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PopMatters Picks: The Best TV, Film, and DVD of 2012

It was the kind of year where the best inspired a near hyperbolic amount of praise, while the worst were being condemned as the funeral bell for the entire type.

If there is a single image that sums up 2012’s media season, it’s Michael Caine crying, almost uncontrollably, in Christopher Nolan’s amazing finale to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. Heartbroken over the (supposed) death of his longtime friend and family charge, the actor’s Alfred unleashes a torrent of grief that is almost unbearable to watch. Now, this doesn’t mean this year’s pickings were that pathetic. On the contrary, the highs and lows of 2012 were so incredible that they inspire the kind of irrepressible emotional outpouring that Caine offered on screen. Indeed, by the end of December, the best inspired a near hyperbolic amount of praise, while the worst were being condemned as the funeral bell for the entire type.

Cinematically, it kind of made sense. The sing-along sprawl of Les Miserables was matched by the future Scarface splatter farce of Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti slave delight Django Unchained. David O. Russell wowed viewers with his well meaning mainstream dramedy The Silver Linings Playbook, while those lucky enough to see it couldn’t stop praising the fascinating French film freak out Holy Motors. During the Summer, Bruce Wayne battled Peter Parker and the Avengers for superhero supremacy, while bungles like Battleship and Rock of Ages challenged Hit and Run and The Watch for bottom of the barrel bragging rights. Even at the beginning of the year, Joss Whedon’s other effort, the long dormant and infinitely shelved Cabin in the Woods finally saw the light of day—and delivered in meta deconstructionist spades while Chronicle proved that, when done right, the found footage film could actually work, and work wonderfully. Of course, we had to put up with Project X on the other side of the POV position. Ugh.

Over on the small screen, things were a bit more divisive. The Walking Dead either lost its core or regained it with its latest season, while HBO’s argued over Girls gave viewers either awkward indie smarm fits or real life relate-ability. Mad Men remained strong, while long standing comedy champions like 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation started to fade (and don’t even get us started on the seem-to-be-overstaying-their welcome weirdness of The Simpsons). Previous phenoms like American Horror Story and Louie lost a bit of their social media mania, while newcomers like Sherlock and Nashville promised better things to come. The high note of an otherwise morbid TV season? MTV finally ended our long national (and for a moment, international) nightmare by putting the spray tanned and smashed cast of Jersey Shore out to pasture once and for all.

Perhaps the most intriguing war was declared a wash this year as DVD and Blu-ray bowed to streaming and smartphone accessibility. Apparently, cinephiles have rejected David Lynch’s lamented hatred of miniaturizing the movies for the sake of handheld ease of use. Indeed, all media is suffering at the thumbs of texters tempted by 4G quantity versus product quality. Yet instead of firing up a dirge to depress even the most obsessive fan, perhaps it’s time to rejoice in the new path, Videodrome style. While the old ways appear to be falling out of favor, the novel and inventive are bringing a whole new generation to the entertainments we’ve long taken for granted. For the PopMatters staff, 2012 inspired great loves and huge losses. Beginning with acting and moving through all the rest, we hope to showcase what we want to thrive and anything we hope moves onto the cultural graveyard. Maybe we’ll even join Caine in shedding a tear or two. It was that kind of year.

Thursday, January 31 2013

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2012

From classics to contemporary television, the typical titles and the surprising outsider choices, the year in home video was just as divisive, and delightful, as the rest of our meaningful media.

Sunday, January 27 2013

The Best Films of 2012

From popcorn perfection to animation experimentation, foreign finesse and good old Hollywood hokum, 2012 delivered the shiny cinematic goods and then some. Here are our choices for the titles that took on the challenge, and won.

Wednesday, January 23 2013

The Worst Films of 2012

When movies are mediocre, they're maddening. But when they are as bad as the selections here, you can't help but question the artform's overall validity.

Tuesday, January 22 2013

The 2012 Horror Film Awards

The best scares aren't the cheap ones, where the cat jumps out of a closet, but rather, those moments that make your heart race.

Monday, January 21 2013

The Best Independent / International Films of 2012

When you think outside the box, it's amazing how novel and inventive your thoughts become. Same applies in film. These examples of beyond the mainstream moviemaking shine as creative and experimental entertainments.

Sunday, January 20 2013

The Best Guilty Pleasure Films of 2012

As much as we hate to admit it, these addictive missteps captured our attention in ways cinema shouldn't. Others will condemn them. We can't complain... not at all.

Thursday, January 17 2013

The 10 Best TV Episodes of 2012

First, I chose episodes that were representative of what their series did especially well this year. Second, I chose episodes from what I deem the most successful shows of 2012.

Wednesday, January 16 2013

The Best TV Shows of 2012

Thanks to imports and cable channel choices, the year in TV was very interesting indeed. Where else can classical detectives meet with their updated complements, or sullen 20-somethings smirk at their ancient societal/criminal betters? Oh, and don't forget squid.

Monday, January 14 2013

Films Facing Reality in 2012

The only movie of 2012 that makes a strong case for America being a cohesive social body with moral purpose binding it together is Lincoln. For those keeping track, that film is set 147 years ago.

Sunday, January 13 2013

The Best Guilty Pleasure TV of 2012

Whether its animated nonsense or reality bite, broadcast bits this cheesy and fun demand indulgence -- and we gladly say 'Yes' to such small screen excess.

Tuesday, January 8 2013

The Best Male Film Performances of 2012

From diabolical tech terrorism to brutal slave ownership, the actors that make up this year's best traversed a wide canvas of creative and cinematic choices.

Monday, January 7 2013

The Best Comic Book Moments in 2012 Movies

The comic book movie boom we've been riding for a little over a decade now has shown no signs of going bust. If anything, the boom is only getting bigger and more comic-bookish.

Sunday, January 6 2013

The Best Female Film Performances of 2012

From a precocious young girl bravely battling the elements to much older women waging war with their own demons, 2012 was a standout year for actresses, with these being some of the very, very best.

The Best of Television Performances of 2012

PopMatters highlights some television performers who stood out in 2012, but aren't likely to find themselves among nominees for annual awards.

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