I was challenged by a fellow writer to compile a year-end list, so here are my picks for what I think were the Top Movies of 2012. Regrettably I didn’t see every movie that I wanted to before writing this, but here are my top ten from what I did see this year.
10 – The Master
I know what you’re thinking “But Michael, my dear friend, why would you put a movie on your top ten list that you originally only gave 3.5/5? Despite being incredibly and intentionally vague, there is no denying that Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is an attention-grabbing film with mesmerizing performances. Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams have all deservingly received Golden Globes nominations for their performances in the film. Don’t be too shocked next week if The Academy Awards give the same kind of recognition to this film about followers and leaders.
Check out my full review for The Master here.
9 – Prometheus
I might be one of the only people that I know who thoroughly enjoyed Prometheus. Ridley Scott’s prequel/don’t call it a prequel to Alien had many a movie-goer up in arms about continuity, plot twists and illogical science. While I am usually a pretty anal fanboy when it comes to these sorts of things, I found myself on entertainment auto-pilot for Prometheus. Sure, the biological nature of black goop which makes snake-aliens, zombies and acts as an STD of sorts is incredibly far-fetched, but so is cloning Dino DNA from a mosquito caught in amber. I liked Prometheus so much because it was creepy, shocking and fun in the same ways that Alien and any other successful sci-fi movie is. It may have left some questions unanswered, but like Lost, some fans won’t ever be satisfied with the answer, so why not be satisfied with uncertainty?
Celeste & Jesse Forever is a comedy/drama film starring Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) and Andy Samberg (formerly of Saturday Night Live), telling the story of what happens after two best friends get married and then later decide to separate. To call this a break-up movie would be a misread of the film, which deals with the complex emotions and stages a couple (or two friends) go through when they grow apart.
We are introduced to Celeste and Jesse (Jones and Samberg) and are instantly shown how funny they are together and how much they love one another. The two fall sort of fall into the classic comedic archetypes of responsible girlfriend and immature boyfriend at first glance, but it’s clear from their interaction that Celeste and Jesse really are on the same level; especially comically. It isn’t until the couple meets with their friends at dinner that we realize that Celeste and Jesse are not in fact a couple at all. They have been separated for six months and are headed for a divorce, but still do most everything together; Jesse even still lives in the adjacent studio apartment to Celeste’s house. Their friends declare that it is too weird for them to bear anymore, and the couple/non-couple begins to question if they are right. Circumstances in each of their lives change and they start to experience what life is like without one another. Jesse realizes that it’s probably time to grow up and Celeste (who initiated the separation) sees that maybe she didn’t have things figured out after all.
100% less Adam Sandler than Andy Samberg’s last movie.
The pacing of Celeste & Jesse Forever is a little awkward and kind of drags on for too long. Also the funny/sad nature of the film may be a strange dichotomy for audiences to interact with. But when it wants to be funny this film absolutely nails every punch line; Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg are an excellent match-up of hilarity. The film is a little more Celeste than it Jesse however, Samberg has a great presence in the film but it is largely Rashida Jones’ story. With Jones handling both writing and acting duties, Celeste & Jesse Forever is a great example of a funny-lady writer/actress taking her many talents to the big screen, similar to Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids. While Rashida Jones’ television characters are usually relegated to the role of the straight man, it is refreshing to see her be a little wacky and show her range in this film. Celeste & Jesse Forever may not be an easy film to watch at all times, but it’s because it does a really good job depicting the complicated reality of heartbreak.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5 Stars