The best movies of 2012?! I don't want to freak you out, but 2012 is half over. Wait, that's pessimistic! 2012 has half-begun! Wait, that makes no sense.
Either way, you catch my drift, the year is at its midway point and that means it has been six months since I've made a critical top 10 list – and I'm starting to twitch. To that end, I'm taking this opportunity to count down my 10 favorite movies of the first half of 2012, hence this early Best Movies of 2012 list.
I'm presenting this for a few reasons. One is that I'm curious to see how much this list changes by the end of the year. Will 'The Master,' 'Argo,' 'The Hobbit,' 'The Dark Knight Rises,' 'Prometheus,' 'Django Unchained,' 'Cloud Atlas' and others radically alter my picks? Also, I am getting this out in the open now so I can steel myself for the hackles of not having 'The Raid: Redemption' on my list in December. I liked the movie a lot, but it didn't stick with me. Just being honest.
Guideline: the movie has to have played in a regular movie theater where ordinary citizens could walk in and buy a ticket. Stuff I saw at Sundance but hasn't come out yet isn't eligible (which means I know of at least 2 films that'd change this up a bit).
For a full, updated list on the Top 20 Movies of 2012, click here.
I claim to be sick of found footage, I claim to be sick of superheroes, then this movie comes along and it absolutely deserves a spot on this list of best movies. Don't tell anyone, but when I went to bed the night after seeing 'Chronicle' I dreamt that I, too, got magic space powers that let me whirl Flip cams around my head as I took flight and smashed up Seattle.
Best part: The moment you realize you're watching an origin story of a super-villain not a superhero. (It's out on Blu-ray already, it's not a spoiler!)
Beyond the Black Rainbow
A spaced-out 'Eraserhead' for the younger generation, this is a trip to an alternate universe 1983 where all that was promised to us in Omni Magazine and Rush album covers has come true. Cribbing from sources like 'The Brood, 'THX-1138,' 'Star Crash,' 'Blue Sunshine' and a dozen other cult classics, this is a slow-burn, moody bit of mind control that speaks of wonderful things to come from this first time filmmaker.
Best part: Opening 16mm info reel of the Arboria Institute tied with line “Bring home the motherlode, Barry.”
What if a drive-in exploitation picture were crafted by our most fastidious filmmaker? That's kinda what 'Haywire,' is – a direct, action-packed flick that hums along to its own definition of perfection and it earns its spot on as one of the best movies of 2012 so far. Gina Carano wields the force of a Sherman tank, but is still feminine enough to fill out the Black Widow outfit. I want her to be in two action movies a year.
Best part: This one move she does in a hallway after chasing a guy, jumping up on a wall before crashing down on him – straight out of a video game.
About three nights a week I have nightmares about being in a plane crash and then stuck somewhere beyond rescue. (It's no way to live! I have to start going to bed drunk more often.) Joe Carnahan's 'The Grey' took survival horror to the next level by balancing the emotional development of the characters with the physical violence. When you have great actors like this, it's a bet that is going to work... and keep your audience tied up in knots.
Best part: Tree-jump.
The Cabin in the Woods
A love-letter to late night movie lovers, this whacked-out, paranoid, bloody comedy doubles-down on its own cleverness and wins big. Anyone who tells you you can't mix genres clearly hasn't watched this film and is missing out on one of the best movies of the year.
Best part: Waiting for those elevators to ding open tied with the white board.
5 Broken Cameras
Emad Burnet and Guy Davidi
I know. There's nothing you want to see less than a first person diary from one of the world's horrible war zones. I sure as hell didn't want to see it and didn't anticipate it making a list of the best movies of the year. But what '5 Broken Cameras' does so well is mix in everyday life with the demonstrations and police state brutality. There's also a built-in cinematic gimmick. We know at the beginning that our central character gets five of his cameras busted. With each hurled rock we wonder “is this gonna' be the one to take out camera number three?”
Best part: If this were fiction, I'd cite the marital unrest or the murder of a comrade as dramatic high points. Can't really do that when it is real life.
Damsels in Distress
I still don't know where this one came from. A surrealist romp through a fetishistically chaste (but then shockingly NOT chaste!) coeducational college where the men are complete idiots and the women are all suicidal. It's intensely silly, but once you get on its wavelength the language becomes music and you can't help but dance.
Best part: Cathar beliefs.
Four years ago Marvel's head of production said there would be an Avengers movie and I thought, “well, he's got to float those stories in the press to keep interest going.” Then it happened and I had to pinch myself. Its very existence was enough to make me grateful, but the fact that it SO SO SO SO good is just something of a miracle.
Both in front of and behind the camera, it is a team-up of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and not just a pop-culture phenomenon but actually one of the best movies of 2012.
Best part: It's a movie of 100 best parts, but I love when Tony Stark zaps Bruce Banner to playfully check if he'll Hulk-out. They're best friends! Science friends!
Sound of My Voice
A paranoid-as-all-hell leap into the world of new age cults, 'Sound of My Voice' makes some of the best use of ambiguity and cognitive dissonance yet put to film. Nothing about what Brit Marling's character is pushing makes sense, yet she's able not only to turn our investigators into believers, but the audience, too. And that basement: with clean carpeting you can almost smell. So creepy! This was my Best Movie of 2012 until I saw our #1 film...
Best part: Everything about Brit Marling's nuanced and contradictory performance.
Everything Wes Anderson has ever done has been leading to this. It's the most precise, mannered and art-directed movie that's come along in quite some time, so if that in-camera preciousness irks you, this will make your head explode. If you are a fan (and I am, though I've parted with Anderson in the past) this is a gooey, syrupy delight from the first frame until the last. 'Moonrise Kingdom' proves that you can be playful and fantastic while expressing deep sentiment at the same time. It's worthy of getting the title of Best Movie of 2012 (so far).