With the Sundance Film Festival right around the corner, and the turn of the new year not too far in the rearview, I figured it was a good time to reflect a bit on my favorite flicks of 2012. Several of them debuted right here in Utah last January.
Here ya go, my 10 favorite movies of 2012, in no particular order:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Never read the book, which director Stephen Chbosky adapted himself for this slice of teen life. And I've never seen a Harry Potter movie, so the fact this was Emma Watson's first major role since her run in that series didn't mean anything to me. The promise of a new generation's The Breakfast Club intrigued me, and this movie certainly captures the humor and harsh realities of adolescence in spades. The movie (pictured above) really belongs, in my mind, to Ezra Miller--that guy is going to be a major star.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
A documentary about a master sushi chef and the unusual family dynamic of working with his son at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo subway. The food looks incredible, the passion of one man's lifelong pursuit of perfection is palpable, and the message about the ocean's demise as Jiro shops for fish worthy of his knife is important. Great stuff.
West of Memphis
As someone who for years has followed the West Memphis Three case about three teenage boys falsely accused of murder in a small Arkansas town, through books and multiple documentary films, I was skeptical of what new information could be had in this film produced by Peter Jackson. Turns out, quite a bit, as this chapter of the story tracks the involvement of celebrities like Jackson, Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp in pursuing justice. The trio were released from prison during the production of the film, making for the best happy ending of the year.
Silver Linings Playbook
I literally saw this one the last day of 2012, and feel fortunate that I did. It handles mental illness in an unblinking fashion, it holds a love story between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence that is full of humor, and the family drama includes warm, winning performances from powerhouse actors Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver. Maybe my most pleasant surprise of the year.
Excellent performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis drive this story that, on the surface, is a futuristic sci-fi thriller. At its heart, though, it's an entrancing look at mortality, albeit one with some great action sequences.
The world seems divided between Wes Anderson fans and Wes Anderson haters, and I'm certainly a fan. And while Moonrise Kingdom is most assuredly a classic Anderson movie, complete with his distinct visuals and killer soundtrack. Even so, it also his most straightforward love story, one that even the haters might appreciate.
I'm fully on board with Ben Affleck as a director, and this action-adventure story based on the true story of American embassy workers who hid with Canadian allies through the Iranian hostage crisis of the late '70s was both a vivid reminder of some not-so-distant history, and a remarkably well-made political thriller.
I've seen a lot of Bob Marley documentaries. I mean, a LOT. And this one, which debuted at Sundance in 2012, is easily the class of the lot, mixing the most in-depth interviews with Marley's family and friends with some stunning live clips that remind you why Marley is such a revered figure more than 30 years after his death.
Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt's 2012 will be remembered by most for his bizarre perfume ad, because not nearly enough people saw him in this organized-crime tale. That's a shame, because between Pitt's stone-cold killer and his unhinged friend played by James Gandolfini, Killing Them Softly provided some of the best performances of the year.
Sleepwalk With Me
Another Sundance fave from 2012, Mike Birbiglia's seeming autobiographical look at a struggling standup just starting to connect with his comedy just as his relationship seems to be foundering was a touching, and funny, tale well worth checking out.