for a two-hour film that mostly consists of a boy and tiger trying to survive in the middle of the ocean. It’s a heart-wrenching and wondrous movie of finding faith, and Ang Lee brings such masterful direction and vision to it. To be honest, I don’t think this film is being talked about enough during this award season. Like Hugo, this is another movie pushing the medium by using 3D as a storytelling device, and it’s something that should be more recognized when choosing a “Best Picture” that defines a time in film history.

1. Django Unchained: This is why we go to the movies. You know, last year, I chose Drive as my favorite film of 2011, but if you’ve seen it, it’s undoubtedly something that doesn’t work for everyone. Now although Django Unchained takes on some sensitive subjects, if you can handle it, you’ll be rewarded with a fully realized and genuine motion picture. Quentin Tarantino’s undying love for the art of film bleeds (literally) all over this movie. Sure, it’s lengthy. Sure, it’s over-the-top. Sure, it’s ultraviolent. But you don’t want it to stop! Django Unchained is not perfect, but it’s so, so good at everything that it does. Tarantino captures this horrid time in our history with accuracy, but also with self-awareness. Everyone in the cast is fully utilized (please, Leo needs an Oscar, just give it to him now). Every shot is glorious and carefully framed. The soundtrack! Oh, the soundtrack! I know it sounds like I’m overselling this movie, but it’s my #1. You would do the same for yours, too. Hands down, Django Unchained is my favorite movie this year, no doubt about it.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

  • The Dark Knight Rises: Okay, let’s just address the elephant in the room right now. The Dark Knight Rises is a great superhero film and a satisfying ending to The Dark Knight trilogy, but you know, I did have some issues with it. I thought the first act was pretty slow, and the script feels unnaturally loose and a bit aimless, especially coming from Nolan. Though were these problems I could’ve looked past so I could put it on my top 10 list? Well, guys, it wasn’t the easiest thing to come to a decision. The Dark Knight Rises was undeniably my most anticipated film of the year. Once the first teaser trailer played before the final Harry Potter movie, I was ready to make it my #1 for 2012. I was such a fanboy intensely waiting for this film for four years since The Dark Knight, one of my favorite movies of ALL TIME. Nolan knew he had to finish off the trilogy with a bang, and my expectations were off the roof. Then, the day of its release came…and I saw the trilogy midnight show…and yeah, I enjoyed it. Though I could not help, just COULD NOT help, but be slightly disappointed. I am a fanboy, but I am also an honest one. I’m really sorry, guys. I wanted to love it so much, and maybe I do. Just not enough to be on my top 10 list. I’ll probably re-watch it soon and let you guys know what I think after that, but for now, it’s right under my ten favorites.
  • The Avengers: Now this movie came a bit closer to ending up on my list. In fact, I do regret not putting it on there. I saw The Avengers twice in theaters (enjoying it even more the second time), and I am fully confident in saying that it fully succeeds in what it wants to be. It’s a total blast and ideal summer blockbuster entertainment. It was so excited to see all these heroes come together to be in one movie, after four years in their own ones. Joss Whedon has accomplished something that many doubted would ever work. I guess I should be more appreciative of that, because then it would have been on my mind more when making this list. Like I said, I kind of wish it was on the list now, but I still would get hate for no Dark Knight.
  • Another film that came close was 21 Jump Street, easily the funniest movie of the year. I haven’t seen any other film more this year than this one. It’s just as hilarious after repeat viewings, even when you’re watching it by yourself. It’s a great send-up on Hollywood’s new trend of rehashing old properties by turning it on his head. Let’s not forget the perfect comedic pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. I cannot wait for the sequel.
  • I’m also going to briefly mention Wreck-It Ralph, which was one of the best theater experiences I’ve had all year, especially being paired with the lovely animated short, Paperman. I love the dedication to detail and creating this immerse video game world. Maybe some of the juvenile humor was what brought it down a tad bit? It was still pretty close, though.

MOVIES I DIDN’T SEE

There are plenty of films I didn’t have time for this year, but here are some that would have probably been strong contenders to be on my list, and I very much look forward to watching them in the near future.

  • The Grey
  • The Raid: Redemption
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Ruby Sparks
  • The Master
  • Dredd
  • End of Watch
  • Pitch Perfect
  • Seven Psychopaths
  • Cloud Atlas
  • Flight
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty (but I’ll see it as soon as it plays in my area!)

 

Well, I hope that covers everything. Overall, it was a pretty good year, but 2013 is looking super awesome. We’ve got your usual big-budget sequels and remakes, but a great amount of original stuff, too, including Pacific Rim and Elysium. It’s been a fun first year writing for We Live Film, and I’m really excited to write for the second one.

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