2012 Crikeys: the best in film, books, TV, theatre, music

The envelope please … From the cultural landscape via Crikey Weekender, we present the best from the big and small screens, stages, bookshelves, computers and music collections in 2012.

Best film of 2012: The Grey

There were stunning films from across the globe: Iran’s achingly powerful A Separation, Turkey’s brooding murder mystery Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and South Korea’s direct-to-DVD doozie The Front Line among the pedigree titles. Top-shelf American cinema was lined by features as varied as James Bobin’s smile-stretching The Muppets and Australian director Andrew Dominik’s blood-stained commentary on the US economy, Killing Them Softly.

But the best of the year came from an unexpected place: the hands of a studio director whose previous feature, The A Team, was little more than a cash-grab about bathtub figurines writ large. Joe Carnahan’s The Grey is a hair-raising two-hander. It can be read as a man-versus-wild action thriller chocked to the gills with B-movie tropes, but under the bonnet the film works on far deeper levels. Based in remote Alaskan wilderness, it charts the psychological and geographic journey of John Ottway (Liam Neeson) and a bunch of men stranded in icy no-man’s land, who are picked off one after the other by bloodthirsty wolves.

The Grey leaps into explorations of mental illness and suicidal tendencies as fearlessly as the “by my cold dead hands” look in Neeson’s stony eyes. Carnahan frames his narrative as the ultimate men’s group: a cathartic film that grapples with the age-old question of what it means to be a man. It’s at once angry and explorative, sensitive and poignant, a mixture of knuckle-busting action and beautiful emotional beats that coil softly around the film’s dialogue-heavy screenplay. This is a blockbuster-sized parable littered with dramatic complexities that belie the stark, wintry simplicity of its setting. The title is not a description of the Alaskan landscape or the colour of the wolves.

 — Luke Buckmaster of Crikey blog Cinetology

Best TV show of 2012: Girls

Girls was honest. Girls was funny. Girls was fresh. Girls was divisive.

Girls is important for both the content of the show itself, as well as the discussion that surrounded it. It filled a void that existed on television by speaking to a generation of viewers (both male and female) in a way few other series have. How To Make It In America, another recent HBO effort, made a similar connection but resonated significantly less with viewers. Girls is one of the few shows on television in which the viewer believes Instagram, Etsy and Skrillex may also exist. And the fact that protagonist Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) is such a terrible person only adds to the relatability of the show. Nobody wants to be Hannah Horvath, but she does represent our universal awfulness as people.

And then there’s the conversation. We talked about the authenticity of the world of the characters considering there are so few African-American characters, the nepotism in casting, even the legitimacy of one of the girl’s mastabatory techniques. Love it or hate it, any show that encourages audiences to discuss race, gender, s-xuality and other weighty issues should be celebrated. TV should never be dull — Girls hasn’t come close.

 — Dan Barrett of Televised Revolution

Best video game of 2012: Dys4ia

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Categories: Books, Film & TV, Music, Stage, TV & Radio

14 Responses

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  1. Call me a pedant, but a memoir cannot be the novel of the year.

    by MAR on Dec 21, 2012 at 11:45 am

  2. Interesting call on Best Film, Luke. I saw another end of year list call it the worst. Personally, I thought it was great, other than the somewhat hokey wolves themselves.

    by moonkid on Dec 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

  3. Also - great call on Girls, Dan. Loved everything about it.

    by moonkid on Dec 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm

  4. MAR,

    You’re a pedant. I only looked at these comments to see if I could be the first to comment that ‘Josep Anton” isn’t a novel.


    by wayne robinson on Dec 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm

  5. Sorry to call Luke out on this one. But choosing “The Grey” over “The Separation” as best film of 2012? Not even close.

    by paddy on Dec 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm

  6. Girls is dull all right!

    by Phen on Dec 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm

  7. Pedantically Wayne and MAR, Ms Blanchard referred to it as “book of the year” not “novel of the year”.

    by Matt Hardin on Dec 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm

  8. I’d have rather seen an unranked list of each of these reviewers’ favourites of the year, and maybe a roll-call of luminaries from the film, tv, lit, etc. critical communities regarding their preferred works. One entry from each reviewer feels like a lazy choice.

    Don’t get me started on the lack of diversity in the reviewer selection.

    by libratorr on Dec 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

  9. Buckmaster’s picks always disappoint me!

    by on Dec 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

  10. I agree with Monash. Buckmaster’s reviews and selections always seem out of sync with everything else I hear. At least it’s a different POV I guess.

    by Gorbach Kate on Dec 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm

  11. Oh dear Crikey,

    These awards are the opposite of democratic! Why does one person of whatever persuasion get to choose?
    In future please abide by Crikey subscribers and/ or readers votes?

    Cannot in honesty respond to other categories, but as one who read and admired Rushdie’s ‘Joseph Anton’, and also read Zadie Smith’s sadly light weight ‘NW’, neither can hold a candle to Mantel’s jaw dropping brilliance in ‘Bring Up The Bodies’

    And for brilliance plus belly bellow laugh hilarity, believe Jacobsen’s ‘Zoo Time’ is worth a Crikey on its own.

    BTW would recommend that the unrepresentative Crikey awardster reads Drewe’s ’ Montebellow’ if said person is inclined to elevate memoirs above literature.

    Merry Christmas!

    by merrilyn wasson on Dec 21, 2012 at 11:31 pm

  12. Perhaps an actual game, not a video blog, could be a game of the year?

    by Gerry Hatrick, OAP on Dec 22, 2012 at 8:17 am

  13. Agreed with Gerry Hatrick. Dys4ia is an interesting experience and it’s definitely covering a tricky topic but it’s a poor example of actual gameplay. Games aren’t just about story telling and expression (though they definitely are capable of this) they are about actual interesting design and gameplay mechanics. To ignore that is to have a very narrow appreciation of games I should think.

    For me personally best game this year was Dark Souls: Prepare to die edition, though I feel that cheats by basically just being a PC port delayed by a good few years.

    by ethan zugai on Dec 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm

  14. This is really quite an abysmal list, and however made it plainly shouldn’t be on the payroll (that would be you, Neil).

    How Beasts of the southern wild, for example, has not been listed whilst the trite The grey has been is especially baffling and I can only assume, frankly Neil, that you have absolutely no idea what you are doing. I suspect you might be a dusty old man who hasn’t really taken an interest in progressive Art of any kind in a very long time.

    Here’s a tip Neil: Art, music and culture didn’t stop evolving when you’re youth ran out. Let me guess; you’ve never listened to Fantomas album and can’t name a single American Magic Realist Artist, and you don’t know who Tomas transtromer is.

    It is cultural commentators like you who keep me in the cultural cringe.

    You are outdated and ridiculous.


    by starling starling on Dec 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm

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