This is it: the day you’ve been waiting for all week. It’s time to reveal our picks for the best and worst films of 2012.
#1: Cosmopolis (Cronenberg, 2012)
I’m sure there are some people out there who would consider Cosmopolis a cinematic achievement. But for me this film is the epitome of pretention. I love David Cronenberg and I’m always happy to support a Canadian film, but this one is absolutely terrible and I’ve never wanted to gouge my eyes out more.
Robert Pattinson plays a young billionaire, Eric, hell-bent on getting haircut (see how we’re already off to a great start?). He sits in a limo as it fights traffic across ‘Manhattan’ (which is clearly Toronto) while numerous strange and unorthodox things happen, such as getting a prostate exam while conducting a business meeting. And all the while the limo crawls at a snails pace through traffic.
Pattison is far from a good actor, in fact, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One was on my worst list last year primarily because of Pattison’s horrendous, angst-y dialogue delivery. To give you a taste of what this film is like, every single character emulates Pattison’s awkward and strained intonation, awkwardly spouting out overly pompous, esoteric lines. The always-brilliant Paul Giamatti shows up in the film’s third act and provides some relief, but the reasoning for his appearance is so confusing that anything that would have been gained by his performance is quickly diminished.
I blame this on the film’s source material: a novel of the same name by Don DeLillo. I haven’t read DeLillo’s work, but I’m guessing that many of the lines are either taken directly from the source, or very close to. It might work as written prose, but on film it’s excruciating. I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning to it all, commenting on the sterile, stripped humanity of the dot com generation, but ultimately, it’s not entertaining. Whether or not the film is a brilliant masterpiece reflecting the inhumanity and emptiness of the “1% percent” is immaterial, because I was too bored and frustrated dissecting the opaque dialogue that I tuned out in a matter of minutes. I’m not sure if this was the intention – ie: to further enhance the narrative’s themes – but as a spectator, Cosmopolis is one of the most unpleasant things I’ve ever had to sit through.
And for that reason, it’s the top of the ‘Worst’ in my books.
Total Recall (Wiseman, 2012): It’s true: Kate Beckinsale is the only good thing about this film. They don’t even go to Mars!
Prometheus (Scott, 2012): So much potential that goes absolutely nowhere in the most frustrating of ways.
#1: Snow White And The Huntsman (Sanders, 2012)
I struggled with some of my decisions for this year’s Bitch Awards: is this film really the best/worst that I’ve seen this year? In some cases that was a tough decision to make. In this case, Snow White And The Huntsman proved no challenge at all. It was absolutely the easiest pick of them all…because it is SO. FREAKING. BORING.
That should be impossible, right? A big-budgeted action-adventure featuring Charlize Theron as the wicked witch, Thor hottie Chris Hemsworth as the rugged Huntsman and perpetual lemon-face K. Stewart as the title character – well, it should be nearly perfect. Even the plot has been guzzied up: infused with Lord Of The Rings style action sequences and Tim Burton-esque set design.
And yet…there’s nothing to it.
Admittedly Theron is amazeballs. She’s absolutely perfectly cast as a monstrously huge beyotch on the hunt for eternal life (even her relationship with her brother is a little too Angelina Jolie for my tastes). The sensual milk bath and the special effects with her robe are also pretty cool, but it’s clear that despite Theron’s best efforts she’s being given very little to do. And Hemsworth has even less to do.
He’s a drunk, grieving because of his wife died (woh woh) and ends up not only helping but falling for Snow (despite having ZERO chemistry). Stewart plays essentially another version of Bella (from Twilight) only she eventually wears chain mail and tries to lift a sword. I’d be lying if I said one of the huge pitfalls of the film isn’t Stewart’s acting. I’m actually not opposed to her (I really liked Adventureland), but here her performance is the definition of phoning it in: she frequently seems to be on the verge of passing out from boredom and can barely open her mouth to utter her lines. It’s two hours of watching a character everyone claims is so inspiring, sleepwalk her way through the narrative.
And that’s what the film feels like: a really, really, really boring dream. It’s filled with interesting (though overly familiar) images of a story we already know, uninterested in adding anything new and piling on excessive, unnecessary FX and fancy costumes in place of an interesting plot, dynamic performances or inspired direction. It’s the most boring film of the year (in my original review I discuss how I wanted to walk out around 10 minutes in).
Now, at year’s end, that boredom is the only thing that registers about the film (that and the ridiculously gendered response to the affair between Stewart and director Rupert Saunders). Whichever way you remember it, do yourself a favour and avoid this film. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Nyquil.
The Bourne Legacy (Gilroy, 2012): A dull as dishwasher attempt to reboot the Bourne franchise that features a blank slate Jeremy Renner running around the world trying to find performance enhancing drugs (really?!) At this point Renner’s running out of chances to become an action star and love-interest Rachel Weisz is a poor substitute for Franka Potente. The final action sequence on motorcycles is far too long and boring to justify the previous two hrs.
Step Up Revolution (Speer, 2012): I love me some dance movies, but this one is a lame rehash of previous versions, with surprisingly uninspired dancing that fails to distract from the laughable plot featuring a dial-it-in hammy performance by Peter Gallagher.
Your Sister’s Sister (Shelton, 2012): A perfectly entertaining indy featuring a trio of actors I adore in a quirky dramedy about dysfunctional thirty-somethings that is ruined by a ridiculous ending. It’s amazing how an ending can affect an entire viewing experience.
#1: Monsieur Lazhar (Falardeau, 2011)
At last year’s Oscars, Monsieur Lazhar was the official Canadian entry for Best Foreign Language film, and it was a travesty that it didn’t win. It is an absolute gem of a film which I found so utterly captivating, it is the clear winner for the first place spot on my “Best” list this year (if not of all time – yes, it’s that good).
