I don't consider myself a film critic so much as a film smartass. Which is probably why I often felt like a phony while writing my top ten list. There's a reason so many of these lists have the same movies on them, but it's often difficult to come up with anything interesting to say about The Raid other than, "It's fucking awesome." I mean, everyone knows The Raid was awesome, and everyone knows why it's awesome, even if they haven't seen it yet.
Rather than talk about bests and worsts, let's just talk about some shit that went down and maybe was a bit abnormal or interesting. Here's the stuff I'll remember most about 2012 when I talk about it to my grandkids while they are trying to eat their digital cereal.
So Much Tyler Perry!
Most years, we only get a measly double dose of Tyler Perry in theaters. This year we got three. And, amazingly enough, the strangest, worst made among them was the one he didn't write or direct.
That's not to say Good Deeds or Madea's Witness Protection don't have their moments. Good Deeds in particular has some amazing stuff going on. But neither has that big Tyler Perry oomph I'm looking for.
Instead the biggest dose of TP amazement was courtesy of Alex Cross, Tyler Perry's attempt at making white dudes fall in love with him by starring in a PG-13 action film which finds a nice, comfortable home in the utterly nonsensical and sarcastically moral. It's a charmed life to be in love with Tyler Perry, believe me. That was never more true than in 2012.
For all the love found on my top ten list, writing it felt a bit dishonest since there was no way I could include The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, or Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. It's a stretch to call any of these films good, and yet I might secretly have enjoyed them most of all.
No film filled me with more awe and enthusiasm as I watched it than Day of Reckoning. I doubt any comic book movie will ever be as simultaneously massive and abnormal as The Dark Knight Rises. And the conversations I had with movie friends following the release of Prometheus were by far my favorite of the year.
I am so, so, so thankful for these three films. It's not that they were bad, or even that they were so weird. It's more that they're so close to being amazing. There's a very specific something about this trio that keeps me coming back, as if they're each just one rewatch away from suddenly working. Maybe someday they will. Day of Reckoning in particular has a good shot.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance gets its own special slot. I ponder this movie a lot more than you'd think. It's awful and not really defensible from any angle. But for some reason the Ghost Rider creature/thing perplexes me to a point where I can't just let it go like I would other dumb comic book movies like The Green Lantern or Thomas Jane's take on the Punisher.
While it's true that Nicolas Cage purposefully played up his crazy persona here, (which is not the same as genuine Nic Cage craziness, but, c'mon, isn't boring either), I think there's something special about his Ghost Rider mo-cap work, in which he plays the demon as a drunk, swaying chicken. It's way better than the first one if you ask me.
Shit I Didn't See
I have no idea why, but some films that I should have seen just got by me. Some of it can be blamed on Taiwan, which doesn't get many smaller films. Part of it was my inability to make myself pay for films belonging to whatever genre Anne Karenina belongs to.
I do not expect to enjoy Silver Linings Playbook, but I feel it might make for a really great Sam Strange article. Actually there are many likely Sam Stranges I should see: Dark Shadows, Hitchcock, and Flight would all supply ample inspiration, I bet. I probably won't ever see Les Misérables. It bothers me that I still haven't seen Killer Joe or The Ambassador. I wish I had seen Amour, even if seeing Amour makes you wish you had never seen Amour. I still haven't seen Cosmopolis, Coriolanus, Compliance, or Contraband and tons of other C films. The list goes on and on, and it's a little depressing.
Shit I Did See
This was the first year where I tried to keep track of what movies I watched, a popular hobby among movie fans. My number may go up a couple before the year ends, but right now it's only at 268. I thought for sure I'd break 300. Of those, 72 were from this year.
That Star Wars/Disney Thing
My falling out with Star Wars is far too solid to be solved simply by the news that there will be a new one. Granted, the possibility of more Star Wars raises the chances that some of it might be good, but only slightly. It's not like they handed the keys to Brad Bird or someone. Having said that, this was easily the biggest movie news story of 2012, and I do kind of love the way it suddenly erased Star Wars' status as a four letter word, something that seemed forever impossible a year ago.
This is a thing now. I'm utterly fascinated by it. Whatever the movie, if it comes out in this format, I will be first in line, even though it means I'll have to watch it a second time in 24fps to find out if it was a good movie or not.
48fps is like locking eyes with Hypnotoad. I know it's wrong, but I can't look away. Is it the future? I don't think it's THE future, but I certainly hope it's included. It isn't a gimmick like 3D, and it won't take long for filmmakers to understand how to properly use it. I do believe the clarity's misused on massive mainstream epics. This would be better suited for documentaries, indie films, that sort of thing. Give it to Herzog right now. Actually, give it to Ron Jeremy too, while you're at it.
Overrated Animated Films
Devin put ParaNorman on his list of the year's most underrated films, but nearly ever film fan I talked to adored it. People also seemed head over heels in love with Wreck-It Ralph. Then there was Rise of the Guardians, my favorite of the lot but still a film that was somewhat overpraised.
What is it about good animated films that raises such enthusiasm with so many? I'm not saying it's wrong. In fact I'm kind of jealous. I liked all three of these films, but not nearly as much as everyone else. I truly wish I had because I like to love things.
And then there's Brave, which seemed to underwhelm most people. I didn't think it was the greatest Pixar film ever, but I liked it way more than I expected, perhaps because it had become underrated.
In other words, this was the year I found out my animation receptors were screwed up.
I'm for it.
Poor Jason Statham
Not even counting his voice work in Gnomeo and Juliet, 2011 brought us three Jason Statham films, the deeply flawed Killer Elite, the tonally bonkers Blitz, and the entertaining but overly safe The Mechanic. It was a good year.
2012 only gave us two Statham films and one of them was The Expendables 2 which hardly counts, not because it's an ensemble but because it's hardly a film. Safe was actually pretty good, which is about all I'm asking for with non-Crank Statham. But only one movie? For shame.
Next year looks like it has a chance to be a real improvement with three Stathams in tow: Parker, whatever Homefront is, and whatever Hummingbird is.