This year’s list is larger than normal as I felt 2012 was such a grand year for film. So I’ve put together not only a Top 12 but included some other titles of note as well. While I saw most of the top contenders this year, I did miss The Master, Les Miserables, Cosmopolis, Rust and Bone, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at the time of this post.
By: John C. Lyons
Top 12 Narrative Features 2012:
1. CLOUD ATLAS (10) Completely snubbed by the Academy Awards, Cloud Atlas sits atop my list for 2012. A masterful achievement of editing and storytelling and an epic film that will continue to grow in support as the years go on. Sadly Warner Bros. pushed the DVD/BD release back to the summer. Hopefully it is to produce a great collection of special features. Read more here.
2. AMOUR (9.5) I’ve found with director Michael Haneke’s films one viewing is enough as they are brutally powerful, emotionally draining, and usually scar me. These are all compliments, mind you. The perfectly slow-paced, heart-breaking “Amour” is no different. Deliberately paced and the subject of aging and death is a tough sell (believe me, I know) but for those who have the patience and strength to endure such material, the awards are massive. Read more here.
3. ZERO DARK THIRTY (9.5) Director Kathyrn Bigelow is the big Oscar snub everyone will remember from this year. The Hurt Locker, my favorite film from 2009, was an intense, gripping thriller. Zero Dark Thirty follows the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden without pulling any punches… and the spin machine has somehow managed to dimish it because of this brutal honesty. Jessica Chastain is amazing…again.
4. THE IMPOSSIBLE (9) The 10-15 minute initial tsunami hit is the most realistic, brutal, scary sequence of a natural disaster ever created for the cinema. It’s raw, intense, overwhelming and an amazing feat of filmmaking. Naomi Watts earned her Oscar nod here. This one should have been recognized for achievements in sound and visual effects as well. Read more here.
5. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (9) The story of a little girl named Hushpuppy, her daddy, and life in the “Bathtub”. Gritty, raw, real, and emotional. A great look at the human spirit and life in New Orleans in the face of disaster. The Best Independent of the year. I was actually surprised with how much love the Academy showed this film, but it’s a great step for independent film. Read more here.
6. MOONRISE KINGDOM (9) I am all over the map with Wes Anderson’s filmography, but Moonrise Kingdom is his best film yet. All the cutesy characters are still here, but in this story they are actually doing something interesting and going somewhere. Anderson is backed with an always solid cast (Willis, Norton, Murray, Swinton, McDormand) but it’s the young actors who really make this effort stand out. Read more here.
7. ARGO (9) A shockingly bizarre true story brought to the screen to near-perfection by director Ben Affleck. This film is so well executed and polished you feel like you are right in there when it all goes down. As we get closer to Hollywood’s big awards night this one seems to be gaining momentum, and rightfully so. It’s entertaining, thrilling, and a nice slice of American history. Read more here.
8. KILLING THEM SOFTLY (9) Kudos to writer/director Andrew Dominik for having the balls to make a film like Killing Them Softly: a scathing cautionary tale on capitalism that features one of the best opening scenes and the best closing line of the year. I originally gave this one an 8 1/2 rating but it has grown on me over the months. I can’t wait to revisit it. Read more here.
9. KILL LIST (9) This year one of my big personal discoveries was English filmmaker, Ben Wheatley. I rented his first film Down Terrence and was intrigued by the way he handled dark humor and violence. Then I watched his second film Kill List and I was completely stunned into silence as it started going into some really dark, strange, and suffocatingly-twisted places. This film is a must-see for fans of films like “Old boy” and “Wicker Man”.
10. THE RAID: REDEMPTION (9) The best, bad-ass action movie in years. Featuring great, natural choreography, amazing camera work, and a solid complimentary score. If you loved Dredd, you owe it to yourself to see the superior version of the police trapped in a building of bad-guys concept. It’s great to see someone make a solid action movie again. It’s been a long time. Rent this movie immediately. Read more Here.
11. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (8.5) I was a fan of director David O. Russell earlier in his career and though I enjoyed The Fighter, I felt it was a watered-down version of the filmmaker. Silver Linings Playbook continues his transition into the mainstream (hey, everyone’s got to pay the bills) but has a bit more edge to it’s dialogue and is genuinely touching and sweet. A positive and often comedic look at mental illness. I am still not sure how I feel about a barely old enough to drink Jennifer Lawrence opposite with forty year-olds, but she and Bradley Cooper play well with one another.
12. LAURENCE ANYWAYS (8.5) My second filmmaker discovery of 2012: Canada’s Xavier Dolan. At just 23 years of age Dolan has already made 3 feature films that have played the world’s top festivals. Laurence Anyways presents a major step for the filmmaker. A melding of his style and serious substance. A fittingly-unique completion to his impossible love story trilogy, an epic stuffed with beautiful cinematography and powerful performances. We just showed this at FILM at the Erie Art Museum. If you missed it, you have a long wait ahead of you.
Best Blockbusters of 2012:
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (9)
Best Documentaries of 2012:
SIDE BY SIDE (9)
THE IMPOSTER (9)
Best Future Films (Coming in 2013):
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (9)
THE DEFLOWERING OF EVA VAN END (9)
TO THE WONDER (9)
Pleasant Surprises and Runner Ups (in Alphabetical):
5 BROKEN CAMERAS, AI WEI WEI: NEVER SORRY, THE AVENGERS, THE BOURNE LEGACY, CABIN IN THE WOODS, CHASING ICE, ELENA, THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD, GINGER & ROSA.
HAYWIRE, INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE, THE INTOUCHABLES, THE INVISIBLE WAR, IT’S A DISASTER, KLOWN, LIFE OF PI, LOOPER, OSLO AUGUST 31ST, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES.
A ROYAL AFFAIR, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, SOUND OF MY VOICE, THIS IS 40, and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.
Thank you for reading!