Best of 2012 - Jason Coleman's Top Ten Films
December 28th, 2012 11:00am EST
This is it folks – the final list for the year! And as always we’ve saved the best for last with a gaggle of ten of the most original, romantic, brutal, disgusting and thoughtful films to ever grace the vast silver screen. (Or at least the 2012 multiplex mini-screens!) And while there were a gaggle of year-end heavy hitters that missed ("Lincoln" way too long, "Zero Dark Thirty" not enough Bigelow style and "Django Unchained" seriously uneven!), flicks designed for the smart set that came up short ("Beasts of the Southern Wild" had hidden meaning yes, but still needs to be a good movie folks!) and arduous dramas that screamed put me on the list (Time’s Richard Corliss put the painful to watch "Amour" at #1 – did we see the same flick Dick?!), I went with my gut to put together a list I feel is my most interesting and diverse to date. (Or at least the most thorough!) So without delay here is my..."Best of 2012 Top Ten Films."
1. "Sound of Noise" (Magnolia Pictures)
Much like the year I put the underrated "Shotgun Stories" at #1 on my list (then the same duo of Michael Shannon and Director Jeff Nichols went on to do the critically acclaimed "Take Shelter" – told you so!), there was not a single movie that completely captured originality in 2012 more then the Swedish import "Sound of Noise." Part musical romp (a big belly does make for a good base drum!), part detective story (Bengt Nilsson’s cop is a cross between Roberto Benigni and Tony Shalhoub’s "Monk!") and part buck the system drama (illegal music concerts – angry anarchists of the world unite!), "Sound of Noise" takes pride in being a unique tale that’s not programmed, categorized or easily referenced. Movie geeks open your ears – the sound of five-star movie magic is sweet stuff that should not be ignored.
2. "Safety Not Guaranteed" (FilmDistrict)
While films like "Seeking a Friend at the End of the World" and "Silver Lining’s Playbook" showed some serious romantic tendencies this year, both have to bow before the passionate prowess of the lessor known "Safety Not Guaranteed." A love story masquerading as a time travel tale, what makes Safety rise above the frilly emotional fray are the realistic performances within. Especially effective is the connection between disillusioned college gal Aubrey Plaza and crazy but harmless grocery clerk turned time traveller Mark Duplass as two opposites that genuinely attract in a surprisingly real fashion. Big name stars are no guarantee – stellar movie romance works best without a safety net.
3. "Dust Up" (Breaking Glass Pictures)
Firmly filling the grindhouse quotient for the year, "Dust Up" is "Hobo With A Shotgun" for 2012 – only better. Mixing all the things your momma don’t like – sex, violence, violent masturbation, and even a pinch of cannibalism – in one over-the-top funhouse ride, "Dust Up" isn’t afraid to show everything its got. Fortunately what it has are equally fantastic performances by all three leads (Amber Benson as the sensitive and protective mom, Aaron Gaffey as the Snake Plissken-patched loner and Devin Barry as his enlightened Indian companion!) and a bad guy (the unforgettable Jeremiah Birkett!) that’s willing to do things to his enemies you wouldn’t do to a farm animal. (Director Ward Roberts is one sick puppy – thank God!) Comedy, bravado, quirk and cool, "Dust Up" is true midnight fare for sure – and it’s good.
4. "The Raid: Redemption" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Simple premise that equals a not so simple action flick – police squad enters a fifteen-story building to arrest a crime boss and ends up getting trapped inside with gangs of criminals out for blood. This is where the fun begins as trained Officer Rama, as played by the limber Iko Uwais, proceeds down long hallways and confronts every bad guy who gets in the way. Using fists, feet, guns and even broken door leftovers (that’s gotta hurt!), Rama is the perfect fighting machine and his passionate punching prowess is a sight to behold. There is some decent story turns for sure, but saying that this non-stop action ride is anything other then a fist full of fun would be like saying Lincoln moves at a fast pace. No need for lies when the truth hurts so good.
5. "The Divide" (Anchor Bay Films)
Finally Director Xavier Gens gets big studio off his back (we want the "Hitman" director’s cut please!) and gets to make a flick his way. The result is one of the most dark, disturbing and brutally honest depictions of life in a confined space after a nuclear blast I’ve ever seen and it’s not pretty. Working with a killer concept and an exceptional cast that brings their A-game (Michael Biehn and Rosanna Arquette are truly at their best!), Gens shows what a visionary director let to his own demonic devices can create – talent untouched is mind-blowing stuff.
6. "Argo" (Warner Bros.)
Not only is the progression of Ben Affleck as a director so evident with "Argo," but also the flawless polish of Ben as a performer has never been so clear. Working with a real life story, Affleck still manages to infuse his own signature style of deep drama and classic characters amidst having to hit certain reality based beats. Not that the original story for "Argo" isn’t fascinating, but Affleck shows the precision of Sidney Lumet and Steven Soderbergh by knowing exactly when to stop and start. Plus his cast is exceptional – from the colorful Alan Arkin as a cocky Hollywood producer to "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" alum Scoot McNairy as one of the scared Embassy gents – and shows Affleck’s eye for true talent. "Argo" is just a case of matching the right folks with the right material and for Affleck I hope Oscar becomes his new right hand man.
