The Best Movies of 2012 Round-Up

The Academy has released their nominations for their selections of the best in film of the year. Of course, we have a small difference of opinion about what the best movies of the year are. Now, with 100% less red carpet, glamour, George Clooney, and relevance, here are my top five picks for 2012.

5. Looper

Rian Johnson’s smart, slick film puts the focus on a duel between two assassins. The catch is that Joe, the assassin (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is squaring against the future version of himself (played by Bruce Willis). Looper showcases a future in which the mafia of tomorrow sends its targets to the past to be wiped out by assassins known as loopers. Joe is put to the task to eliminate himself and that’s where things go pear-shaped, putting both Joes on the run. The older one is after a terrible criminal mastermind, who would only be a child at this point in time, and the young one is after his older self to get his life back. Looper could have easily been an easy, cool movie about Levitt and Willis squaring off together but Johnson turns this into a great meditation about the nature of violence, choice, and how it shapes our lives.

4. Django Unchained

When it was announced that Quentin Tarantino was going to make a western it got me very giddy. Being a big spaghetti western fan myself, it was great to hear that someone like Tarantino, whose films usually have a very strong western influence, would be taking a stab at the genre. That hope paid off well with the highly provocative Django Unchained.

Starring Jamie Foxx as freed slave Django, he sets off across the South with his bounty partner King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the devilish slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio in an unusual role as the villain). What follows is what is expected from a Tarantino film: a fun pastiche that wears its influences on its sleeve with a sharp script and dialogue with some incredible performances. Tarantino delivers one of his smartest movies to date. Beneath all the joking and horrendous violence is a movie that eschews stereotypes that have been constructed by film over its entire history.

3. Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson is a filmmaker that has been accused of making hipster fluff, movies that are pretentious, and stylistically overindulgent. I would say that they would be very wrong. For all his stylistic tendencies what exists at the heart of all of Anderson’s movies is a beautiful emotional heart. His movies have been some of the greatest family dramas of the past decade, not to mention being pretty funny too. The same can be said for his latest, Moonrise Kingdom.

Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two kids, Sam and Suzy, who are hopelessly in love with each other. By putting the focus on the children, Anderson is able to strip away that dreary, adult baggage and tell an endearing love story. It is able to show emotion in its most childish, naive form without the cynicism or self-awareness that the adults carry around. The adults, who are frumpy, exhausted, uptight, and defeatist– headed by a great ensemble including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, and Tilda Swinton– provide a great mirror to the kids. Part love story, family drama, chase, and, oddly enough, documentary, Moonrise Kingdom is a movie embedded in real emotion, not cheap melodrama and saccharinity.

2. It’s Such a Beautiful Day

It’s Such a Beautiful Day is the odd man out on the list and the least well known. It’s Such a Beautiful Day is the combination of animator Don Hertzfeldt’s past three short films in trilogy about a man named Bill (Everything is Going to Be OK, I am So Proud of You, and It’s Such a Beautiful Day.) Although the surreal animation makes it seem almost like a nightmare and it contains a very dark sense of humor, It’s Such a Beautiful Day is a very moving portrait of a  man trying to deal with mental illness and terminal disease.

It’s Such a Beautiful Day chronicles the life of Bill, whose life seems to be slowly falling apart. The film unravels Bill’s family history of mental illness, his current life, and how he just struggles to live with it each day– all wrapped up in Hertzfeldt’s unique style, which does not detract from the emotional punch of Bill’s story.

1. The Master

Aside from the acting categories, this is a film that has been completely snubbed by the Academy. Paul Thomas Anderson’s gorgeous film about a violent drifter and a charming fraud is a purposely obtuse, intellectual juggernaut. It’s not an easy film to follow, one that demands your attention and work to figure it out. It also has some of the greatest performances of the year with Philip Seymour Hoffman as spiritual charlatan Lancaster Dodd and Joaquin Phoenix as the damaged Freddie Quell.

After World War II Quell, a sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, finds himself wandering across America. He happens to cross paths with Dodd, a spiritual leader slightly based on L.Ron Hubbard, who promises to cure him. The Master is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted character study of two damaged, strange souls. It’s a complicated look at the human condition of trying to make sense and find comfort in a strange, alienating world.

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