Not a Movie Snob - The Best Movies of 2012

Posted on Monday, January 07, 2013 at 06:00 PM

The Best Movies of 2012

Twice this year I had people tell me, once quite bluntly and once more politely, that I should stop paying so much attention to movies and start paying more attention to things that matter like the news and the real world. I wasn't offended, I know an obsession with all things film related is seen as a waste of time or even life by many people, especially if you're not getting paid for it. But I simply see movies the way other people see cars, or, especially in this country, hockey. The way some people know every little detail about the engine of an automobile from any number of years, or every stat on a player in the NHL, I know a great deal of information on a great deal of movies.

And I feel as though I can't get enough, of the movies themselves, or the info behind them. I don't see this as an act of avoidance in regards to the 'real world.' I don't consider myself ignorant because I know character actor Toby Jones' entire filmography, but couldn't tell you who ran against Harper in the last election. Movies have enriched my life and given me more emotionally enriching experiences than any other non-human thing in the course of it. And in years like the one America just had, with all the heartbreak, all the sorrow, all the seeming hopelessness, would it hurt any one of us to go a film like Life of Pi and be reminded of how beautiful life can be? Sometimes it takes something as silly and unimportant as a movie to do just that.

These are the best films of 2012:

12. Skyfall

Skyfall was probably my most pleasant surprise this year. I've never been a big Bond fan, I haven't seen most of the past films and was expecting much less than I was given. From first scene to last, Skyfall is pure cinematic excitement, with a visual elegance and sharp script to match the man himself. It's not a perfect film, but it's a film whose good bits are so good, they forgive the bad ones. Skyfall is like a reward to the loyal fans who have stuck with the series for so long, through the better entries and the stinkers. After all, we watch the bad movies so we know when we've seen a good one. With Skyfall, you know.

11. Zero Dark Thirty

It's fitting that a film about the hunt for and execution of Bin Laden would be produced with the military precision that Zero Dark Thirty is. Given the subject matter and the ultra-realistic feel, this isn't a very pleasant film to watch. Scenes of torture and bombings have a CNN look to them and you find yourself wondering how much of this director Kathryn Bigelow shot and how much she culled from actual news footage. The controversy that surrounds a film as political, patriotic and detailed as this is almost a given, but don't get bogged down in all that. Just respect this film for what it is: an important document of an important moment in history. Plus, even at 2hrs and 37mins, the tension just does not let up. It doesn't matter if you know how the story ends, witnessing how it got there is an enthralling experience. 

10. Killing Them Softly

Sometimes it takes multiple viewings before a picture will click. The first time I saw Killing Them Softly, I liked it, but it didn't click the way it did the second time I saw it. An aspect of the narrative which was not clear to me the first time around suddenly presented itself and took the whole film up a notch. I won't say what it was as I think it would be much more rewarding for you to come to it on your own, but it's pretty brilliant. Killing Them Softly is a bleak film, maybe the bleakest on the list, with thugs and stupid kids getting themselves in hot water and paying for it in graphic and shocking ways. It's not a film for the squeamish, but there's a lot to love. I think it creates the oppressive atmosphere because it's an oppressive story and while it boats the most unique and, dare I say, beautiful killing scene of the year, the feeling it leaves you with is, don't get mixed up in crime, it's an ugly, messy business. So a positive message then? That's debatable. 

9. Lawless

Another film featuring thugs and gangsters, though this one glamourizes the life a bit more than Killing Them Softly did. Another very violent film about bootleggers going to war with a one man army in Guy Pearce's lawman. I just found everything about Lawless top notch. The direction, writing, performances. A film that cemented the rise of one of my favourite new actors in Tom Hardy. We'll just pretend This Means War never happened.

8. The Dark Knight Rises

One thing I love about The Dark Knight Rises is that there were all these critics who when the film came out, expressed their displeasure with it. 'Good, but not great.' I was one of them! And still, the movie made it on to every one of our top ten lists. I think that really speaks to the power of this film. No, it's not as good as The Dark Knight, we all know that, let's stop comparing them. I think the best way to take Rises is as the final slice of a whole pie. The Dark Knight Trilogy. And as a whole pie, we developed a taste for it with the first piece, got the sweetest, juiciest piece with the second, and with the third stopped just this side of gluttony which left us feeling full, slightly bloated, but altogether satisfied. And what if Nolan comes back with a fourth entry? Well, I think I may just puke and then the whole pie will be ruined.

