2012 in film: A good year for movies

Making year-end lists are always difficult, especially for films. Many lists either focus on the big box office winners or only look at the critical darlings that come out during award season. This is going to be a hybrid between the two, focusing on films that were well made as well as enjoyable. The Cluster has already covered some of the best films of the year: “Les Misérables”, “ParaNorman”, “Chronicle”, “Cloud Atlas”, “Skyfall” and “Wreck-It Ralph”, to name a few. The rest of these films deserve a little extra attention.

“The Avengers”
“The Avengers” is truly a first in film history. The Marvel cinematic universe has spent several films working toward this goal. It was a gamble; no other company has tried to develop five separate films that lead up to one massive crossover that is the culmination of the efforts of five production teams. The all-star cast is wonderful and the film itself is outstanding. All of the effort and hard work definitely paid off.

“Django Unchained”
This film was one of the most controversial of the year. The quality of the actors and direction is undeniable. Quentin Tarantino delivers a shocking take on one of the darkest periods in American history. Yet, despite his unusual approach, he somehow manages to treat the horrific events that occurred in the South with a strange sense of reverence. The film is not degrading; instead, it is an empowering story that shows the lengths that one man will go through in order to overcome adversity.

This may have been the best film of the year. Like Django, it is about people going to incredible lengths and facing impossible odds. Affleck proves himself to be one of the best up-and-coming directors in the business. Despite being based on historic events, the film manages to be compelling and suspenseful and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats at its climax. The colorful cast keeps the overall mood of the film light with witty banter and well-written dialogue. This is truly one of the most memorable of the year.

“Moonrise Kingdom”
This was a film that was unfortunately overlooked this year. Wes Anderson’s latest film is set at a small island community in the late 1960s. It follows two youths as they conspire to run away together from their oppressive lives. The cast is phenomenal, perhaps the best ensemble cast of the year, featuring Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton. Out of all the films that came out this year, this is one that deserves to be seen.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Adapting a book to a movie is never an easy feat, especially not when that book has had a cult following for well over half a century. Nevertheless, Peter Jackson carried off the first installment of his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” to great acclaim (or at least begrudging appreciation). As fans of the book know, the movie begins before the unexpected party with which the first Lord of the Rings movie opens, taking the viewer back to Bilbo’s youth and ending just after the hobbit and his friends are rescued by giant eagles. The movie adds a good bit of action and develops some of the backstory that Tolkein left untold in the book. Also, because “The Hobbit” was written for younger audiences, the film is considerably lighter and funnier.

The box office failure of “Dredd” remains one of the saddest moments in film this year. The movie has wonderful set pieces and a unique sense of style throughout. Karl Urban’s stern and stoic Dredd plays the hero against one of the most unique villains of the year. The world of Dredd is as much of a character in the film as the rest of the cast. It also presented an interesting and unique way to use 3D to achieve an actual artistic effect. It was the smartest action film of the year. Sadly, it will most likely not branch off into a franchise of films. Despite rave reviews, the films underperformance at the box office has seen to that never happening.
These were but a few of the highlights of 2012. If space permitted, countless pages would be filled with discussion and analysis of each, but that cannot happen. 2012 was a strong year for film, one of the best in years. Many films that were not included on the list definitely warrant watching. Hopefully 2013 will be just as strong of a year.