The top 10 films of the year so far

The top 10 films of the year so far. By Simon Miraudo.

The first half of 2012 is over, and what have we got to show for it? A couple of Snow White movies, two Taylor Kitsch flops, and only four Nicolas Cage flicks. Box office records were broken, courtesy of The Avengers and The Hunger Games, while Oscars were claimed by nostalgia-tuggers The Artist and Hugo. Pixar released a solid if not spectacular film (gasp!), and the cast of American Pie reunited to the excitement of almost no one. Needless to say, the past six months have provided us with our fair share of highs and lows. Before we head into the back-end of the year (with The Dark Knight Rises, Magic Mike, Life of Pi, The Master, and Django Unchained still to come), let’s reflect on the good, the great, the grey, and everything in between.

NB: The films had to be screened theatrically in Australia between January 1st, 2012, and June 30th, 2012. Nothing from our Best of 2011 list could be included, even if they were released during this period. Also, festival features that have not yet been officially released (such as contenders Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild) were excluded. Be warned: I won’t be placing such strict rules on myself for the end-of-year Top 10!

10. 50/50

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gave a sterling performance as a young man dealing with cancer in Jonathan Levine‘s 50/50, based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s real-life experiences. Gordon-Levitt is aided by the always appealing Anna Kendrick as his counsellor, and Seth Rogen as a buddy trying to help him leverage the sickness into guilt-sex. Because that’s what friends are for.

9. 21 Jump Street

Jonah Hill continued his rapid ascent to stardom with the surprisingly quick-witted and fresh 21 Jump Street (from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord). Even more surprising: Channing Tatum flexing his funny side for once, and practically stealing the show.

8. Prometheus

Ridley Scott‘s over-hyped Alien prequel is, sadly, destined to become a punching bag like The Phantom Menace before it, thanks to some questionable motives and a disappointing finale. But Prometheus still packs its fair share of thrills, and, at times, reaches the greatness of its predecessor. A spectacular turn from Michael Fassbender as an android helps, obviously, as does a ridiculously entertaining and gut-churning sequence featuring poor Noomi Rapace.

7. The Hunger Games

For those of us who don’t read YA novels, it was nice to see the latest ‘next-big-thing’ actually deserve the moniker (not that we’re pointing fingers elsewhere). Jennifer Lawrence continued to establish herself as one of the best young actresses in the business as Katniss Everdeen, the good-hearted teenager forced to kill for her survival in Gary Ross‘ reality TV satire The Hunger Games. Comparisons to the brilliant Battle Royale proved incorrect and thoughtless; this will be a franchise to keep an eye on.

6. Shame

Fassbender’s first great performance of the year came in Steve McQueen‘s Shame, a hypnotic and dread-inducing descent into the psyche of a sex addict. Carey Mulligan similarly tore down her persona as his disturbed sister, with whom she shares a sad, unspoken past. Not for all tastes, and it certainly falls into the ‘one and done’ category (you’re unlikely to want to rewatch it anytime soon) but visual artist McQueen is developing into an extremely promising filmmaker, and he gets a lot out of his two stars.

5. Polisse

Mononymous multi-hyphenate Maïwenn is similarly building up a nice reputation as one of Europe’s most exciting directors, thanks to her acclaimed procedural Polisse. In it, we spend a few months with the members of Paris’ Child Protection Unit, moving from case to extremely upsetting case and seeing their lives unravel in the process. The main cast is fantastic, and the kids – caught in the most horrible of situations – are astounding.

4. The Avengers

Of all the pictures released so far, Joss Whedon‘s The Avengers is likely most responsible for waves of hyperkulturemia taking hold of audiences (look it up; isn’t that weird?!). It was a mighty big task – uniting bigwigs Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Nick Fury, Hulk, Black Widow, and to a much lesser degree, Hawkeye – and Whedon proved to be more than capable, delivering a frantically funny and satisfying superhero film. The universe rewarded him for his famous series of flops and axed TV shows by making The Avengers the third highest grossing movie of all time.

