Best of 2012

We traditionally have a post about the best of the past year in music or movies or television (or all three), so I thought I’d get us started on talking about 2012 by giving my list of the top contenders in each category.

10.Babel by Mumford & Sons
9.Some Nights by fun
8.Go by Motion City Soundtrack
7.Celebration Rock by Japandroids
6.Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
5.Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen
4.Blunderbuss by Jack White
3.The Idler Wheel… by Fiona Apple
2.¡Uno! by Green Day
1.Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen

10.The Dark Knight Rises
8.The Avengers
7.21 Jump Street
4.Silver Linings Playbook
3.Moonrise Kingdom
1.Les Miserables

10.Modern Family (ABC)
9.Parks and Recreation (NBC)
8.Shameless (Showtime)
7.New Girl (Fox)
6.The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
5.Homeland (Showtime)
4.Justified (FX)
3.Mad Men (AMC)
2.Downton Abbey (PBS)
1.Breaking Bad (AMC)

Go ahead, tell me where I’m wrong.

34 thoughts on “Best of 2012

  1. Not my kind of music, so I don’t have much to say there.

    I thought Dark Knight Rises was better than Avengers, although I liked them both quite a bit. Avengers is made difficult, I think, because of the nature of the movie–a bunch of superheroes, all strong on their own, coming together to save the world. I’m not sure that can ever measure up to a great superhero movie where it’s just one superhero making the fight.

    10. Downton Abbey (a significant drop from Season 1)
    9. Inspector Lewis
    8. Longmire
    7. Falling Skies
    6. Dexter
    5. The Killing
    4. Grimm
    3. Awake
    2. Justified
    1. Homeland

    I may have missed a TV show or two.

  2. I forgot about Grimm. That should be on my top ten list as well. I liked Awake quite a bit but I thought it became a bit pedestrian later in the season. I would probably not put it in the top ten but it would be close. I didn’t watch Dexter this year but if I had I’m guessing it would be on my list based on how good it was previously.

  3. Music:

    Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal.
    – Perfect blend of indie-folk, Acade Fire-style composition and Icelandic melodies.

    Kishi Bashi – “Bright White”
    – Yes, this song became ubiquitous because of those Windows 8 commercials, but it’s a really great tune.

    The Lumineers – “Ho Hey”
    – Hard to resist the chorus and the “ho hey”s.

    La Sera – “Please Be My Third Eye”
    – Nice proto-punk girl-rock tune from former Vivian Girls member Katy Goodman.


    Moonrise Kingdom
    – Wes Anderson, with the confidence to do his thing.

    Silver Linings Playbook
    – Strong acting and writing and serious, dark subject matter. This is what happens when you deconstruct a rom-com. I’d love to see Julia Stiles get a supporting actress nod. She was fantastic.

    Damsels in Distress
    – I might be the only one who loved this movie as much as I did, but I’m a sucker for anything Whit Stillman.

    The Avengers
    – It was a fun, exhilarating movie experience. By contrast, The Dark Knight Rises was just kind of punishing and unpleasant. I’m resolving in 2013 to only watch comic book movies that are fun.

    – Better than I had anticipated. I actually kind of love that there wasn’t ever a love interest.


    Overall, I didn’t find that much to love in TV in 2012, partly because I don’t subscribe to any premium cable TV channels. The couple of new TV dramas I tried this year (Revolution, Elementary) were both pretty bland. A few I did like.

    The Mindy Project
    – This was the only new TV show that held my interest. It’s pretty good.

    Parks and Recreation
    – The comedy is as good as ever, which is pretty good.

    The League
    – FX’s comedy about a reprehensible fantasy football league is crude, crass and occasionally hilarious.

  4. And I should probably add Mad Men to the TV list, although I didn’t care for this season as much as past seasons. I guess I just don’t really want Don to be happy.

  5. Never fear, Greg. Don always finds a way to not be happy.

    I agree on The Mindy Project and The League. Both good.

    I haven’t seen Damsels in Distress but I will now. I also am unfamiliar with most of your music selections but I’ll track them down as well.

