My Top 20 Movies of 2012 – The Preamble
2009: Top 10
Well, here we are again. I’d like to think of my yearly movie countdowns as part of those indelible cultural links we have with the Christmas season, up there with log fires, reruns of The Snowman, or Noel Edmonds giving a balloon ride to a father with a malignant tumour. When we’re old, you and I, in our dying, flooded, future world, we’ll look back to the Christmases of our youth, filled with nostalgia for grandma’s gravy, and that time I used accidentally cumming over Woody Allen as a metaphor for aesthetically pleasing cinematography. As is the custom, before we get down to the Top 20, here’s a breakdown of some things I saw this year, good and bad, that didn’t make the cut but are still worth discussing.
I can’t lie, this year’s Top 20 is heavy on the kind of weird indie flicks you’d expect from a preening, effete, yet somehow still masculine show-off like myself, but I caught most of the big Hollywood movies too. Expendables II was more fun than the first one, but I enjoyed it like you would the badly-told jokes of a beloved elderly relative on Boxing Day. I was smiling, but purely because of the comforting old faces, and if anyone else pulled that shit, I’d be out the door. It was a first draft screenplay all the way, with almost every line a place-holder for something better that never came. Regard, the worst dialogue exchange of the year, after our heroes get ambushed by some goons:
Statham “Did you order room service?”
Stallone “Not really.”
Amazing. And Arnie seemed to have forgotten what little acting he did know, stumbling around like someone roused from a deep sleep by a 3am phone call, and reciting his lines like they’d been written for him on a passing breeze. If you did an Expendables II drinking game, chugging one back at every male-bonding scene consisted of weakly-acted laughter at shitty jokes, you’d be long-dead from alcohol poisoning by the time the final unconvincing chuckle yacked out of Randy Couture’s mouth.
While we’re talking disappointments, like a beautiful woman with as-yet-unvoiced right wing political views, Prometheus looked utterly gorgeous, and got off to a superb start, but once its inner-ugliness and outright stupidity became apparent, you couldn’t raise an erection without jamming a biro down there. There was some phenomenal stuff — Fassbender’s android, the first half-hour — but many of the storytelling choices saw me pull the exact face Louis Theroux made when the Westboro Bapitist Church told him that “Jews worship the rectum.”
John Carter got a rough deal, but not too rough, as the middle act was cricket-dull, but it didn’t deserve its status as a gleefully sniggered-at bomb; while Hunger Games was like watching a remake of Battle Royale bookended by footage from cosplay conventions filmed by a camera tripping dicks on LSD. Also, everyone had names like Horsepiss Jackaboob. Apparently, I watched Wrath of the Titans. As if awakening on a strange couch with a sore bottom and a headache, all that remains in my memory are 100 missing minutes, and flashes of Sam Worthington’s unemotive cinderblock of a face leering down at me. Surely, a lucky escape. Not so with Rock of Ages, to which I was lured by the too-sexy combination of Kevin Nash and Russell Brand, but Rock‘s most impressive feat was managing to simultaneously be wildly showy and brightly coloured, and yet drained of all life and hope. In ten years, we’re due a big nu-metal jukebox musical, where eyebrow-pierced “teens” with white-man dreadlocks form unconvincing stage-school moshpits, and a runaway hitchhiker seeks her fortune on the open road, while belting out a Coal Chamber classic, inside a thundering Big Truck.
Once again, the year was heavy on the superheroes, but while everyone had spent the preceding 18 months giddy with anticipation for The Avengers, I wasn’t feeling it. See, I don’t share this inexplicable hardon we’re all supposed to have for Joss Whedon. To me, he’s the finest example of bad writers who have but a single voice, where any line of dialogue could be put into the mouth of any character, and you wouldn’t tell the difference. Everyone speaks in the same self-aware, self-deprecating zingers, and even the lines that aren’t me-so-smart are just a set-up for the next guy to jump in with the chicken-headed sass. Imagine my thrill when he was announced as the writer/director for the biggest ensemble piece of the year. But you know, he did alright. Not Top 20 alright, but entertaining all the same. And Avengers did well enough to fall into the stink-fingered clutches of those creepy internet fangirls who spend their days making gifs and thinking how positively squee it would be if all the pretty male characters were having arse-sex with each other. For every person on the planet, there are officially sixteen Tumblrs comprised of cute wickle psychopath Loki tilting his head or doing a smile.
