I am finally ready to compile my list of favorite movies from last year. Living in a small town means that it usually takes longer to see all the important films of the year; some films never come here. Nevertheless I’ve managed to see all of the films that I think have the best shot for making my list. There are two major films I missed this last year: Argo and Les Miserables. I can always add them later if I see them and really like them.

1. Django Unchained

My favorite film of 2012 was Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Here’s the trailer:

As a general rule, I tend to love Tarantino’s films. Unlike everyone else in the world, however, I didn’t really care much for his previous film Inglorious Basterds. For me, that film was missing the element that I most enjoy in my favorite Tarantino films: personal revenge. (I know that the Shosanna Dreyfus character was more or less fulfilling this function, but I felt that the film’s revenge plot got swallowed up in the fantasy of killing Nazis.)

Many viewers and critics loved that movie and had a more lukewarm response to Django Unchained, arguing that the latter failed in its depiction of slavery and racism. I obviously disagree. For me, Django’s personal revenge story gives us an interesting, albeit fantastical glimpse into nineteenth-century slavery. I thought Tarantino was back in the mode of Kill Bill, my favorite of his movies, using violence and spectacle not merely to entertain but also to make us think. I think this is a challenging film that also happens to be really stylish and interesting. Consequently, it’s number one on my list!

Note: I also want to go on record stating that, while I am glad this movie won two Oscars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson were robbed of Oscar nominations!

2. Lincoln

My second favorite film of 2012 was Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

That this film didn’t win every Oscar it was up for, especially adapted screenplay, is a travesty! Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing, of course, but so was everyone else involved in the film. I’ll admit that I didn’t like where it ended and that it really should have ended about two scenes earlier, but it was still a great film.

3. Amour

The third film on my list is Amour.

Directed by Michael Haneke, Amour is an emotionally brutal film. It unflinchingly depicts an elderly man caring for his wife as she approaches the end of life. It is beautiful, gut-wrenching, tragic, and affirming all at once.

4. Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is the fourth film on my list.

Again, many people didn’t care for this film as much as I did, but I thought it was mesmerizing. I loved the interconnected stories and narrative of reincarnation. I also loved that it included a same-sex love story. I didn’t always understand what was happening at any given moment, but I loved giving myself over to it and just absorbing what was happening until I did understand.

5. Silver Linings Playbook

The first romantic comedy on my list is Silver Linings Playbook.

In this film David O. Russell has crafted much more than just a romantic comedy. Silver Linings Playbook also has something to say about mental illness, family, and starting over. Even though she’s great as Bradley Cooper’s damaged love interest, I wouldn’t have given Jennifer Lawrence the Oscar for this movie. (I would have voted for Emmanuelle Riva in Amour.) But I would have voted for Robert DeNiro as supporting actor. I thought he was amazing, and Bradley Cooper was also very deserving of his first Oscar nomination.

6. I Want Your Love

I Want Your Love, a film about a gay man in San Francisco named Jesse who is about to move back to Columbus, Ohio, is number six on my list.

I would describe I Want Your Love as a queer mumblecore film. Not much really happens, as far as plot goes, but that’s not really the point: the point is observing the relationships shift and evolve as Jesse’s friends begin to say goodbye and move on with their lives without him.

The other aspect of the movie that has gained a lot of attention is the explicit sex. The actors actually have sex with one another and we see it all: erections, penetration, ejaculations, and everything in between. While these scenes are erotic, they are not pornographic, and, even though the film was produced by Naked Sword, a gay porn outlet, the actors’ bodies are realistic for the characters they play. In other words, no hairless gym queens with perfectly sculpted abs and biceps fill the screens. Instead, we have reasonably normal people engaging in sexual situations that could realistically happen in real life.

I Want Your Love isn’t quite John-Cameron-Mitchell-level great, but it is a touching, entertaining movie. And Brontez Purnell has the funniest scences in any movie from last year — his soliloquy about getting crabs is hilarious!

7. Moonrise Kingdom

This quirky film is number seven on my list.

Wes Anderson directed this fable about a boy who falls in love with a girl and decides to do something about it. Everything that happens in Moonrise Kingdom fantastical and entirely original. It reminded me a lot of The Fantastic Mr. Fox in tone and spirit. I was happy to just go along for the ride and enjoy the view.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Number eight on my list is The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This movie is clearly The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink for a new generation. The tale of a misfit high school freshman who finds his niche is fun, moving, and entertaining. These are the friends I wish I had in high school! It also shows that Emma Watson is going to have a career beyond Harry Potter!

9. Keep the Lights On

Based on director Ira Sachs’ experiences dealing with a boyfriend addicted to drugs, Keep the Lights On is number nine on my list.

I thought this movie was very moving. Thure Lindhardt is great as Eric, Sachs’ fictionalized stand-in. He loves Paul, but Paul loves drugs even more than he loves Eric. There is a devastating scene about three-quarters of the way through the movie in which Eric watches Paul’s drug-induced activities in a hotel room. My only gripe about the film is the question of how anyone could ever take someone back after witnessing those activities. Fortunately, I’ve never been in that situation, so maybe I can’t really say what I’d do if the man I love did these things. Either way, I thought this movie was a great character study of Eric’s emotions, responses, and choices.

10. The Life of Pi and How to Survive a Plague

I kept trying to decide which of these films to include in my top ten list, but ultimately I just couldn’t choose between them. Since it’s my list, I decided I didn’t have to choose!

The Life of Pi is a great action, special effects movie that waxes philosophical every chance it gets, a somewhat odd combination that ultimately works. I like the way the movie ends, though I think its ending is a bit more complicated than some people make it out to be — it’s really not one narrative replacing another, it seems to me, but a choice of which narrative one wants to believe.

How to Survive a Plague is a great documentary about the AIDS crisis. What makes this documentary stand out from others is the narrative structure: you really don’t know how many of the people shown in interviews during the film survived the crisis until the very end of the movie. This adds a level of suspense that also parallels the crisis itself. I plan to start showing it in my gay lit classes.

Honorable Mentions

There were a few more films that I wanted to include on this list. I really enjoyed Nate and Margaret, a movie about a film student’s unusual friendship with a 52-year-old woman. I would have given Natalie West an Oscar nomination for her role as Margaret. She’s brilliant in this movie.

I also really enjoyed the comedy Gayby, which is about a straight woman and gay man who try to have a baby together. It’s independent gay cinema at its comic best.

Beasts of the Southern Wild also gets a shout out. I’m not at all sure what this movie is ultimately about, but I enjoyed watching it and constantly being surprised about where it would go next.

And finally, I really liked Zero Dark Thirty even if it wasn’t a perfect film. I think its view of torture is less permissive than some viewers thought it was, and Jessica Chastain was excellent. I look forward to seeing what Kathryn Bigelow does next.

 

 

Advertisements