7. The Life of Pi

This was the best big screen experience I had in 2012. The film itself is wonderful and wonderfully told. It's an amazing story with a profound message and I can't wait to see it again. But seeing it on the big screen, in 3D (one of the best uses of it), with the immersive sound and the just can't beat an experience like that for $12. I dare you to try. 

6. Killer Joe

Killer Joe was the most directly bananas film of the year. It goes so far past the point of over the top, it's almost giddy with it. Matthew McConaughey solidifies his title as the comeback king and gives what I think is the best performance of his career. The film itself is fairly simplistic, but it's handled with such care by a true pro and a legend in William Friedkin, that it rises above it's B-movie narrative. 

5. Side By Side

Truthfully, the wonderfully informative documentary Side By Side will probably only appeal to those who are as interested in film as I am, but for film buffs (nerds) like me, it's a slice of warm dutch apple on a chilly day. An examination of the war between making movies on old school celluloid film vs. making them on digital, which is cheaper and easier, but sacrifices picture quality. Many of the industry's biggest filmmaking names weigh in on the matter (James Cameron, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, etc.) with the scales seeming to tip towards digital. Keanu Reeves hosts and it's the best contribution he's made to cinema...ever.

4. Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian Sound Studio is the most unique film on this list. It's a film that plays with your expectations and as such you're never entirely sure what you're watching or what's going on and the film is all the better for it. A film deceptively simply about a movie sound man who takes a job in Italy producing sound effects for an Italian horror film. Contains some of the greatest images and by far and wide the best use of sound of the year. A must see little Indie. 

3. The Imposter

2012 was certainly the year of the documentary. So many documentaries of such high quality and interesting subjects, I do not envy the Academy when it comes time to pick the best of them. For my money though, The Imposter has that golden gong in the bag. A documentary that has more suspense and thrills than many of the best thrillers of the last few years, it's compulsively watchable and by the end you'll find yourself unsure of what to believe. 

2. Looper

This was the best film of the year right up until I saw the number one film on this list at the end of December. Director Rian Johnson is batting 1.000 now, adding Looper to Brick and The Brothers Bloom as one hell of a film resume. Looper is such a smart film, you'll find you'll applaud yourself just for keeping up with it. It's action packed and features great performances, half a dozen genres and a more than a couple 'oh snap!' moments. I saw this film more than any other last year and was as entertained and excited throughout it with every single watch. 

1. Django Unchained

Ah, the #1 spot. Does any other film on the list even matter? Well yes, they all do. But of every one of those eleven runners up, none provided the overall entertainment value and pure adrenaline pumping excitement that Django Unchained did. All the Tarantino elements are in place and are executed (no pun intended) with a surgical precision so that we can all rest easy knowing that the Wild Wild West is alive and kicking a whole lot of ass, Tarantino style, and there's no better way to kick an ass than that. 

So there it is. 12 of the gems of '12 to make for another good, but maybe not exemplary year at the movies. There were only three films from 2012 I didn't get a chance to see for one reason or another that I wanted to (Sightseers, The Hunt and Room 237). And there were quite a few films that I wanted to include on the list that didn't quite make it. Rounding out the top 20, in order: Frankenweenie, A Royal Affair, Arbitrage, Wreck-It Ralph, Prometheus, Moonrise Kingdom, Holy Motors and Argo.

And the worst film of the year: Casa De Mi Padre. A film which is not in the least bit funny, exists completely without a point and makes me shake my head as to what Will Ferrell and Adam McKay were thinking when they made it. This Means War was a close runner up.

There is one honourable mention I'd like to make as well. A film which technically I couldn't include on the list as it's first showing was at a film festival in 2011, but which came out in theatres in 2012. Sneaky. The film is called Wild Bill. It's directed by a man with the fantastic name of Dexter Fletcher, who's done a great deal of acting, but this is his first job as helmsman of the ship. And what a job it is. A brilliant family drama about forgiveness, redemption, parental responsibility and bare-knuckle bar brawls. It's worth seeing if you can track it down. It wasn't released in theatres or on DVD in North America for some odd reason, but it's worth the search. 



NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to