Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Top 20 Favorite Movies of 2012

I watched 74 movies inside the theaters this year which is a personal record. About a quarter of it I watched through press/advanced screenings and the rest with my own money. It's quite a costly past time but there's really something special about watching a film in the big screen so even though I had some financial woes this year I was still able to set aside some money so I can still go to the theater. And I don't regret spending for it since watching movies inside a theater helped me cope with all the personal problems I had this year. 

Just like last year, I will share my Top 20 Favorite Movies of the year. This time I'm going to limit my list to the movies I've watched inside the theater. There are also 2011 movies in the list because they were only shown here this year so for me they are 2012 movies. I love stories regardless of genre although I admit my taste in movies is more mainstream and commercial but I can appreciate offbeat/indie films as long as they have something that got my interest.  I wish have seen more movies in this year's Cinemalaya (I've only seen 4) or any new film in the Cinema One Originals festival so I could have a broader selection for the local movies but unfortunately I wasn't able to do so. Anyway, let's get this rollin!

But first!

Honorable Mention: The Re-issues!

I've watched 3 re-issues this year first was Titanic in 3D and the last two are digital restorations of Filipino classics Himala and Oro Plata Mata and it was a pleasure to be able to watch these films in the big screen. Initially, I was thinking of including them in my Top 20 but I decided that I'll stick with the new films only but I still want to mention how I enjoyed watching these films in the big screen.

And now on with the list!

20. Every Breath U Take

 The mainstream local movie that I enjoyed the most this year. While the story is still generic and in line with  the Star Cinema romcom wheelhouse, Every Breath U Take stood out because of its strong comedic moments. Angelica Panganiban's scene in the police station almost gave me an asthma attack because of how hilarious it is. I think that scene is the main reason why this movie made my top 20 ;)

19. The Avengers

Hollywood popcorn movie at its finest.  It's the highest grossing movie ever in the Philippines earning more than 600 million pesos  and it's not hard to see why. It may not have complex and deeper themes but it sure delivered in the entertainment department with its humor, great cast chemistry and awesome action scenes.

18. Requieme!

In the interest of full disclosure, a friend of mine is part of the cast of this 2012 Cinemalaya entry . But I can honestly say that I genuinely enjoyed this film. The way it touched on the culture of death in the country is spot on. I especially like the part where it delved on the issue on how it's complicated to bury someone who is poor. It's very insightful and will make you feel sad for people who even in death can't be laid to rest because of "technicalities" and "paperwork".

17. The Dark Knight Rises

Sure it was not as good as The Dark Knight but let's face it's just so hard to top that iconic movie. Setting aside lofty expectations, Nolan's final Batman film delivered. and closed out one of the most celebrated movie franchises in bombastic fashion. 

16. Frankenweenie

The story is very simple but it perfectly captured the feeling of a child losing his beloved pet. The sentiment is very sincere that you just can't help but be charmed by it. The black-and-white stop motion format is rendered gorgeously making the movie more appealing. 
15. Cloud Atlas

Probably the most critically divisive film this year because the premise is just so ambitious. Even though the film failed to connect all six stories in a more coherent way, most of the individual stories are strong enough. I especially like the stories set in the future (Neo Soul Korea and post-Apocalyptic earth) which are science fiction at its finest. The story about the old publisher gave the film a much-need lighter tone while The Cloud Sextet story is emotionally powerful. The nuclear facility-oil company conspiracy story pulled in heart-pounding moments and while I'm not a fan of the slavery story it still has elements and twists that kept me interested.

14. Bwakaw

Our country's submission for the Oscars this year is a very worthy choice and even if it did not make to the top 9 shortlist, this is still a film that we should be proud of. It tells a poignant story of loneliness and how to make the most out of the time you have left in this world. Eddie Garcia delivered one of the best performances of his career

13.  Brave

While it's quite obvious that there's a tonal shift in the film due to its changing directors midway in the production, Brave still works mainly because its heart is in the right place. I also like that the lead character, Merida, is not your damsel in distress or even the sweet naive princess either Also, the animation is simply beautiful and is probably the animated feature with most-polished production this year.

12. ParaNorman

This is one example of an animation that truly benefits from the stop-motion format. It complements the story's bizarre setting yet it is still accessible enough for kids and casual moviegoers. The story's climax when ParaNorman meets the "witch" is one of the most emotional and riveting scene for any film I've seen this year. 

