If you’ve read Nick Hornby’s brilliant book High Fidelity (or seen the equally brilliant movie starring John Cusack), you’ll know how difficult Top 5 or Top 10 lists are to compile – and this is especially true when it comes to movies.
There are so many different factors to compile. How do you get a good balance between genres? Do you stick with mainstream, or do you give equal weighting to arthouse productions? Do you follow the crowd, or do you trust your gut and include something (or maybe omit it) in spite of the consensus view?
It’s always difficult to make a list of your favourite films of the year, and recently a thought occurred to me:
2012 is going to be a real doozy.
Not that past years have been a piece of cake, mind you. But when you consider just how good a year 2012 has been for movies of all different genres (and annoying the pieces of crap starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Sandler), choosing a list of just 10 is going to be murder.
Firstly, there’s the Oscar bait, and boy is there some good Oscar bait this year. Ben Affleck’s hostage thriller Argo, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Ben Zeitlin’s staggeringly good Beasts of the Southern Wild have all been heaped with praise by critics, and for good reason – they all deserve that coveted golden man next February.
Those last two also delivered us some incredible performances – Joaquin Phoenix has been acclaimed for his role of a troubled soldier returning to post-war America in The Master, and Quvenzanhé Wallis’ turn in Beasts is the best child performance since… well, ever.
And it’s not just original ideas that have been doing well this year; even franchises have miraculously managed not to suck. Many were disappointed that The Dark Knight Rises didn’t live up to its predecessor, but I thought it was a fantastic end to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy – arguably one of the best superhero film series of all time. And Joss Whedon managed to turn The Avengers – a concept that should have turned into a complete and utter mess – into a smart, funny and thrilling summer blockbuster.
Everyone was worried about Skyfall coming out this month with the memory of the godawful Quantum of Solace still fresh in our minds, but it turned out to be one of the best Bond films of all time.
It’s also been a great year for certain genres: sure, we had yet another Paranormal Activity, but there were some great scary movies out there. What about Cabin in the Woods, the genre-bending homage/pisstake again written by Whedon? Or ParaNorman, the stop motion film that managed to be family-friendly, scary and intelligent all at the same time? And let’s not forget the great science fiction efforts, like Rian Johnson’s time-travel masterpiece Looper.
And those are just a few movies in the English language – look across the Channel and you’ll find some terrific European cinema this year. From France, there were touching dramas like Amour and Rust and Bone, and the hilariously funny Les Intouchables, while Germany brought us soon-to-be cult classic Iron Sky.
I could go on and on, but I’ll sum it up. Usually it would be fair to say that, with the exceptional variation here and there, most Top 10 lists are pretty similar. But this year, don’t just assume that if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all.