  6. BTW, I think there could be a certain amount of bias toward things we’ve seen or heard recently, as opposed to earlier in the year, so let me know if I’ve forgotten some masterpieces that peaked early in 2012 but deserve some credit.

    Having said that, I saw Les Miserables just last night and will offer to fight to the death anyone that says it doesn’t deserve the top spot. I cried like two year old. And I’m way manlier than most of you. ‘Nuff said.

  7. Yes, Legend of Korra was pretty great. I wish the first season wasn’t so short, though. I think that’s why I forgot about it.

    One more entry for me. If you have daughters to watch it with (which I do) and/or you kind of like Amy Sherman-Palladino’s brand of chatty, fast-paced dialogue (which I also do), Bunheads is pretty good.

  8. Regarding Les Mis, I’ve noticed an interesting trend among amateur movie critics (and a few professionals) wanting to really trash the movie, complaining a ton about “fanboys and girls” who are speaking in way too much hyperbole about it, and therefore wanting to harshly over-criticize. I am, by no means, a Les Mis disciple, but I was BLOWN AWAY by the movie. Sure, I can come up with quibbles, but I give it a solid B, though depending on the day I’ll bump it up to a B+.

    Regarding other movies, I’d be intrigued to see where both Cloud Atlas (which I LOVED) and Cabin in the Woods rank. Could any of those knock of DKR for the #10 spot? Same with Beasts of the Southern Wild?

    Justified was really really good this year. I loved the storyline behind the Man from Detroit, and thought he made an awesome villain. Homeland was lackluster, though. It felt that the only wanted to do one season, and then realized “Wait, people kind of like this.” Breaking Bad was phenomenal, and I’m glad they didn’t delve too much into the flash-forward aspect of storytelling that many don’t do correctly. Really missing Sherlock, though.

    As far as music goes, I will leave that to other more qualified listeners. I’m not very qualified.

  9. I haven’t seen Cloud Atlas, or Cabin in the Woods or Beasts of the Southern Wild, though I have heard good things about all of those. I would like to hear others who have seen those movies tell us where they would rank them compared to the ones on my list.

    My biggest quibble about Les Mis was Russell Crowe. Not a fan of his voice or the way he played Javert with practically no emotion whatsoever. I think his casting was a poor choice. Despite that problem, however, the movie was still the best I’ve seen this year.

  10. For TV I’d put Game of Thrones at the top. While I agree with brandt’s frustrations, Homeland deserves inclusion.

    I actually think the movie list you’ve got here is great. I wasn’t thrilled with 21 Jumpstreet. Maybe put another comedy in there instead. Safety Not Guaranteed? I haven’t seen Les Miz yet. Opted for Django instead, which was its own kind of great.

  11. I think 21 Jumpstreet deserves inclusion because it really honestly surprised me, and I haven’t been surprised by a comedy in years. By all rights, it should have just been a by-the-numbers sendup of an old, barely remembered, yet iconic, 80s institution. Instead, it was truly funny and original. That’s sort of amazing. I can’t think of another comedy that deserves more recognition, but maybe someone will come up with one. I haven’t seen Safety Not Guaranteed, but I’m willing to be convinced by others that it was great.

  12. Best song : Days Go By -the Offspring (i thought i hated them)

    Best movie: probably Lincoln (haven’t seen Les Miz)

    Best TV shows (no premium cable):
    10. Shark Tank (seriously)
    9. Awake (bad bad finale)
    8. Major Crimes
    7. Falling Skies
    6. Once Upon a Time
    5. Last Resort
    4. Grimm
    3. Parenthood
    2. Suits
    1. The Good Wife

  13. At least they tried to wrap up Awake. A hard job to do when you have a great show that you’d hope had more seasons left to it…I agree that the ending was lame, but it’s not like they had the episodes to put together a better one.

    Last Resort was pretty good too, and I hate to see it get canceled.

    I gave up on Once Upon a Time. Just wasn’t enjoying it anymore.

