2012 was a year of amazing awesomeness. And now that it’s over, I’m going to make a bold statement: 2012 was the greatest year in pop culture entertainment (movies, tv, etc) EVER. There have been a lot of great years in cinema in the past, even in the recent past: 1982, 1994, 1939... but I cannot think of a better year, especially for film. I challenge you to look at this list and then tell me of a better year we’ve had. Ever.
Because of this, I present to you a list of my top 50 favorite things of 2012, and my 10 least favorite. And to facilitate easy reading, I give you my bottom 10, then my top 10, then the other 50.
Happy 2013 everyone!
10. Wii U: I include you on both my bottom and top list this year, Wii U. You’re awesome, no doubt. But some of your features at launch... not so much. For some unfulfilled promise and more sizzle than steak, you end up here.
9. 2012 Olympics coverage: Dear merciful deity, how badly do you have to screw things up, NBC? I’ve never said this before, but you DESERVE to be in last place. Everything was just covered in schmaltz. No possibility for watching events live. And so you’re not watching things as they happened, but pre-taped and packaged for maximum ad revenue. And while we’re sitting around waiting for your coverage to come on, your nightly news broadcast spoils everything that happens, or employs a hackneyed “Spoiler Alert” system. Gag.
8. Up All Night retooling: Yet another NBC fail. You take a perfectly fine show, and completely change it. I can see the meetings with the suits around a board room table: “These characters aren’t relatable enough. The character of Eva is offputting and offensive. No one likes her because she is a talk show host and no one likes them. So, let’s make her lose her show, and then we’ll give Reagan a blue-collar everyman brother who moves in with them...” And you ruined the show. You RUINED it. You took one of my more favorite shows and made it unwatchable. You bastards.
7. Mitt Romney’s tech fails: So, our candidate for President is a business guy, known for making money, solving problems, and turning management debacles into profits. So... we’re essentially saying all we need in a President is good management skills. So if I accept that premise, then why was the Romney campaign so full of #fail. Despite raising more money than Obama (including SuperPACs), they paid more for the same ad space the Obama campaign was. On the same day Romney was getting ready to receive his nomination in Tampa, Obama took to reddit to do an AMA. And then there was the Romney apps. He promised if you downloaded his VP picker app, you would find out first who his pick was. Too bad veteran political journalists had the story 18 hours before I ever got a push message on my iPhone about Paul Ryan. #fail. And then the photo app. A good idea really-- kind of like instagram to share your slice of America. Too bad it said “Only in Amercia” in the photos, instead, inspiring memes and mocking from tech-savvy Obama supporters everywhere. Look, I work in digital strategies for a large (political) non-profit. And this is just inexcusable. So, #fail. If you can’t manage a Presidential campaign, I fail to see how you could manage Amercia. Or America. Whatever.
6. Twilight / 50 Shades of Grey: Just make it stop. Please.
5. Mayan Apocalypse: This was a bad joke that kept getting worse. We keep waiting until the next apocalypse. I’m frankly sick of it.
4. Fun: No, you did NOT write the best or most iconic song of the year. You wrote two lines of a chorus and repeated them. Tonight, we are young/ So let’s set the world on fire...
The rest of that song is tripe. As for the rest of your songs, I’m thoroughly conviced that “Some Nights” is just a rip-off of the the Old Spice song. If you’re going to name your band Fun, don’t be so pretentious. Bands who actually deserve the name Fun: Foo Fighters, Andrew WK, Pink, and any number of nerdcore or ska bands.Gah.
3. Honey Boo Boo: Just the fact that this show exists is enough to signal the demise of our civilazation. The fact that it would be a hit is even worse. When the book is written of the decline of America, instead of Circus Maximus, they will refer to Honey Boo Boo.
2. Community: No, not the show. The show was great. The firing of Dan Harmon. The constant “is it cancelled or not?” The fact that we’ve had less than a dozen new episodes that aired this year. Once again, a plague on NBC. This is why you are a last place network.
1. 2016: Obama’s America: This is the film, if you could call it that, that is the exception that proves the rule that 2012 was the greatest year in movies in the US. This “documentary” purports to tell about a conspiracy whereby Obama will secretly take over American in the next 4 years and turn us into some sort of a socialist fascist Muslim UN-run death camp where baseball and apple pie will be outlawed and you will be forced to rape your grandmother. This movie was nonsensical. There’s documentaries that play fast and loose with the truth, and then there’s this example of simply making shit up to feed into a paranoid delusion. 2012 was also the year the far right wing in America decided to divorce itself from fact and rational thinking. And 2016, which grossed over $30 million dollars, is the prime example of this. I also lump into this , my least favorite thing of 2012, all of Fox News, all of my conservative friends on Facebook who I knew in college and high school who I wish would have the decency to simply STFU instead of posting stupid shit. Epic facepalm to all!
