My Favorite Movies of 2012

I saw eleven movies this year, so I thought I’d make a top ten list, but include the eleventh film so none of the movies will feel left out. I liked all of them, so I don’t mind having all eleven in the top ten.

11. Mirror, Mirror

This was a fun melodrama. It reminded me of The Great Race. It wasn’t as good, but the prince was a funny Great Leslie sort of person, and the queen was funny.

10. The Avengers

This was a good superhero movie, although I’m not crazy about it. It’s not even in the same league as The Dark Knight movies. Maybe I’m getting too old for summer blockbusters or I’m just not that into comics, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with it. It was well done and fun to watch, and that was it. But special mention goes to Loki, who is the coolest, so I was sad when (SPOILER ALERT) he got defeated. Hopefully he is in the next Thor movie a lot. In fact, they should just make Loki and How He Outsmarted Everyone. I liked him better in Thor, when he was mentally a step ahead the whole time as a trickster god should be.

9. Brave

This is my favorite Pixar movie, mostly because it has the most archery and Scotland. The story is all right and the visuals are amazing, but the accents! And the archery! And the Scotland! It was awesome. If you don’t have Scottishness as an important criterion on your list of things a movie should have lots of, then I can see why you might not like it as much as I did. But either way, it’s fun. See it in 3D if you can; the visuals deserve it.

8. The Amazing Spider-Man

This was a good origin story. I enjoyed it even more than the one that came out last decade. But the 3D spiders in the opening title gave me the willlies.

7. Skyfall

This was a good spy film in the tradition of the post-Bourne era. Less cheesy fun, more realism. The ending part of the movie was gorgeous. I love old architecture and it features a lot of that. This film also made me realize that Christopher Nolan could do a Bond film. Before I thought Bond wasn’t right for him, much like how Nolan isn’t who you’d get to helm an Adam West Batman movie. But James Bond has matured like Nolan’s Batman did, so at this point a Nolan Bond movie makes sense, and would be really awesome.

6. Life of Pi

This isn’t the type of movie I usually see, but I’m glad I did. It’s a great movie as a movie, and also an amazing visual experience. Like Hugo and Avatar, it shows what 3D can do in a skilled filmmaker’s hands. Do not watch this in 2D. Find a friend with a 3D TV and watch it at their house. With their permission of course. I am not advocating trespassing, just to be clear. To summarize: Life of Pi is good, and watching it in 2D is bad (and so is trespassing).

5. John Carter

This movie was a fantastic adaptation of a science fiction classic. The problem for many critics was that it was a little too classic. Like, it was so classic that every fantasy and science fiction adventure story after was built on the foundation it created. So when the hundred-year-old story finally came out as its own movie, it felt derivative because people had already seen what it inspired a hundred times. But remember that it came first, and enjoy it as a fun adventure movie in the old style, and you will like it too.

4. The Secret World of Arrietty

This film is ridiculously pretty. It’s got an old house, a beautiful garden, and Studio Ghibli made it so the animation is gorgeous. And the sound is even more fantastic, with household sounds magnified from the small people’s perspective to make the house seem huge and cavernous (which it is to them). The story and characters are great, and better than the books (it’s based on the Borrowers series). And last but not least, the soundtrack was done by Cécile Corbel, a French Celtic musician who is amazing. Buy all her CDs now. I don’t mean to judge, but if you don’t like her music, then you are probably a bad person who hates kittens and Christmas too.

3. The Hunger Games

I had read the book, and the movie did a fantastic job of adapting it. It had to entertain the audience with a violent movie about how violent entertainment is bad. It relied on suspense, not action, and did the opposite of glamorizing violence. It made the horror of being selected for the games, or entering the arena from the safe, festive pre-game area feel much more real than the book did.

2. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan is my favorite filmmaker. He is awesome. His movies are always smart, exciting, and just really good. Inception is my favorite movie ever, and I love his Batman movies as well. This one was a brilliant finish to the trilogy. Hans Zimmer outdid himself again with the soundtrack.

  1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Hypothetically, suppose there was a movie that was boring, but watching it would cure you of cancer. Well, I guess first suppose you had cancer, and then make the previous supposition. Surely the film would be your favorite movie of the year. Giving The Hobbit the number one spot is for analogous reasons. The Hobbit was great as a movie, but it was not the best movie of the year. However, as an adaptation of an epic fantasy classic, it was brilliant. Epic fantasy fans love worlds full of backstory, so it feels like a real place and not just a backdrop for a plotline and some characters. The Hobbit doesn’t relentlessly follow the plotline, and in another movie I’d just call it plodding pacing. But for those who grew up reading about the mythology of middle earth, it’s a delight to spend some quality time there without a constant race to tick off the plot points until the finish. The Dark Knight Rises was a better film, but The Hobbit is special as a new way to experience Middle Earth, and for me that transcends the value of being a better movie.

Thank you for reading my blog! Stop now if you wish to avoid the anti-Luddite ranting part and have a nice day! Especially if you are a Luddite who doesn’t want the error of your ways pointed out to you.

Speaking of The Hobbit, there have been a lot of complaints about the high frame rate (HFR) in The Hobbit. Peter Jackson film the movie in 48 frames per second, which made the movie look much smoother than the 24 fps pretty much every other movie has been in. The camera could pan and move faster without annoying judder and jerkiness, and everything just looked a lot more real, like you were watching a play where the stage moved around and could zoom. It was unlike the 24 fps movies we have all gotten used to. According to polls, most people like the smoother video once they got used to it, and enjoyed how it was no longer the jerky slideshow that we have come to associate with cinema. But a vocal minority have complained that it ruins the magic since it doesn’t feel like a movie. It does take some getting used to, and no, it doesn’t feel like a 24 fps movie. Oh no, change! There are two ways we can go from here:

  1. We can get used to movies being smooth instead of jerky and have headache-free 3D and a new era of cinematography as filmmakers learn to do new things with the new capabilities of 48 fps.
  2. We can whine about taking the few hours total it will require us to become accustomed to the new format and thus condemn cinema to the jerky, blurry format we were stuck with until recently due to technical (i.e., not artistic) reasons.

I would select the first, but a depressing number of people select the second, so I had to drive 30 miles to see The Hobbit properly the second time since theaters decided not to bother if people would complain anyway. Does film need HFR? No, no more than it needed HD or color. But as with color and HD, people like to create false dichotomies in an effort to discourage progress, because it means change when the status quo is easier. For example, people have said things like, “I prefer a good storyline to ____,” where ____ is the latest technical advance in film, such as HFR, 3D, color, sound, etc. But it’s not one or the other. Did being 24fps and 2D do anything to improve the latest Adam Sandler movie? Change for change’s sake is not necessarily good, but it is foolish to resist change for status quo’s sake. HFR takes getting used to, but it’s worth it.

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