  14. Awake was actually really great. I guess I forgot about that one too. The finale was filmed before the show runners knew it was being cancelled, but I think it mostly works anyway.

  15. I saw Les Mis this past week and wanted to walk out and get my money back. I went expecting to see a musical performance on par with some of the stage productions I’ve seen supplemented by the visual richness of a film production. What I saw was a mishmash of a production that was neither quality cinema nor musical. Regardless of the strength of the supporting cast, the simple fact that the two leading characters provided abysmal performances ruins the film. The general consensus is that Crowe was weak both acting and singing but Jackman was even worse as he seemed more focused on turning in an acting performance mingled with singing– and not very good singing at that. I actually give more credit to Crowe because he seemed to take the musical component more seriously than the acting (which may explain his relatively flat acting performance).

    Jackman consistently sung flat– so much so that when the musical score was dubbed they had to change key in the middle of songs (where no key change is called for) just so that he wouldn’t sound as off-key. When he was singing solo that posed only a minor, and for the untrained ear, hardly noticeable problem. However, he (and Crowe) consistently committed the same sin as part of duets and ensemble pieces so the orchestra was forced to split the difference making both the quality performers and Jackman/Crowe sound equally miserable. In addition to singing flat they, Jackman/Crowe, consistently missed their opening notes, usually coming in too high and then overcompensating 2-3 notes later and arriving at their destination flat. Compounding the poor pitch were breathy, nasal performances turned in by both. Neither could sustain a musical phrase to save their respective lives. As the movie progressed at first I felt relief each time Jackman/Crowe left the screen because the supporting cast performances were so good. But about half-way through the movie I found it hard to even enjoy the other parts because I knew Jackman/Crowe would be along shortly. There is a reason the trailer featured only Hathaway singing. I would be curious to get Colm Wilkinson’s (the original Jean Valjean both in London and Broadway and the Priest in the movie production) honest opinion of the performances. I think Colm can retire comfortable that his voice will forever be associated with Valjean and not Jackman’s.

  16. Well, first of all, despite Colm’s brilliance (and he is brilliant) he certainly has to share the role in a lot of people’s minds with Alfie Boe, who sang it even more brilliantly. Second, you are absolutely correct that the vocal performances in the movie are subpar (especially with regard to Crowe and Jackman) when compared with almost any professional stage production. But to condemn the movie for that reason is to miss the point entirely. It’s like condemning Picasso for not painting a visually accurate portrait.

    Virtuoso vocal performances were simply not the goal of this movie. If that had been the goal, they would have cast the movie with the same cast as were used in the 25th anniversary concert production and been done with it. Then Nick Jonas would have played Marius and you would be complaining about his acting instead of the vocal performances.

    The goal of the movie was emotional connection to the music and acting performances. That’s why Crowe was such a letdown, not because he isn’t a great singer, but because he didn’t give us anything on the acting side either.

    Watch the 25th Anniversary concdert here:

    Norm Lewis in the role of Javert is not vastly superior to Crowe just because he is a fantastic singer (which he is), but because he embodies the role in a much more visually and emotionally charged way. Crowe is flat by comparison in every way. Not just in pitch.

    In Jackman’s case, I’m not heariing that he is consistently flat, but I won’t argue the point with you because I’m not musically well trained enough to know for certain whether you’re right, but I will say that Jackman’s vocals are not on the same level as Colm or Boe or any of the other amazing singers who have performed that role in any of the professional productions. But again, that wasn’t the goal. Jackman was brilliant at the thing he was asked to do: Act the role. Use the vocals as simply one tool in creating a unique and superior acting performance.

    That’s why the director, Tom Hooper, made the decision that the performers would sing live on camera rather than in a studio. There’s no way to give a superior vocal performance in that circumstance, but that’s the way you get a brilliant acting performance, where the actors can use their faces and voices to make decisions about their characters that are designed to give us something differentand better than has ever been done before. Not in terms of pure vocals, but in terms of the whole package of inhabiting a role. I think the movie accomplished that, with the notable exception of Crowe.

