Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.
Every year it seems like we’re always complaining about film, and how Hollywood is out of ideas, but this year was actually pretty good for film as a whole. I realize in my capacity as the guy who likes crapping on bad films I can get a bit overzealous; my review of this faith-based film actually got a couple of threatening emails from the religious whack job crowd, for starters. But then again trashing bad films is part of the job description … and there were more than 10 films this year that redeemed my faith in film, especially after a summer of epic disappointments. Like this film … and this film, too.
Unlike those two films (among others) there were a ton of great films; these are the very best 10.
10. Jack Reacher
Why I loved it – Sometimes being a good genre film is tough in and of itself. Hollywood has this hard time when it comes to genre films, especially action films, in that they overdo it in a lot of areas. Sometimes a car chase should be just about chasing another car instead of some Michael Bay fueled orgy of CGI fueled explosions. Jack Reacher didn’t do any of that … it’s a good old fashioned procedural with Tom Cruise playing against type. He’s not charming, charismatic or a guy with a smile that melts women. This is a badass little man who has no qualms with kicking a man in the crotch multiple times to end a fight. He’s Ethan Hunt but with an edge. If eventually he’s going to transition out of Mission Impossible and into another franchise this would be a perfect way out.
9. Pitch Perfect
Why I loved it – I was not expecting this to be anything worthwhile and had planned on skipping it in theatres … but I kept hearing good things from people I trusted. And it turned out to be a really engaging film for all the right reasons. For as much as the Twilight films have made me lump Anna Kendrick in with the rest of the untalented Twilight kids its projects like this and Up in the Air that make me think she’s going to wind up a significantly bigger star than any of them. She consistently picks good projects outside of that series, even if she’s not in huge parts, and this is a near perfect star vehicle that has a Bring It On kind of vibe to it: not insanely popular but much more so in the years to come.
8. Like Water
Why I loved it – The one thing I love most in life is watching people who are artists at what they do. From gunsmith work, car repair, waterworks, playing guitar, et al, I love seeing the creative process throughout any profession that requires it. It’s why Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight champion, has always fascinated. I’ve never considered him a fighter; he’s always been an artist in how he does everything. The cage is his tapestry and I’m never dulled by anything he does; there’s something mercurial about what he does in a cage that as a fan of people who are creative makes me stand up and notice. Seeing Silva in what was a point in his career where he went from being an MMA villain to nearly single-handedly redeeming every aspect of his career in one fell swoop against Chael Sonnen is one thing. Seeing everything behind it from his perspective gives us a glimpse into the mind of the champion that we never see. All we heard was Sonnen talking smack before the fight; seeing Silva in the buildup to the fight gives us that perspective we didn’t have.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man
Why I loved it – I wish this had been the first crack at Spider-Man, not the fourth, because this has the potential to make us all forget about Sam Raimi’s trilogy. This is a better take on the character so far and I really like the casting so far, as well. It’s more genuine of a character than Raimi crafted but Marc Webb also had an advantage in making this film that Raimi didn’t. Raimi was wading into fairly uncharted waters with the comic book hero genre and there wasn’t a template on what to do and what not to do. Webb got his start in what’s the golden age of the genre, after The Dark Knight and the like shifted the paradigm of what we can and should expected out of a genre film. It’s why a film like Jonah Hex was such a universal stinker; in the early 90s it would’ve been par for the course but now we expect significantly more. The bar has been raised and Webb’s operating in that universe, not the one of lowered expectations.
6. The Expendables 2
Why I loved it – We live in an era where an actor who never did anything tough in his life can put on spandex, get $100 million in CGI behind them and somehow we’re supposed to buy them as a badass hero. Call me a dinosaur but I miss the ‘80s in this regard: you had to at least get jacked up on steroids before people would cast you in an action film. There were certain expectations and you had to look the part. Now they find a comic book character for drama school graduates who excel in Pilates. There’s something that gets lost in that. It’s why I dug The Expendables and now its sequel; there’s something to be said about an unapologetic action film with an unapologetic action heroes. Randy Couture doesn’t need to have a super power besides kicking people’s asses in a cage in his 40s. James Franco would.
5. The Grey
Why I loved it – Earlier in the year I went in, like everyone else, expecting a film about Liam Neeson punching wolves in the winter. Instead we got a meditative film about the nature of man as a group of refugees try to escape the path of wolves on the hunt. It was entirely unexpected from Joe Carnahan, more of a genre guy than anything else, because it felt more like a prestige film than a film that got release before the fourth quarter of 2012. I even have an entire column on sequel ideas, obviously in humor, but Carnahan might be the director I enjoy the most but doesn’t have the commercial success he should for any number of reasons.
4. I Am Bruce Lee
Why I loved it – Bruce Lee was the guy that inspired many people to make movies, learn to fight or just be a better person. His life was tragically cut short, of course, but it’s his legacy that always amazes me. This was a brilliant documentary that few people saw in theatres (I was one) and more saw on Spike TV, of course, but it gave us an insight into the man many people only know from his films.
Why I loved it – In a year where comedies barely met the standard of actually being funny Seth MacFarlane of all people directed an instant classic of comedy. He took an incredibly simple concept, a buddy comedy about two guys whose friendship is preventing both from moving on with their lives, and throws in some amazing CGI as a teddy bear might be one of the best characters of 2012. It could’ve very easily taken a path where Mila Kunis wound up being a de facto villain but instead this is a very well written story that also happens to be really funny. It’s a variant on the formula Judd Apatow rode to fame and even more surprising coming from someone with a background nearly exclusively television.
Why I loved it – The one thing I hate about biopic documentaries, like the one on Stan Lee that got me hate mail from one of the film’s 300 directors, is that they tend to put people in the best light possible and avoid the negatives to their lives. Marley, about reggae legend Bob Marley, is different in that we get a detailed biopic on Marley’s relatively short life (in comparison to his influence) that doesn’t skimp from painting Marley as something more than a musical legend. We get true, definitive insight into the man and the flaws therein. I’m not a fan of reggae but I can admit that this film made me interested in his music; Marley was such an interesting man and had both the positives and negatives of his life therein. If you can deliver a true portrait of a man (not just what someone wants you to know about them) you’ve done something special with a film.
Why I loved it – It’s hard to craft a historical event because there’s always some added perspective (right or wrong) from the eyes of the modern man. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address is viewed now in much different terms than it was then, of course, and the story of how the CIA used the cover ID of a Canadian film crew to get some people embassy workers in Iran out of the country made for a great Wired Magazine article and now a great film. It’s a great spy thriller for starters, that has just the right blend of drama and comedy to keep the film from being too dreary at times. I loved it the first time at a press screening and sang its praises to anyone who’d listen; it’s three for three for the best promising director of his generation (Ben Affleck).
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Argo, Jack Reacher, Monday Morning Critic, pitch perfect, Ted, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Expendables 2, The Grey