Cinema 2012 - A Year In Review
Top 25 Films of 2012
Another year is in the books, meaning it's time for me and everyone else to create their 'Best of" Lists. This year I've decided to exclude documentaries entirely from my list. It has been a great year for docs and I strongly encourage everyone to seek out other lists which are more documentary focused. While browsing through my selections keep in mind that I tried to stick solely to films which were produced in 2012.
Post Tenebras Lux - Carlos Reygadas
Simply put, Reygadas' latest film isn't something you watch but experience. Certainly a film that will rub some people the wrong way, I was transfixed on this film from start to finish. Post Tenebras Lux explores the primal conflicts of human nature with the best direction and cinematography of the year.
The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is probably his most divisive to date, The Master is a unique portrait of post-WWII America featuring the best performance of the year in Joaquin Phoenix. It's a film that explores how free-will and religion commingle in unique and fascinating ways.
Kotoko - Shinya Tsukamoto
While Shinya Tsukamoto is known more for his frantic style of filmmaking, with Kotoko, he proves his ability to tell a searing portrait of mental illness in both a raw, yet deeply respectful and genuine way.
Sister Ursula Meier
Urusla Meier's Sister is a complex character study that features a perfectly layered narrative structure revolving around a brother and sister who live day to day, struggling to get by. Sister is a powerful piece of filmmaking because it never villianizes its characters, instead showing their faults, desires, and problems like any real human being.
Bliss - Doris Dorrie
Doris Dorrie's Bliss is a unique love story set against tragedy. Revolving around two characters who are damaged goods, Bliss paints a beautiful portrait of the power of love and compassion.
Little Bird - Boudewijn Koole
Of all the films I saw this year dealing with Adolescence, Little Bird (Kauwboy) stood above the rest in its searing portrait of a young child who is simply trying to make sense of the world around him.
Rust and Bone - Jacques Audiard
Audiard's latest film, Rust and Bone, is another exceptional love story about two characters who find solace in each other. The characters in Rust and Bone are unique in that they are incredibly stubborn and even selfish to their needs, eventually learning the true power of companionship.
Tabu - Miguel Gomes
A pseudo-homage to F.W. Murnau's Tabu: A Tale of Two Seas, Miguel Gomes' Tabu explores eroticism, love, and longing with poetic nuances, effectively capturing life itself (I know how generic that sounds).
Holy Motors - Leos Carax
A chaotic, imaginative experience, Leos Carax's Holy Motors is probably like nothing you have ever seen before. It's a film that celebrates performance, art and cinema ultimately asking the question, If there is no audience do these things even matter?
Simon Killer - Antonio Campos
Antonio Campos' follow-up to his criminally underrated film Afterschool, Simon Killer is an intricate, subtle character study of a man with emotional instability and mental issues.
Klip - Maja Milos
Another film that has proven to be very divisive among audiences, Maja Milos' debut Klip, is an unfiltered look into teenage sexuality. Some have quite tragically written this film off as merely pornography, seemingly missing the tragic nature which can exist when teenagers begin to explore their sexuality.
Amour - Michael Haneke
What else is there to really say about Michael Haneke's Amour. It's a piercing portrait of death that forces viewers to come face to face with their own mortality.
War Witch - Kim Nguyen
There have been many films made about child soldiers in Africa but where Kim Nguyen's War Witch stands out is its ability to be incredibly intimate in showing the harsh reality of its 13-year-old protagonist.
Take This Waltz - Sarah Polley
Maybe the most underrated film of the year, Take This Waltz explores the concept of love and monogamy with piercing realism. A film the explores the temptations of a married woman, ultimately showing how love isn't easy, but hard work. The void which Margo, our main protagonist, feels is not because of her husband but about her inability to understand
Killer Joe (2012) - William Friedkin
If you like dark, twisted humor Killer Joe is for you. This is a film that is bound to make some people disgusted but with William Friedkin at the helm, Killer Joe is a fun, dark, twisted and beautiful experience.