Honorable Mention: Every critic “too cool” to include certain movies on their top 10 lists. Seriously, if I have to read one more top 10 talking about how hard it was to narrow it down to just 10 and how “The Avengers/Looper/whatever was my favorite movie of the year but I couldn’t include it on here” I’m going to throw my laptop at the wall. Look, if Avengers was your favorite, why isn’t it #1? Because you’re a pretentious douche, that’s why. You’re saying your taste in movies is terrible, that you prefer something that is less good over something that is better. In which case, what business do you have being a critic? And if you’re putting things on your top 10 that you think are better or more artistic or what have you. . . then that’s why The Artist was named Best Picture last year and everyone hates The Oscars. If this was 1977, would you really be arguing that Annie Hall was better than Star Wars? I’m not saying Annie Hall isn’t great-- even classic! But Star Wars was Star Wars. So don’t give lip service to an amazing film and then talk about why it didn’t make it onto your Top 10. And every critic who lauded Return of the King but panned The Hobbit? You’re in this same boat, too.
10. Looper: What a great film, and amazing performances from its cast. An innovative plot, an excellent, witty script, and great direction. Rian Johnson has made several great films so far, but he knocked this one out of the park. If Avengers was this year’s Star Wars, Looper was its Blade Runner.
9. The Internet takes down SOPA: This was awesome in the truest sense of the word. Concentrated, organized collective action taking on the place where ignorance and evil overlap. If only Washington had learned its lesson.
8. Nate Silver: Both Nate’s fivethirtyeight blog and his book The Signal and the Noise make my top 10 this year. Why? Because math and statistics rule. Now, not every conclusion he comes to in his book are correct, but the main point is essentially correct: the correct use of data to understand and better be able to predict the world around us is incredibly useful. Go math!
7. The Walking Dead: The loss of showrunner Frank Darabont did not bode well for this season, but somehow they managed to bring it. The Governor and Michonne were both excellently introduced, and we found Merle again! Earlier in the year we also saw the evolution of Shane and Carl... in more ways than one. And more awesome zombie kills than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and the comics have been pretty spectacular, too. And then the video game. Which, as awesome as the show is, surpassed all of my expectations. Game of the Year in my opinion.
6. Lincoln: They should’ve just called this movie “Best Actor/Best Director/Best Adapted Screenplay.” I hope they let Doris Kearns Goodwin onstage for the acceptance speech. And this had my favorite lines of dialogue not written by Joss Whedon in a movie all year, most of them delivered by Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens.
5. CERN and the Higgs Boson Particle / The Mars Rover landing: Once again, science was cool this year. Awesome.
4. Homeland: Finally, a show worthy of all the awards it won. Damien Lewis remains one of my favorite people on tv, a holdover from when he starred on Life. Ditto for Claire Daines, my crush from high school and My So Called Life.
3. The Daily Show / The Colbert Report: My brother came and spent SXSW with me here in Austin in March, then left the country for work until just a few weeks ago. When he came back, I was trying to describe to him the awesomeness of what he’d missed: “As the news got worse, Daily Show and Colbert got better.” Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC alone helped bring a fresh clarity to just how ridiculous our elections had gotten-- by showing, literally, how ridiculous they were. Colbert’s childrens’ book, I am a Pole and So Can You, and his interview with Maurice Sendak (what would be just a few weeks before his death) remain highlights. So did Stewart’s Rumble with Bill O’Reilly and his epic rant about Bullshit Mountain. Thank you for keeping us sane.
2. The Newsroom: Speaking of keeping us sane... I feel like this show was tailor made for me. Like someone did a focus group of just me. “What do you like in a tv show?” “Aaron Sorkin. Workplace dramedies. Love triangles. Topical humor. Criticism of modern “journalism.” Olivia Munn. Smart dialogue. Is there any way you could mash up Sports Night, The Office, The West Wing, Moonlighting, and Murphy Brown?”
These two clips. This is why this was my favorite TV of the year:
1. Joss Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers share my top spot this year. And so, therefore, does the man who made them possible. Also, in his spare time, he just filmed a little version of Much Ado About Nothing starring Whedonverse various alum. And this PSA about voting for Mitt Romney.
