1. Take This Waltz - I'm not sure if this movie qualifies for a 2012 release, since it was released in Canada in 2011, but it might make my "best of 2012" list. It's an odd little movie splattered with imperfections, but I am sort of in love with everything about it. Michelle Williams is always an extreme hit or an extreme miss for me, but she nails this role. The character, Margo, is immature, selfish, needy, silly and somehow incredibly relatable. Her relationship with her husband, played by Seth Rogen (who has never displayed this much vulnerability in any role), is so simple and honest, yet flawed and realistic. They have a connection, but inevitably this connection isn't enough and boredom sets in. Margo becomes infatuated with her neighbor and eventually falls for him. In most of these types of movies, someone (usually the woman) is portrayed as evil or the clear "villain", but in reality, let's face it - shit happens. People fall out of love a lot easier than we like to admit and if we are completely honest, the thought of a "new love" is always enticing. As it is pointed out in the movie, the "new" will always become "old". It's rare for a movie to point this out, and for someone, like myself, who doesn't really believe in "love" (at least in the sense that others do), this incredibly refreshing. There are so many scenes that I love, that it is hard to narrow down - but three stand out. First, the most "stand out" scene is the one with the Scrambler ride. Absolutely stunning. The way it was shot, is sublime. Another one, is the scene with Margo and Daniel, when she asks him, rather shyly, what he would do to her. I do not find that guy attractive in the least, but after his answer, I would totally go back to his place. And the fact that he burst into laughter after an answer like that, made it all the more perfect. It's very obvious from that scene alone, that the movie is written by a woman (Sarah Polley), because guys like that don't exist in real life (if they did, the world would be a much better place). I also love the actual "waltz" scene, which perfectly equates the physical "dance" to a literal "dance" of life, it's so well-done that it gave me chills. Plus, the scene where she sees Daniel's work (he is an artist, of course) and she asks if he shows it anywhere. His answer: "No, because I am a coward." The way he states it, so matter-of-factly. It's just perfect. Ok, that was 4, not 3, and I could continue, but I will stop. To be fair, I will admit that not all of the movie was perfect. Sarah Silverman had some painful dialogue to work with - her entire character was problematic. She could have been cut altogether, with no loss to the movie. That's really my only complaint. There are other imperfections, but none of them matter. Sarah Polley did a superb job.
2. Sound of My Voice - Brit Marling has a presence that is hard to ignore. Another Earth was one of my favorite films of last year, and this film is pretty fantastic as well. Even though it differed in subject matter, the films are similar in a lot of ways. They are both small movies, with huge sci-fi ideas grounded in reality with unsettling, melancholic tones. Sound of My Voice is based on two people trying to infiltrate a cult to "expose" the corruption and lies that the cult is based on. Brit Marling is the cult leader, Maggie, who claims to be "from the future". It's all very interesting, even if it is unbelievable. The scene where the new members question her "story" and she begins to sing a song from the future is creepy, hilarious and absolutely brilliant. It was fun trying to guess which one of them would be convinced by her story, because inevitably one of them would. The ending, with the handshake thing, was definitely interesting. It wouldn't be enough to convince me, but I could see how others would be swayed, though. Especially people who are desperately seeking meaning to their life and feel the need to belong to something.
3. The Campaign - Really not funny at all. Ok, I admit I laughed once, when Zach Galifianakis is described as looking like the "Travelocity Gnome". But that's it!! The movie came out in a timely manner, right before the Presidential election, and acted as a commentary on the Democratic process. But that is giving the movie far too much credit. It's much too dumb to be considered a political satire. Both Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell are funny guys, so it's disappointing that a movie with them is this weak. Most of Will Ferrell's movies are considered over-the-top, and for me, it just doesn't work that often. This isn't nearly as bad as Blades of Glory or Semi-Pro, but it's still a big waste of time.
4. Safety Not Guaranteed - I had high hopes for this movie, but unfortunately it didn't live up to those expectations. The heart is in the right place and the plot is, thankfully, original. The story revolves around Aubrey Plaza (or her character's name, Darius, if you are convinced that these are 2 different people - I am not), who is an Intern at a newspaper. She joins her colleagues on a research trip to investigate a man who placed a wanted ad, searching for someone to travel to the past with him. Aubrey/Darius is the typical socially awkward, sarcastic, loner type who begins to let her guard down once she meets this man who claims to have made a time machine. The beginning of the movie is sort of endearing and cute, but it starts to border on annoying about mid-way through. This "time traveler" is played by Mark Duplass (who wrote and directed the incredibly sweet movie, Jeff, Who Lives at Home), and honestly, I am not thrilled with his acting. As an audience member, for the film to work, I should form some sort of bond with him and root for him, but I actually hated every scene he had, every line of dialogue. To make matters worse, *spoiler alert*, the film becomes "love story" territory, which was unnecessary. Two people can form a bond, without falling in love. I did adore the ending, but not enough to make up for the rest of the movie.
5. Seeking A Friend for the End of the World - Love the idea of this movie. With all the talk of the end of the world, most movies dealing with the subject matter turn to the "disaster movie" genre. It's a great concept to have the "disaster" as a catalyst for a romantic comedy. *slight spoilers* Like Safety Not Guaranteed, this movie would have been much better without the "love" part, but I was able to tolerate it much more in this movie. I actually didn't know it was a love story, considering that the title refers to "a friend" and I was really surprised that the two main characters, played by Keira Knightley and Steve Carell, had casual sex towards the beginning and seemed pretty content to leave it at that. The movie went into a downward spiral the second she began to feel jealous of him searching for his lost love, with her pathetically and silently pining for him. Females can, in fact, have sex without forming emotional attachments, the cliche that we can't is tiresome. Aside from the fact that Keira and Steve have ZERO sexual chemistry, I think the film could have been more effective if it was about two people finding comfort in one another, instead of dying alone. Although, personally, I would rather die alone, than in the arms of a complete stranger, but I am weird like that. The film also contained at least a dozen editing mistakes (not even obscure ones, like-in-your-face-obvious mistakes), so a new Script Supervisor would have been helpful. And a new location scout was desperately needed. For a film that is supposed to take place in NJ, a place where I currently live and the guy that I saw it with has lived his entire life, we both didn't recognize that it was even supposed to be NJ until 1/2 way through. It was CLEARLY Southern California. The biggest error was the beach scene, which showed cliffs and bright blue ocean water (which was supposed to be somewhere in Delaware, but such a place does not exist in the North East). I know I am nit-picking but I am just a little confused as to why the filmmakers even bothered to have the location as NJ, when the location isn't essential to the story at all. It literally hurts my brain to think about.