Top 20 Movies of 2012

My favorite blog post of the year, my top 20 movies of 2012.

Yeah, it’s late. But since I don’t actually review movies, I don’t get them sent to me by the studio. I gotta schlep around and wait for them to come to a local theater. That also means I haven’t seen everything that I probably should have seen, but I think I ended up seeing about 50 to 60 movies this year.

If you’ve seen post before, you might know the drill. My college friends and I have been doing yearly movie rankings since 1997, we call it the Orange Street Oscars. You call it awesome.

Anyway, here’s my list of top 20 movies of 2012. And remember, I’ll be live Tweeting the Oscars on Sunday, you can follow along @poprox1:

fully prepared for it to win no oscars, at which time i'll only be slightly disappointed.

1. Silver Linings Playbook: There were a couple movies this year that really hit me on a personal level, a level that went past just how well I thought the words and pictures went together. That’s how I usually judge — words and pictures together. I’ll leave it at this: Silver Linings Playbook is very funny, frustrating, exhilarating, uplifting, scary and beautiful to watch all at the same time. I know too many of the characters in that movie on a very personal and intimate level. The fact that it’s filmed in a place I’ve spent time living makes it all the more personal. It’s up there with Good Will Hunting and Beautiful Girls for me when it comes to the most personally touching movies of the last 15 years.

2. Zero Dark Thirty: While I’d like to see Kathryn Bigelow move out from the whole Middle East motif thing she’s got going, she certainly knows how to make war movies about that area. As good as The Hurt Locker was, Zero Dark Thirty is more polished with a better script and a more mature hand behind the camera. In the final “going after bin Laden” scene that I of course knew was coming, was prepared for it to come and was waiting for it to come, I still got sweaty palms watching it.

3. Avengers: There is no way, none, I could have predicted I would like this movie as much as I did. In fact, I had been predicting I wouldn’t like it nearly as much as the Disney XD cartoon that I liked a ton. Dark Knight and Spider Man 2, for me, remain the gold standards of comic book movies. But Avengers came pretty close to breaking into that exclusive club. After another couple viewings, it might be there.

4. Django Unchained: Lost in all the n-word debate concerning this movie was how freakin’ fat Quentin Tarantino got. He looks like he ate himself. Maybe that was his plan? He wanted to throw in so many n-words so that by the time he showed up at the end of the movie carrying an extra 60 pounds and sporting the worst Australian accent since Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, that no one would notice. Quentin, you remarkable genius, you’ve done it again.

5. Oslo, August 31: When you watch a foreign movie, you’re playing with fire. When you watch a foreign movie on Netflix streaming, you’re putting your hand directly into an open flame and holding it there for about 30 seconds. 999 times out of a 1000, you’re getting third degree burns. But maybe, just maybe, you get a truly engaging experience that’s one of the most realistic looks at the physical, social and emotional looks at drug recovery that you can cram into a 90-minute movie. That’s what this movie is.

6. Take This Waltz: One of the two instant entrants from 2012 into my Movie Music Hall of Fame, songs that I can’t hear without thinking of the movie or TV show that popularly used them. Take This Waltz offers Video Killed the Radio Star, with Michelle Williams enjoying the Scrambler until it abruptly stops, the music stops and she’s forced to go back into living her boring, meager life. It’s a beautiful, poignant set-up to the rest of the movie and a haunting metaphor for the road less traveled. And the movie is great too. (The other Movie Music Hall of Fame entry from 2012 is My Cherie Amour from Silver Linings Playbook.)

7. Goon: Best sports movie of the year, easily. Was there even another sports movie this year? Who cares, if there was, it wouldn’t have been nearly as good as Goon. That’s three straight Netflix streaming picks, by the way. Netflix really stepped it up this year.

8. The Master: I’ve reviewed and debated this at length already here. I liked it. A lot. And I’d understand if you didn’t. We should probably just leave it at that.

9. Argo: One of my biggest pet peeves in a movie is leaving not enough time at the end of a movie to build any suspense. So you look at your watch, or you see the counter on your Blu-ray in the middle of the climax and realize, “Well, crap, of course they’re gonna get out of dodge, there are only five minutes left!” That was my favorite part of Argo (eff yourself). During the climax, there are still 20 minutes left of the movie so you really don’t know what’s going to happen.

the highlight of my movie year, moderating two Q&A's with paul dano

10. Ruby Sparks: It’s hard not to like a movie more when you get to sit around and ask the star of the movie questions after you watch it. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good otherwise.

