Monday, January 14, 2013

My 10 Favorite Cinematic Moments of 2012

So here we are, I set a date and I'm sticking to it.  Time to kick off my honors of the best that I feel film had to offer in 2012!

The first thing to point out about 2012 as a whole, was just how good movies were all year long.  There were so many movies I gave favorable reviews to, and ten or more films I gave an A+ rating, more than I have ever given out before.  Perhaps it's because I saw over fifty films released in 2012 over the past year, but I truly believe that it's because there was so much quality filmmaking all around, placing me in a position I've always wanted to be in for the first time ever.  Ever since the Unicellular Review has been in existence, I didn't feel as if the lists I compiled were that strong, because there were only a few films that were genuinely great and the rest were okay, but this year, there were so many great movies, rather than having a year where the Top 3 films purely were the Top 3 because nothing else could challenge their dominance, I really get to say what my Favorite Films of 2012 were, rather than just saying what films were of better quality than others.

So with that said, I am starting my 2012, Year in Film coverage, with a look back at my 10 favorite moments I experienced in the past year of movies.  My favorite cinematic moments, if you like.  These moments could be as long as just a few seconds, or be an entire sequence or scene that works to send shivers down my spine, to make me almost feel like losing it, or are just awesome and insanely funny.  So without further ado, let the celebration of 2012 begin:

10.  "Rue's Farewell" from The Hunger Games

There were many moments in The Hunger Games where director Gary Ross and novelist Suzanne Collins expanded the events of certain scenes from the book to the screenplay to show more than just Katniss's perspective, which is all we ever get in the book.  The death and subsequent farewell sequence for Rue is the best moment out of all of these scenes that Ross and Collins expanded.  Not only does Ross capture the emotion that this scene in the book evoked to perfection, but he also shows us how Rue's death and Katniss's subsequent kindness sparked a riot in District 11, the home district of Rue.  This moment was only fleetingly mentioned in the second book I believe, and seeing it not only makes the moment more emotional, but it also lays seeds for the full on revolution to come in later installments.

9.  "Maya's Breakdown" from Zero Dark Thirty

This was the most powerful performance moment of 2012 for me.  It's the final scene of the movie, when Jessica Chastain's CIA analyst, Maya, boards a plane to presumably return to DC after spending the past 10 years of her life hunting down Bin Laden and having now finally succeeded.  Established earlier in the film, we know that Maya has no time for friends or relationships, she was recruited into the CIA straight out of high school and is entirely driven by her career.  She has little sense of who she truly is outside of her hunt for Bin Laden.  When she's asked where she wants to go upon getting on the plane, she doesn't answer, she just succumbs to tears, with all of the emotions she'd bottled up the entire film finally coming to the surface.  There is this look on Chastain's face of a woman who has no identity and no real home.  This was just one of those simple moments that very often makes an entire film worth it.

8.  "Ralph Saves the Day" from Wreck-It Ralph

In the film, Wreck-It Ralph, if a video game character dies in another person's video game, then they are gone forever.  When Ralph is inside the video game Sugar Rush, trying to prove that he is not a bad guy and can be seen as a hero, Ralph makes his final statement when the game is overrun by a parasitic virus and the only way to stop them is by Ralph falling from high up in the sky and pummeling a large pile of mentos into a Diet Coke volcano, to kill the parasites.  For the entire film, Ralph was misunderstood, the odds were always stacked against him, with everyone saying a bad guy could never be a hero, but here is Ralph, willing to sacrifice himself in order to save his friend, Vanellope.  That's the mark of a true hero, when they are willing to sacrifice themselves to save others.  It no longer is about them, but about ensuring the safety of everyone else.

7.  "Bane Breaks Batman's Back" from The Dark Knight Rises
Okay, as a diehard comic book fan, this was quite possibly the greatest piece of fan service in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy.  When Bane and Batman fight in the sewers underneath Gotham, it's like a boxing match, as it's clear that Bane is just toying with Batman, who is giving all he's got.  The reason why this moment is so awesome, is because in the early '90s comic book storyline, Knightfall, Bane told Batman he was going to break him, and then he proceeded to pick Batman up over his head and slam Batman's back into his knee, breaking Batman's back in the process.  When Bane does this in The Dark Knight Rises, it's as if seeing the comic book panels come to life.

6.  "Family Reunion" from The Impossible

For almost the entirety of the film, the family had been separated by a devastating tsunami.  The Mom (Naomi Watts) was in a hospital with her oldest son, the Dad (Ewan McGreggor) was searching for his wife and kids, and the two youngest sons were on a truck taking them to a shelter.  The moment when they reunite is so perfectly orchestrated, you see all of them at the same place at the same time, but none of them see one another, and all you're thinking in the audience is, "They're right over there."  Of course, they all reunite and whatnot, but having the build-up of seeing near misses makes the emotional impact when they finally find one another all the more potent.

5.  "The Night Raid" from Zero Dark Thirty

This is the longest sequence I'm honoring here, being essentially the final thirty minutes of the film, but it all flows together and is literally one big, gigantic scene.  This entire sequence, showing the Seal Team 6 raid on Bin Laden's compound, felt gritty, real, and spooky.  The whole raid was eerily quiet, with a plethora of night vision point-of-view shots leading you to suspect that a person with a gun is just around the corner.

4.  "Bernie Confesses to Murder" from Bernie

I just totally lost it at this moment when I first saw this movie, it was so funny.  Jack Black's character, Bernie, has been arrested for the murder of the mean old lady in the small Texan town where he works as a mortician.  When Bernie just breaks down, crying, confessing to her murder without having to even be interrogated, I couldn't help but laugh-out-loud.  I didn't think I could laugh any harder until Bernie blurts out how he shot her in the back with the armadillo gun, and I nearly found myself in tears from laughing so hard.  Simply the funniest moment of 2012.

3.  "Cranes to the Rescue" from The Amazing Spider-Man

Okay, this moment has been seen as a little controversial to some comic book fans and critics, claiming it's borderline jumping the shark.  While logically it makes little sense, come on, it's emotionally powerful when Spider-Man has been shot in his leg and musters up the last of his strength when he sees New York crane operators moving their cranes to form a path for him so that he can reach Oscorp Tower and stop the Lizard.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for big moments such as this, but when James Horner's score brings in the chanting choir and director Marc Webb hits the slow mo as Spider-Man runs and makes a flying leap, I can't help but be moved by this moment.  As a lifelong Spider-Man fan, this is where the movies really trump the comics.

2.  "Avengers Assemble!" from The Avengers

This was the money shot from The Avengers.  The moment when the Avengers finally all come together as a team, assemble if you will, and stand united to fight the aliens trying to destroy New York.  As a lifelong comic book fan, there's just nothing like the goose bumps I get when Hulk downs that giant Chitauri with one punch and then director Joss Whedon did that shot circling our heroes, all standing together, primed and ready to save the day.

1.  "The Bridge Rescue" from The Amazing Spider-Man

This was the moment in The Amazing Spider-Man where I knew this film was something just as special as the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films from the past decade.  This moment just was Peter Parker/Spider-Man, representing him as a selfless hero whose responsibility is to save those in need.  When a kid is trapped in a burning car hanging off a bridge, Spider-Man gives the kid his mask so that the kid will be strong and climb out to meet him.  This was the most heroic moment of 2012, and what was so amazing about it was that it wasn't Spidey punching the Lizard in the face or a big, epic super feat, it was something as simple as saving a kid from a burning car, and it worked to showcase what's so special, not just about this film, but also about the character of Spider-Man in general.


So that's that.  Tune back in tomorrow as I continue to honor the Best in Film of 2012!

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