Best Films of 2012: So Far

Best of 2012 - So Far (July 2012) - The Reel Bits

We’ve now crossed the halfway mark of 2012, and it has been a whirlwind of fun so far. The blockbuster season is coming to a close shortly, and it is fair to say it has been a fairly underwhelming one so far. However, the other months of 2012 have been fairly strong so far, not least of which because the first two or three months of the year is always a catch-up period for Australia.

The Artist, Hugo, The Muppets and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy all got their accolades last year, and would easily make it onto this list. However, they are technically 2011 releases, even if they all came out in the first two months of 2012 in the Antipodes. Instead, we’ve chosen to focus this list on those films released in 2012 somewhere, including festivals and international markets. It’s also interesting to compare this to our Most Anticipated Films of 2012, with Prometheus and Brave two of our biggest disappointments this year.

These are our favourites – in alphabetical order! Let us know what some of yours are!

Alps

Alps

Winner of the Sydney Film Festival Official Competition prize, along with a plethora of other awards, Yorgos Lanthimos’ follow-up to Dogtooth is unlikely to find two audience members in complete agreement. It follows a group that calls themselves ALPS, who find grieving families and offer their services as “stand ins” for their loved ones. Coupled with absurdity, including an elctro-pop remix of the 1960s hit “Popcorn”, the film’s emotional core open is to interpretation, but Lanthimos may simply be pointing out the craziness of the world we live in.

The Angels' Share

The Angels’ Share

Ken Loach made a feel-good film. It happened. Winner of the Prix du Jury win at Cannes this year, Loach’s latest collaboration with lawyer/screenwriter Paul Laverty has yielded another lost soul on his last chance, finding hope in bottles of whisky and an unconventional heist. The cast of largely non-professional actors are endearing. Sitting somewhere between Ealing Studios comedies and The Full Monty, the politics might be light, but they are no less clear: sometimes all people need is a second chance, and something to strive for. Anybody up for a whisky?

The Avengers Assemble

The Avengers

The biggest box office hit of the year (so far) is also one of the more deserving. It may not be a flawless film, with a slow first act and a losing a few characters in the action, but this is above all things an action film and this is where the film ultimately delivers and overwhelms. As a cinematic achievement, The Avengers requires a firm salute of respect for giving the fans exactly what they wanted and pulling together one of the first epics of the year.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Few debut films manage to be saddled with the term “masterpiece” on their first pass, and this Sundance winning take on the coming of age story gets it right from the start. While the fatality of the narrative perhaps may heavily direct the last third of the film, it’s a film that sets up its punches and ensures that you feel them. A startlingly original film that will remain a classic for years to come.

Chronicle

Chronicle

Josh Trank‘s “found footage” tale of a group of school students who suddenly gain superpowers was undoubtedly the sleeper hit of the year, thanks to its original take on several fair worn genres. Told in the fractured narrative of intentionally “cobbled together” editing, Trank’s tale never hands you all the information at once, slowly pulling you into its mystery and surprising to the last. For this reason, Chronicle may have created a genre of its own, one that is a found footage mystery that also happens to be about meta-humans.

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

The geekiest of all reunions, with the Buffy team of Drew Goddard and The Avengers Joss Whedon back together again, could have been a massive disappointment. Instead, we have a classic genre-bender in the vein of Evil Dead II or Scream. Simultaneously meta and a damn good horror/comedy to boot, it reminds us of the importance of storytelling. It may have just raised the bar as one of the first great horror films of the millennium, and one that will no doubt spawn numerous pale imitations over the next decade.

Holy Motors

Holy Motors

Leos Carax may lift the character of Merde from his segment in the anthology film Tokyo! (2008), but Holy Motors is unlike any other film. Equal parts roller coaster ride, surreal trip inside the mind of a madman and the blunt object of unrestrained ego, this adventurous vehicle won the Prix de la Jeunesse (Award of the Youth) at Cannes 2012, and may be the most original film of the century. We dare you not to want to dance in the year’s only accordion-led marching band sequence…so far.

John Carter

John Carter

Unfairly maligned by critics and crashing at the box office, Andrew Stanton’s first live action film (following WALL.E and Finding Nemo) is a throwback to an old-fashioned form of storytelling. Taking the best of Edgar Rice Burroughs, it is one of the first great science fiction epics of the decade, taking the best elements of the past and updating them for modern audiences. This list is tending towards hyperbole, but it is a “best of”, after all.

