I love films. I love films not just for the entertainment value, but for the fact that films have a capability to transform us individually and collectively. I can still remember where I was and how I was changed from watching The Mission, Do the Right Thing, The Shawshank Redemption, and Hotel Rwanda, among others. Films can lift us above the mire and routine of our daily lives and show what opportunities await us in the here and now to change the world. Even more, when we watch a film in honesty and vulnerability, films can mirror to us who we are and where we need to change and grow ourselves. So, in many ways for me, films have been means of grace; ways in which God has infused a greater degree of holiness into my life.
So, I wanted to share with you the best and worst films of 2012. I am listing these in the order in which they were released, not necessarily in the order in which I am ranking them.
These are films that somehow touched me, spoke to me, did something more than just entertained me or occupied my time with sensory overload. These are the films I would want to see again because there is something of value in them, even if that value is only to me. Films are like that. They can speak to one person and to no one else. So, you may disagree with my list and I would love to know if you agree or disagree so be sure and let me know below!
Best Films of 2012
Rock of Ages (June 15) - Yep, I know I will get some razzing for this, but I loved it. It was a flop, the critics hated it, but I am a sucker for 80s music. I thought Tom Cruise actually pulled off being a narcissistic rock icon, and there was a cameo by Kevin Cronin, the lead singer of REO Speedwagon. Hey, what more do I have to say? My only critique is that they chose the wrong song from REO for the film. They put in I Can't Fight this Feeling, which certainly is an 80s staple. But any REO fan will tell you for this film, Rock N Roll Star is the ticket. Amateurs.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (June 22) - Not a good film for a pick-me-up, but yes, the world does end. Sorry to spoil it for you. But the journey two people engage in together as their world is literally crashing down around them and their character development was powerful to watch. They really deepened themselves, one another and they learned to love and be vulnerable. Their personal growth, which culminates with the ending scene, was inspiring.
The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) - Finally a summer movie that lives up to its hype. I think the approach to Batman was refreshing throughout the trilogy - a dark personal struggle for Batman, weighing his personal passions and struggles with his duty and responsibility. All of those who serve can resonate on some level with this. The best one of the trilogy was of course the second with Heath Ledger playing the Joker. This was not better than that, but did not do damage to the series and more than lived up to the billing, even when our lack of gun laws allowed someone to shoot up a movie theater in Aurora, CO.
Hope Springs (August 8) - I wavered on this one a bit for, of all things, what I felt were lackluster performances by Streep, Jones, and even Carell, whose character seemed listless. Still, I felt like the story was a good one, it had a nice ending, and since I saw it with my wife, it makes the list. At the very least, I felt challenged to avoid the marriage we see at the beginning of the film.
The Campaign (August 10) - OK, it was horrible, but it was timely and I needed to laugh at politics so it make the best list. At any other time, it is one of the worst, but man, it was funny. Will Farrell is just plain funny, perhaps the funniest guy alive today. An d I laughed out loud during the film and in my car on the way home.
End of Watch (September 21) - Powerful, gripping, and incredibly intense. There was a greater depth to the characters than I imagined there would be. I liked Colors in 1988 and this was what Colors, in many respects, aspired to be. Great film, but not for the faint of heart.
Argo (October 12) - This film, along with The Town, marks Ben Affleck as one of the better Director/Actors we have around today. This film was excellent from beginning to end. I had wished for a more critical look at the historic failure of U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East, but I got the feeling Affleck, given his liberal political leanings wanted to especially avoid that so as not to repel half his audience. But this film excels on every level and I would gladly see it again.
Flight (November 2) - Denzel Washington is the best actor alive today. This film was incredibly powerful and showed the slow, excruciating, unraveling downhill trajectory of addiction and how it does not stop until you are dead or honest with yourself about who you are. I cannot recommend this film enough and I urge churches to view this film and talk about - really talk about addiction. Incredible.
Lincoln (November 9) - This was a great film, but not the greatest of the year. Still, I could heartily resonate with and was deeply inspired by the strategies, planning, and the ultimate success of the passage of the 13th amendment. This was a process film and so was very wordy, but still, it wasn't unnecessary verbiage so it works in the end. Anyone who cares about social change and has regularly experienced the long, hard, cruel upward battle towards implementing that social change into real legislation knows the sting of crushing defeat all too often. Seeing the real-life victory of something that changed our nation forever was welcome indeed and made this film a must-see.
The Silver Linings Playbook (November 21) - I love films that have a certain cringe factor - you can feel the awkwardness and discomfort happening in the scene and you cringe as the characters experience the scene with you. This film has lots of cringe factors - as they fully exhibit their peculiarities/foibles/mental illness behaviors - whatever you want to call it. But the characters are also lovable and you cannot help but root for them and root for them I did. This has Oscar winning performances and for once, Robert DeNiro is in a film and cannot overpower the others in it. Incredible film because of the actors more than anything.
Worst Films of 2012
Red Tails (January 20) - This was one of the biggest disappointments of 2012 for sure. I had high hopes for this film because of the subject, but a bad script, poor acting, and utter predictability made this a terrible disappointment.
Safehouse (February10) - It is very hard to put anything with Denzel Washington into the worst films category and to be honest, this wasn't dreadful. He made it watchable. But it was fairly typical and thus, entirely forgettable. I honestly forgot I saw this until I looked at the list several times; not a good sign for a film.
Total Recall (August 3) - Not bad entertainment value, but a mindless, narrativeless, and somewhat valueless couple of hours. This is what I hate about summer movies. It is like the movie studios assume we suspend all of our taste and morality, and want to be degraded by having entertainment appeal to our basest appetites and values. Of course, I never saw the first Total Recall (never been an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan), but I doubt that would have helped me with this one. I couldn't follow this very well, but I honestly did not try very hard - not much to follow. Will Colin Farrell ever make a decent film?
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (August 15) - You know those movies that pull of the right strings and make you cry and make you laugh and seem to be perfectly put together - as in too perfectly put together? Yep, this is one of those. I liked it at the time, but it felt like it had been screen-tested (though I do not know if it really was). It all felt like the actors tried too hard - they were too sad, they were too happy, they were too disillusioned, etc. Even the story tried too hard and it felt like a made-up story. It didn't feel natural. Not a horrible film at all, not a great one, just somewhere in between.
Trouble with the Curve (September 21) - No, this is not for Clint Eastwood's ridiculous chair routine at the Republican National Convention. I think that was better than this movie. The story was not entirely a bad one - it was a good story, at least in its conception. But I just never bought the relationship between Eastwood and Amy Adams. I feel like Adams carried Eastwood who is an excellent Director, but whose roles now seem to vary between pissed and grumpy. If I want to spend two hours watching someone always pissed and grumpy, i will just tape myself. I love baseball, but this should have been better.
Wreck-It Ralph (November 2) - I slept through half of this - enough said. I love some animated films, but this was one of those films where you see every funny scene in the previews so there is not much left. D-U-M-B.
Films I Wish I'd Seen
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Brave, The Sessions, Life of Pi, Wanderlust
Films I am Glad I Didn't See
Every horror film made this year and every year, Magic Mike, Red Dawn, This Means War, The Hobbit