Best writing. Best stories. Best execution of some great ideas. Best commentary on various aspects of our time. For all this and more. Thank you, Joss Whedon. May whatever God you pray to continue to grant you the awesomeness of your being.
And now... the rest. The Top 50 - 11:
50. John Carter`I wanted to start with this because it got so much crap at the beginning of the year and panned as a flop or a train wreck. I didn't think it was hald bad, and given the other films served up this year as family entertainment, this was fine. Give it a rest, haters.
49. Wii U: Yes, on both my top and bottom lists. No matter your faults, you are still hella fun. Mario is awesome. Nintendoland is great. ZombiU is the type of game we would not expect from launch titles from family-friendly Nintendo, but lots of fun. Can't wait for Aliens: Colonial Marines on this console.
48. Scandal I both love and hate this show. It's addictive and great, but I just don't know who to root for? All of the main characters are pretty despicable people, and they're all playing each other at one level or another. But somehow I want to root for them.
47. MIB 3: I was more skeptical of this than any film I've seen in years, and it delivered in ways I couldn't have imagined. Jermaine Clement as the bad guy Boris the Butcher was inspired, as was Josh Brolin doing an uncanny Tommy Lee Jones impression.
46. The Simpsons / Saturday Night Live / South Park / Futurama / Family Guy:
Or, as I like to call them, The Old Gray Ladies of Comedy. And somehow, each of them delivered in major ways this year. I know it's cool to talk about how these shows are past their primes, but some of what they delivered this year showed they have years left in them, if not decades.
45. Brave: Maybe not as good as I expected, but a beautiful and creepy movie, and one over which my daughter and wife bonded. Plus, cute little boys who turn into mischevious bear cubs. What's not to love?
44. Girls: I feel creepy watching this show. Like seriously TMI sometimes. But I haven't been this uncomfortable/entertained since Curb Your Enthusiasm.
43. The Lorax: I was also hugely skeptical of this, but I had a great time with this movie, as did my kids. While it is often tiresome to turn every kids movie into obligatory musicals, some of these songs were pretty fun. And despite some pretty intense greenwashing with this film's merchandizing, I guess we should just chalk that up to modern Hollywood and take the good with the bad.
42. Safety Not Guaranteed / Sleepwalk With Me: Two of my favorite indie comedies from SXSW this year share this spot. The first, a movie that is or isn't about time travel but more about whether Mark Duplass is crazy or not. The second, a semi-autobiographical take on Mike Birbiglia's sleepwalking. Remember Joss Whedon? Here's him telling you not to go see the movie. And here's Birbiglia responding in kind, and declaring victory over Whedon's Avengers. That's some great marketing. Both of these movies are available streaming in various places and well worth your time and money.
41. Portlandia: I know these people. They live all around me. Probably because Portland is just Austin + rain - cowboys. Too close to home, and too funny.
40. The Hobbit 3D at 48 FPS/ Paranorman: Why are both of these films together? Because they both tied in how much I liked them, but also because they attempted to push the bounds of technology... and came up the tiniest bit short. My original review for Paranorman I mentioned some of the problems with the 3D stop motion animation style. And I feel the exact same way about the 3D 48 frames per second Peter Jackson used on The Hobbit. Both movies told great stories, were incredible fun, and... I just got taken out of the magic of their storytelling ocassionally because of how innovative they were trying to be. Still, considering this is my second highest rated animated feature this year, that's saying something. And if I were doing a film-only list, these would both still be in my top 20 for the year. And both of them are part of the reason I say 2012 is the greatest year in pop culture cinema ever.
39. Community: The video game episode. The pillow fort Civil War episode. The only thing wrong with this show was we only got less than a dozen episodes this year. Oh, and the amount of dicking around NBC has done with its fans and creative talent.
38. Prometheus: The more I think about this movie the more I like it. I need to find some contemplative time and watch it again. Maybe on top of a mountain or beside a river. While not quite the Aliens frenzy I was hoping for, (my review here) it was so extremely different and I still can't decide whether it is the smartest and most heady movie I saw all year or just attempting to be. Well, in either case, as Idris Elba proclaimed in the film, "If you can't be with the [Alien prequel] you love, love the one you're with." Or something.
37. 30 Rock: I don't know how to describe this show except that it is nearly perfect. I will miss it when it leaves us. Personal favorite moments this year? The Leap Day episode featuring Leap Day William. And how in the world did I learn to love James Marsden so much?
36. The Hunger Games: If there had been no other movies released after this, we would have been lucky to have this as the best movie of the year. I can't wait for the sequels, as there's still a nasty President Donald Sutherland and crazy society to overturn in 3 more movies to come. I can't wait. And it still gets me. Every. Damn. Time. when little Rue dies.
