The best and brightest films of 2012

Cabin in the Woods

These are the best films of the last calendar year, 2012, and it’s a baker’s dozen (not the ten that is customary), in alphabetical order nonetheless; so call me lazy—or call it genius…

The Cabin in the Woods—Drew Godard and Joss Whedon took the best things we’ve ever known about horror, and they used it only for their own devilish devises. More of this please—less remakes.

Cosmopolis—As stated previously in my review, this film is a word-for-word adaptation of a book I loved reading, so I’m biased. But everyone should check it out for David Cronenberg is such a phenomenal director: A fact only proved, yet again, but never enough, by watching Robert Pattinson in this film.

Dark Shadows—Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, vampires, werewolves and witches: It sounds good, but it’s on this list because it is.

Detachment—Adrien Brody serves as the protagonist in Tony Kaye’s long-awaited follow-up to American History X. It’s about the public school system, so its heavy lifting, but the burden brought upon by the subject matter is worth its weight in gold. Plus, the use of Edgar Allan Poe at film’s close is jaw-dropping and brilliant.

Flight—Denzel Washington became the second actor to get both an Oscar (he’s got two just to be fair) and a Tony (for Fences), but he’s not the only dog in this fight. Washington leads Robert Zemeckis’ directorial return to live action, and John Goodman continues to prove he’s great as the comedic relief with his supporting role as scene-stealer in this picture.

Killer Joe—Wow: NC-17 got the all-out treatment on this one. Filmmaker William Friedkin (To Live and Die in L.A.) is right at home putting Tracy Letts’ play onscreen, and no matter how far it goes—the words ‘dark’ and ‘humor’ never got this cozy yet so distant—all the lines are blurred; therefore, it all makes sick sense. And the ending leaves you speechless.

Lawless—Auteur theory got another leg up after witnessing this feature, in my book. John Hillcoat keeps the ball rolling for his ascension into legend following an Australian take on spaghetti westerns known as The Proposition and the magnificent adaptation on one of the best books I’ve ever read called simply The Road.

Looper—Selfless trumps selfish every time in this film—and that still amazes me; furthermore, it has Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis playing the same person. Rian Johnson wrote and directed the best movie of this year.

The Man with the Iron Fists—RZA has now become a grand filmmaker. The song that plays over the closing credits is a hard thing with which to argue, because this is Lucy Liu’s best work as an actress. And coming from me (my favorite film is Kill Bill) that certainly says a lot. Check it out.

The Moth Diaries—Molly Harron’s mental-mind-teaser of a feature comes like a thief in the night: It aims for the heart and takes it, too. The female director of American Psycho reminds us of her best work in a film that rewards you for hunting down its soul.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding—The cast of Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chace Crawford and Nat Wolff notwithstanding, this flick makes the grade because it has neither ebb nor flow; it follows its own rhythm.

Savages—Oliver Stone has put his name on a ton of films—and, understandably, not all of them are worthy of his stamp—but this one reminds us of why we feel in love with him in the first place.

Take This Waltz—For the third year in a row, Michelle Williams gives a performance worthy of an Oscar—following My Week with Marilyn from last year and Blue Valentine the year before that—in director Sarah Polley’s second feature in the director’s chair, and much like Polley’s Away from Her, this film is devastatingly human, but it’s still a must-see.