7. "Beyond the Black Rainbow" (Magnet Releasing)
Why this loving homage to all things early David Cronenberg and Dario Argento didn’t captivate those who saw is beyond me, but there’s some very unforgettably haunting work within. From the mind of Panos Cosmatos, son of the late 80’s visual master George P. Cosmatos, Rainbow shows the filmmaking apple doesn’t fall far from the style ridden tree. Mixing stark colors and sets with some serious twisted story turns, Panos’s unique look at the affect of obsession on both the beholder (a very creepy Michael Rogers) and his sad subject (the mute but magnificent Eva Allan) is harrowing and mind altering stuff. And with a synthesized score and desire to be demented, Beyond goes past the point of being another strange flick – there’s a black method to this magnetic moody madness.
8. "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai" (Tribeca Film)
Following up the powerfully rich action work he created with 13 Assassins," Japanese maverick Takashi Miike thankfully decided to take on the samurai subject again, only this time from a place of quiet power. Unforgiven for the sword set, "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai" is a deep dramatic examination of the trained fighters, their laws and what makes them tick. It’s also a sad tale of the lengths folks are willing to go to protect, save and avenge the ones they love. Code, honor and tradition – Miike’s still the man with the samurai plan.
9. "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (Magnolia Pictures)
There was no shortage of dynamic docs this year ("Detropia," "Searching for Sugar Man" and "West of Memphis" to name a few!) but for some reason the calm and quiet precision of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is the one that did it for me. A simple story of an 85-year old sushi master who runs an iconic little restaurant in a local train station (and yes, there is a two year waiting list!) is so inspiring that one can’t help but be in awe. Especially when watching Jiro Ono handcraft each and every piece of sushi that hits a plate in his presence – art never tasted so good.
10. "Skyfall" (MGM/Columbia Pictures)
Having loathed both "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace," I was pleasantly surprised to see that Craig and company finally got it right this time. Taking the proverbial corncob out of his butt this go around, Craig’s Bond via "Skyfall" shows the charm, class and a sense of humor that we have come to expect from 007. And with the help of helmer Sam Mendes we get all the Bond trimmings in the form of Q (a sassy Ben Whishaw!) and his gadgets, an Austin Martin, a cool song that actually has the title in it (Adele sings like Shirley Bassey!) and even a little Moneypenny action. But the capper for this Bond love fest is the inclusion of baddie Javier Bardem who plays one of the coolest and creepiest villains to date – oh, Mr. Bond!
Yin and yang. Good and bad. Here are five flicks you want to be sure to miss!
1. "Dark Horse" (Vitagraph Films)
Take all the weird out of a Todd Solondz film and instead infuse it with a character neither the audience nor anyone in the film can stand and you’ve got some seriously watered-down Todd. (Growing up sucks ass!)
2. "Cosmopolis" (eOne Films)
What the frig happened to my Cronenberg? First it was go for the Oscar gold with the subpar "A Dangerous Method" and then even when he went back to all things odd, boredom still reared its ugly head. What gives? Using a one-note wonder Robert Pattinson as his lackey of choice (I don’t care what Ebert says, that performance was damn dull!), Cronenberg turns in his most mundane and mindless effort to date – even the title screams...huh?
3. "Taken 2" (20th Century Fox)
Take all the great things that made the first film a five-star ride and throw them right out the window. Make Liam Neeson’s character not just a man of quick decisive action but a long sparring fighter (makes sense at his age!), lose the tension between Neeson and estranged wife Famke Janssen and finally speed up all fights and action sequences ala the inept Olivier Megaton (why is that hack still directing?!) and you’ve officially got a sequel that sucks.
4. "Sinister" (Summit Entertainment)
A total and utter waste of time and space, the only reason I graced "Sinister" with my presence was because star Ethan Hawke proclaimed that the sensational script was what drove him to make the film. Hey Ethan, I’ve got a blockbuster my 3-year-old wrote on his etch-a-sketch you won’t want to miss brother.
5. "That’s My Boy" (Columbia Pictures)
After this unfunny fest can we finally agree to send hack Adam Sandler to the unfunny farm and never open the barn door again? What’s funny here, why would Andy Samberg be in this trite and will Sandler finally learn that his kindergarten kid accent just isn’t f#cking funny anymore? (Or at least not enough to sustain an entire film!) Let’s hope!
SEE YOU ALL IN 2013!!!
Related: Argo, Beyond The Black Rainbow, Cosmopolis, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Sinister, Skyfall, Sound of Noise, Taken 2, That's My Boy, The Divide, The Raid: Redemption, Starpulse Exclusives, Movies, Evergreen
Photo Credits: Photos Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures, Breaking Glass Releasing, Anchor Bay Films, Sony Pictures Classics, FilmDistrict, Warner Bros., Magnet Releasing, Tribeca Film, MGM/Columbia Pictures ,