35. Gay Oreos: This was a high water mark for the fight for marriage eqaulity and equal rights for our gay brothers and sisters. One great sign of this was when Kraft released an image on their Facebook page for Gay Pride month depicting a rainbow Oreo cookie with six layers of filling. I don't know about you, but that cookie looked awesome. I wanted to know where to buy one. And then people started losing their shit, calling for an Oreo boycott. Of course, this whole thing kind of took place a month or so later in complete reverse with Chick-Fil-A, but this was awesome. And, short of Mormons marching in Pride parades across the country, the best positive statement for equality I've seen all 2012.
34. Veep: Just like with The Newsroom, it felt like this comedy was made specifically for me. Thank you, Julia Louis Drefus.
33. Dredd 3D: How this movie was overlooked, I have no idea. My original review here, this is my pick if you want some fun ultra-violence and the best use of 3D.
32. The Dark Knight Rises: How this movie just generally failed to resonate with me, I have no idea. Yes, it was a good, fun movie. But maybe it was the shootings in Aurora, CO or the fact that I had figured out the plot "twists" early on, or maybe the endless political posturing about whether or not Bane was an #Occupy anti-hero or a symbol to make people hate Wall St Mitt Romney (hey, that drug addict Rush Limbaugh said it, not me!), I don't know. The best thing to come out of this movie is now we can all do fun Bane impressions. Step 1: Do a Sean Connery impression. Step 2: Cover your mouth like you're wearing a Bane mask. Step 3: Say grandiose things. The best? "I am (banal event)'s reckoning!"
31. Spider-Man: This was an amazing year for everyone’s favorite web-slinger. First off, we have a reboot in The Amazing Spider-Man that I was highly skeptical of that exceeded my every expectation to become my second or third favorite Spider-Man film and which lands somewhere in my top 20 superhero film. On the TV lookee-box, we had Ultimate Spider-Man, which is incredibly fun and kid-friendly. We also saw major changes in comics, with the death of Peter Parker in BOTH the Ultimate and Amazing titles, and therefore the Ultimate and 616 universes. Wow. At least in one of those, we’ll probably get Peter Parker back. Just ballsy all around-- in every media they took risks, and in each they succeeded. Congrats.
30. Wreck It Ralph: Just so much fun. The way a kids movie should be. I totally felt for Ralph, and love Jane Lynch's badass Sgt. Calhoun. I can't wait for this to come out on DVD, at which time it will play almost non-stop in my home.
29. Parks and Recreation: First we had the awesome election between Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd. Then after her election, it seemed like everyone in Washington wanted to make a cameo: 3 Senators and VP Joe Biden? (Leslie Knope: "Joe Biden's on my celebrity sex list. He is my celebrity sex list.") And Ron Swanson and Chris Traeger keep the world running.
28. Game Change: I was amazed by two things in this movie. 1) How uncanny Julianne Moore's Sarah Palin is. Tina Fey does an impression. Julianne Moore becomes Sarah Palin that I daresay would impress the most snobby member of the Royal Shakespeare Academy. How good was it? 2) I felt bad for Sarah Palin by the end of this. For someone as both liberal and cynical as I am, that is impressive. THAT's how good Julianne Moore was.
27. Iron Sky: Nazis. On the moon. Need I say more? My favorite feature from SXSW this year. Just go find this movie and watch it. You'll be glad you did. Especially as a funny counterpoint to Game Change's view of Sarah Palin. In this one, she basically becomes Hitler. I mean, er, that's not supposed to be Sarah Palin.
26. Ted: Can I get a cute, little, swearing, grocery checkout humping Ted bear please? A hilarious movie where the plot never seemed to get in the way.
25. This is 40: Someone needs to get Judd Apatow an editor, but this movie's saving grace is its amazing cast, especially Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, and Leslie Mann. And I will watch anything Paul Rudd does. But something about this movie just spoke to me-- perhaps its the doldrums of middle age and dealing with kids and marriage. But I really enjoyed this.
24. The Raid: Redemption: On a completely different note, you have the awesomest display of violence and action all year. Need to watch this back to back with Dredd, as they have somewhat similar premises. It would be like drinking a latte and an espresso back to back.
