Top Films of 2012: The Visual Feasts

As promised yesterday, today's post focuses on those films that were visually stunning in one capacity or another. While some are good films as a whole, others were simply chosen because of their aesthetics. Without further ado, here are my picks--in no particular order.

  • Snow White and the Huntsman: Say what you will about Kristen Stewart, her Derek Zoolander “One Look,” and her acting in general, but you’d have a hard time arguing that this isn’t a visually impressive film. From the hallucinogenic swamp to the realization of the fantastical creatures to the fluidity of the mirror and milk and crow mush, this is a grotesquely gorgeous film. Yes, it has some serious flaws overall, but aesthetically, it’s more than worth your time.
  • ParaNorman: Unlike the above film, I loved this one on more levels than its looks alone. It would definitely make my Top-Ten list of the year. But, taken on looks alone, this is the prettiest stop-motion film that I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how many times I lost myself in the visuals and thought: “I can’t believe this is stop-motion…” I’ve tried my hand at such films, and to not only work in that exacting of a medium but to also create such a beautifully realized world… well, there are no words for this accomplishment.
  • Rise of the Guardians: In film school, I was often taught the importance of the close-up. The more, the better became the mantra. And while I still hold this to be true, there is something to be said about a perfectly composed extreme wide-shot, and RotG has some amazing wide-shots. Almost mind-blowingly so. It’s a film that took full advantage of its animated medium and produced some of the most well-composed frames and nothing short of jaw-dropping visuals of any film this year. Period.
  • Dark Shadows: Overall, I didn’t really care for this film. But, in terms of Tim Burton fully and completely realizing his “vision,” I don’t think he’s come close to this level of sophistication in any of his earlier works.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin and Killing Them Softly: I’m lumping these two together, as they are very much in the same vein. For being films with such dark themes and melancholic/disturbing/disheartening tones, these are still beautifully shot films. I’m always impressed when a film without all the fantastic elements and special effects can still be so visually engaging, and both of these films did it for me—even if I felt like shit after having watched them.
  • Skyfall: When I’d heard Sam Mendes was directing this, I went from being like “Oh, another Bond film” to “I can’t wait for this freaking film!” Mendes has always impressed me with his visuals, right from the start with American Beauty, and I knew that he’d be a good choice for Bond. He did not disappoint. Not only was there both stark and lush beauty in this film, he added something that’s been missing from Bond films for years: heart. True, I won’t argue with the purests that say it “misses the point” of what the earlier Bond films are, but for someone who never gave two shits about Bond before these last few films, I am more than impressed with how these films have grown—despite the slight stumble of Quantum of Solace.