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I don't believe in feeling guilt over what movies I like. Many critics and bloggers and other people who get to say with a straight face that they get paid to think about movies all day will tell you all about "important" movies and other milestones they feel are underappreciated by mainstream audiences, but I personally don't feel like I'm above having a good time at the movie theater.
You won't see "Zero Dark Thirty" on this list, nor will you find "The Master," though I saw both and enjoyed them and took something away from them. They just aren't movies that I can see myself wanting to enjoy again (ever again), unlike the 10 titles that made my admittedly somewhat fluffy year-end list.
2012 was a banner year for movies, and the hits just keep coming (thanks for the time off, winter break! You would need to call in sick to see the array of awesome holiday offerings coming at us before year's end). Read on for my list of my top 10 picks for the year.
10. '21 Jump Street'
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Talk about low expectations. I begrudgingly tagged along to see this movie after being wooed by a hand-clappy exclamation point-peppered review by a trusted source. I came in grumpy, and left gleefully quoting the lines and Googling the DVD release date so I could watch it over and over at home. Move over, "Magic Mike," this is my favorite flavor of Channing Tatum. F**k you, science!
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Leslye Headland's little indie that could was criminally underseen, due to three fatal strikes: 1.) Indie. 2.) Moviegoers (incorrectly) wrote it off as a "Bridesmaids" rip-off. 3.) Critics wrote off the characters as "mean" and "unlikable," neatly sidestepping the fact that Headland's pissy bridal party (played by Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst and Lizzy Caplan, alongside Rebel Wilson as the sympathetic bride) is the most truthfully-written bunch of characters on screen this year. Yes, girls really can talk trash and still honestly support one another! "Bachelorette" may at times be uncomfortable to watch, but it's undeniably funny and hits close to home.
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I find bromances to be one of the most charming things in the world, to an almost creepy degree. I love "I Love You, Man" more than anyone, and never thought that I would find another bromantic comedy so charming. Until "For a Good Time, Call..." came along. Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller knock it out of the park with a portrayal of female friendship just as truthful as the ladies of "Bachelorette," just a different flavor, and with added phone sex. If "Bachelorette" is dark, ripped denim, "For a Good Time, Call..." is its leopard print pleather counterpart. If for nothing else, see this movie for the most hilarious fake sex noises you've ever heard, and the opportunity to make a GIF of Graynor shoving a giant sex toy in her own mouth. (Less gross than it sounds.)
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It's cool, adults can love cartoons too. This movie is the ultimate go-to, appropriate for basically any audience, kids or adults. It teaches kids lessons about bullying and being different without veering too much into after school special territory, and for those of us who already (or should already) know better, there's plenty of humor and cool graphics to sustain the movie. Even if we can't see his real face, John C. Reilly is just the best at playing the lovable loser, and it's little touches like pixellated details and old-school video game cameos (and vocal cameos from well-known talent) that really make "Wreck-It Ralph" something special. If this is ever offered on Netflix streaming in the future, sorry "Freaks and Geeks," you've been replaced as bedtime viewing.
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Grab a tissue. Or a box of tissues. Or several boxes of tissues. Just fill a backpack with absorbent cloths, and you should be ready to go see "Perks." Stephen Chbosky's book was a touchstone to me in high school, and seeing the story play out so beautifully and faithfully on-screen was like a gift I didn't know I had been waiting for. Emma Watson throwing her head back in the car in the tunnel while they listened to David Bowie's "Heroes"? Sob. Scratch that, I was low-level weeping throughout. I'm not sure how many of you have recently been a 15-year-old girl, but when you feel like something "gets" you in the way that "Perks" reached myself and so many others, but the film adaptation was a perfect reminder of that (awful, confusing, awesome, weird) time.
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I know. I know! People have a bone to pick with this movie, and that's totally allowed. Yes, I agree, love at first sight is cheesy, and Russell Crowe really made some interesting noises as Javert, but I was blown away by the epic nature of "Les Miserables." Call me a sucker for musicals (I am), or an Anne Hathaway believer (guilty), but this is one that I can see watching on rainy days and enjoying it every time. The audience also makes a difference: I've never seen the musical, and first saw this movie at a world premiere in New York with an enthusiastic crowd that burst into applause a dozen times throughout the movie. That's hard to ignore or forget, so my every viewing of "Les Mis" will forever be peppered with bravos, maybe stifling some of the less-awesome parts of the movie.
4. 'This Is 40'
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Judd Apatow has his detractors, but I'm not one of them. I'm not necessarily part of the demographic bro audience, and I felt meh about "Funny People," but "This Is 40" is worth a watch for even anti-Apatows. Focusing on Pete and Debbie, the high-strung couple on the periphery of "Knocked Up," "This Is 40" is a more grown-up version of some of the director's more fratty premises. There are still fart jokes, but they're fart jokes with meaning. (Leslie Mann as Debbie screaming, "This is why we don't have sex anymore!" after Paul Rudd, as her husband Pete, wordlessly rips ass in bed will go down as a great moment in cinematic history, or at least it will in my apartment.) Maude Apatow giving voice to the shrillest of teen girls, howling about "Lost" and her clothes not fitting right and her general discontent with life: perfection. Give her an Oscar! (Not kidding, I want to see what nail art she would do.)
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In the plot twist of the year, I was not thrilled with this movie the first time I saw it. A certified a capella geek (my friends and I used to go to midnight performances of the all-male group at the college town I grew up in), my expectations were so high and specific that I spent the whole movie grumbling about how it should have been, but admitted that the music was amazing. Then I abused Spotify for a few weeks listening to the soundtrack, and I aca-gave it another chance. And it was aca-amazing. And now I plan to watch it aca-every day. For the aca-rest of my aca-life.
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Prepare to have your mind blown: You're not going to hate Bradley Cooper anymore once you see "Silver Linings Playbook." I know, it's a shock! Who wouldn't hate that handsome face? But still, he's so funny and sweet and sad in this movie that I can't help but root for him. He goes out on a limb with this role as a bipolar ex-teacher just out of the mental institution and trying to win back his ex-wife. Jennifer Lawrence goes far beyond Katniss territory, playing an also off-kilter widow who lures Cooper into doing a weird/awesome (never forget "Crazy/Beautiful") dance in a competition with her.
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Do yourself a favor and rent this on iTunes, then once you've done that, go buy it on DVD and sleep with the disc under your pillow/in your DVD player at all times. Aubrey Plaza, a favorite from "Parks and Recreation," starts where her stone-cold TV character April leaves off, and evolves into a likable, feeling person. She plays an alt-weekly intern who volunteers to go check out a weirdo who believes in time travel (Mark Duplass), and in the process of her reporting realizes that she might be just as weird as he is. This movie is so sweet and funny and honest (and, yes, weird), and deserves to be seen.
Kase Wickman spends more time than most agonizing over what to stream on Netflix, then always watches "Parks and Rec" or "Freaks and Geeks" anyway.