2012′s “Best & Worst” Films

It’s that time of year again…and everybody knows it.

So many people know it, in fact, that many of the major top-tenners are trying to spin the yearly ritual, with untraditional approaches to the inventory.

But not here, baby. Except, of course, since I have (less than) half the scope, reach, and influence of the others, I only do half their lists.

Actually I lied. I won’t do a wildly unusual list, but I think it might be fun to do a more honest, slightly amended version.

So, in the spirit of getting it over with, and, in alphabetical order, here’s not my “best and worst.” Here, instead, are my most enjoyed and most disappointing movies of 2012.

MOST ENJOYED

Written by Chris Terrio
Directed by Ben Affleck

So smooth, so assured, so suspenseful (despite spoilers being historically obvious and apparent). My only question is why Affleck’s lead performance was so obviously restrained. But no matter, the rest of it was so on-the-money entertaining, I’m certain Ben knew what he was doing. Argo fuck yourself.

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon

Lots of comic book movies this year. Some I liked (Dark Knight Rises). Some I didn’t (The Amazing Spider-Man). This is the only one on my top five list. Great set-up, great pay-off, great Hulk (finally!).

Written by Tony Kushner
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Best Masterpiece Theater ever, with a scripter, director, and cast thrillingly at the top of their game. A superlative 148 minutes (but too bad it’s a 150 minute movie, and Spielberg Spielbergianly decided, after serving us foie gras for 148 minutes, to switch to pabulum for the final two).

Written & Directed by Rian Johnson

What, you were expecting Les Miserables? No, I’ve read science fiction, I’ve written science fiction, I love science fiction, so when I see a great real science fiction movie, I’m in time paradox paradise.

Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Directed by Wes Anderson

Yes, it’s twee. You got a problem with that? I didn’t and don’t. Utterly charming and disarming, created like a cinematic version of a picture book. Every frame is sweet delight.

Written by Mark Boal
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

The team that made The Hurt Locker, which I loved and rooted for, do it again. Almost finished before reality supplied the ending, the final product is as engrossing and suspenseful as the first film on this list (which would make an amazing double feature).

Honorable Mentions: Dark Knight Rises, Django Unchained, The Raid Redemption, Skyfall

MOST DISAPPOINTING

Written by Steve Kloves, Alvin Sargent, & James Vanderbilt
Directed by Marc Webb

The script looks like a spider’s web: more holes than filament. See my two pans elsewhere on this site.

Written by Dan Gilroy and Tony Gilroy
Directed by Tony Gilroy

Often nonsensical, completely anticlimactic, but, worst of all, basically boring.

Written by Scott M. Gimple, David S. Goyer, & Seth Hoffman
Directed by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

Yes, yes, just another plateau on Nicholas Cage’s descent into cinematic hell, but these were the guys who directed the Crank movies! This should have been as fun and crazy as those! But it wasn’t! It wasn’t!!

Written by Lem Dobbs
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Repetitive, redundant, “empty movement” movie that’s hollow at its core, both in plot and character. Should have been “the thinking person’s action film.” Instead, it’s the “ignorant man’s condescending action film.”

Written by Eli Roth & RZA
Directed by RZA

Now, come on! Not only should have RZA known better, he does know better (his kung fu teacher is Yan Ming, for Buddha’s sake)! The whole Tarantino clan should know better! Never have some seen so many Shaw Brothers Studio kung fu movies and learned so little. Yes, it’s the stoner version of Kid with the Golden Arm, yes, it’s pretty, yes, it’s not dull, but yes, the kung fu suuuuucks!!!

Dishonorable mentions: Dredd, This Means War, Total Recall