Jim’s 2012 Lists part 3: 15-11 where numbers are still basically arbitrary

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Best of 2012 Part 2: 15-11

Still slugging my way through the year that was 2012. These are still a little in the “what’s the difference category,” but a little more clarity begins to emerge at this point. Still, there is a basic interchangeability here, so take that as you will.

15) Queen of Versailles

The final documentary on my list.

This is an interesting one because a lot of people will like it for a completely different reason than I do.

It’s a documentary about a house, basically. Not just any house, though. It’s about the biggest house in the US.

In 2004, Jackie Siegel, wife of time share magnate David Siegel, began working on building her dream home. And let me be clear, her dream home is a little different than yours. My dream home is a decent sized thing with Connor MacLeod’s secret room hidden behind a fake bookcase in my office. Her dream home, on the other hand, is an 85,000 square foot, 10 kitchen, 13 bedroom, 23 bathroom mansion with a two lane bowling alley, an indoor skating rink, a video arcade, a fitness spa, two tennis courts, and a baseball diamond.

The thing looks more like a resort than a home.

The Siegel’s paid cash for it and owned the thing outright. Thing is, David is an old school businessman who believes that an asset that isn’t contributing to the business is a pointless asset. So, he takes a mortgage out on the property and puts that money into his business, which is time share property.

Then the real estate bubble burst.

His business faltered and suddenly he is at risk to lose the house before it is even completed.

What started as a documentary about extravagance turned into a document of the financial crisis at the highest levels.

What I gained from this doc is that the troubles of the rich and the troubles of the poor are not that different, but with the rich the odds are just a hell of a lot higher.

David started with very little and built an empire of over 20 properties. He made a ton of money and made a ton of money for a lot of other people. He is shown as very single minded and often prickly. But nobody gets as far as he does without a personality that is a bit obsessive and intense. Like Clarkson says, you don't get to the top of the mountain by saying please.

Jackie is shown in as sympathetic a light as possible, but is still a fairly easy target for people. She’s a bit ditzy, she has massive fake breasts, and is very privileged and entirely out of touch with the real world, but she isn’t by any means a bad person. She just lives a wildly different life than any of us could imagine.

This is a fascinating look at wealth, power, ego, privilege, and how the other half lives. Many people are dismissive of the entire family because of their wealth and somewhat clueless attitude, but they are people who are living the only lives they have.

Try watching it with an open mind. It’s pretty fascinating.

14) Looper

It’s about time we started to get more smart science fiction.

I went into “Looper” with really high hopes, maybe too high. Let me start by saying that I liked the movie a lot, but it fell into the trap that most time travel movies do. Let me explain.

When I’m watching a “smart” movie, which “Looper” is, I tend to think about it. You know, put in a little thought.

The problem is, it’s a time travel movie, and time travel movies rarely hold up to too much thought. If you put too much thought into this one it does start to implode a little bit. Now, that does not make it less enjoyable or less entertaining or any less of a good film.

This is a really cool and well made film that won’t insult your intelligence. It does have some problems. They are minor, but enough to keep it out of my top 10.

13) Skyfall

I was a little dubious when they announced that Sam Mendes was going to be directing the new Bond film. First off, Mendes isn’t exactly an action guy. Second, I didn’t think it was a good idea to have a name director on a Bond film. It’s an iconic series with a pretty set direction and not much room for “individuality,” as it were.

Now, I think that having more established directors take the helm might be a good thing. The old formula works, but it does feel old and too formula. This is the first time I’ve ever been aware of a directors stamp on a Bond film, and I really liked it.

There are a lot of people who are putting the “best Bond film ever” monicker on this, but I think that is a bit premature. It might well be, but we are too close to it now to really give it that title. But I can say that it is one of the best, without question.

Bond is much more human and vulnerable, we see a possible dark side to his future in intelligence. It does get a bit fantastical at times, but it’s a Bond film, that’s how they work. The rest of the film is firmly enough rooted in reality to make up for the few genre flourishes.

12) 21 Jump Street

This one surprised the hell out of me. When it was announced you could almost hear my eyes roll. Then it premiered at South By Southwest, and I didn’t go because, you know eye roll.

But people started talking about it, and I got curious.

Then it came out and people loved it, and I got more curious.

So I decided to rent it on Amazon, and the next night I bought it.

This thing is absolutely hilarious. Everything about it works beautifully. Who knew Channing Tatum was that funny? I didn’t. But damn! That guy can make the funny. the writing was really outstanding, the acting was great (especially my buddy Randall), and the cameos were among the best I’ve ever seen.

What could, and by all rights should, have been another embarrassing entry in the reboot/remake/re-imagined file ended up being one of the most genuinely enjoyable and funny movies I’ve seen in years.

11) Wreck-It Ralph

This is the best non-Pixar Pixar film that I have seen in YEARS.

When I say Pixar film, I don’t mean animated, I don’t even mean computer animated. What I mean is a movie that people say “Well, it’s a kids movie but it has stuff in it for adults,” about, when the truth is it’s a movie meant for grown ups that has stuff in it that kids will enjoy.

Make no mistake, Wreck-It Ralph is a movie for my generation. Yes, younger people will dig it but if you never spent your time at a convenience story, dropping your allowance one quarter at a time into a giant, primitive game cabinet, it’s not really something you understand.

I remember when Pac Man fever was an actual thing. I remember going to the Stop n’ Go to play Super Mario Brothers, the 7/11 to play Kung Fu Tournament (I believe that’s what it was called. It had two joysticks and no buttons. It was weird.), and the Circle K to play Golden Gun (A fairly flagrant James Bond rip off). I am genuinely embarrassed by how much money I spent on those machines. I remember getting an Atari 2600 and being blown away by the very idea of playing games at home. I remember when the only thing I wanted in the world was an NES.

Yes, kids have video games, but the gaming experience is so different.

Wreck-It Ralph nailed the idea of the classic arcade perfectly. No back story, no saving, no replays, just a pixelated hero and a villain that was a villain because you were told he was a villain. You did the exact same thing on basically the exact same screen over and over again with no end in sight and no goal other than the high score.

The arcade was a world in and of itself. I love how this movie captures that and so much more.

Ralph is one of the most compelling protagonists I’ve ever seen. Everyone can relate to being relegated to a role they don’t want and don’t deserve. For a game about characters we routinely see die, and often times kill, it is amazingly human.

Next time, the top 10 begins!



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