Myke's Favorite Movies of 2012

Posted by on Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Whenever people ask me what my favorite movies are I've always had a hard time responding. Which is weird because I love movies and I see a fair amount of them. I just don’t process and collect them as favorites -- I’m not talking about a physical or digital collection here -- the same way I do music. Usually I when I see a movie, I see it once and that’s it. Sure, there are plenty of movies I see multiple times, but even the ones I really like, I might not take time to watch again. An album or song, on the other hand, I will listen to time and again. Music is far more consumable that way. Because I don’t get as familiar with movies, beyond The Empire Strikes Back, which I’ve seen a thousand times, I've had a hard time telling people what my favorites are.

I noticed this and during 2012 I tried to make a more concerted effort to recognize what I like and appreciate (and don't like) in the movies I see. So here is a list of my favorite movies of 2012. I’m not saying these are the best movies of the year. Just my favorites. Here they are:

10. The Intouchables
What can I say, I love French films. Based on a true story, a rich quadriplegic finds friendship and a new new lease on life in unconventional ways when he hires a petty criminal as his caretaker. It was also the first movie I went to with my girlfriend so there’s some sentimental attachment to it as well. (Technically, this movie came out in 2011 in France. It wasn’t released in the US until 2012 so I’m counting it here.)

9. Moonrise Kingdom
So I didn’t love this movie as much as everyone else did. But it cracked my top ten list so I obviously did like it quite a bit (even my mom really liked it). That said, I love Wes Anderson’s attention to visual detail. I would love to live in the Bishops’ house or go camping in Scout Master Ward’s tent.

8. Robot and Frank
Frank (Frank Langella) is a retired, aging burglar who is given a robot by his son (James Mardsden) to help care for him as dementia sets in. Frank is initially opposed to the robot aide, but once he trains the robot to be an accomplice in robbery, Frank’s attitude changes. My only complaint with this movie is Liv Tyler. She's done a fine job in every other movie I've seen her in, but in Robot and Frank, even the robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) manages to seem more human.

7. Poulet aux prunes
Set in Terhan, Iran, Poulet aux prunes (Chicken With Plumes) is a French film based on a graphic novel of the same name (which I would love to get my hands on). It’s the story -- a pretty sad one, at that -- of a renowned violinist, Nasser Ali (Mathieu Almaric) and his search for inspiration after his wife destroys the special violin a mentor gave him.

6. Hitchcock
To my knowledge, I’ve seen two Hitchcock movies in my life (remember, I’ve never claimed to be any sort of movie buff), so I didn’t have any hopes or expectations going into this one. I really enjoyed it. Hitchcock tells the story of the filming of Psycho. Excellent performances by a portly Anthony Hopkins (as the man himself), Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson.

5. Argo
Hollywood always embellishes true stories and Argo is no exception. That said, many of the events in this film did happen. The second film on this list set in Terhan, Argo is a fantastic tale of the cooperation between the Canadian government and CIA operatives posing as a film crew set on extracting six US diplomats involved in the Iran hostage crisis in Terhan that took place from November 1979 to January 1981. In spite of (because of?) the Hollywood embellishment, Argo is a great movie. And who doesn’t love Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and Bryan Cranston (is anyone else going through Breaking Bad withdrawals? I don’t know what I’ll do when that show ends)?

4. Bernie
Yet another true story, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is an assistant mortician in a small Texas town. He is loved by the people and the only friend to the rich, unfriendly widow, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Until the day he murders her. Jack Black’s best role ever? Maybe.

3. My number two movies are tied so I’m skipping number three altogether.

2. Lincoln (tie)
Daniel Day-Lewis. As Abraham Lincoln. I could stop right there. But in doing so, I would fail to acknowledge the awesome performances given by Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, although my favorite non-DDL performance would have to go to James Spader as W.N. Bilbo. I wonder if some people disliked this movie because there were only a couple Civil War action scenes. To me, the lack thereof was what made this movie good. The drama involved in passing the 16th amendment was so interesting. Daniel Day-Lewis should be up for an Oscar here (though I hope it goes to Hugh Jackman; DDL already has a couple).

