After seeing The Dark Knight Rises recently, my friend and I started discussing our favorite films so far this year. And so with that conversation in mind, I’m breaking the year at the halfway mark and listing my five favorites released between January 1 and June 30 in kinda progressing toward the favorite order but not considered too deeply.
The Artist – I’ll start with the semi-cheat first (so you forget about it by the end) since this was technically released in 2011 in limited theatres. But it wasn’t in my local theatre until 2012 with the Oscar buzz so I saw it this year. There’s a reasonable argument that it only wins the Oscar due to a weakish field for the year, but the movie is plenty entertaining, inventive conceptually, and paced well. That the filmmakers pulled that off with a silent film is a real testament to their skill.
Ted – Seth Macfarlane’s high-concept film debut caught me by surprise. I’m not much of a fan of his TV shows, but I always liked him when he appeared on talk shows. So we gave this one a chance based on strong reviews and it did not disappoint. It’s truly funny. And beyond that, unexpectedly touching—to the point where you’re actively reminding yourself no, I’m not getting misty-eyed over a CGI teddy bear! So yeah, good stuff. Ted is basically a stand-in for every child star who grew up to diminishing celebrity and a train-wreck of a personal life but less depressing to watch in “adult” form.
21 Jump Street – Another comedy, and I’m now realizing everything on this list plays it for laughs to some extent. I’ve never seen the show 21 Jump Street though I’m old enough to remember it. It got unexpectedly good reviews so we gave it a chance. It exceeded expectations by a wide margin. Channing Tatum (or is it Tatum Channing?) is a real surprise. His timing is great, and you start to empathize with the jock finding out high school isn’t quite what he remembered which amplifies both the painfully funny and triumphantly funny moments. Jonah Hill gets to subvert his many abused nerd roles into apex nerd here and it works, though not quite as well as Tatum’s (or is it Channing’s?) character arc. But bottom line, the movie continues to deliver the funny throughout its running time from wherever it can find a joke. It also contains some fun supporting roles and throws in a few cameos for people who actually liked the original show.
Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson strikes again with a period piece about young love between runaway outcasts pursued by a slew of Hollywood A-listers that like working with Wes Anderson. Everyone in it is just about pitch perfect but in that quirky indie way. I can see the complaints that Anderson’s movies are too affected—I get it. They are and Moonrise Kingdom is no exception, but I still like the character work so much and the inability to guess where the movie will take those characters that I can forgive the dependence on Anderson’s house style. It works for me more often than not. I sometimes wonder what a Wes Anderson screenplay would look like directed by someone else though. I’m getting off track—Moonrise Kingdom is thoroughly great.
The Cabin in the Woods – I talked about it at length here already so I’ll pretty much leave it at that. In the intervening months nothing else I’ve seen has equaled it. Even now, I’m looking forward to seeing it a second time when it’s released on disc more than I’m looking forward to any of the theatrical releases for the remainder of 2012.
A brief honorable mentions list: I also enjoyed Chronicle, The Avengers, Brave and The Raid: Redemption.