23. Zero Dark Thirty: This is an intentional snub to put this so intentionally low. People need to calm the f--- down about this movie. It's good, it's tense, and it blurs the line between justifying torture and not. As interesting as it was, it was immediately disavowed and condemned by the actual CIA, who said that none of the intelligence used in the raid on bin Laden actually came from torture. It makes for a better story, though. But when your movie purports to be based on the truth, and the truth is so recent, you can't be so lackadaisical with basic facts. Great, Kathryn Bigelow-- we already know you can direct taut war thrillers. We saw The Hurt Locker. But Zero Dark Thirty is this year's Emperor's New Clothes. Everyone wants to praise it because they can't grapple with the moral dilemma behind it. To which I say: f@#$ that. This was a great movie. So was Hurt Locker. But it's not /that/ great, people.
22. Skylanders: Giants: On a completely different note, a super-fun video game and series of
crack cocaine toys for children. The skylanders folks built on their successful formula from last year's Spyro's Adventure and started offering Giant toys as well like Thumpback, Tree Rex, Ninjini, and EyeBrawl. My kids are obsessed. And so am I. They also went all out with the voice cast for this game-- bringing back talent like Patrick Warbuton but also bringing in pros like Kevin Michael Richardson and Bobcat Goldthwait.
21. Argo: Compared with Zero Dark Thirty, this was a godsend. It had fun with the material and also, where it did stray from historical truth, at least we knew it was only based on declassified material and not purporting to be "the dark side of the war you never knew."
20. Promised Land: Oh, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck-- always fated to be with one another even when you're not. In this film, which Damon co-wrote with Office star John Krasinski and directed by Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant after Damon decided he couldn't direct it himself, we get an amazing view of the truth about hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Damon plays a landman, tasked with leasing mineral rights from locals so the companies can come in and frack. The problems with fracking come through and Damon actually delivers a really nuanced performance. The fact that the big gas mafia are fighting back against this movie should tell you how damning it is. And it's exactly why everyone should see it.
19. The Master: This film was almost as challenging for me as Prometheus, and I have gone back and forth on how I feel about it almost as much. The idea of how charismatic people build cults of personality around themselves, attracting incredibly broken people whom they attempt to mold in their own image was so beautifully explored here. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is amazing, but Joaquin Phoenix goes beyond acting to create something transcendant of his craft. My major problem with this film? I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to think or feel afterwards. I'm sure that was intentional, and call me lazy for wanting some sense of that from the artist, but then I have to wonder, what was the point of it all? What I'm left with is an amazing character study by two actors at the top of their craft... and not much else. Which is why it doesn't break into my top 10.
18. Indie Game: The Movie: Who would've thought a documentary about video game design would be one of the tightest thrillers of the year? My original review from SXSW pretty much says it all.
17. [adult swim]: This year we had Black Dynamite, a new season of Metalocalypse, a Robot Chicken DC comics special and the return of awesome live-action shows Childrens Hospital, NTSF:SD:SUV, and (my favorite) Eagleheart. Truth: I had originally rated this lower, and then started remembering all of the awesomeness and moved it up. And we’re getting word that in 2013 we’re getting a Newsreaders show?
16. Les Miserables - Aside from my concerns about Russell Crowe's singing, this was about as perfect an adaptation as we could expect. Anne Hathaway steals the first 20 minutes of the film.
15. Sherlock: OMG I need more of this NOW!!!!! Stupid BBC and their truncated schedules. Now when can we get Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch back to help us figure out how Holmes escaped this (almost literal) cliffhanger? Supposedly they're going back into production for 2013, but we'll see. It can't come soon enough. In the meantime I'll have to just watch Downton Abbey.
14. Skyfall: We went pretty crazy for Bond this year at BSR, as we watched and reviewed every Bond film over the space of a month. And for good reason. Skyfall might be my favorite Bond film of all time. Hence its place here.
13. Samsung: You lost that bullshit lawsuit to Apple. But you made some of the best tech out there. I am now the proud owner of a Galaxy SIII phone and I could not be happier. Instead of your typical bloatware, Samsung has offered some extra value to android users. Plus a super-bright and huge screen and sleek design. Oh, and sweet NFC integration that allows me to beam contacts, mp3s, photos, etc from phone to phone? I just love it. Oh, and they make some awesome tvs, fridges, and other appliances.
12. Lucasfilm/Disney marriage: Nothing has made me more excited or scared than this. 2012 will be remembered for this merger and as the time when Star Wars was given the ability to metastisize into the series of films we will be enjoying for the next decade.
11. Django Unchained / Game of Thrones (tie): I simply couldn't choose between these two. And words fail me to be able to explain their awesomeness.
Stick a fork in it. 2012 is done. And it was awesome. And I have nothing more to say than that.
Tags: Top ten lists