It's that time of year again; time to unveil which films from the previous year we found as some of our favorites! We're changing things up a little bit this year, but hopefully all in ways that will be beneficial to you, the reader. Instead of one giant post (similar to our Top 5 Movie Guides) where we each list our favorites, we instead decided this year that each writer would get their own post to play with. Not only will it make things more personal to each writer, but it should provide more space for each of us to elaborate on a few of our picks.
The plan is to start with this post and release another each day through the end of the week. As is apparent with this post, I'll reveal my picks today, then Ben will share his tomorrow, Derek on Wednesday, Nathan on Thursday, and to bookend your week with another Schopp brother, Andy on Friday. As something else that has changed from last year to this, we all decided to go with our Top 15 films this year, instead of doing the traditional ten. No real reason behind this other than that we love lists, and we love showing off films deserving of recognition. Otherwise, it's just five more titles that should help display a bit more of our personalities and the types of films that resonated with each of us last year.
Before we dig in, I just want to point out that for me this was a year in which I really discovered just how much I love character dramas. I've always enjoyed these themes, but many other themes that I've also traditionally enjoyed took a back burner to a lot of films that were nothing more than snippets of character lives this year. In the future maybe I'll look back on 2012 and have different feelings for a few of these titles, but as of right now, these are the films that most resonated with me.
15. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I did not expect to enjoy this film nearly as much as I did. Great characters, and just a very honest coming-of-age tale. I didn't personally connect much with this crowd, but I felt for them, and really rooted for all of them. Just a story of really good people in awkward stages of their lives.
14. End of Watch
The only slight detractor I have with this is the found-footage aspect. Otherwise, I loved these characters, and felt very attached to their stories. Jake Gyllenhall is such a good actor, and I can't figure out why he doesn't get the credit I feel he deserves. I don't normally care much for "cop dramas", so that really says something about this film.
13. Seven Psychopaths
I just got this one in under the wire, and boy am I glad I did. I loved the characters, and think Sam Rockwell deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance. The film parallels the screenwriting process nicely, and there are so many great laughs to be had. I feel like this could eventually be higher on this list once it settles a bit.
12. Moonrise Kingdom
Does anyone have a more recognizable style than Wes Anderson? His movies are always witty and quirky with memorable characters, and this might be the most fun I've ever had with any of them. If you enjoy Anderson's style, I'm confident you'll love this film. Also, check out my earlier review for the film here.
11. Beasts of the Southern Wild
I got around to this one later than most, but this still might be the surprise of the year for me; Quvenzhane Wallis did one of the best jobs I've ever seen from a child actor. The musical score takes the cake for me as the best of the year, and the way this story was told through the eyes of a child was beautiful and sad.
While I was really able to get behind the era of this film and the music featured, the real hero here was all of the amazing acting performances. Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, and Dane DeHaan were all amazing, while Shia LaBeouf managed just fine to hold his own. This movie just felt like a fun ride, beginning to end. Again, my review for the film here.
9. The Avengers
I mean how can you not include this movie on a list like this? It was all kinds of epic and exciting, and the culmination of a bunch of individual movies over the last few years is something so smart and creative. These Marvel movies are little more than popcorn movies for me, but that doesn't make them bad - if you want something endlessly entertaining, you can't go wrong here.
Such a tight, clean film from one of my favorite directors, Steven Spielberg. I loved Daniel Day-Lewis' performance in this, and think I could have watched him act as President Lincoln for a ten-hour movie. He brought an amazing amount of humanity to the role, and I loved just watching him interact with anyone else on screen. Great storytelling, and good information from a previous time in our country's history.
7. 21 Jump Street
I am not typically a big fan of comedy films - I enjoy them just fine, but they rarely have a lasting effect with me. This in an exception. Channing Tatum was amazing in this film, and his team-up with Jonah Hill was perfect in ways you wouldn't even expect. The film had so much fun with itself, and even on my third watch, I was still cracking up at some of the jokes. Tatum has definitely turned a corner with his acting, but even when it's all said and done, this may go down as his best work ever. Read my review of the film here.
In a way, this is probably the most controversial pick on my entire list. Look, I know there are aspects about this film that aren't ideal, and I know many were angered by the lack of answers it provided, but for me, simply the questions it posed were enough to intrigue me. I've long been interested in space exploration and knowing what else might be out there. It didn't need to provide any hard answers because it gave me enough to think about on my own time. Also, Ridley Scott's visions for sci-fi/space are unmatched; I love watching anything he can put in that setting. The film was beautiful, and while there were a few minor aspects I would have liked to see done differently, I've watched the film a few times now and have continually been impressed with it. I can deal with the missteps - the rest is that good.
A perfect character drama. Denzel Washington was fantastic. It's one of those stories that makes you so angry, but you can't help but watch. John Goodman was great in limited variety as well, and I loved the action sequences displayed, however brief they were. A very raw and gritty (while still being polished) film. This feels like one of the better character dramas I've seen recently - engaging throughout.
This film provided the most tension I've had with any film I can recall. The entirety of the second half of the film had me, literally, sitting on the edge of my seat. Even having a good idea what we could expect with the outcome of the film, little was lost in my investment. I loved the era of this film; everything from the music to the set and costume design worked really well for me. John Goodman (again) and Alan Arkin were a great duo - one I wish we could have seen more from - and you can't leave out the Hollywood lore of it all. It's so awesome to me that movies, in a round-about way, saved the day!
3. The Cabin in the Woods
This film seems to be getting better each time I see it. It's more than just a genre flick that has fun with itself; this was a film that really did something completely original while still feeding into all of the same tropes that traditional horror films do. It was such a great spin on the genre, and one with so many layers. If applied to other horror films, this movie can actually elevate others from the genre, if you want it to. I expect this film will be talked about for many years to come. So entertaining!
2. Django Unchained
Was there a more exciting film this year? For my money, Quentin Tarantino continues to get better with each film he does. This seems to be pretty easily my favorite from his filmography now, as I don't think there was a single scene I disliked. Jamie Foxx did a solid job in the lead, but Christoph Waltz stood out to me the most. I know DiCaprio and Sam Jackson had much shinier roles - and don't get me wrong, I still loved their performances - but for me, Waltz was the glue that kept everything together. The music of the film was great, the humor all seemed to work, and as usual, Tarantino presented a unique vision that I don't think anyone else would have been able to bring to life nearly as well.
And then there was one. I don't know what to say about this film other than that I simply loved it. I loved all of the characters, how delicately and seamlessly the sci-fi aspects were worked into the picture, and the way writer and director Rian Johnson brought the time-travel aspect to the screen. The film was exciting, emotional, action-packed, and provided intriguing characters. The pacing was perfect for me: intense when it needed to be, but not afraid to slow down at other times. I think the film is very layered and very smart in its design and execution. I love that this was an original story, something exceedingly rare in today's cinema. I truly believe that this is a masterpiece of science fiction that will long be referenced as one of the best the genre has ever had to offer. My review is here - not surprisingly, it ended up being my highest-reviewed film of the year.
I'm not sure what the broad generalization of these picks say about me, but overall, at this point in my life, whatever that may be, these are the films I was most drawn to last year. Other than a couple of selections, most of my picks - even if having supernatural or fantasy elements to them - tend to be based in reality (which isn't anything new for my interests). Animated films or films too abstract don't usually work well for me, even if they're well made. Overall, a good, developed character will go farther than just about anything else you can offer me in a film.
If any of these titles you haven't yet seen, I highly recommend correcting that as soon as possible.