The film opens with an elementary school teacher committing suicide in her classroom during recess, leaving her students understandably traumatized. Bashir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) is quickly hired as the replacement teacher and the majority of the film follows the relationship he develops with his students. The acting is absolutely incredible: Fellag gives the most genuine and realistic performance as the sweet natured teacher. And the school children are equally sensational. Sophie Nélisse and Émilien Néron, in particular, exhibit a maturity that is well beyond their years, delivering staggeringly honest performances. The screenplay, written by the film’s director Philippe Falardeau, is beautifully crafted and accented by his intimate, straight-laced direction.
With no word of a lie this film touched my soul. Lazhar’s sincere love for his students and passion for teaching is so evident, it is impossible not to be moved. The film’s final scene is perfection: it is so consummate in its raw emotion that out of nowhere I started weeping like a little girl, surprised that I was touched so profoundly. As an educator, I felt particularly connected to the film’s themes as it truly encapsulates the driving force that all teachers possess. It is a wonderful reminder of why I love what I do.
What’s interesting about the film is how much it differs from a traditional Hollywood film. There are no bells and whistles here, no redundancies or overly sentimental moments. This film is simplistic and stripped down, which allows for powerful displays of emotion showcased in their purest form. It is unassuming, yet one of the most sincere and poignant films I’ve ever seen. I implore you to seek this one out – I promise you won’t regret it.
Salmon Fishing in Yemen (Hallström, 2011): If you overlook the formulaic/stereotypical elements, this is just a really sweet and heartwarming movie
21 Jump Street (Lord & Miller, 2012): I laughed quite a bit and for a film starring Channing Tatum. And if you’ve read this year’s list of ‘Worst’ films, that’s saying a lot.
Films that TVAngie didn’t see in time but thought could potentially make the best list:
- Les Misérables (Hooper, 2012)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Chbosky, 2012)
- Argo (Affleck, 2012)
- Hitchcock (Gervasi, 2012)
- The Impossible (Bayona, 2012)
#1: Looper (Johnson, 2012)
For me, the best films are the ones that stick with you long after you’ve walked out of the theatre. In recent years these films have become more and more unorthodox – risky, adventurous films from daring new auteurs who aren’t afraid to tell their stories the way that they want to tell them.
My pick for last year was Drive, a European-influenced crime film about a monosyllabic get-away driver who exacts bloody revenge to protect the woman he loves. For weeks after I watched it, I heard the soundtrack in my head and I was drawn back to key sequences and shots in my mind. I was completely enthralled.
This year’s best film – in my opinion (you’re welcome to contribute your own below) – is a similarly unique film, albeit a little more in keeping with my proclivity for “lower” genres: the science-fiction influenced crime drama, Looper.
I’ve had this film on my radar for quite some time, having eagerly awaited its release – ever since the news that the director/actor of Brick (2005) were partnering once more. And lo and behold, they don’t disappoint.
As TVAngie explained earlier this week when she named the film her #4 pick of the year, Looper is about an assassin who murders people sent back from the ‘future’. When an assassin’s services are no longer required, his future self is the one sent back in time. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe is one such assassin and when the murder of his future self (played by Bruce Willis) is botched-up, well naturally things don’t go so well for either Joe as a price goes up on both their heads.
In addition to an exciting new story, the film has some of the most amazing sequences I witnessed in film all year. TVAngie talked about the montage depicting Young Joe’s progression over 20 years into Old Joe. I remember equally vividly the horrifying scene when we learn that Seth (Paul Dano) is being tortured because we can see the various body parts disappear off of ‘Future’ Seth. And then there are the sequences in the cornfields and the farmhouse in the film’s mysterious third act, which feel like a completely separate film (in a good way). These events are among the year’s best kept surprises as – for once! – the trailers in no way prepare viewers for what’s to come.
As the end of the year approaches, Looper remains the film I think of most fondly, most vividly, and more enthusiastically of all the films I saw this year. It’s a film that absolutely deserves to be seen by more people, a masterful collaboration between an exciting director and his actor muse and hopefully a future nominee for Best Original Screenplay. If you have yet to seek out Looper, do yourself a favour and check it out when it arrives on DVD next week. You’re in for a wild ride.
The Avengers (Whedon, 2012): Overcoming all fanboy fears, Whedon delivers a virtuoso combination of action and character development as every Marvel franchise comes together for one of the most enjoyable superhero flicks ever.
The Raid: Redemption (Evans, 2012): Who cares about plot (which is admittedly perfunctory) when you’ve got action like this? Jackie Chan and Jet Li wish that they could do stunts like this. Reminiscent of Ong Bak, this is the most energizing action film of the year.
Silver Linings Playbook (Russell, 2012): This film tackles mental illness with refreshing honesty and features career-best performances from stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The ending is too pat for my liking, but it’s definitely worth seeing.
Films that cinephilactic didn’t see in time but thought could potentially make the best list:
- Anna Karenina (Wright, 2012)
- Arbitrage (Jarecki, 2012)
- Beasts Of The Southern Wild (Zeitlin, 2012)
- Django Unchained (Tarantino, 2012)
- The Master (Thomas Anderson, 2012)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Chbosky, 2012)
- Ruby Sparks (Dayton & Faris, 2012)
And that’s a wrap on the Bitch Awards for films for 2012. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
Don’t forget that we start all over again next week on December 31 when we turn our attention to the best (and worst) of television. So whether you’re back at work, or hanging out with family, be sure to stop by and check out our fresh content.
Our #5 picks for television will be revealed at 12pm Eastern on Monday, Dec 31. See you then!