As unjazzed as I was about The Avengers, I was metaphorically laying face-down and unmoving on a cold pavement for The Amazing Spider-Man. I love Spidey, but another origins run-through so soon after the previous one is Hollywood at its needless worst. And when did general opinion make that sudden switch to deciding we all hated the Raimi films? The third one, sure, but the first two were fantastic. Anyway, ASM was just about different enough to justify its existence, with a flashy, visual style all of its own, but if I see another fucking origin story, I’ll inject myself with toxic waste to see if I get the superpower of really bad cancer, so I don’t have to suffer through one more. The most surprisingly good superhero movie of the year was Chronicle, which finally answered the question of “Yo, String? Where Wallace at?!”, but I am a sucker for found footage movies, and I won’t even begin to tire of them until there’s been a FF movie in every genre. Romcom; Holocaust; schmaltzy biopic of a loveable yet tragic figure with a severe mental impairment — let’s do this.
A minor oddity I noticed in compiling the final twenty is how little comedy made it in. Comedy is hard, I guess, as a lot of stuff — like The Dictator — made me laugh at the time, but didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. The Campaign was essentially a Seth Galifianakis movie with added Will Ferrell doing his usual (awesome) yelling of rude non sequiturs in a serious voice, but loses points for its extended cameo of that fucking bell-ache Piers Morgan, a “man” I only ever want to see onscreen if he’s on his knees in a Saudi basement, pleading for his putrid life. Meanwhile, Ted had all the MacFarlane trademarks; a talking thing, big band sounds, and the fan-led ruination of a character with the piggybacking of a billion unfunny Twitter parody accounts by hee-hawing simpletons who like all the funny swearing.
You might be surprised that I, or indeed anyone, watched the Three Stooges movie, but the draw of Larry David as a nun was just too strong. And you know what — not that bad. I mean, it’s a two star movie, but nowhere near the disaster people would like to have you think. It raises an interesting idea, of whether the Stooges themselves transcend that line into characters that could be played by someone else, like Santa or Batman. Maybe it’s because I’m British, with no inherent cultural sense of the Stooges in the core of my bones, but I wasn’t offended, and the three main performances were clearly loving, well-honed tributes, rather than grotesque or lazy impersonations. Its main problem is that it’s a comic style so wildly outdated, it’s like rebooting the George Formby franchise, and while he’s smiling away on his ukulele, making a barely visible double-entendre about seeing a woman’s knees, on the next screen over, an audience cackles at a man in a spray-tan fucking a hamburger. Another thing most people wouldn’t admit to watching, let alone really digging, was Piranha 3DD. Yeah, you heard. I caught some shit last year for having Suckerpunch as my #20 pick, so I’ll probably be paraded around as floppy-cocked King of the Misogynists for this one. Look, even the title is a joke about big tits, so we’re openly dealing with the lowest of the low brow, but at least it’s trying. 3DD didn’t have a second of dead air, even if that screentime was flowing on images of a shotgun-legged, crippled Ving Rhames, or a severed head motorboating the giganto-jugs of a shrieking woman in a bikini. I welcome that sense of fun and creativity more than I do another dreary, po-faced Wrath of the Titans.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is worth a mention, but something truly for fans only, whereas super-broad, big budget Wanderlust worked in that modern comedy kind of way, where everyone’s constantly riffing for the line-o-rama section on the DVD, but you wouldn’t watch it twice. 21 Jump Street came the closest to cracking the Top 20, proving that Channing Tatum is much more than just a handsome face (and abs, and arms, and overwhelming feeling that you should just fucking kill yourself because you’re a grotesque, worthless blogger). Likewise, he was great in Magic Mike, which had the added bonuses of more Kevin Nash, and the hunky werewolf from True Blood inflating his lovely big william in a penis-pump.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter was tons of fun, and the prosthetics were better than that of Hitchcock, wherein Anthony Hopkins resembles that horrifying Kinder Surprise ad from the eighties, but it was a weak year for horror. The only real standout was social media-gen portmanteau V/H/S, which was a sort of Amicus/Tales from the Crypt, had they been around in the era of vlogging and casually videoing every sexual encounter. Compliance would make a good almost-companion piece to V/H/S, while more of a “the horror of people” thriller, based as it was on that time a ‘cop’ called a McDonalds and coerced a teenage girl to do naked jumping jacks and let a janitor peer right up her with a torch. I guess Dark Shadows was a kind of horror too, but at this point, the world’s just letting Tim Burton get on with things while saying “That’s nice, dear” over the tops of our newspapers. Likewise, it’s been a while since Oliver Stone made a dent, and he came close with Savages, but for a film about a girl and two guys who all love each other equally, with nobody having to choose, he pussied out by doing exactly the same with the ending(s).
