By Jennie Jarvis
Between Thanksgiving, Black Friday and all of the December holidays crammed up against New Year’s, this time of year tends to mean celebrations and family stress for so many people. For the film industry, however, it’s the hottest time of the year for Oscar Contenders as they rush to make it into theaters before the December 31st deadline.
For movie goers, this means that it’s the best time to shell out anywhere from $6 to $16 for a movie ticket since most of the films are the highest quality that will be released all year. Across the media, top ten lists of the best films of the year usually start to pop up, so anyone who isn’t quite sure where to spend their movie money has all the guidance that they need to make that important decision.
For me, it’s a very exciting time of year. I love to see the top ten lists pop up, and I race to see as many of the films that are on the Oscar prediction lists as I can. It can also be, however, a time of year where I tend to look back and mourn all of the films that were released earlier in the year and, as a result, will most likely be overlooked for many of the Oscar categories. Don’t get me wrong. I love a lot of those Oscar movies (I saw a sneak of Hitchcock last week, and I adored it!). But I really feel that some of the earlier films deserve to be recognized as well.
As such, I would like to submit my own top ten list. Here are my favorite films from pre-Oscar season 2012:
1. Chronicle (dir. Josh Trank)
This low budget found footage film tells the story of a super villain. It’s simplistic in its tale and uses a lot of well-known tropes, but it does a great job of putting a new twist on a familiar story. Anyone who liked The Avengers should give this film a watch!
2. Salmon Fishing in Yemen (dir. Lasse Hallström)
A subtle and charming romantic comedy starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, this film should have received much more acclaim than it did. Based on a true story, this tale was heartfelt, funny and timely. It has a surprising biting (but classically British) humor to it that makes it a perfect film for date night.
3. The Hunger Games (dir. Gary Ross)
I don’t care what you say; this adaptation of the popular young adult novel was great. I hated how many people made comparisons to Twilight because of the love triangle aspects of the story. The screenplay made a lot of smart choices about how to adapt a first person novel into a visually compelling and exciting popcorn flick.
4. The Cabin in The Woods (dir. Drew Goddard)
If you love horror films or Joss Whedon, then this film is one that shouldn’t be missed. It breaks apart the horror convention with hilarious meta-insanity. The best review that I heard of this movie was this: “Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard got completely stoned and wrote a screenplay. Later, they read it and said ‘what the hell is this? Ah whatever, let’s make it anyway’!” Just trust me. It’s great!
5. Safety Not Guaranteed (dir. Colin Trevorrow)
“WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.” This is an ad that you want to answer. I didn’t know anything about this film except for the contents of that ad, and I saw it. I’m so glad that I did.
6. The Avengers (dir. Joss Whedon)
Do I even need to explain why this film is awesome? It’s a bunch of good-looking super heroes kicking ass with a Joss Whedon script. Enough said.
7. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (dir. John Madden)
Despite its early release date (May 25th), I think that the brilliance of this screenplay may still give this film a chance to win a few golden statues. Dame Maggie Smith in particular gives an Oscar worthy performance as a ridiculously racist British woman forced to go to India for a hip replacement. This film is one of several recent releases that is filling a huge whole in the market place – stories that star older actors that discuss the touchy topic of nearing life’s end. But, while many of the themes resonate with older audiences, there is plenty here for a person of any age.
8. Ruby Sparks (dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris)
The writer in me absolutely loved this story about a novelist whose creation suddenly comes to life. Writer Calvin (played by the brilliant young actor that played the Nietzsche obsessed youth in Little Miss Sunshine) had one incredibly popular breakthrough novel and feels crippled by the expectation that has grown with the anticipation for his next great masterpiece. Taking the advice of his therapist, he writes about his dog and winds up creating a woman – that shows up at his house the next day. The film overall is really well done, but there is one scene in particular that is absolutely haunting – and makes me wish that I had my own magic typewriter.
9. The Perks of Being A Wallflower (dir. Stephen Chbosky)
I’ll admit that I was first interested in this film because of my love of all things Harry Potter. Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the Potter films, serves as one of the group of “misfit toys” that befriends a young boy who is recovering from the suicide of his best friend and other shadows from his past. When I bought the ticket for this film, I was expecting a light-hearted teen comedy that would be both life affirming and delightful. Boy, did I sell this story short. This film has more heart and depth to it then any other movie I’ve seen all year. Logan Lerman gives the performance of his career, and I can’t wait to see him become a leading man in Hollywood’s finest films for years to come. I can honestly say that this is my favorite film of the entire year, even if it doesn’t win any awards.
10. Seven Psychopaths (dir. Martin McDonagh)
If you aren’t familiar with the work of playwright Martin McDonagh, then you may want to sit down before you see this film. All of his work is filled with vulgarity, politically incorrect slanders, slapstick humor and a whole lot of violence. This film, Martin McDonagh’s second adventure in feature movie-making, is no different. It follows an alcoholic Irish screenwriter suffering from writer’s block and his dog-napping friends as they are all pursued by a mafia hitman and his goons. It’s tons of fun and funny as hell. Just don’t go see it if you are easily offended… by anything.
11. Wreck-It Ralph (dir. Rich Moore)
Okay, I’m cheating. I said top ten and this is eleven. Plus, you could argue that this was released within Oscar season, but I couldn’t leave Wreck-It Ralph off the list. It’s no surprise that John Lasseter was the Executive Producer of this timely instant classic. This story is by far the best animation of the year, and it even beats out Pixar’s Brave. This story has all of the golden elements that make for a memorable and heartwarming family film, but it also has a really great message for parents.