End of watch
Director: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña
It has a completely unnecessary found-footage plot device, but from start to finish, this is a fun, action-packed, dramatic, and sometimes hilarious movie that is hands down one of my favorites of the year. David Ayer (Training Day) is probably the best writer for police dramas today and, in my opinion, this is his best work. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña (one day he will receive an Oscar) are as good as ever.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson
Of all the movies on this list, this might be my favorite. It is bloody, yes, but an incredible revenge. I can’t really say much more about this that hasn’t been said already, but I will add that I think Samuel L. Jackson has been strangely ignored during awards season in a role that I think was the best of all.
Sleepwalking with me
Directors: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish
Starring: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn
Comedian Mike Birbiglia has been a touring comedian for almost two decades, but with his new movie Sleepwalk With Me he shows that he has talent behind the camera too. The film, with a title and premise drawn from his hit one-man show, is arguably the best stand-up comedy film I have ever seen. Focusing more on his relationship and his rare sleep disorder, but also portraying him as a wrestler, hacky standup that made him the comedian he is today, Sleepwalk With Me is truly one of those rare, cleverly written, stylistically directed ones. movies and, in my opinion, the best comedy of 2012.
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy
It’s a long movie and an ambitious undertaking, and as much as I thought I’d hate it, Cloud Atlas worked for me. With bright visuals and weird, interconnected stories, Cloud Atlas is a movie about how we’re all connected, and each of our stories isn’t that different, it’s just told in a different way. And that’s the true truth.
Directors: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Starring: François Cluzet, Omar Sy
A very thoughtful and pleasant approach to an apparently difficult subject; a paralytic who needed a caregiver. A true story, The Intouchables is an extremely accessible film and became the second highest grossing film in French history, and then unfortunately it was rejected at the Oscars. It is very rare to find such good chemistry between two actors and Omar Sy and François Cluzet have just that. It is also a fun movie.
Rust and bone
Director: Jacques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
I had the pleasure of going to the Cannes International Film Festival over the summer and my favorite movie there was Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone, his follow-up to A Prophet (2009), nominated for an Oscar. Marion Cotillard is better than ever as a trainer of whales suffering a traumatic injury and the promising Matthais Schoenarts delivers a courageous performance as a reckless and unwavering father with a good heart. Rust & Bone is an emotional film about change, pain, and redemption, and definitely a must-see.
The perks of Being a Wallflower
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
I’ve never seen a movie that talks about dark problems in real life without mentioning them by name throughout the entire movie. Writer / director Stephen Chbosky’s film, based on a book he wrote himself, is a carefully narrated coming-of-age drama about a high school boy who doesn’t fit in until he meets a new group of friends. Unlike other films in the subgenre, The Perks of Being a Wallflower never relies on cheesy sentimentality, instead finding sentimentality in the realistic moments between its three leads. And that’s what makes it one of the best of the year.
Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russel, Michael B. Jordan
This movie came out of nowhere and catapulted screenwriter Max Landis’s career to the top (currently, he’s producing 6 movies and a TV series). Chronicle is about 3 teenagers who find a cave that gives them superpowers, but it slowly turns into a good versus evil superhero / supervillain origin story, with a found footage element to keep it relevant. It’s one of those movies that is done so well that you almost feel like it should have been done sooner.
Zero thirty dark
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jason Clarke
Sometimes a great third act can make up for what, in this case, was two and a half hours, slow and somewhat strenuous. Aside from the politics surrounding this (probably not factual) account of the persecution of Osama Bin Laden (it’s a movie, folks), something about Zero Dark Thirty left a good impression on me.
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
Director: Jesse Vile
Starring: Jason Becker
If I told you that one of the best documentaries of 2012 is about a musician from the past believed to be dead, you would probably think he was talking about Searching for Sugar Man, the Sundance hit and now Oscar nominee about the Detroit singer / songwriter. Rodriguez. However, my vote goes to a little-known documentary called Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet, about the ’80s prodigy and former David Lee Roth guitarist Jason Becker, whose rise to popularity came to a halt in the early’ 90s when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and was given 3 to 5 years to live. In this film, Becker’s life is expertly documented and no stone is left unturned as we watch the sad rise and fall of a marveling child. But what happened to him? Take a look and find out.
The Raid: Redemption
Director: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
The Raid: Redemption was the spring’s low-budget surprise action hit. Using incredibly choreographed fight sequences, director Gareth Evans and his star Iko Uwais are bringing a form of martial arts called Silat to international audiences. It’s elegant, fast, and brutal action, and critics and audiences were right about it.
Take this waltz
Director: Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
The film that follows Canadian actress Sarah Polley’s Oscar-nominated directorial debut Away From Her (2006), Take This Waltz is a film with a very clear message. Perhaps a little on the long side, this slightly sad romantic comedy tells the story of a woman, played by Michelle Williams, who meets her exciting new neighbor and begins to fall in love with her husband, played by Seth Rogen. Take This Waltz is an allegory about the cyclical nature of life, and how sometimes our choices, no matter how much we think they will change us, can end up keeping us right where we were at the beginning. Maybe this movie was not one that many people have seen, but in my opinion it is one of the best of the year.
Side to side
Director: Christopher Kenneally
Starring: James Cameron, David Fincher, David Lynch, Robert Rodriguez, Martin Scorcese, Steven Soderbergh, Danny Boyle, Christopher Nolan, Keanu Reeves
We live in the digital age. And as such, other ancient forms of storytelling are shifting to digital media. Books, music and now movies are all being made digitally. Side By Side is a documentary that examines this change in cinema; from the beginning of the digital revolution to the present. Some of the most powerful directors and filmmakers are interviewed and share their strong opinions on it. From some of the leading proponents of digital cinema, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher and David Lynch, to the most successful director in history, James Cameron, the cinematographer of Thomas Vinterberg’s video-shot classic The Celebration (1998), them ‘We are all interviewed in depth in this fantastic documentary. And who better to interview them about the digital age? Neo himself, Keanu Reeves.
The life of Pi
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Addil Hussain
Life of Pi is an adaptation of a story about a story of a story, or something like that. But don’t worry, the only thing that confuses this movie is that phrase. It is a wonderfully told and perfectly told story of loss and survival with beautiful visuals and incredible direction by Ang Lee.
Jeff who lives at home
Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon
The Duplass Brothers have been doing their own style of unscripted comedy for a little less than a decade, but in recent years they have done some of their most recognizable work. Finally, they have the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in comedy, like John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill on Cyrus (2010) and now with Jason Segel and Ed Helms on Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Duplasses always find a way to give some meaning to the arid comic lives of their protagonists, and this movie is no exception.
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ follow-up to Little Miss Sunshine (2006) is a much smaller film than its predecessor, but just as good in my opinion. I’m not sure why Ruby Sparks didn’t get much buzz this year or almost none during awards season (she’s a perfect contender for the original script), but this story about a nervous, struggling writer who creates the girl of his dreams. Based on its history, it is a very accessible and enjoyable film.