Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Films of 2012

1.  MOONRISE KINGDOM



Wes Anderson's perfect gem of a movie (co-written with Roman Coppola) deserves Best Picture just for the scene depicted above, with our two pre-pubescent misfits dancing and then kissing to Francoise Hardy's "Le Temps De L'Amour."  For my full post on the film, click here.  


2.  THE MASTER



Paul Thomas Anderson is perhaps our premier visionary auteur.  This film about love and connection mesmerizes with its 70mm sharp saturated images that give it, as PTA has described it, the hyperrealistic quality of a dream. Joaquin Phoenix's performance is astonishing.  For my  full appreciation of the film, click here.


3.  ZERO DARK THIRTY




Not as powerfully affecting as The Hurt Locker (click here for my post on that film), this follow-up from director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal is nevertheless a remarkable, stunningly directed achievement that breaks new  generic ground and is a riveting drama and chronicle that's destined to become a classic.  Click here for my full review.


4.  AMOUR




Michael Haneke's film is impeccably acted and meticulously directed, an unsentimental depiction of a relationship defined by kindness, loyalty, and devotion which remain unwavering.  The film could be an illustration of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116--"Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds...."  A portrait of the marriage of true minds under corporeal stress.  And a film that is the true marriage of form and function, with its unwavering static shots, long shots, and tableaux.


5.  ARGO



Ben Affleck's film (screenplay by Chris Terrio) based on a 1980 CIA operation to extract an American diplomatic staff from Iran boasts John Goodman and Alan Arkin--so how could one not like it?  This is an extremely well crafted, highly satisfying mainstream Hollywood entertainment, which is hard to come by these days and means it will probably win Best Picture from the Academy.


6.  DJANGO UNCHAINED



Then there is our other auteur, Quentin Tarantino, who this year brought us the second in a planned trilogy of revenge dramas, this time in the form of a spaghetti western.  With outstanding performances from the leads, twisted humor, and operatic, cartoonish violence, Tarantino utilizes fantasy for a cathartic exploration and discharge of our collective American shadow.  Which in many ways is, ironically, more real and forthright than history distilled and refined in Lincoln.


7.  SKYFALL



I never thought I'd put a Bond film on a top ten list, but then along came Sam Mendes' installment.  Craig, Dench, Bardem--all were terrific in a darker, sexier, affecting Bond movie along with the expected spectacular visuals and action.  With a special nod to designer Tom Ford for Daniel Craig's tightly tailored suits.


8.  SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK



David O. Russell's adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel offered a quirky rom-com with crabby snacks and homemades, so what's not to like, even if it is less hearty fare than Russell's The Fighter?  Lawrence steals it from Cooper, the pleasures of Robert DeNiro and Jackie Weaver are many, and the climactic dance scene is just plain great.  Plus it may convince those with bipolar disorder to stay on their meds.


9.  LINCOLN





Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner's film (Kushner's script is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography) has a lot of speechifying and blustery performances (i.e., Tommy Lee Jones), but it also has a wonderful comic turn by James Spader as a lobbyist and, of course, the impeccable and outstanding Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln.  Understated for Spielberg (and John Williams, thankfully), often moving, and beautifully shot.


10.  LES MISERABLES



I need to preface this by admitting that I abhor musicals.  I was prepared to hate this movie.  But  quelle surprise!  What I really liked about the adaptation is that it is truly a film.  Hooper has a real cinematic sense--his film is stylized, utilizing extreme close ups and canted angles, and he has a fine sense of composition and movement.  His decision to have the actors sing in real time on set without lip syncing was brilliant, and it  resulted in a raw imperfection that suits the story well.  And the overall look is spectacular.


HONORABLE MENTION:

Magic Mike, Seven Psycopaths, Take This Waltz (see my review here), Searching for Sugar Man, The Sessions, 2 Days in New York, Easy Money, Cosmopolis, Looper, Rust and Bone, The Cabin in the Woods.


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