I see a lot of movies. It’s usually hard to pick 10 of the year and even harder to put them in some sort of order. So here ya go!
Teddy Bear (dir. Mads Matthiesen) – Kim Kold’s massive frame sways your view to him seemingly all the time. But beneath that mountain of muscle is something more, a gentleness and a familiarity. How are you at meeting new people? I’m a terrible introvert. I’d rather be a wallflower than thrust myself out in the spotlight any day of the week. But what if I was 250lbs of muscle? A giant of a man? What would you expect from me and what does that say about you? This might be the most touching and thoughtful film I’ve seen this year.
The Master (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) – I don’t want to like this movie, but I do, and I can’t stop thinking about it. When I saw it I found it to be fairly hollow and that bummed me out. But something kept bringing me back to it and, even as I write this now, I feel myself wanting to watch it again. Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are outstanding in this and should garnerevery award and nomination possible.
Room 237 (dir. Rodney Ascher) – One part educational film and one part brain-melter. The depth of Stanley Kubrick’s genius is a given, but what this film intends to show is the depth of Kubrick’s genius when it comes to a single film, in this case The Shining. Is it a holocaust film? A film about Native American genocide? A classic Greek myth? This film slowly peels the onion showcasing each new layer, but never answering the questions, just letting our brains wander.
Headhunters (dir. Morten Tyldum) – I saw it at the Cleveland International Film Festival and I raced back to Ann Arbor to book it for Cinetopia. I loved it. It’s a thriller that knows exactly what it wants to be, which is sexy and smart. Job well done everyone!
Wrong (dir. Quentin Dupieux ) – This weird missing dog movie, from the guy who previously gave us a weird killer tire movie, might be one of the funniest movies you didn’t see in 2012. Surrealist and Lynchian, I saw it at Sundance in 2012 and haven’t stopped thinking about it. I tried to book it numerous times for Cinetopia and was always met with one road-block or another. I hope that it will find its audience when it’s finally released in 2013 because this is one that I think people are missing out on.
The Raid: Redemption (dir. Gareth Evans) – On the State Theatre’s Facebook page around the time The Raid: Redemption came out, I made a fairly innocuous comment that was along the lines of The Raid: Redemption is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and the best action film since Die Hard! While folks were quick to point out a lot of really great action films that came out between 1988 and 2012, I stand by my original statement: The Raid: Redemption is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and the best action film since Die Hard.
Full disclosure: Die Hard is one of my favorite movies. I just love it. It’s smart, funny, with a script that was on-point and totally in the zeitgeist of what I’ve internalized the late 80s action fan was looking for. It felt new and innovative because it was new and innovative. The Raid: Redemption is all of those things, and more importantly, a breath of fresh air from the stale crop of passionless action films and PG-13 sensibilities.
Looper (dir. Rian Johnson) – Rian Johnson has done no wrong. Seriously. Look up his filmography. I’ll wait. You back? Good. Brick is a classic Noir and The Brothers Bloom is a classic grifter story. But Looper? Looper is on another level and unlike anything I saw this year. I think that smart Sci-Fi suffers at the multiplex, but I was happy to see this movie find an audience. Now that being said: Joseph Gordon Levitt in Bruce Willis make-up still doesn’t look like Bruce Willis.
Lincoln (dir. Steven Spielberg) – “They just don’t make movies like this anymore.” That’s what I said to myself when I walked out of the theater. The film oozes classic at every level. I could drone on about the acting, the script, the directing…but I can sum it up in the one way that works the best: I think Lincoln is THE juggernaut to beat this Oscar season. Hands down.
The Ambassador (dir. Mads Brügger) – Danish journalist Mads Brügger goes undercover as a European Ambassador to embark on a dangerous yet hysterical journey to uncover the blood diamond trade in Africa. Bring some soap, because the if you’re like me, you’ll leave this feeling dirty and troubled that everything you’ve seen is actually happening and that it seems like anyone can do it.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (dir. Benh Zeitlin) – I was standing outside of Amanda’s office as we regurgitated films playing at Sundance 2012, laying claim to ones that we just didn’t want to miss and this was one of them. And I’m glad that I didn’t miss it. I could talk about the performances. I could talk about the look of the film. I could talk about the script. There is just so much I like about this film that hits all the right notes for me, including a star turning performance from Quvenzhané Wallis. Seriously, Academy voters, do the right thing and give her the best Actress award because I’m still waiting for another Actress to even come close to this performance.
A few more films, presented without comment:
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
West of Memphis
Hello I Must Be Going
The Other Dream Team
– Brian Hunter, Programming Manager for the Michigan Theater