December 25, 2012 by Daniel
Best New TV Show:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon)
Like many people around my age, I grew up watching the Ninja Turtles. In truth, I never really stopped – my love of the mutant teens stuck with me as I got older, living on through the live-action movies and various video game releases in the 90s, and then fully hooking me back in with the darker 2003 version, which 12-year-old me accepted with open arms. But in my late teens, there reached a point where I had to look back on the things from my childhood and really evaluate them, and the conclusion that I reached was a bit of a bummer – most Ninja Turtles things are actually kind of crappy.
Which is why it’s exhilarating that Nickelodeon’s new show is pretty much the best interpretation of the characters ever made. There are so many awesome things about this series – the way that the characters actually look and act like teenagers, not fully grown into their roles yet and constantly in light competition with each other; how the Turtles are more individualized than ever thanks to some smart character design; how the show is ACTUALLY FUNNY; and how every episode has at least one super-cool martial arts fight scene. But most importantly, the way the show totally nails every single character – these are the most nuanced versions of the Turtles yet, awkward and arrogant in the way that teenagers are while still being totally ass-kicking when the time comes for it. Only midway through the first season, it’s already my favourite show currently on television, and that’s why it deserves this award.
Best Returning TV Show:
Breaking Bad – Season 5 (part one)
Do I even need to talk about Breaking Bad? Like, you all know by now how freaking amazing this show is, right? For five years now, it’s been a shining example of how to build a TV drama, pushing its characters into the drastic directions that they “need” to go in and deeply understanding that the best way to build tension is to let things be quiet for a bit. This season brought together a bunch of plot points, and sets up the show for what promises to be an absolutely explosive final run. While I may be enraged that they decided to split this final season over two summers, I’m grateful for the anticipatory wait and have total trust that Vince Gilligan and co. will bring the show to a satisfying close.
Runners-up: Dexter – Season 7, Louie – Season 3
Top 6 Movies of 2012
Note: Um. So here’s what happened: I was almost done writing this list when I realized that there was one more movie that I totally forgot about that needed to be on here and would have pushed my number 5 movie off of it. But having already written the entry for that movie, I decided it would be a waste to just throw it away – so, whatever, it’s a top 6 now. Deal with it.
Y’know, I usually don’t see enough movies per year to really comment on them. But this year was different, being one of the only years in recent memory where I actually saw almost everything that I wanted to. Chronicle, Premium Rush, Cloud Atlas, Midnight’s Children, Seven Psychopaths, Moonrise Kingdom, and most notably Wreck-it-Ralph are all movies that I really wanted to see this year but didn’t get a chance to. And I’ll be seeing Django Unchained later tonight, cutting it a bit too close to be on this list even if I end up totally loving it. Regardless, here are the movies I loved the most in what I found to be an extremely strong year for the medium.
With Pixar’s Brave being a disappointment and the fact that I missed Wreck-It-Ralph, the only animated movie I saw this year that I really loved was ParaNorman. It’s a surprisingly dark family flick with a great sense of humour as well as some genuinely scary moments, but what really makes it work is how well it sets up its extremely well-rounded cast of characters with a pensive first act before all the supernatural shit goes down. That it has the most advanced Claymation techniques of all-time and a fantastic score by Jon Brion is just the icing on this spooky little cake.
I feel like a lot of people have forgotten how good Ben Affleck used to be. The astounding work that he did in the early Kevin Smith movies, as well as his star turn in Good Will Hunting rather unfortunately gave way to a bunch of terrible career moves in the early 2000s which erased pretty much all of Affleck’s credibility. Which is why it was so cool to see him come back as an acting/directing force in 2010’s The Town, and continue his golden streak in this year’s Argo, a procedural thriller based on true events. The fact of the matter is that Argo is not the deepest, most exciting, most visually-striking, or most high-concept movie this year. What it is, is just a damn good movie, one where no single part sticks out as a highlight because the whole thing just comes together so well. I was glued to my seat watching this taut political story play out and I suspect that you were/will be as well.
4. Indie Game: The Movie
This is the only movie on this list that I’ve watched more than once. Whether you care about video games or not, you should see this movie. This is not a spreadsheet of technical facts or a glorification of how awesome working in the video game industry this – it’s a bunch of human stories about the challenges involved in the creation of art. I’d like to think that whatever the medium, this is a fairly universal theme. It’s certainly educational as well – individual game creators don’t really get a whole ton of respect, partly because most people don’t really understand the process of how video games get made. Throw in an incredible soundtrack by Toronto musician Jim Guthrie, and you’ve got yourself a cerebral, emotional roller coaster of a documentary that I seriously believe everybody should see.
3. Cabin in the Woods
In a year full of big-idea movies, this one might actually be the biggest – a deconstruction of the titular trope, reimagining it as a sacrificial gesture towards a bunch of old gods, lest they get pissed about the lack of fresh blood and destroy the world. It’s a little bit disturbing, wickedly funny, and the last half hour is COMPLETELY GODDAMNED BANANAS. But it’s also a succinct comment on movie clichés, and posits that it might just be time to throw away those stale old formats we so desperately cling to. That ability to say something amidst the mayhem, that brain hiding behind the madness, is what made Cabin in the Woods one of my favourite movies of the year.
2. The Avengers
The fact that this movie even happened at all is a miracle. When Nick Fury showed up at the end of the first Iron Man and Marvel announced that they would be creating a continuous, multi-film universe mimicking the shared continuity of the comic book world the films are based on, and culminating in a flick where all the individual stars come together for a huge team-up movie, it seemed like a fever dream – a cool idea, but one that would probably never happen. It’s an incredibly ambitious idea, requiring each individual movie leading up to it to be good in its own right, with that last Avengers movie needing to be the absolute best one in order to pay off all of the run-up. That’s a lot of requirements – but it actually happened, and it is incredible. While every other studio with a superhero franchise is trying to make their movies dark and gritty (and mostly failing), Marvel Studios is laughing all the way to the bank by making the most gloriously comic-book-y comic book movies possible. The Avengers is loud and colourful, filled with strong characters, incredible action scenes and that super-slick Joss Whedon wit. There’s simply no movie this year as out-and-out entertaining as The Avengers is, and the fact that it caps off a four-year (and counting) experiment makes it an even sweeter success story.
I love Looper so much. What makes it work is how it manages to counter-balance all of its extremes – it’s got incredible action sequences, but they’re never the real focus of the film; it’s got a star-studded cast, but they all put in powerfully subtle performances; most importantly, it’s a high-minded time-bending science fiction movie on the surface, but at its core it’s a very human story about death, cycles, and personal responsibility. It does everything that a science fiction movie should do – it uses abstract ideas and future technology to explore personal themes that apply to us in the present. Every facet of this movie is just fantastic, with a unique soundtrack, a well-realized world, and a series of nuanced characters. This is the kind of movie where you leave the theater speechless – all I could say once the credits rolled was “that was an AMAZING movie.” And that’s what I’m still saying today.