Built For Speed, End of year lists, best and worst movies of 2012

Best Films 2012

1      Argo               

Meticulous, funny, tense and compelling from start to finish.  Ben Affleck confirms that he is one of the finest directors working at the moment.


2      Skyfall           

Superbly made, thrilling and this time with a coherent plot.  Bardem was an extremely creepy villain and Dench a very sympathetic target which made Bond genuinely heroic and necessary. Yes, it borrowed stylistically from Chris Nolan but it forged its own identity and re-invigorated the Bond franchise like few films before it.


3      Young Adult               

An insightful depiction of a person in their late 30’s literally waking up and realising that their life is disappearing down the toilet and the totally inappropriate way they deal with this.  Charlize Theron gives one of her best ever performances here. A film that disturbingly shows how the 90’s we thought were so edgy are now middle-aged nostalgia.


4      The Master 

Featuring far and away the best performance of the year from a disturbing, volcanically angry Joaquin Phoenix.  It also had an excellent turn from a creepily smug Phillip Seymour Hoffman as strangely avuncular but manipulative cult leader. This dark epic was difficult but very rewarding.


5      Safety not guaranteed           

One of two films in this list about people hitting middle age, reassessing their life and basically going a bit nuts.  This was a very endearing low-key film about a man who says he’s trying to go back in time and the female journalist and her dysfunctional colleagues who investigate his story.  It was funny, touching and realistic but still managed to incorporate freaky sci fi concepts.


6      Robot and Frank       

An unusual but captivating mix of sci fi and crime caper film anchored by a terrific understated performance from Frank Langella.


7      The Innkeepers

This low budget mix of The Shining and Clerks was fun as well as being genuinely spooky.  Star Sarah Paxton showed the kind of spunky charisma that could make her a major star.


8      Cabin in the Woods

Took the Scream-style post-modern horror film satire and turned it on its head and also had a finale that would leave monster movie fan boys drooling like the creature from Alien.


9      The Sessions              

Funny and moving story about a man battling phenomenal adversity as a polio sufferer trying, at 38, to get laid with the aid of a sex surrogate.  Terrific performances from Jonathon Hawkes as disabled man Mark O’Brien and Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate. Also saw the return of another 90’s stalwart William H. Macy here as the streetwise basketball playing priest who becomes Mark’s confessor.


10   Coriolanus   

Tough, violent Shakespeare adaptation set topically in present day, economically damaged Rome, although it was filmed in the former Yugoslavia.  Featured old Voldemort himself Ralph Fiennes going all Colonel Kurtz as he punishes Gerard Butler for that Bounty Hunter film.


Honourable mentions 2012

 Killing them softly   

Andrew Dominik’s atmospheric hard-edged gangster film looked like it could have been made by William Friedkin in 1974 (which is a good thing) but had some excellent contemporary touches. Very fine soundtrack featuring Johnny Cash and Velvet Underground.



Funny but creepy British serial killer romance.


Dark Knight Rises     

Had most of the classic Christopher Nolan qualities although admittedly we have seen it done better in The Dark Knight.  Contained a villain in Bane who was both sinister and comical with a voice that sounded like a cross between Dr Evil and Kenneth Williams, I was expecting him to say “Ooh Matron”.



A sprawling film that was like a visual novel.  It put you through the emotional wringer and featured more screaming matches than just about any film ever made.


A Dangerous Method             

Terrific performances from Viggo Mortensen and probably the finest male actor around at the moment Michael Fassbender as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung respectively forming their scandalous but revolutionary theories of the human psyche and sexuality.


A Royal Affair             

Superbly acted depiction of a tumultuous period in the Danish royal court.


Chekov’s The Duel   

Atmospheric, attractive looking adaptation of Chekov’s story about honour, loyalty and mortality.


The Source  

A Separation

The two Middle Eastern films that made confronting statements about class and the status of women.



Gritty, gut-wrenching working class drama the way only the Brits can do.


Best Australian films

  • Lore
  • The first two thirds of The King is Dead.


 Best performances        

1      Joaquin Phoenix – The Master

2      Phillip Seymour Hoffman – The Master

3      John Hawkes – The Sessions

4      Ralph Fiennes  – Coriolanus

5      Viggo Mortensen – A dangerous method.

6      Michael Fassbender – every film he was in.


Worst films 2012

1      That’s my boy

After a brief foray into credible films like Punch drunk love and enjoyable B-graders like Anger Management, Adam Sandler hits rock bottom with this hideous, unfunny and insulting drivel.


2      Two Little Boys          

Dismal attempt at black humour from Hamish Blake and Brett McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords as they attempt to hide the body of a backpacker killed in a car accident. A lifeless dud which made audiences feel like they had entered an alternate universe where humour didn’t exist.


3      Mental          

Vile, grating, unfunny attempt to reconnect with the Muriel’s Wedding style of Aussie cultural parody but without the wit or characters.  What the hell was Tony Collette thinking? Welcome back to Woop Woop.


4      Three Stooges           

Almost unwatchable butchering of the memory of the classic comedy trio.  Even Larry David was awful in this one.


5      A few best men

Horrendous, crass and unfunny Aussie wedding comedy and yet another stain on the Australian cinema landscape. A film in which the cast was outacted by a sheep.


6      The Iron Sky

Nazi’s in space?  Mel Brooks might have made this funny 40 years ago but this was a lame attempt at action comedy.


7      Ecstasy

Aimless and tedious would-be follow up to Trainspotting had none of that film’s humour, intelligence, memorable characters or pop-cultural relevance.


8      Spy 

Dreary, confusing Russian film where no one in the audience knew what was going on and nobody cared.


9      John Carter 

A Neanderthal Taylor Kitsch grunts and grimaces his way through this clunky attempt at  intergalactic adventure which is set on a planet that appears to be inhabited by Jar Jar Binks’ cousins.


10   Battleship    

Superbly stupid right-wing fantasy masquerading as a movie in which the navy, inspired by a board game, wipe out an alien attack.  The scene where the old navy vets march back onto the ship in slow motion to the sounds of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck was probably the year’s funniest moment.


OK but disappointing films 2012             

1    Prometheus

2    The Dictator

3    Bachelorette

4    To Rome with Love

5    The Campaign


Brain boggling films      

1      Cosmopolis  – A film set mostly in a limo, with Robert Pattinson as an evil banker.  Made a couple of insightful statements about economic chaos and human existence as a commodity but also tied the audiences’ brain in knots which can be quite painful.

2      Holy Motors – Another film set mostly in a limo with a weird French goblin man running amok; Kylie Minogue inexplicably appears at one point.  At times visually striking and certainly intriguing but annoyingly obtuse.

3      Woman in the fifth – French drama where Ethan Hawke appears to have sex with a ghost.

4      Café de Flore – Head scratcher set in parallel time periods.  Didn’t always make sense but had some fine music.





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