Somewhat surprisingly considering how much of my current income is derived from writing Top Ten lists, I don't actually like end-of-year best and worst lists. There are plenty of perfectly valid criteria on which to compare and rank movies (let me know if you think of any funny ones), but "they came out in the same calendar year" never really feels like a good one to me.
Still, it doesn't hurt to look back at the end of the year and take stock of what's gone by, if only to update your shopping list for your next trip to the DVD store. So with the half-hearted introductions out of the way, let me present perhaps the most whishy-washy Best and Worst of 2012 list you'll read this year. By which I mean I didn't even narrow it down to a top ten, I just lumped the good and bad films together in near-arbitrary clumps and left out most of the really recent releases just in case I changed my mind about them (sorry, the most excellent Wreck-It Ralph! Close shave, the unflushable Parental Guidance!). Enjoy!
10) Relationships: A Separation / The Deep Blue Sea / Take This Waltz / Your Sister’s Sister / Jesse & Celeste Forever. Whether you’re falling in love, falling out of love, or are just plain sick of the person you’re in love with, good viewing was the result.
9) Male nudity: Shame / Magic Mike. One is a depressing tale of sex addiction, the other features a lot of shirtless dancing and screaming women. They’re both worth a look for more than the tackle-out action.
8) Kids: Safe / Moonrise Kingdom. Okay, Jason Statham running around with a pre-teen maths wiz and Wes Anderson’s latest tale of melancholy have very little in common apart from the presence of small children in both. But they're still both good films.
7) Hitmen: Looper / Killing Them Softly / The Grey. Okay, Liam Neeson in The Grey was a hitman of wolves, not people. Doesn’t mean that movies about hitmen didn’t do well in 2012.
6) Cops: End of Watch / Dredd / 21 Jump Street / The Raid. Out of these three extremely violent films and one comedy, guess which one had the goriest moment? Wrong: the end of 21 Jump Street was just plain nasty.
5) Robbers: Get the Gringo / Headhunters / Contraband / Bernie. At the other end of the law-enforcement scale, these films proved that committing crimes could be just as entertaining as fighting them.
4) Superheroes: The Avengers / The Dark Knight Rises / Chronicle / Skyfall. Hey, James Bond is as much of a super hero as Batman – he just doesn’t have to wear a silly outfit to save the world. Though Chronicle was the only real surprise of the bunch here, as Hollywood at least has the big budget superhero movie down to a fine, unsurprising, art.
3) Spies: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy / Argo / Haywire. And these guys don’t need any outfits at all to save the world! Not that they weren’t wearing clothes or anything, but, you know, they lurk in the shadows and so on.
2) Comedy: Ted / Bachelorette / Young Adult. This was not a great year for comedy, but at least these three managed to bring the laughs.
1) People in a room: The Master / Margin Call / Carnage. These films may have all been very different from each other, but one thing did unite them: the drama you can create simply by having people in a room talking to each other.
(as for my actual best film of 2012, that's the same as my best film of every year since 1987: Robocop)
But just in case you were thinking 2012 was the dawn of some kind of new golden age of cinema after all that praise, rest assured the stench of utter rubbish continued to billow out of cinemas at a steady rate. Especially cinemas screening the following, for which it was a very bad year…
10) Science Fiction: Prometheus / The Darkest Hour / Total Recall. In theory it’s possible to tell a science fiction story without, you know, just completely making all of the science up. Not that you’d know it from these films.
9) Australasian Comedy: Any Questions For Ben / Two Little Boys / Kath & Kimdrella / Mental / Housos Versus Authority. Anyone remember when Australia used to make funny films? Anyone? Didn’t think so.
8) American Comedy: The Watch / That’s My Boy / American Pie Reunion / The Five Year Engagement. American big screen comedy seems to have come to a screeching halt. Five seconds after it ran off a cliff.
7) Fantasy sequels: Underworld / Resident Evil / MiB III / Paranormal Activity 4. The fun of a movie where you’re just making stuff up is that the stuff you’re making up is surprising and new. If you’re doing sequels, you’re doing it wrong - especially with horror, where "the same old shit" really is just plain shit.
6) Big name directors: Savages (Oliver Stone) / Dark Shadows (Tim Burton) / Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg). Yeah, just retire already. Well, not you Cronenberg, at least you're still trying new things that only kind of don't quite work. But you other two, don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.
5) Big Budget Spectaculars: Battleship / Wrath of the Titans. You cost how much money now? At least John Carter was trying to tell a story...
4) Highbrow guff: A Dangerous Method / The Words / Holy Motors / Beasts of the Southern Wild. Actually, most of these movies weren’t all that bad really (apart from The Words, which was just plain rubbish). They just weren’t anywhere near as smart as they thought they were.
3) Giving love a bad name: What to Expect When You’re Expecting / This Means War / The Vow. Seriously, if you go see Hollywood romantic comedies at this stage of humanity's existence you get exactly what you deserve
2) Musicals: Rock of Ages. In which Tom Cruise sang part of a musical number into a woman’s arse. Though I didn't enjoy Les Mis all that much either.
1) And the worst film of 2012 was… Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Presumably the title was meant as a warning as to what it was going to feel like being in a room with the amazingly annoying quasi-teenage lead as he wandered around post 9/11 New York refusing to shut the hell up. There are plenty of "bad" films I enjoyed (how did I fail to mention Step Up 4: Miami Heat?), and plenty of boring films I can see have merit: this was the only film that left me actually angry over how much time I'd wasted watching it.