Citadel - Ciaran Foy
Ciaran Foy's Citadel is an incredibly tense, atmospheric piece of horror filmmaking that grabs a hold of the viewer and never lets go. My favorite horror film of the year, Citadel provides a thrilling, atmospheric experience but its message of not letting fear dictate ones life is what elevates the material beyond mere fright.
Keep the Lights On - Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs' Keep the Lights On is another fascinating character drama which provides a pensive look into a troubled relationship that ultimately suggests the idea that love isn't the only necessity in a relationship.
Barbara - Christian Petzold
Set during the Cold War, Barbara is a film that beautifully manages romance, drama and thriller elements, ultimately leading to a searing portrait of one woman's struggle in Western Germany and her ultimate sacrifice.
Hemel - Sacha Polak
An in-depth look into the psyche of a young woman who fails to understand the difference between sex and love, Hemel is a film which ultimately argues this is not based off of free will, but a merely a bi-product of the environment in which she was raised.
Dark Horse - Todd Solondz
Todd Solondz' Dark Horse is his most sensitive and optimistic film to-date about a somewhat unlikeable character whose hard exterior simply masked his fear of growing up.
AntiViral - Brandon Cronenberg
Brandon Croneberg's AntiViral is a moody and stylistic experience which is as much a critique of corporate greed as it is about our growing obsession with celebrity. With AntiViral, Brandon Cronenberg proves he is someone to look out for, clearly sharing similar sensibilities with his father. In case you're wondering, I did enjoy David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis but I found it too cerebral and tepid to make my end of the year list.
The Grey - Joe Carnahan
Joe Carnahan's The Grey was a necessary film for Carnahan, reminding us what he is capable of when exploring darker themes. The Grey is certainty a thrilling experience but what elevates it above most studio fare is how nihilistic and meditative it becomes when exploring its characters, a group of roughnecks who live on the edge of the world.
Your Sister's Sister - Lynn Shelton
Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister brings nothing all that new to the table in terms of story, but it's Shelton's understanding of character and relationships which makes Your Sister's Sister a more genuine and interesting dissection of relationships and feelings than most other indies in recent memory.
Kon-Tiki - Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg
Kon-Tiki is an epic adventure about a man whose adventurous nature leads him on many challenges of both the physical and emotional variety. Kon-Tiki is a rush, but what elevates it among other similar films is its ability to balance the adventure aspects and character aspects in a way that makes the film both an engaging and intelligent.
21 Jump Street - Phil Lord & Chris Miller
My favorite comedy of the year, 21 Jump Street not only impressed in its ability to bring constant and uproarious laughter but also in its genuine and on point satire of High School which few films seem to equal
Honorable Mentions: Looper, Starlet, Middle of Nowhere, Smashed, Killing Them Softly, End of Watch, John Dies At The End, In Another Country, Bernie, Sleepwalk With Me, and Zero Dark Thirty.
Great Performances of 2012
Various Performances which stood out in 2012.
Denis Lavant - Holy Motors
Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Smashed
Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
Alba Rohrwacher - Bliss
Daniel Day Lewis - Lincoln
Lea Seydoux - Sister
Nicole Kidman - The Paperboy
Alan Cumming - Any Day Now
Mads Mikkelsen - The Hunt
Matthias Schoenaerts - Rust and Bone
Underrated Films of 2012
Made up primarily of films which I felt didn't get the respect and awareness among audiences and/or critics deserved.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning - John Hyams
While Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning seems to be showing up in some cinephile circles, John Hyams' film is one of the best action films in recent memory. Sure the film has a few issues, but its stripped down action sequences and atmospheric tension make it a must see for fans of the genre
Perks of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
I'm honestly shocked that this film hasn't received more Oscar buzz. Perks of Being A Wallflower is certainly a film with Oscar sensibilities and I was surprised by how well the film delivered on transporting the viewer back to high school for a bit of nostalgia.