Killer Joe

Killer Joe

William Friedkin returns with a vengeance in this southern-fried tale of hillbilly murder, rampage and good old-fashioned insanity. Like Francis Ford Coppola, who has been experimenting with Tetro and Twixt (below) over the last few years, Friedkin appears to have found his inner film-student in the autumn of his career. Inspired by the excesses of Letts’ script, adapting his own screenplay, Killer Joe might be violent and vile, but it is also sharp, engaging and outright hilarious at all times. Guaranteed to make you a vegetarian.

Moonrise Kingdom - Slice

Moonrise Kingdom

Like most of Anderson’s films, it exist in a bubble of the past that never actually existed except in memory and dreamscapes. Apart from recallingRushmore, just as directly as the bespectacled clone Gilman does, Anderson is giving us an early signal that his film is about so much more than teenage love. Visually stunning, Moonrise Kingdom is an open love letter to youth of all ages.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

Feel the noise! Hairspray director Adam Shankman takes another run at adapting a Broadway musical, and while it can’t ever hope to match the sheer irreverence of the stage, it provides something missing from our screens: sheer fun from start to finish. This film has a dream, a fifth of Jack and a decent amount of hair. What more could you ask for?

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

Charming and funny, this pseudo time-travel dramedy is a delightful and heartfelt retro throwback to a bygone era of filmmaking, drawing inspiration from the Spielberg and Zemeckis films of the 1980s. Based loosely on an Internet meme, the fantastical idea of a man with no education building a time machine in his garage is about as American as it gets. A must see.

Take This Waltz

Take This Waltz

A lengthy but genuine examination of the anatomy of a relationship, bolstered by some terrific performances, Sarah Polley’s return to the director’s chair will be just as polarising as some of the more ‘out there’ entries this year. Occasionally hampered by its detours and length, not to mention a 360° sex montage, this character based piece relies on audience buy-in of the leads.  Thankfully, Williams is phenomenal as usual in this hot, sticky and tactile piece of cinema.

This Must Be the Place

This Must Be The Place

A truly unique film not only showcases the superb Sean Penn, but examines America from the outside in the ultimate goth road trip. At the heart of this compelling personal journey is Penn’s outstanding performance of Cheyenne, quite unabashedly based on The Cure’s Robert Smith. If this is the successor to Paris, Texas, then it comes from a far less nihilistic place, one where humanity is full of surprises. (NB: A Slight bend of the rules, but this only had a theatrical release in 2012).

Twixt

Twixt

It may have taken him decades, but the director of such classics as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now has once again become the experimental filmmaker promised in 1963′s Dementia. Perhaps Twixt is merely Coppola exorcising some of his own personal demons, or maybe he has simply been inspired by the skilled filmmaking of his own children. The pieces don’t always click together, and the fine line between parody and just plain ridiculous bends on a regular basis, but it never breaks.

Let us know your favourites!

  •  

    Great review of John Carter! John Carter was an exceptional film. It was a wonderful
    story that made you want to go back and see it time and time again. The
    characters were heartwarming and fantastic. The cast – incomparable (if you
    loved the HBO Rome series, you will love this cast!). The story was beautifully
    written and directed by Andrew Stanton. There are thousands and thousands of
    fans from all over the world who love John Carter and are fighting for a
    Sequel. Now that the DVD has been released (and Number 1 in sales it’s first
    week!) I hear new fans say everyday that had they seen more advertising of this
    film by Disney, or had known what John Carter was all about, or had not
    listened to reviewers of this film, they would have seen it in the theater. Take a chance, buy the DVD and watch this film for
    yourself. Then join the thousands and thousands of fans who was Disney to take
    them Back To Barsoom!

  • Thanks for including the much maligned John Carter in your list of best so far of 2012. I was lucky enough to see this in the IMAX. I went not knowing what it was about, who Edgar Rice Burroughs was or that he’d written the source material, Princess of Mars, 100 years ago. I know now because I was swept away to Barsoom along with John Carter (Taylor Kitsch)  and  I want a sequel. Give John Carter a chance. It is a wonderful adventure, romance and action flick.

  • Wally Conger

    “John Carter” was unfairly maligned by critics because, well, movie critics didn’t understand what the heck they were watching and were woefully unaware of Burroughs’ significance to 100 years of literary and cinematic sci-fi.

  • The only 2 films on your list that i liked was John Carter and coming in a close second place was the Avengers with the other films i didnt care about or never even heard of some of them.I see one of the biggest box office hits The Hunger Games wasnt even listed and i wouldnt have watched that movie as i didnt care about the subject matter of the Hunger Games.

    • Hey, Robert: we all chat about our lists on this week’s Film Actually podcast (available tonight). THE HUNGER GAMES comes up, and we all really liked it – it’s just that we liked other films more. 🙂 Great to see some conversation started here.