  17. I saw the London production of Les Mis while backpacking through Europe. I was on a shoestring budget, and it was expensive, but it was worth every penny. Amazing, in fact. If you get the chance, see the London production.

    The only other production I’ve seen since kind of sucked. I doubt the movie can compare to the real thing, either, so I’m not in much of a rush to see it.

  18. MCQ,

    I have to disagree with your last paragraph. For the film each actor was fitted with a mic and a monitor so each could hear the orchestra (just a piano in this case) as well as the other actors– exactly the same production methodology used in today’s stage productions. There’s absolutely no reason the vocals could not have been high quality. The performances turned in by Hathaway and Redmayne were every bit as good as what I’ve seen on stage and proof that the dueling train-wrecks of Jackman and Crowe could have– and should have– been avoided. That’s a failing on Hooper’s part to either properly direct or find other performers worthy of the role.

    Musicals are different than straight performances. A good actor pulls the audience in by conveying sincere emotion– he has a good feel for where the line of too little and too much resides and he finds just the right balance for the context in which he finds the character. Musicals are different because the music itself boosts the emotional transference between the actor and the audience and shifts the location of that fine line between too much and too little. Jackman and Crowe obviously did not understand that. Jackman figured he was an actor first and so grossly overplayed his emotions to the detriment of his vocal performance which turned his vocal performance into a distraction. Crowe hoped his vocal performance would be enough to convey his message (his misfortune was that despite his effort he cannot sing). Hathaway and Redmayne both sang their songs first and supplemented the performance with their acting skills and hit home runs.

  19. Well I agree with you on Hathaway and Redmayne. But you’re leaving out Samantha Barks, who has played Eponine in the west End and in the 25th Anniversary Concert and now in the film. She practically is Eponine now, and certainly deserves credit as well.

    I think I understand what you’re saying about Jackman, I mean if Hathaway and Redmayne, not to mention Barks, can turn in great vocal performances while also acting their roles brilliantly, then why can’t he? I think the answer is that Valjean is just a much more difficult vocal role, and for all his skill as an actor, (and even having some experience as a singer) Jackman is just not up to the requirements of the role vocally. So he had to rely on his acting skills to make up the difference, and I think they do, although no one is going to say that he is the ultimate Jean Valjean.

    In the case of Crowe, no one, including Crowe himself, ever thought that he could sing. So he was obviously not hired to create a great, or even really good, vocal performance in the role of Javert. What he was hired to do is get people in the theater who know and like his movies and to give at least a creditable acting performance. He may be accomplishing the first of those goals, but he did not accomplish the second. And yes, the director has to share some responsibility for that failure.

    I think the thing you’re missing in your analysis is that the film is fundamentally a different beast from any stage performance. Yes, the microphones were the same as in some stage performances, although not all stage performances use those mini mics attached to the actors heads and certainly not all use earpieces. The point is, no matter how good a stage performance is, the actors’ primary means of connecting with the audience is their voices, because even the audience who are sitting close to the stage just cannot see their faces well enough to make facial expression the primary means of carrying the performance.

    In the film, this is not the case. The camera can (and in this case does) get right in the actors’ faces. That is an important factor that must be exploited, even at the expense of the vocal performances in some respects. The film can also do other things in terms of visuals and setting and cinemetography that stage productions can’t do, and I think the film succeeded on those levels as well.

    Again, go watch the 25th anniversary concert. Alfie Boe’s voice is perfection itself. He is beyond fabulous as Jean Valjean, and if you watched him in person, I suspect his acting performance was equally great, but because the concert was filmed with closeups, if you compare his performance with Jackman’s you will see the difference between a great stage performance and a great film performance. Jackman conveyed far more in his face than Boe ever could. And that’s where Jackman succeeds. On the other hand, if you compare Lewis with Crowe in the role of Javert, you get the opposite result. Lewis is just better in every way.

