Sunday, January 13, 2013

Best Movies of 2012 (Or My Top Ten)

Update 2/13/13: I added The Turin Horse into the top ten list and bumped The Perks of Being a Wallflower out after seeing the marvelous Bela Tarr film.

Each year I find it more and more difficult to put together a ranked list of the ten best films of the year. Of course it's all just a subjective listing anyway and to call them the "ten best" of anything is sort of meaningless. It's more apt to refer to them as my "Ten Favorites" I suppose, like I did with my list of favorites of the '00s, which is an alphabetical listing.

Tradition still demands a ranked list, although many critics nowadays make their lists alphabetical. Still others don't limit their lists to ten, which is anyway an arbitrary number. When I'm looking at the films that moved me or excited me most in a given year, should I really limit myself to just ten? What if there were two or three others I really loved? Do I have to decide which to keep and which to cut? I have often listed, in addition to my top ten, several additional films I admired from the year.

When I look back over my previous years' lists (I've been doing this since 1996) I occasionally find decisions I made that I no longer agree with. That tells me that these things are fluid. Something at the bottom of my list ten years ago might now make my top 20 or 30 today. Did I really put a Harry Potter movie on one of my lists? So these lists become a snapshot of how I was feeling at the moment or at that time in my life. Bear in mind my lists only take into account the 70 - 120 movies I see in any given year. A professional doing this full time sees around 300 or more. In most cases I remain fairly satisfied with all my number 1 picks throughout the years. However, this year's list feels much more to me like a general listing rather than a ranking than any other previous list I've made. I've done my best to rank them, but if I made this lest a week ago, or if I redo it in two weeks' time, it could be a very different order.

I will avoid commentary on each film here and instead provide links to my reviews, except where I have not written any full length review.

This list is based on 72 feature films I've seen that were released in cinemas in New York City and Long Island between January 1 and December 31, 2012.

1. The Intouchables dir. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano - I was shocked this film didn't make the five nominated films for the Foreign Language Film Oscar, just as I was when France's Of Gods and Men didn't make it two years ago. This was simply one of the best and most enjoyable films ever made about a quadraplegic. It's touching, smart, funny, and electrifying without ever resorting to the usual cloying Hollywood cliches this type of film is known for.

2. Zero Dark Thirty dir. Kathryn Bigelow - review coming soon
3. Amour dir. Michael Haneke
4. The Turin Horse dir. Bela Tarr
5. Lincoln dir. Steven Spielberg
6. Holy Motors dir. Leos Carax
7. Argo dir. Ben Affleck
8. Silver LiningsPlaybook dir. David O. Russell
9. Beasts of the Southern Wild dir. Benh Zeitlin
10. Jack Reacher dir. Christopher McQuarrie - At the risk of losing some credibility, I thought this movie was simply fantastic. I loved every minute of it. It was the most thoroughly enjoyable movie experience I had all year. No, I don't think it's the best movie of the year, but given my reaction to it I simply couldn't leave it out of the top ten.

In alphabetical order, here are several more films that I greatly admired from the year:

Barbara dir. Christian Petzold
Friends with Kids dir. Jennifer Westfeldt
The Kid with a Bike dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Looper dir. Rian Johnson
The Perks of Being a Wallflower dir. Stephen Chbosky
Rust and Bone dir. Jacques Audiard
Searching for Sugar Man dir. Malik Bendjelloul
Skyfall dir. Sam Mendes

All feature films seen from 2012 (based on US commercial release dates)
* Full length review available on this site
titles in bold received at least one Oscar nomination

*5 Broken Cameras dir. Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi [Palestinian Territories, Israel, The Netherlands, France]
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry dir. Alison Klayman [USA]
*The Amazing Spider-Man dir. Marc Webb [USA]
*American Reunion dir. Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg [USA]
*Amour dir. Michael Haneke [Austria]
*Anna Karenina dir. Joe Wright [UK]
Arbitrage dir. Nicholas Jarecki [USA]
*Argo dir. Ben Affleck [USA]
*The Avengers dir. Joss Whedon [USA]
*Barbara dir. Christian Petzold [Germany]
*Beasts of the Southern Wild dir. Benh Zeitlin [USA]
Bernie dir. Richard Linklater [USA]
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel dir. John Madden [UK]
*The Bourne Legacy dir. Tony Gilroy [USA]
*Brave dir. Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman [USA]
Bullhead (Rundskop) dir. Michael R. Roskam [Belgium]
*The Cabin in the Woods dir. Drew Goddard [USA]
*Casa de mi Padre dir. Matthew Piedmont [USA]
*Cloud Atlas dir. Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer [USA]
*Compliance dir. Craig Zobel [USA]
*Damsels in Distress dir. Whit Stillman [USA]
*Dark Horse dir. Todd Solondz [USA]
*The Dark Knight Rises dir. Christopher Nolan [USA]
*Dark Shadows dir. Tim Burton [USA]
*The Deep Blue Sea dir. Terrence Davies [UK]
*Django Unchained dir. Quentin Tarantino [USA]
The Expendables 2 dir. Simon West [USA]
*The Fitzgerald Family Christmas dir. Edward Burns [USA]
*The Five-Year Engagement dir. Nicholas Stoller [USA]
*Flight dir. Robert Zemeckis [USA]
*Frankenweenie dir. Tim Burton [USA]
*Friends With Kids dir. Jennifer Westfeldt [USA]
The Gatekeepers dir. Dror Moreh [Israel]
*The Grey dir. Joe Carnahan [USA]
*Haywire dir. Steven Soderbergh [USA]
*Hitchcock dir. Sacha Gervasi [USA]
*The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey dir. Jackson [USA, New Zealand]
*Holy Motors dir. Leos Carax [France]
*How to Survive a Plague dir. David France [USA]
*The Hunger Games dir. Gary Rossi [USA]
*The Impossible dir. J.A. Bayona [Spain]
The Imposter dir. Bart Layton [USA]
The Intouchables (Intouchables) dir. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano [France]
*The Invisible War dir. Kirby Dick [USA]
*Jack Reacher dir. Christopher McQuarrie [USA]
Jeff, Who Lives at Home dir. Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass [USA]
*Jiro Dreams of Sushi dir. David Gelb [USA]
The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo) dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne [Belgium]
*Killer Joe dir. William Friedkin [USA]
Kon-Tiki dir. Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg [Norway]
Lawless dir. John Hillcoat [USA]
*Les Miserables dir. Tom Hooper [UK]
*Life of Pi dir. Ang Lee [USA, Taiwan]
*Lincoln dir. Steven Spielberg [USA]
*Looper dir. Rian Johnson [USA]
Magic Mike dir. Steven Soderbergh [USA]
*The Master dir. Paul Thomas Anderson [USA]
Mirror Mirror dir. Tarsem Singh [USA]
*Moonrise Kingdom dir. Wes Anderson [USA]
On the Road dir. Walter Salles [USA]
*ParaNorman dir. Chris Butler and Sam Fell [USA]
*Perks of Being a Wallflower dir. Stephen Chbosky [USA]
The Pirates! Band of Misfits dir. Peter Lord [USA, UK]
*Premium Rush dir. David Koepp [USA]
*Prometheus dir. Ridley Scott [USA]
*The Queen of Versailles dir. Lauren Greenfield [USA]
Robot & Frank dir. Jack Schreier [USA]
A Royal Affair (En kongelig affaere) dir. Nikolaj Arcel [Denmark]
Ruby Sparks dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris [USA]
*Rust and Bone (De rouille et d'os) Audiard, Jacques [France, Belgium]
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen dir. Lasse Hallstrom [UK]
*The Salt of Life dir. Gianni Di Gregorio [Italy]
*Savages dir. Olive Stone [USA]
*Searching for Sugar Man dir. Malik Bendjelloul [Sweden, UK]
*The Sessions dir. Ben Lewin [USA]
*Seven Psychopaths dir. Martin McDonagh [UK]
*Silver Linings Playbook dir. David O. Russell [USA]
*Skyfall dir. Sam Mendes [UK, USA]
Snow White and the Huntsman dir. Rupert Sanders [USA]
*Take This Waltz dir. Sarah Polley [Canada, Spain, Japan]
*Ted dir. Seth MacFarlane [USA]
*This Is 40 dir. Judd Apatow [USA]
*To Rome with Love dir. Woody Allen [USA, Italy, Spain]
*Trouble with the Curve dir. Robert Lorenz [USA]
*The Turin Horse (A torinói ló) dir. Bela Tarr [Hungary]
War Witch (Rebelle) dir. Kim Nguyen [Canada]
*Wreck-It Ralph dir. Rich Moore [USA]
*Zero Dark Thirty dir. Kathryn Bigelow [USA]

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