Every year about this time, lists recapping the year’s best whatever start to surface, and we’re telling you right now they’re all bogus, save ours.
Over the next few weeks, Playboy.com’s Picks 2012 will provide you with the year in review, from movies to music to viral trends, political and celebrity scandals and even ideas. We’re showcasing the year’s best across the board and we start this week with Film.
Best in Show:
Awarded to the films we felt best exemplified filminess in 2012.
“Wes Anderson always makes the same movie,” is a chorus we hear a lot when the veteran director springs back into action, but who cares; his obsessive attention to detail and color, deadpan humor and casting rarely disappoint even if we do feel like it’s all been done before. Moonrise Kingdom is no exception, but it is exceptional: Anderson’s escapist, color-coded world is brought to life by the likes of Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Bruce Willis but its essence is found in the childlike imagination and creativity of the films’ young leads, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Typically we tend to go out of our way to find fault with the independent films that rake in all the awards at Cannes and Sundance, but Beasts of the Southern Wild deserves all the praise it has garnered. First-time feature director Benh Zeitlin flirts masterfully with fantasy and reality, fusing the very real and very whimsical problems of a detached bayou town through the eyes of a little girl, portrayed by the uber-talented Quvenzhané Wallis. Shot entirely on 16 mm film, the imagery is moving, at once capturing the beauty and the squalor of “The Bathtub,” the film’s locale, but it is the solid performances from the aforementioned Wallis and her father, played by Dwight Henry, that bring this whole work together.
Awarded to the films that could/should have been absolute garbage but were executed so seamlessly that they succeeded.
Meta-critiques (think Snakes on a Plane) are almost impossible to pull off; it’s a tightrope act of carefully stringing together every tired cliché a genre is known for, and the slightest hitch can throw the whole thing askew. If you go too far one way you get a less-than-clever franchise like Scary Movie; too far the other way and your audience is unsure if you’re critiquing the genre or just another poor part of it. So when we heard director Drew Goddard (Lost, Cloverfield) and writer Joss Whedon (Alien: Resurrection) were going to take a stab at the “five teenagers go into the woods and get hacked up” shtick, we were skeptical. But it works; The Cabin in the Woods is a dead ringer for the cleverest critique of the horror genre to date.
The Loved Ones
It’s no surprise that two horror movies made the cut for Surprisingly Sound; the genre has a tendency to get carried away in all the blood and the guts and the gore, and at best, the actors are expected to be able to cry in terror, scream in pain and occasionally play dead. So hopes were not particularly high for The Loved Ones, the story of a rejected girl who kidnaps her would-be date on prom night and proceeds to torture him, much to the delight of her equally unhinged family. But with The Loved Ones we got more than we bargained for; yes, it is not for the faint of heart (lots of needles, drills and knives), but it’s the acting and the oddly compelling if not totally deranged story that really hold this all together. Robin McLeavy is teenage batshit crazy at its best, and Xavier Samuel, despite not being able to speak for three-quarters of the film, is as expressive as the film is cringing. Cringing in the good way, like you want to look away but you simply can’t.
Judging a Book by Its Cover:
Awarded to the films we haven’t seen yet but are betting the farm on their impending awesomeness.
Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, Richard Jenkins and James Gandolfini. It’s a reborn Goodfellas kind of cast in a Goodfellas kind of movie. Or so it seems. We haven’t seen Killing Them Softly yet, but we’re familiar with the work of the aforementioned actors and find it hard to find fault in the casting. Adding to our intrigue is director Andrew Dominik, whose work on The Assassination of Jesse James was nothing short of awe-inspiring, so much so that it inspired this.
Quentin Tarantino has been around the block in terms of genres: he’s done the gangster movie (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs), the kung-fu movie (Kill Bill: Vol. 1), the Western movie (Kill Bill: Vol. 2), the war movie (Inglourious Basterds) and thrown in a few curveballs along the way (Sin City, Four Rooms and ER). So Deep South slavery seems like a fine next step. Word about Django Unchained, starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, has been making the rounds for well over a year now so, needless to say, the hype is huge. We’re thinking it lives up to it.