EDITORIAL: The Best of 2012 (so far)
Coming up on the end of June, we moviegoers have reached the midway point of 2012. Much like last year, I can't say that I've seen much to write about this year, especially when it comes to naming the "Best of 2012." As a lowly part-time internet critic in Chicago, I didn't have access to the trendy film festivals like Sundance in January or Cannes in May where a wealth of great films are born. With the limited release of many highly regarded movies (like Moonrise Kingdom, Bernie, Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister's Sister, The Intouchables), I can't see everything, but I try.
Nevertheless, I think I've seen just one movie that might make a year-end "10 Best" list. Last year, about the same thing happened when just two films, the brilliant Duncan Jones thriller Source Code and Woody Allen's refreshing Midnight in Paris, survived from the halfway list to make the year-end list. Thanks to the awards-centered planning of movie moguls, the end of the year is always back-loaded with quality. I'll offer some insight later in this editorial on those movies to watch for. For now, here are the best movies and performances of 2012 (so far). Since we are only halfway, the typical "10 Best" lists are reduced to just five and, in keeping with my website's theme, they are accompanied by their best life lesson.
THE 5 BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
1. Prometheus-- My #1 choice of 2012 so far is a no-doubter. Prometheus is the best film I have seen so far this year and had me glued to my seat. I have full confidence that it will make a return appearance in my year-end "10 Best" list. Ridley Scott's return to science fiction was brilliantly detailed, challenging, and gorgeously made. It blends the right amount of smarts, menace, and fascination to breathe new life into Ridley's original creation. (my full review)
ITS BEST LESSON: BIG THINGS HAVE SMALL BEGINNINGS-- Michael Fassbender's android David proclaims this memorable quote and he couldn't be more right. The smallest organisms can cause disease and epidemics. Single cells develop into complex lifeforms that multiply into a species and civilizations. Even various technologies, codes, and algorithms combine together to create David himself and small problems that could have been prevented become big problems in a hurry when left unchecked.
2. The Avengers-- The only other five-star review I've given this year was for Marvel Studio's immense blockbuster and crowd-pleaser from May. I know my five-star rating is high and more reflective of my amazement and appreciation (and connecting geekness) towards the blueprinted effort that Marvel has done to combine the characters and timelines of five lead-up movies. This final product, though, delivered on its ambition and promises. Few blockbusters in recent memory have genuinely delivered on expectations and still been this satisfying of a culmination. (my full review)
ITS BEST LESSON: WORKING AS A TEAM-- Once you get a team assembled and motivated, they have to work together, not against each other to succeed. On this team, each big-time player brings a different skill set of strengths and abilities that must be utilized properly and in the right moments in battle.
3. The Grey-- This is where the drop-off occurs on this midway list. So far this year, I don't see any of my four-star reviewed films (five in total) making it onto my year-end list. The Grey was rated high by me for its sheer suspenseful entertainment. Offering another hauntingly intense performance from Liam Neeson (who seems to have found a new Brosnon/Eastwood-esque niche in his 50's), the movie pulses with bloody thrills and determination that sticks to your psyche. (my full review)
ITS BEST LESSON: THE DEEP INTERNAL MOTIVATIONS OF SURVIVAL-- Survival is an instinct and an emotion that calls up a will and determination that is unique with every individual. Each person's internal motivation, and the strength of it, is different. Some are motivated by fear, others by hate, and some are driven by reminders of love. In each case, that emotional push undoubtedly comes from within and speaks to a person's character. When pushed to that brink, that will, determination, and character takes over in whatever form is strongest.
4. Take This Waltz-- If there's a movie from this list that might assert itself as an awards contender at the end of the year, it's likely Take This Waltz from director Sarah Polley. Premiering On-Demand in advance of its late June theatrical release, I was able to catch this little gem early. Take This Waltz, with another challenging and award-worthy performance from three-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn, Blue Valentine, Brokeback Mountain), is the kind of frank and engaging drama with curveball twists that resonates with the big-wig critics. (my full review)
ITS BEST LESSON: THERE ARE DECISIONS THAT YOU CAN'T GO BACK ON-- Sometimes, a "new" thing will look like the perfect solution in the moment. However, decisions that come from these moments and this kind of build-up have strong ramifications, behind the "woulda-shoulda-coulda" of if things were different or if times were different. These decisions are the "life-changing" ones that have "no turning back" written all over them. You've gone past the "test drive" or "just this one time" and you must live with the consequences or end result.
5. Brave-- While Brave, Pixar's newest film, is not on the extremely high level with its predecessors like Toy Story 3, Up, and Wall-E, it is still a solid family film. Featuring Pixar's first female lead, first princess, first period piece, and first fairy tale, Brave successfully continues the studio's tradition of unparalleled originality and superior animation quality. (my full review)
ITS BEST LESSON: PUTTING ASIDE PRIDE IN ADMITTING ONE'S FAULT-- Pride is that sin and trait that gets all of us in a lot of trouble. It causes us to say the wrong things, carry the wrong torches, and not see our obvious mistakes. There is a great relief, comfort, and fulfillment in putting the wrongful pride aside in admitting one's fault. It's the right thing to do and you will be glad you did it.
(full reviews are linked):
NOTABLE OR AWARD-WORTHY PERFORMANCES (SO FAR)
Michelle Willams in Take this Waltz
Michael Fassbender in Prometheus
Noomi Repace in Prometheus
Liam Neeson in The Grey
Gina Carano in Haywire
Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers
Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
Josh Brolin in Men in Black 3
Nate Parker in Red Tails
Jason Biggs in American Reunion
THE MOVIES COMING OUT LATER THIS YEAR THAT I EXPECT TO CHALLENGE FOR A SPOT ON YEAR-END "BEST OF 2012" LIST
The Dark Knight Rises (July 19) (trailer)
Lawless (August 29) (trailer)
Gangster Squad (September 7) (trailer)
Killing Them Softly (September 21) (no trailer yet, but here's a clip)
Looper (September 28) (trailer)
Flight (November 2) (trailer)
Skyfall (November 9) (teaser trailer)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14) (trailer)
Les Miserables (December 14) (trailer)
Django Unchained (December 28) (teaser trailer)
The Great Gatsby (December 28) (trailer)
See you in January 2013 to see how it all turns out!