I usually don’t see many bad movies, because I know well enough not to catch the latest Tyler Perry or Nick Love, or Plan B’s foray into directing (Got some guns has it? On a council estate towerblock? Quell surprise Mr. Welles!), but this year I particularly buried myself in cinema, so I caught more than my share of absolute turds.
The Wicker Tree was the archetypal shitty sequel. Completely pointless, and coming decades after the beloved classic, bizarrely, it was written and directed by the man behind the original. A single perfunctory scene with a frail Christopher Lee, shot against green screen so bad it felt like trying to watch a PS1 cut-scene when your great-grandad’s wandered in front of the TV, was supposed to be a nostalgic link to an iconic character, but was merely heartbreaking. The sacrificial leads were coyboy-hatted, Jesus praisin’ American innocents, so racially stereotyped I’ll have to coin the phrase Texas Blackface to fully explain just how offensively bad they were. The accents were like when you played the A-Team in infants school, literally spouting dialogue like “Gee golly shucks!” and condemning The Wicker Tree’s sole achievement to actually being stupider than the Nic Cage remake of the original. On the lines of defecating into the mouths of classics, it goes without saying that Len “Give me a green-light, I’ll give you a two-star movie!” Wiseman’s Total Recall was another pointless exercise in bereft creativity, boredom, and lens-bloomed shots of his rubbish wife’s arse running down darkened hallways.
An actual shocker, considering who was involved, was the awful Cosmopolis. Sadly unwatchable garbage, it was a GCSE media studies project with the name ‘David Cronenberg’ inexplicably atop the credits. Though not unwatchable, rather, just a tepid collection of jarring strings and sudden faces out of the dark, Hammer’s Woman in Black remake is best summed up by its sequence of a bewildered Daniel Radcliffe in a creaky old house, literally running from one not-scary jump-scare to the next, for an excruciating twenty minutes. Oh, and if Get the Gringo was supposed to be Crazy Mel Gibson’s kickstarter to a comeback, he’d have more chance after getting caught smearing handfuls of excrement over the walls of a Synagogue.
But those honkers aside, the absolute worst movie of the year by far is one I’m expecting to see on plenty of (wrong) Best Of lists written by idiots. On your feet, Cabin in the Woods. More like a portacabin, am I right?! Filled to the brim with stuff that’s come out of cocks, arses and wherever women wee out of (their clitorises?). There’s this bizarre idea that Cabin was a smart, meta take on the genre that forever changed the face of horror with its insightful deconstruction. No. It wasn’t even a satire — it just was the exact thing it thought it was satirising. Unbearably smug, Cabin in the Woods is an hour and a half of a braying sixth-former trying to suck himself off in front of a full length mirror. When it came out, I read a brilliant takedown of the widely accepted, but wholly false idea that Whedon’s good at writing for strong female characters, or geeky “Hey, they’re just like us!” everyman nerds. It noted how his casting is no less shallow than the GQ casting of a Michael Bay. Look at the IMDB page of the stoner character. Straight off the catwalk. Oh, but he’s got a t-shirt and a bong, and a voice like Shaggy from Scooby Doo — NERD! Dreadful.
Besides less of that, the two things I’d like to see stamped out in 2013 are 1) The constant noisy cocking of the safety on every single gun, in every situation and 2) Hollywood’s latest lazy get-out of writing some actual characterisation by establishing someone as an oddball failure or probable murderer solely by having them still living with their parents.
Coming up next, the bottom half of the Top 20. Feel free to make any guesses at my picks in the comment section below.