Crazy Eyes - Adam Sherman
The main protagonist of Crazy Eyes is not a likeable character in the slightest. Wealthy beyond comprehension, he wastes his life drowning his mind in booze. It's a harsh film that many will be turned off by but I found it to be a fun, dark critique of the superficial culture of Los Angeles.
John Carter - Andrew Stanton
The best example in recent memory of how a film's economic success, or in this case lack of, poisons peoples perceptions of the film's quality. John Carter is not a groundbreaking film, but it is pure escapism delivering what it promised in ways that the Star Wars prequels could only dream of.
Prometheus - Ridley Scott
A film that got a bad wrap because it didn't deliver what people were expecting. Prometheus is Ridley Scott's most interesting film in the better part of a decade, playing more like a fun b-movie. All the plot-hole critiques are way out of hand too, as poor character decisions don't equal plot holes.
The Divide - Xavier Gens
Being a post-apocalyptic horror film, The Divide doesn't have anything particularly profound to say but it does bring an incredibly, dark and cynical viewpoint to the sub-genre which most films are too afraid to tackle.
Overrated Films of 2012
A list of films which I personally found to be overpraised. Note that I don't think these films are bad, they just didn't stand out as much for me as for others.
A good film, but a film that I believe is praised more for its concept and intentions than its actual execution.
Beasts of the Southern Wild - Benh Zeitlin
Magic Mike - Steven Soderbergh
I had high expectations for this film and I personally can't comprehend how so many people liked this film beyond the simple aesthetic appeal. The characters, outside of Matthew McConaughey, are boring, and the relationships feel so unnatural and manufactured that I found myself laughing towards the end of the film at the stupidity of the narrative.
The Silver Linings Playbook - David O' Russell
Another film which I certainly liked quite a bit but I can't fathom the wide spread praise. For me. The Silver Linings Playbook is a fun, romantic comedy about two broken souls but the third act felt more like a failed pitch for High School Musical 4 than a worthy conclusion
V/H/S - Various
Just not very good, V/H/S had a great concept but ultimately was a letdown with many of the segments relying far too heavily on cheap jump-scare tactics. As far as compilations go, skip this film and see The ABCs of Death.
Celeste and Jesse Forever - Lee Toland Krieger
Underrated may even be too kind for this film. Personally, Celeste and Jesse Forever simply lacks the emotional core to grab the viewer, with a cookie cutter story that ultimately disappoints given a promising concept.
Compliance - Craig Zobel
While there is no denying the simple yet effective tension which Compliance is able to create, the filmmakers never manage to say anything interesting or even come up with any type of take away from this fascinating and horrific ordeal.
Films from 2011
Films I missed during 2011 that deserve recognition from me in 2012. I won't go through and talk about each of these, but every film listed is certainty worth your time.
Once Upon A Time In Anatolia - Nuri Bilge Ceylan
House of Tolerance - Bertrand Bonello
Oslo, August 31st - Joachim Trier
Bleak Night - Sung-Hyun Yoon
Alps - Giorgos Lanthimos
The Loneliest Planet - Julia Loktev
Miss Bala - Gerardo Naranjo
Wuthering Heights - Andrea Arnold
Outside Satan - Bruno Dumont
The Deep Blue Sea - Terrence Davies
Night #1 - Anne E'mond
Blood of My Blood - Joao Canijo
Policeman - Nadav Lapid
Goodbye First Love - Mia Hansen-Love
Combat Girls - David Whendt
Turn Me On Dammit! - Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
A Burning Hot Summer - Philippe Garrel
Beyond the Black Rainbow - Panos Cosmatos
The Color Wheel - Alex Ross Perry
Note: Films such as The Turin Horse, The Kid With The Bike, Snowtown, Elena, and Attenberg were a part of my 2011 list.
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