Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Top Ten Films of 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, it's time to engage in that annual critical tradition of selecting the top ten films of the year. It was tough to narrow down ten this year. I did a lot of second guessing and reshuffling before finally arriving at my final ten. My honorable mentions were equally as difficult. I could have switched all ten out with the ten films below them in my list and still had just as strong a list. Here are the ten films that resonated the most with me this year. You can read my full write up over at The Dispatch.

1
THE TURIN HORSE
(Béla Tarr, Hungary)
"Sparse and austere, Tarr entrances us with minimal dialogue and long, uninterrupted takes (accentuated by Mihaly Vig's droning score), creating a haunting existential meditation on mortality. One final masterpiece from one of the world's finest filmmakers."
2
HOLY MOTORS
(Leos Carax, France)
"As much an elegy for the cinema as it is a love letter. It seems to embody everything cinema is, was, and will be. It's an invigorating jolt of pure creative energy, and one wild ride."
3
AMOUR
(Michael Haneke, Austria)
"Emmanuelle Riva gives one of the year's most heartbreaking performances as Anne, making her shocking deterioration all the more deeply upsetting. "Amour" is utterly wrenching, often difficult to watch, but the results are something incredible indeed."
4
THE MASTER
(Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)
"A prismatic exploration of the great paradox of American identity, and while it may not always work the way it intends, Anderson's ambition and fearlessness make it impossible to ignore. A major work by a major American filmmaker."
5
THE DEEP BLUE SEA
(Terrence Davies, UK)
"A soap opera awash in exquisite sadness, where the feelings and nuances lie in the spaces between what the characters actually say, recalling the pain of the doomed romance in David Lean's masterpiece, "Brief Encounter." "
6
THIS IS NOT A FILM
(Jafar Panahi, Iran)
"The very existence of "This is Not a Film" is an act of defiance against tyranny, but it is also a fearless and vibrant chronicle of a man who refuses to be silenced. It may not be a film, but it is a great work of art, nonetheless."
7
LINCOLN
(Steven Spielberg, USA)
"Spielberg not only weaves a gripping historical tale, but holds a mirror to our own deeply divided partisan system as well. Anchored by a truly staggering performance by Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln (and aided by an impressive supporting cast), this could very well be one for the ages."
 8
BARBARA
(Christian Petzold, Germany)
"A quietly gripping drama, Petzold's striking mise-en-scene and lean, efficient style creates a palpable sense of Iron Curtain era paranoia."
9
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
(Peter Jackson, New Zealand)
"A ripping yarn on a grand and rare scale. Jackson once again brings this world to breathtaking life, this time with the somewhat controversial (but actually quite spectacular) use of high frame rate technology that adds a level of reality to the images that is completely unprecedented. This is what the movies are all about."
10
GIRL WALK // ALL DAY
(Jacob Krupnick, USA)
"Shot guerilla-style on the streets of NYC (with lots of innocent, and visibly perplexed bystanders), "Girl Walk // All Day" looks at dance as language through performance art as cinema. An invigorating shot of pure joy."
Special shout out to IN THE FAMILY (Patrick Wang, USA), a wonderful 2011 film that didn't find an audience until this year, and if I could justify counting it as a 2012 film, it would be in my top ten. A brief theatrical run in November of 2011, however, keeps it off my official list.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
FOUND MEMORIES (Julia Murat, Argentina), BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Panos Cosmatos, Canada), OSLO, AUGUST 31ST (Joachim Trier, Denmark), TABU (Miguel Gomes, Portugal), PARANORMAN (Chris Butler, Sam Fell, USA), CRAZY HORSE (Frederick Wiseman, USA), THE IMPOSTER (Bart Layton, UK), ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey), STARLET (Sean Baker, USA), MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (Ava DuVernay, USA).

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