    The interesting thing is to compare Samantha Barks performance in the concert with her performance in the film. Same person. Same role. Should be the same performance, right? But it’s not. The difference is extraordinary, because she’s trying, not to recreate a superb vocal performance of Eponine, which she has done a thousand times, but to create a new film performance, where her vocals are subservient to her acting performance, especially as shown in her face and eyes. She does that very well, but is her vocal performance as good? Most would say no, but her overall performance is wonderful. Just not in the same way.

    Here is a clip of her performance of the song “On My Own” from the Concert and from the movie:

  20. “I doubt the movie can compare to the real thing, either, so I’m not in much of a rush to see it.”

    Tim you’re right, but only if you think the “real thing” is the vocal performances in the London stage production. If that’s the standard you’re looking for, the movie will disappoint you. But if you want to see this same story told in a slightly different way, with superior settings and with all the resources that a big budget movie can bring to telling a story, then you will enjoy it I think. You just can’t go looking for the same thing. In some ways, it’s more of a “real thing” than the stage production because the movie brings the story to life in ways a stage production can’t possibly do.

  21. Incidentally, I saw an interview with Russell Crowe that made me very hopeful about his appoach to the role of Javert. Crowe is no dummy, and his approach to the role was very thoughtful, apparently.

    He said that he initially had no interest in the role when he was approached about it because when he saw the play performed he didn’t understand Javert at all, and couldn’t fathom what Javert’s motivation was for anything he did. Then, he claims he went to Victor Hugo’s home and took a private tour and found out that Hugo had based the characters of Valjean and Javert on the same person, a man who was a convict, then later became a police officer and rose to the level of inspector. He said that gave him great insight into Javert and caused him to be comfortable taking the role.

    That does bring a whole new facet to the roles of Valjean and Javert. If you see them as being two sides of the same person, then you gain a lot of richness to the story that isn’t otherwise there. Unfortunately, that richness doesn’t really come through in Crowe’s performance.

  22. I guess I did. I didn’t like Crowe much, but aside from that, I think it was pretty amazing.

    My point in defending it though, is not to say that it is the greatest movie of all time, but just to say that some critics seem to be judging it by a standard that is, to some extent, not relevant.

    I’m a Les Miserables fan anyway, and to see that musical done as a film was really awesome.

  23. I am so out of it. I haven’t heard any of the albums you listed, and of the movies, I’ve only seen Lincoln. I thought it was interesting, but cheesy at the end. Spielberg just can’t help himself.

    Of the TV shows, I’ve seen (and like) New Girl and Daily Show.

    My TV show list would probably be something like:

    Colbert Report
    Dance Moms
    New Girl
    AI/The Voice/X Factor
    Project Runway
    Wheeler Dealers (I love this show)
    Chasing Classic Cars
    The Ultimate Fighter
    American Chopper

    At least those are the ones I remember looking forward to watching during the week.

  24. Susan, I was hoping you would have your own list of the best albums of the year. Maybe you could do a list of best songs?

    Looks like a lot of your favorite TV is reality based. And you like Colbert better than Stewart it looks like. Maybe we should do a list of best reality shows, because I basically excluded reality shows from my list. The only reality shows I really watch consistently now are The Voice and SYTYCD. I was mad when I heard The Sing-off was cancelled.

  25. I haven’t seen Newsroom much but I really liked what I saw. If I was watching that it would certaily be on my list.

  26. The Oscar nominations this year were very boring and predictable. Looper was screwed. I thought it would at least get an original screenplay nomination. If I had my way, it would have also gotten some technical awards, a nomination for Emily Blunt. (A Best Director nomination for Rian Johnson would have been too much to hope for, but deserved.) Of the movies nominated, the one I feel the most of a rooting interest in is Silver Linings Playbook.

  27. Newsroom has all the Aaron Sorkiness to it, if you like that. I do, even when it’s heavy-handed and annoying.

    I’m completely out of it, musically. Although I did buy Casey Abrams cd, haha. Only because I was on a roadtrip and had nothing to listen to and it was like $10 at Walmart or Target.

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