Pillbox

A comprehensive movie guide: 2012–13

This isn’t your typical high-brow list filled with Oscar nominations or European art films. Let’s face it: Argo was far from the best picture of the year and only won Best Picture because it kissed Hollywood’s butt and featured the comeback of Ben Affleck and his amazing facial hair. The films listed below are the ones that impacted college students. They’re actually exciting, and they took us to another world without leaving us hopeless or depressed at the end (cough Amour cough). In no particular order, we present to you some of the best films of the 2012–13 school year.

Facing Morality Without Sentimentality

Flight

Don’t let the trailer fool you. While at first glance it may seem like a ridiculous plot centered around Denzel Washington commandeering an upside-down airplane, Flight presents a very real and very difficult struggle over addiction and responsibility. Washington gives a powerhouse performance as the alcoholic pilot driven to humility and acceptance over the destructive choices that make this film so believable and human.

The Sessions

A story about a quadriplegic who vows to lose his virginity with the help of a sex surrogate, The Sessions is an incredibly beautiful film about living a life unrestrained by fear and paralysis, physical or otherwise. John Hawkes provides a miraculously powerful yet accessible portrait of a man who wants to live a normal but fulfilling life — one that not only moves viewers to tears but also inspires them to do the same.

The Mind Bender

Looper

Expertly blending futuristic sci-fi with old-school gangster movies, Looper follows time-traveling mobsters who kill victims sent from the future. Rather than getting bogged down in the mechanics of time travel, Looper instead focuses on thorough character development, allowing for a meaningful and contemplative story arc.

Seven Psychopaths

Written and directed by legendary playwright Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths is a refreshing black comedy crime film with an all-star cast that delivers amazing performances and biting wit. The film begins with a seemingly harmless and playful plot around a struggling screenwriter named Marty, played by Colin Farrell, trying to find the perfect movie. He becomes entangled in a dog kidnapping plot while trying to deal with two men named Billy and Hans — played by Sam Rockwell and the incredible Christopher Walken, respectively — who run a dog-kidnapping business. Little do they know how much trouble they run into when they steal the beloved Shih Tzu of a dangerous and psychotic L.A. mobster named Charlie, played by Woody Harrelson. The story possesses incredible twists and turns that make the film very dark, yet genuinely funny within seconds. Walken is pitch-perfect as the delicately cunning Hans, and Farrell is marvelous as the anxiety-driven character driven into a whirlwind of psychopaths. Together, they make for a truly entertaining picture.

Man vs. Beast, Man as Beast

Life of Pi

Ang Lee managed to make a seemingly unfilmable book into one of the best films in recent history. The story revolves around a teenage Indian boy named Pi who has lost everything, including his family, in a shipwreck. Pi finds himself stranded in the vast nothingness of the sea with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. A visual and spiritual masterpiece of cinema, Life of Pi is a rare treasure that makes a viewer question not only the journey that Pi faces, but how one should view life itself: Should we focus only on the inevitable dark misfortunes of life, or should we convert those misfortunes into a beautiful experience of its own? In a way, everyone has a little bit of Pi in them, which makes this film a magnificent ode to life and how we as human beings should decide to live it.

The Heart Warmers

Silver Linings Playbook

A story about mental disease and about moving on with life, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy done right. With Bradley Cooper as an estranged husband diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Jennifer Lawrence as a sex-crazed but wounded widow, there is plenty of homely spark that provides warmth and joy for its viewers. In its vulnerable characters lies the relatable core of this film, making it a journey of hope and acceptance for two seemingly messed-up characters who find each other in chaotic circumstances.

The Intouchables

A cultural sensation in its native France, The Intouchables is a storytelling miracle in which a rich quadriplegic named Phillipe befriends a man off the street named Driss and hires him as a caretaker. While it seems like an overdone formula, The Intouchables conveys fresh and true feelings of affection and love that develop in the strongest human relationships.

The Troublemakers

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s wild Spaghetti Western epic is — as expected — filled with rich dialogue and spectacular performances that make it one of the most entertaining pictures of the year. With several stylistic showdowns between a vengeful Jamie Foxx as Django and Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie — a southern version of a young monarch who likes to play sick games — Django Unchained exceeds any other film this year in terms of explosive charisma and energy.

Spring Breakers

There are going to be expectations when Disney starlets play wild party girls spending their college spring break with a “gangster with a heart of gold” named Alien, played by a James Franco complete with cornrows, tattoos, and grills. While it may seem like an airheaded excuse for exploiting young actresses, Spring Breakers takes a sudden and dark turn that feels more like a real-life experience than an actual film. Director Harmony Korine creates a splashy, fizzy portrait of a spring break gone too far — yet he infuses it with enough life that it’s hard not become invested in the girls’ wild journey. Plus, there is a Britney Spears montage. Enough said.

The Modern Masterpiece

Anna Karenina

One of the most overlooked films of this year, the newest adaptation of Anna Karenina provides a bizarre yet entrancingly beautiful new look for the Tolstoy classic. Joe Wright, director of films such as Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and Hanna creates a blazing theatricality that enhances the majestic Russian setting as well as the dramatic nature of the story. With Keira Knightley playing the doomed protagonist, she provides a charming and complex portrait that falls in love with the seductive Count Vronsky, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson. The film is gloriously unique with its dream-like aura and fabulous performances that uphold the classic novel’s reputation.

Hopefully, this will serve as a refreshing guide from the otherwise redundant lists that overlooked a few films. With a wide array of genres and themes, there are many great experiences to be had when watching some of the best movies that helped us survive another year as college students.