11. Thy Womb

I reviewed this film just yesterday  but to sum it up, Thy Womb's slow narrative will be a challenge to some but its poetic depiction of the Badjao culture in Tawi Tawi is simply powerful.

10. Chronicle

This movie used the "found footage" format very well because it didn't use it as simply as a gimmick but our eyes to the soul of an emotionally damaged person. Dane DeeHan's performance as Andrew is one of the year's best and I wish he received more recognition.

9. Looper

A time travel movie that tackles more than just jumping from one time period to another but it presents a moral argument that will make you think about consequences and question the decisions of the characters. The end is quite emotional and up to now I'm still stunned by it.

8. Wreck-It Ralph

The Toy Story for the world of gaming! It's imaginative, funny and emotional as well. I love the production design which exudes creativity. However, the friendship between Ralph and Vanellopee is the film's strongest point as it sincere but not overtly sentimental.

7. The Muppets

A 2011 movie that was only shown here last March. This movie is one of the best "reboots" of any franchise in recent memory. It manages to pay homage to the past but respectfully ushers in to a new era. The musical performances (and the songs) are witty, fun and heck even emotional! . This not just a comeback vehicle for these lovable puppets but a loving tribute that would make its creator Jim Henson proud. 

6. Hugo

Another movie from last year that only got a release date this year. This Oscar winner had an uneven beginning but all those flaws are negligible once the story gets to the film preservation part. The movie will help us appreciate films and the people behind it. I love how the film highlighted the creative process that happens when making movies. And perhaps the strongest element in Hugo is the movie's message of keeping the art of films alive and not just in the physical sense. Once you see the gorgeously-rendered sequences featuring the restored actual footage of early films you'll understand why film preservation is important.

5.  Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay

The 2011 Cinema One Originals winner took almost a year to land a commercial theater run and the wait was all worth it. I loved how this faux-documentary manages to blend in truth and fiction seamlessly. Iconic extra Lilia Cuntapay gave a wonderful performance, she was funny and heartbreaking. Her "acceptance speech" is one of the most heartfelt scene I've seen this year, it was so powerful but raw.

4.  Argo

Argo recreates a moment in world history that is emotionally resonant, humorous and  tense. While the script took some liberties to make the actual incident more cinematic, it knows not to make it flashy and executes each scene in a clean and unaffected manner. How this story ends is no secret but still the film manages to stir up suspense.

3.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This movie does not tell us anything new or groundbreaking about youth issues but what it does best is showing the serious side of being a teenager with so much sensibility and sincerity. The structure is basically simple and something that most people could relate to. It really is all about growing up and the pain and pleasure that comes along with it. What makes The Perks of Being a Wallflower special is that the movie does not pass judgment and just lets you in to the world of these kids who are young, adventurous and full of potential yet so unfocused and fragile. It does not escape the cliches known to this genre but the characters are fascinating and genuine that watching their journey is so engrossing to watch.

2.  Hope Springs

If you think that Hope Springs is an 'icky' movie about old people wanting to have sex again then you are absolutely wrong. Hope Springs paints a moving picture of how time tests relationships and even if it focuses on an older couple, the message is universal and will definitely strike a chord to anyone regardless of age. This is is such a strong movie because it is well-observed and direct to the point. It is an intimate film that carefully dissects the issues that led the couple in that state of their marriage. There are no major dramas or dark secrets behind the fragile situation they are in but just a couple of small unspoken issues that bore a hole which got bigger and bigger over time without them realizing it. It also commendable how the film resolved the conflict in a realistic way, there's no magic moment where everything is going to be better in an instant. It suggests that resolving issues takes time and effort from both sides.

1. Give Up Tomorrow

My #1 this year is a documentary about a criminal case here in the Philippines that I was not aware that existed until this film came to the theaters. Give Up Tomorrow presented a very strong case on why the convicted is innocent while at the same time depicts the gripping reality of the Philippine justice and political system.I was definitely moved, shocked and appalled after I saw this documentary. Give Up Tomorrow is not just the story of a man looking for justice but a powerful wake up call on how dangerous trial by publicity is. It paints a picture of a rotten system that will make you think things over and over again. It’s a gripping documentary that a lot of people should see because it speaks a lot of things so hard to accept but yet so painfully true.

No comments: