|The Master (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)|
Let's get right to it. 2012 was a solid year for films, ranging from highbrow ones like The Master to genre fare like The Raid: Redemption. In fact, I had a really hard time narrowing my list to ten, so I've included the also-rans below. There are some films, such as Barbara, Sister, The Intouchables, Tabu, and Wuthering Heights, that I won't see for weeks or even months, but this list is pretty close to official.
Note: Some of these are arguably 2011 leftovers, but they are all 2012 U.S. releases.
|Skyfall (dir. Sam Mendes)|
Argo, Compliance, Declaration of War, The Grey, Headhunters, The Impossible, Killing Them Softly, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, Norwegian Wood, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pitch Perfect, Rust and Bone, Skyfall, Sleepless Night, Zero Dark Thirty
10. The Kid with a Bike (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
The Dardennes are two of my favorite directors, so I'm happy to include this little drama. As a boy in need of a guardian, Thomas Doret gives a terrific child performance, and Cécile De France is simply wonderful as his potential mother figure.
9. Alps (dir. Giorgos Lanthimos)
A fascinating, puzzling satirical exploration of role-playing, this Greek film literally has its main characters play dead people. It's an intriguing film, regardless of what you make of it.
8. The Dark Knight Rises (dir. Christopher Nolan)
I never expected to love this film so much. While I admire Nolan's previous Batman films, his epic conclusion is the one I've been waiting for since I saw Burton's 1989 version. It's thrilling from start to finish, and my new favorite superhero movie.
7. Oslo, August 31st (dir. Joachim Trier)
Trier's intimate look at drug and alcohol addiction features a phenomenal performance from Anders Danielsen Lie (pictured left). If you like Shame (2011), I highly recommend it.
6. Django Unchained (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino's version of the old American South is one of his bravest films to date. The film is a visual treat, but the fine performances, delicious dialogue, and brilliant soundtrack are also integral to the film's success. No one else could make this film, and Tarantino completely delivered.
5. Les Misérables (dir. Tom Hooper)
As flawed as it may be, I still find it very moving, with heartfelt performances and stunning production values. Hooper's questionable choices don't ruin the film, and the performances only get stronger on additional viewings/listens. It's one of my favorite movie musicals, so I don't mind sticking up for it.
4. The Turin Horse (dir. Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky)
Shot in long, unbroken takes, Tarr's black-and-white drama makes up for its lack of dialogue with its powerful imagery. The silence is very effective, but the howling wind and Mihály Víg's haunting score are a welcome soundtrack.
3. Amour (dir. Michael Haneke)
Haneke does so much by deceptively doing so little, and this is a perfect example of that. French veterans Trintignant and Riva deliver two of the year's best performances in this emotionally draining relationship drama.
2. Cloud Atlas (dir. Andy & Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer)
The Wachowskis and Tom Tywker have produced a monumental, ambitious epic that went unnoticed by audiences and many critics. It's technically brilliant, and uses multiple genres to great effect. Wherever you stand on it, its boldness can't be denied, and I was completely engrossed.
1. Holy Motors (dir. Leos Carax)
Among the many films I've seen from 2012, this stands out the most. Equal parts bizarre and captivating, it features one of the best male performances of all time by Denis Lavant. There is much to delight and to disgust, and I can't stop replaying many of its compelling scenes in my head. A triumph of cinematic wonder, it's one of the best movie experiences I had last year.
And that's that! Look out for my personal awards ballot early next week.