The 2012 cinema landscape is so varied, so dynamic, and filled with films both faithful to genres and stories, and exact subversions of them. It’s not only hard to compare films with different tones, genres, and intents, but probably unfair too.
The end of the year, however, is about simplicity, and list. Thus, here are 10 great movies of the year ranked in order; it is a list meant for this day and this moment, and could very well change days from now. Nonetheless, I think these are among the best that 2012 had to offer.
10. The Cabin in the Woods
This genre-bending film from the minds of Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon does a lot of things really well, including humour. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford should have their own TV show. There is plenty of blood, and lots of winking and nodding along the way leading up to an incredibly enjoyable ending to this deliciously ridiculous film.
9. Ruby Sparks
Another film that alters or even subverts a genre, this romantic-comedy of sorts wonders if we even know what we want for ourselves, let alone what we want of a partner. It’s initial charm transforms into frustration and fear, and the film smartly never becomes a cliché it could so easily be. Plus it’s about a writer—writers are awesome.
8. [REC]³ Génesis
This is a horror film first and foremost, but a daring one that incorporates genuine humour, love, and drama better than anyone else. We are drawn into a beautiful wedding with the handheld documentary style of filmmaking, and then thrown into chaos amid a zombie attack. The traditional film style returns, and we join those left in a quest to reconnect and escape—with bloody results, and a very satisfying and dramatic ending.
With a superb cast (Cranston, Goodman, Arkin, et al) and yes, superb direction, Ben Affleck is able to create so much tension, balanced out with some Hollywood humour, in a story that everyone knows the ending to.
6. Silver Linings Playbook
Despite some unrealistic gambling tendencies, Silver Linings Playbook is enthralling, both heartwarming and distressing. It’s a lot of fun to watch Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence converse on screen, and the showstopper at the end is equally entertaining. Director David Russell never allows the film to get quirky or simple, thankfully, but delivers what is often sorely lacking in movies : a smart, enjoyable film with a happy ending.
5. Rust and Bone
A gut-wrenching film of two dejected and self-torturing souls that collide with one another is incredibly acted, and gripping throughout. Stephanie loses her legs after an accident at Sea World, while Alain makes money to take care of her as a streetfighter. It’s so well done and powerful in fact, that it will make you enjoy Katy Perry’s ‘Firework.’ Yep.
4. Stories We Tell
This Sarah Polley doc is benefitted from not knowing anything about the story beforehand, and if you went in blind, you were treating to a fascinating family drama, recreated creatively and compellingly by Ms. Polley. If you knew what to expect, it was still a film that questions not only what we remember, but how we remember.
3. Holy Motors
Leo Carax’s mind bending film may or may not be something spectacular and powerful—the director has admitted it doesn’t really mean much of anything. We know that’s not true, as his meta-movie that comments on the art of acting, the duty of the actor, and the role of the audience, is a lively and irresistibly enjoyable film that needs to be watched by everyone.
Simultaneously taking a new path while paying homage to the past, the newest James Bond is a taut, stylish, and compelling drama bookended by two great action sequences. Javier Bardem is memorable as a villain that is more plagued than sinister, and when the film finally ends, you are left wanting the next one to start right away.
1. Zero Dark Thirty
Technically it’s a 2012 film, I say, even though it doesn’t come out in wide release until the second week of January. It is tension-filled, brilliantly executed, and the last thirty minutes will leave you rapt and breathless. Mind you, you already know the story, and the ending. It’s that good.