3. The Raid

The best action flick of the year, however, is not The Avengers, but rather Gareth EvansThe Raid; a non-stop barrage of mystifying martial arts and increasingly imaginative kill shots. The premise is simple: a bunch of cops are set to take out a kingpin residing on the top floor of a decrepit apartment building, in which all the inhabitants are either skilled killers or unhinged junkies. Words do not do it justice. Only the sound of bones snapping and the sight of blood pouring from every orifice could ever do the trick.

2. The Grey

Liam Neeson gave the best performance of his career in Joe Carnahan‘s shockingly powerful existential thriller The Grey. A bunch of manly men (and not so manly men) make it through a terrifying plane crash, only to wind up at the mercy of a pack of wild (and perhaps metaphorical) wolves in the wilderness. One by one they get taken out, with Neeson’s once suicidal character slowly building up a desire to live at all costs. It didn’t give us the money shot we had all wanted from the trailer (“Neeson punches wolves? This I gotta see!”). What we got instead was something far more profound and lasting. Besides, as far as thoughtful examinations of masculinity go, this one is super scary.

1. Margaret

Sure, Margaret technically came out in the United States in 2011, but Kenneth Lonergan‘s masterpiece has been sitting on the shelf since 2006, so we figure we can call it the best film of whatever year we please. It stars Anna Paquin as a New York high school student (it is six years old) who accidentally causes a disastrous bus accident that claims the life of an innocent woman. In her efforts to quiet the shrieking remorse of her subconscious, she takes drugs, experiments sexually, and fronts a campaign to make the bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) accept responsibility for the death. Paquin has never been better as the indignant, righteous, and unwilling-to-ever-back-down teenager (a unique and truthful depiction of teens in general, as well as a stand-in for America at large), and she’s supported by players Matt Damon, Allison Janney, J. Smith Cameron, Jean Reno, and Jeannie Berlin. The original cut was close to three hours long, and the director is currently being sued for breaking his contract and not delivering a shorter version. Even if this edit of Margaret is imperfect to Lonergan, it’s perfect to us. How rare to see something this haunting, heartbreaking, and so frequently jaw-dropping. The rest of 2012 will have a hard time topping it.

Discuss: What has been the best film you’ve seen this year?

8 Responses to “The top 10 films of the year so far”

  1. Cabin In The Woods would be the best one I’ve seen all year… though I understand that it’s limited release probably means it’s not included so after it I’d go Avengers… SPOT THE PATTERN

    • Limited release titles are absolutely eligible (Margaret, 50/50, Polisse, etc.). Fact is – I just haven’t seen CABIN yet! I will definitely endeavour to do so before the end of year Top 10!

    • I’ve heard good things about Cabin but I’ve also heard an equal amount of people who said it was just another average horror movie and thought the only reason people were seeing it was Whedon’s attachment. Would you have liked it if Whedon had nothing to do with it?

  2. Surprisingly my favourite film of the year has been Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Not a perfect film, the last 20 minutes could have been reduced, but easily the most beautifully shot film i’ve seen this year.

  3. One of my faves is Snow White and The Huntsman. So much more than the childhood version I read and watched, really dark and serious – not like the Disney version. Beautiful special effects, especially the forrest, animals and creatures, very enchanting. I was so intrigued by Charlize Theron as the evil Queen, her tortured expression and the effects of the black ravens melting and all around her. Very gothic and just delicious viewing.

  4. I think this is easy. The best film that I have seen in the last year is “Hugo”. Fully deserving of all the awards that it won. The setting was superb, and the acting was wonderful, backing up a flowing story.

  5. The Women on the 6th floor and Margaret are by far the two best films I have seen.

  6. you WANTED to see Liam Neeson punch an animal??? kinda sick dude..this just shows why i should stop reading your blogs as we CLEARLY have different expectations from movies, i expect some kind of humanity and entertainment, you expect to see animals hit…

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