My Top Films of 2012

by Tony Shea on February 24, 2013


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Today marks the end of the Hollywood awards season. The Gloden Globes, the SAG, WGA, and PGA awards are behind us, as well as the Independent Spirit Awards from last evening. All that remains is tonight’s Oscars and another year of cinema history will be behind us. Regardless of how the Acadamy votes however, these were my favorite top 7 films of 2012:

7. This Is 40

Judd Apatow’s sort of sequel to Knocked Up was a terrific return to form after the far less enjoyable Funny People (although I would suggest that if Funny People had not starred the grating personalities of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, made especially more irritating together, the film would have been far better). Starring the always affable Paul Rudd and Apatow’s real life spouse, Leslie Mann, and fleshed out with an ensemble that includes Meagan Fox, John Lithgow, Albert Brooks, and Apatow acolyte, Lena Dunham, This Is 40 shows us an intimate portrait of what life becomes after the excitement of youth fades and the problems and responsibilities of middle age become routine.

6. Silver Linings Playbook

Stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give excellent lived-in performances as two flawed characters struggling to be better than what they are. In Cooper’s case he plays Pat Solatano Jr., a man devastated by his wife’s infidelity. Pat now finds himself released from a mental hospital, off his meds and living at home with his parents in Philadelphia. Lawrence plays Tiffany, an emotionally damaged young woman who has lost a husband to war and acted out sexually in a way that boarders on compulsion or addiction or both. They are both damaged goods. Written and directed by David O.Russell and based on a novel written by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook shows us the victory of two young people learning to fall in love again after heartbreak, and in so doing gives us all hope that we may find our own silver lining.

5. Looper

Written and directed by Rian Johnson and starring Joshua Gordon-Levitt, and Bruce Willis as a younger and older version of the same futuristic hit man, Looper is one of the best science fiction offerings of the last ten years. Smartly written and crisply directed, Looper raises some mind-bending questions about the nature of time travel and the role our current selves play in the life of our future selves and how these alternate realities play out. Demonstrating that the child is the father of the man, Lopper is an action packed sci-fi film with some very interesting ideas at its core.

4. Killer Joe

William Friedkin, also the director of The Exorcist among many others, has been making titillating and unique films for more than thirty years now. Killer Joe, starring Matthew McCounaughey as the title character, in one of the best performances of his career, is another addition to Friedkin’s fine body of work. While the film was actually released in 2011, I just recently had the pleasure of seeing it on DVD so for me it exists within the boundaries of the preceding year and thus its inclusion on this list. The film’s ensemble cast, including Emile Hirsh, Thomas Hayden Church and Gina Gershon play people who are so stupid that they are beyond the considerations of normal morality, as they contract Killer Joe to commit a murder in the hopes of receiving an insurance windfall. The scene is which Gina Gershon is forced to perform fellatio on a KFC drumstick at the behest of the menacingly insane Killer Joe is surely one of the strangest, most disturbingly hilarious scenes in movie history. Killer Joe is another notch in Friedkin’s legacy of shock.

3. Being Flynn

Based on the book with the much better title Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and directed by Paul Weitz of American Pie and About a Boy fame, the film stars Robert De Niro, in a performance that rivals his work in Silver Linings Playbook, as well as Paul Dano. The two men play John and Nick Flynn respectively, an estranged father and son reunited in a homeless shelter after twenty years. The film is a heartbreaking look at mental illness, delusions of grandeur, the struggle for literary greatness and how life’s pragmatic realities are often different from the world of dreams. Julianne Moore, who at this point seems incapable of being in a lousy film, rounds out the film’s excellent ensemble cast and helps make Being Flynn one of the best films of the year.

2. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s slavery revenge epic is another corker in the career of this singular American filmmaker whose hallmark shooting style and brilliant dialogue are again on display. Like all Tarantino pictures, Django Unchained is heavy on carnage and includes several moments where you want to look away but can’t. The unnecessary “fourth act” that concludes the film is a mis-fire, but that is a small complaint in a film where Jaime Fox, as Django both chained and unchained, Christophe Waltz, Leo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson chew through scenes like beavers through balsa wood.

1. Moonrise Kingdom

Like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson is a filmmaker who follows his own unique muse where it leads. Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Fantastic Mr. Fox are some of my favorite films. Add Moonrise Kingdom to the list. With an original script by Anderson and Roman Coppola, the film stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as two pre-teen true loves and is rounded out with excellent ensemble performances from Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and perpetual Anderson go-to-guy, Bill Murray. Moonrise Kingdom is funny and touching and plays like a dreamy love letter to the innocent joys of youth.

Tony Shea ( Editor-in-Chief, New York)

Tony Shea is based in New York, having recently moved from Los Angeles after more than a decade on the sunny coast. His short films have won numerous awards and screened at major festivals around the world including Comic-Con. As a musician, he is the lead singer for Los Angeles rock n’ roll band Candygram For Mongo (C4M) who has been a featured artist on Clear Channel Radio’s Discover New Music Program and whose songs have been heard on Battlestar Gallactica (Syfy Channel) and Unhitched (Fox) among other shows and films.

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