11. Beasts of the Southern Wild: The first thing I did after I watched this movie is Google, “is the bathtub real.” When a movie is convincing enough to make you question your extensive knowledge of American geography, it’s good.

12. Moonrise Kingdom: I’m not sure if it’s the loss of Owen Wilson as a writing partner and collaborator, but Wes Anderson just hasn’t been as good as his opening triple shot of Bottle Rocket (great), Rushmore (better) and Royal Tenenbaums (best). Moonrise Kingdom is very good, but it’s slow at times and Ed Norton is the only one that seems to have a heartbeat.

13. Jeff Who Lives at Home: Quiet, easy-going, funny and compassionate. If Ed Helms is going to bookend his Hangover appearances with movies like this and Cedar Rapids, then I’m all in on his post-Office career.

best on-screen drunk since nic cage

14. Flight: The other deeply personal movie of 2012 to me. I’ve teetered on what likely was the border of sobriety and full-fledged alcoholism in the past, but gave up the full-blown side when I had my kids. Watching Denzel refuse to make that choice was sobering in itself.

15. Queen of Versailles: As a journalist, you usually have an idea what the story will be when you’re heading to cover it. It’s just instinct. But you have to keep an open mind to change that story if the situation dictates it. So when the people who made this movie went to Florida to document a story of construction of a $75 million mansion, they changed mid-filming to a story about the new state of “rich poor.” It turned into one of the best stories of the economy since the market crashed.

16. Dark Knight Rises: Watched it again since I saw the opening midnight show, and my opinion hasn’t really changed. Very good, not great.

17. Lincoln: I think what irks me about this movie is that I feel like it was specifically made with the Academy Awards in mind. Movies like that irk me.

18. Sleepwalk with Me: I know it’s supposed to be a movie about how much it sucks being a comedian having to make crappy trips all over the place while getting paid nothing, but here’s what I came away with: If this socially awkward douche is able to dangle like three chicks at a time on the hook without even trying, then sign me the hell up.

19. Being Flynn: See #9.

20. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Just the right amount of cute.


Looper: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, together at last.

Loneliest Planet: For a movie to make my top 20, there has to be some kind of “recommendability.” I have to be able to feel like I can recommend the movie to someone I know. I liked Loneliest Planet a good deal, but I would not feel comfortable recommending it to even the most ardent of indie movie fans, like those of the Orange Street ilk.

The Dictator: The funniest straight comedy of the year, but the movie itself was a little disjointed.

Safety Not Guaranteed: A little hokey, yeah, but I’d like to buy stock in the indie film career of Aubrey Plaza.


sorry. i was not distracted frmo battleship's poop factor by brooklyn decker.

Battleship: I just don’t understand how this movie even got made. Horrible premise, horrible script, horrible casting, horrible movie. When a movie peaks at the 5-minute mark and never even comes close again to matching that moment, then that movie sucks.


Amazing Spider-Man: My annual winner for Movie I Like Less the More I Think About It, taking over the mantle from last year’s winner, Tree of Life. This movie was made for financial reasons, pure and simple. Sony didn’t want to spend what it would have taken to keep Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Raimi together and then turn Raimi’s vision for Spider-Man 4 into a movie. So they scrapped it and made what amounts to a frustratingly boring carbon copy of the original Spider-Man. I seriously don’t understand why or how reviewers liked this movie.

Ted: I like Seth MacFarlane. I like Family Guy. I like raunchy, adolescent humor. I like comedies with original ideas. So dammit, why didn’t I like this movie? Wait, I know why! Because Mark Wahlberg could have been replaced by a mostly sturdy piece of cardboard and no one would have known the effing difference.

Hunger Games: I actually got myself psyched for this, but when my wife had to fill in the blanks every five minutes as to what the latest important thing the movie was leaving out from the book, I tuned out. Then realized I would have kicked freakin’ @ss in the games because I WOULDN’T HAVE MADE ONE FRIEND. And if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be one that would slow me down and possibly cause my death.

Friends With Kids: Is this supposed to be The Big Chill for the present day? Or is it supposed to be a social commentary on the current family structure? Who knows! This movie sure doesn’t. Worse yet, it’s boring. I didn’t think there was a chance Adam Scott and Jon Hamm could be in a movie together and it would be boring, but now we’ve got proof.

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