I’ve never done a list before and it’s taken me a couple weeks into the new year to determine which scenes, which lines, which shots have remained lodged in my noggin. I’d never call it a ‘Best 10’ list because that just seems silly…who is anyone to determine that?
With that said, here are the ten movies that made an impression on me in 2012.
10) Looper - Time travel is tricky to write and to digest. Rian Johnson made an exciting action film that dealt (or didn’t deal with) time travel wonderfully.
9) Argo - Ben Affleck killed it again. Tense, funny, tightly constructed. Everything you want out of a film.
8) Friends With Kids - Jennifer Westfeldt nailed it in her directorial debut. What really impressed me was the writing, which explored topics we’ve seen depicted a million times but brought a refreshing honesty to them.
7) The Cabin in the Woods - Whedon. Goddard. I’ve heard they wrote this (after outlining) in a couple of weeks. It doesn’t play like that. It has all the wit you’d expect from these dudes and more.
6) Arbitrage - Nicholas Jarecki’s feature-length debut and it’s a doozy. It has the pacing and control you’d expect from Fincher or even Polanski. And Cliff Martinez provides another engaging, hauntingly beautiful score.
5) Killer Joe - Standard noir plot. But add an invigorated William Friedkin, a brand new Matthew McConaughey, and some fried chicken and you’ve got yourself a shocking movie that’ll stick with you for days.
4) Seven Psychopaths - Martin McDonagh’s dialogue always crackles and in his latest, so do the performances. He juggles a myriad of distinct characters, a thick plot, humor, and tense violence…and makes it look easy.
3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - One of my favorite books growing up. I haven’t read it in a while and seeing this film was like seeing the pages come to life. I guess that’s what happens when the author, Stephen Chbosky, adapts and directs his own material.
2) Killing Them Softly - This was one of those movies that had so much buzz going on that it was hard to shake it off when I finally saw it. After the first viewing I knew I liked it but all of the critical praise was rattling around in my head. After the second viewing I simply enjoyed it for what it is: a George V. Higgins adaptation expertly directed and perfectly interpreted.
1) Safety Not Guaranteed - I couldn’t believe the grip this movie had on me. It was charming, funny, heart-wrenching, and suspenseful, all without being manipulative or cynical. My number ten and one both deal with time travel so that may say something about me, but the topic is fascinating and here it’s dealt with in a very interesting way. I’ll be looking out for more work from writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow in the future.
HONORABLE MENTION - Not Fade Away. Mostly because I find anything David Chase does fascinating but what this movie may have lacked in structure and evenness, it made up for in tone and swagger…which is really what a flick about rock and roll should be, isn’t it?