Cranney: Power of lists, 2012 movies celebrated

Cranney introduces his column by naming his favorite movies of 2012.

Joey Cranney

Joey CranneyIf I had to list all of the reasons I love lists…well, I’d love to, because I love lists.

Lists are a celebration of the freedom of expression. In a world where far too many are hesitant to have an independent thought, lists require you to put your name on a firm example of your opinion.

If nothing else, lists are conversation starters — fun conversation starters.

Few things make me as giddy than at the end of December, when all the major news publications across the country publish their Top 10 movies, songs and albums of the year. I love reading and joining in on the hotbed of debate that follows.

My love for lists and pop culture comes from growing up with three older siblings whose own tastes rubbed off on me at a young age. My oldest brother introduced my other brother and I to good alternative rock, ‘90s rap and bad horror movies. My musical memories of my sister usually involve her singing corny one-hit wonders or Disney theme songs, of which I still know all the words.

With my dad, it was a steady dosage of classic rock, though I’m grateful it was mostly Pink Floyd, The Who and Led Zeppelin. On a good day, he’d play Prince.

My mom had a much more cut-and-dry taste in the oldies, but also had an impressive collection of soul, mo-town and R&B that I fondly recall her blasting while cleaning our whole house.

This whirlwind of mixed influences may lead some to believe I was a confused child. In my eighth grade yearbook, under “Favorite Band” I wrote, “The Temptations or The Black Eyed Peas.” True story.

The same family also instilled in me the notion of placing a discernable value on the things I like best. “What’s your favorite…?” is a common question in the Cranney household. I’m usually the one asking it.

“I’m a proud card-carrying member of the Regal Crown Club, but ‘Mad Men’ bores me and I never watched ‘The Sopranos.’”

My relationship with pop culture has evolved from an interest in “those people on TV” into a total obsession in consuming what some would consider an unhealthy amount of film and music.

I try to expose myself to as much music as I can while recognizing that my iTunes library will never be complete.

I consider myself to have above average knowledge and appreciation of film and below average familiarity with popular television. I’m a proud card-carrying member of the Regal Crown Club, but “Mad Men” bores me and I never watched “The Sopranos.”

I’m by no means an expert on any subject, but lists aren’t supposed to be an expert’s opinion. They’re supposed to be just that — an opinion; an opinion that’s meant to be disputed, debated and explored.

My first opinion of the semester comes in the form of the 10 best movies that I saw that were released in 2012.

I saw 28 movies released in 2012, including five documentaries, five horror films, three science-fiction movies, three comic-book adaptations and one truly overhyped Bond sequel.

I don’t pretend to be a film critic, nor did I see every movie I wanted from last year, but I’m offering my opinion anyway because I like to discuss these things and I’ve been doing it my whole life.

Argue with me. Disagree with me. Hate me. That’s what lists are all about.

10. Holy Motors

A French submission that wound up being a finalist for the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, “Holy Motors” is a hypnotic look at a future where reality is played out by actors and life becomes one great big production. It’s “what the hell did I just watch?” good.

9. Wreck-It Ralph

Though it comes off as Disney trying to beat Pixar at its own game by playing to our nostalgic tendencies, “Wreck-It Ralph” is actually a wildly imaginative, meticulously crafted story about abandonment, friendship and love. If a 2-D video game character can dream, why can’t we?

8. Django Unchained

While it doesn’t transcend the genre like Quentin Tarantino’s previous film, “Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained” is still supremely entertaining by any other filmmaker’s standard. It’s a brutally violent, sometimes hilarious, but totally necessary look at slavery in the Antebellum south.

7. The Avengers

Acting as a sequel to three different comic-book adaptations and finishing the year as the highest grossing film, “The Avengers” was about as hyped as a movie can get but still exceeded my expectations. The most fun I had at the movies in 2012.

6. Silver Linings Playbook

“Silver Linings Playbook” works, because it doesn’t try to fit into any genre but will make you laugh, cry and cheer, sometimes in the same scene. Its ensemble cast, the best of any movie I saw from last year, sets a somewhat Hollywood script in reality.

5. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as our nation’s greatest president is jaw dropping. The screenplay, written by Tony Kushner, deserves an Oscar. But the film too often steers away from the brutal reality of the time and delves into melodrama.

4. Argo

“Argo” has one thing really going for it: an entertaining, suspenseful, remarkable true story about a covert CIA operation during the Iranian hostage crisis. Director Ben Affleck hits it out of the park with bringing the story to the big screen.

3. Amour

Michael Haneke, a filmmaker I admire because of 2007’s suspense horror “Funny Games,” blew my mind again with 2012 Palm d’Or winner “Amour.” What starts as the story of a couple growing old ends up as a painful mediation on life, death and love.

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild

This miracle of a movie won the Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is a remarkably original and astounding achievement. It scratches an itch you didn’t know you had.

1. Zero Dark Thirty

“Zero Dark Thirty” is the most important and best film that I saw from 2012. It’s an uncomfortable and unflinching movie experience. It’s not so much a movie as a documentary with actors that takes you through the events leading up to and including the killing of Osama Bin Laden with such detail that it becomes painfully suspenseful. It transcends the boundaries of movie making.


“The Cabin in the Woods,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Invisible War.”


Movies from 2012 that I didn’t see: “The Master,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi.”

Joey Cranney can be reached at  

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