2. Les Misérables (tie)
This movie received maybe a little too much hype. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. My first experience with Les Mis was a Broadway production in New York City in 2007. My favorite scene then, and in this movie, is at the very beginning when the gendarmes bring Jean Valjean back to the bishop for stealing the bishop’s silver after he had fed and housed Valjean for the night. The bishop corroborates Valjean’s story and convinces the gendarmes that he did in fact give Valjean the silver, and goes a step farther and gives him the silver candlesticks that Valjean did not steal. That act of forgiveness and grace made me teary-eyed both times. How foreign that act must have been for Valjean, who had known only accusing unfairness his whole life. No wonder he changed and became such an example of grace.

That the singing in this movie was filmed live and not overdubbed later is part of what makes this movie great.

I’ve always loved Hugh Jackman. I was happy to see him score the role of Jean Valjean and then straight-up nail it. And finally, people can stop hating Anne Hathaway for no reason.

1. Safety Not Guaranteed
This wasn’t the best movie I saw this year. Many of the films listed above are better. This one was just my favorite. This movie was inspired by an ad that appeared in a local Washington newspaper in 1997:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

Jeff, Darius, and Arnau (played by Jake Johnson, Aubrey Plaza, and Karan Soni, respectively) are magazine employees who set off to investigate the ad and the man who wrote it. Predictably, yet pleasantly, Darius falls for Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the ad’s author. It’s Aubrey Plaza (who I love on Parks and Rec) and Mark Duplass that make this movie shine.

My only real complaint is how quickly and conveniently the ending wraps up. But the movie’s great heart and a couple well-placed Star Wars jokes make the somewhat weak climax forgivable.

Here are several honorable mentions, in no order:

The Hobbit
This was one of the best books I read all year. How I made it 30 years without reading it is a true shame. Oh yeah, the movie was pretty good too.

Katy Perry: Part of Me
I dig Katy Perry. Get off my back.

My dad and my siblings have a standing tradition to see any new James Bond movie the weekend it opens. Not as good as Casino Royale, my favorite Bond film, but still a solid addition to the franchise. Did the ending remind anyone else of Home Alone?

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Hushpuppy was one of the best characters in any movie all year.

The Dark Knight Rises
I think people were expecting more from this movie. It’s Batman and Christopher Nolan, what more do you want? Batman is another series that I love watching with my siblings.

The Hunger Games
The movie was better than the book. So much that I don’t have a desire to read the book ever again. Jennifer Lawrence was awesome. Also, I love Woody Harrelson.

The Avengers
Most likely the best Marvel movie ever made. Joss Whedon nailed it.

Movies I’m looking forward to in 2013:

The Young and Prodigious Spivet
I read the book on which this movie is based because I heard Jean-Pierre Jeunet (my favorite French director; he did Amélie and so many other great movies) was directing the book adaption. The book was also one of the best I read all year.

The Wolverine
Again, I love Hugh Jackman, and I’ve always been a huge X-Men/Wolverine fan. Here’s hoping this ends up better than with the first Wolverine movie.

The Great Gatsby
I love American classics. I’m anxious to see how this adaptation turns out.

Star Trek: Into Darkness
I feel like you either love or hate J.J. Abrams. I’m in the former camp.

Ender’s Game
One of the best science fiction novels ever, this movie will either be incredible or terrible.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Just kidding.

One Comment

  1. I loved reading this. So funny to compare it to Thomas's reviews a few days ago.

    I had the same thought flash through my mind as Bond and M and the gamekeeper were setting up the house, but it was way more suspenseful that Mackauly Culkin.

    As for Oscar, DDL may have won the award already, but I think he was better than Jackman. Despite your mother's crush on the Aussie.


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