It's that time of the year again: it's Top 10 Best Films Of The Year time, and happily 2012 offered plenty of decent films to pick from. As usual, I didn't see everything and it's entirely possible (though unlikely) that the ten very best movies of the year were all the ones I decided to pass on, either on the grounds that they looked a bit rubbish, or they were made by people with an established track record in rubbish. Not naming any names, but Adam Sandler had two films out this year and unless someone is willing to put lumps of cash in my hand upfront, I'm staying at home. Another reason for missing many films was simply that they weren't given decent distribution: three afternoons at the ICA might count as a release technically, but it doesn't give us mere plebs in the provinces much of an opportunity to see them.
The sole criterion for inclusion is that the film had a UK cinema release that commenced between Jan 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012, and for reference I go by their inclusion on the Launching Films website. Thus, despite it being a genuinely wonderful film, The Artist is ineligible because the distributors actually opened the film in one West End screen in the dying days of 2011 and the rest of the country (including me) didn't get to see it until January. Festival screenings don't count.
Enough blathering. The list:
In the wake of the original Millennium trilogy (though decidedly not David Fincher's awful Dragon Tattoo tribute act) and BBC4's screenings of The Killing etc, Scandinavian crime mysteries have become something of a cultural zeitgeisty thing, and this thoroughly enjoyable Norwegian murder/crime thriller gripped throughout despite a not especially sympathetic hero and a few thoroughly icky moments, specifically that bit in the outside toilet. Great fun.
9. JOHN CARTER
Of Mars. Possibly the year's most critically underappreciated movie, and probably the year's most undeserved financial failure. Personally I thought it was terrific: a romping old-fashioned and genuinely entertaining space epic with action, spectacle, monster attacks and a bit of romance. That it was greeted with derision and apathy saddens me.
I usually pass on the CGI digimations because I'm no great fan of celebrity-voiced cartoon animal knockabout, but Pixar's latest might well be their best yet and a new standard of excellence. A beautiful and stylishly animated "once upon a time" fable with a spirited heroine and no pop culture jokes (or talking horses): truly entrancing.
7. THE WOMAN IN BLACK
You could argue that Daniel Radcliffe is miscast as he's really too young, but I didn't have too much of a problem with it. Making audiences jump and creeping them out numerous times is phenomenally difficult, and this is a proper horror movie that really should have been left as a 15 certificate. Even in a cut version it's satisfyingly scary for grown adults, but too intense for the tots. Which is as it should be.
6. ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA
It's Turkish, it's 159 minutes long and almost nothing happens. Yet it's engrossing pretty much the whole time, and the landscapes (which we see a lot of, even at night) are as breathtaking as those in John Carter or The Hobbit. There are films half as long that can bore the hind legs off a Queen Anne chair. It's my favourite foreign language film of 2012.
Hands down the scariest horror movie of the year: a proper boxer-browner of the type we just don't see often enough and the most jump-boo-aaargh! frightener since Insidious. The best film on show at this year's FrightFest. Loved it.
Everything they messed up in Quantum Of Solace has been fixed here, and the result is a terrific Bond movie with action sequences you can follow, far more of a sense of humour, a colourful villain and, at last, the end of M as a caricatured mother figure. Probably the best in the series for the last 20 years.
Effortlessly gripping, immaculate period detail not just in terms of shirts and beards but film-making style, genuine thrills and true tension: that it's based on a ridiculously implausible (but true) story doesn't detract from the excitement. You won't breathe for the last twenty minutes. More mature, proper, intelligent films for grownups, please.
I love its look, I love its ambition, I love Rapace and Fassbender doing sterling work. Was it perfect? No. Could it have done with a better score and three or four underexplored characters fewer? Absolutely? Does it all make watertight logical sense? Nowhere near. Does any of that matter? No. Ridley Scott is back where he belongs. I went to see it twice; that's how bloody good it is.
1. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
The best ironic deconstruction of horror iconography and cultural genre archetype you'll see all year. A horror movie about the genre: a delicious exploration and explanation of traditional horror tropes and stock characters that morphs into a delirious monster frenzy with the best and (if you were careful with your Twitter feed) most unexpected ending of the year. A Work Of Genius.
Not quite making the cut: a second raft of films, numbers 11-20, if you will but in no particular order: The Innkeepers, The Iron Lady, Total Recall (shut up, I liked it), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Moonrise Kingdom, Marvel Avengers Assemble, Looper, Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai, Grabbers and [Rec] 3: Genesis, all of which were either perfectly decent or better. Here's hoping 2013 has a similar calibre of material.