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Top Ten Films Of 2012

by Antisuttree
1) Zero Dark Thirty - USA, dir. Kathryn Bigelow. The most critically successful film of 2012 as well as the most controversial, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is an undeniable, direct hit, and the critical consensus is all but unanimous, despite the film’s manifold political controversies. Bigelow has proven herself as a late bloomer whose many early artistic sins, still and all, led her to where she is today, which is, without question, in top form. Indeed, she made the cover of TIME magazine in January. Whereas her previous success, The Hurt Locker, gained due attention for its serious subject matter but lacked in plot advancement,… Read more

1) Zero Dark Thirty - USA, dir. Kathryn Bigelow. The most critically successful film of 2012 as well as the most controversial, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is an undeniable, direct hit, and the critical consensus is all but unanimous, despite the film’s manifold political controversies. Bigelow has proven herself as a late bloomer whose many early artistic sins, still and all, led her to where she is today, which is, without question, in top form. Indeed, she made the cover of TIME magazine in January. Whereas her previous success, The Hurt Locker, gained due attention for its serious subject matter but lacked in plot advancement, Zero Dark Thirty fills any remaining gaps and accomplishes more, much more, artfully and complexly elucidating the story of the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. A film with its finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist, both in terms of subject matter and artistic style. Trailer



2) Searching For Sugar Man - Sweden/UK, dir. Malik Bendjelloul. In an unbelievable story that defies “the laws of God and nature,” an American singer-songwriter whose career in the U.S. had been a complete and utter failure became a household-name megastar in South Africa during the Apartheid era. That musician is Rodriguez, and in listening to his music today, it’s almost difficult to comprehend just how his albums did manage to flop so catastrophically. Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul very eloquently and effectively integrates the two geographical narratives of Rodriguez’s career in a moving, artistic documentary of beauty and hope, thus reminiscent of Man On Wire. Brought me to tears. Trailer



3) A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) - Denmark/Sweden/Czech Republic, dir. Nikolaj Arcel. Danish director Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair is a stylish, emotionally engaging historical drama that uproots the generally stale genre, similarly to Jane Campion’s Bright Star. Illuminating the historical story of German physician Johann Friedrich Struensee’s time with Danish King Christian VII, A Royal Affair brilliantly covers the political and cultural changes of Denmark during the Age of Enlightenment, showing how Denmark became a country and culture ahead of its time. Among the issues at hand: increasing rights for lower classes, including decreasing mandatory working hours; outlawing corporal punishment; requiring vaccinations; separating church and state; abolishing censorship; outlawing torture in interrogation of criminals; decreasing military spending; championing science over fear-based faith; etc—ideas that had previously been considered heathen. The film likens a regression to lesser ideas to a shift back toward the Middle Ages, to “a dark place controlled by faith and suspicion.” A final shot of light through a window symbolizes the Enlightenment in this film of beauty, elegance, and edginess. Trailer



4) Django Unchained - USA, dir. Quentin Tarantino. Following Inglourious Basterds, director Quentin Tarantino continues his new line of vengeful films of gratuitous violence as a means for righting historical injustices. The setting this time: slavery in the American South, circa 1858. Tarantino’s writing is superbly seasoned and crafted. Again, Christoph Waltz impresses the viewer with his ability to adeptly deliver crazy, hilarious characters to the screen, but Jamie Foxx deserves enormous acting credit as well. As usual for Tarantino’s films, the soundtrack is stellar, including the theme song “Django” by Luis Bacalov from Django, “Freedom” by Anthony Hamilton, and others. Trailer



5) The Master - USA, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. Generation-favorite Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted perhaps his most poetic, elegant film to date in The Master, a film overtly modeled after the less-than-divine founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. The Master is for Paul Thomas Anderson what Citizen Kane was for Orson Welles, with Welles’ protagonist loosely molded after mogul William Randolph Hearst, i.e., both films offering fictionalized renderings of megalomaniacal cultural presences. Shot on 65mm, The Master was often screened theatrically in 70mm, a delightful treat for viewers, and cinematographically, it is indeed a spectacle. Though the story is loose from development to development, as opposed to a tightly knit puzzle, it is more Paul Thomas Anderson craft, even if it leaves many questions or little resolve or seems to not have much of a philosophy; Anderson’s subtlety perhaps relies too heavily on showing-over-telling, which can leave the viewer wondering just where the filmmaker stands. However, after initial disappointment, the film grew on this viewer; the film ages well in the mind and, likely, in the culture. Trailer



6) The Deep (Djúpið) - Iceland/Norway, dir. Baltasar Kormákur. With a career consisting thus far of near misses that have nonetheless merited attention both domestically and internationally, Iceland’s leading director, Baltasar Kormákur, has yet to make a truly effective, powerful, nearly flawless film, especially in his own country. That is, until The Deep. All Icelanders know the story of Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a household name in Iceland, and The Deep is his story; “Gulli” (played brilliantly in the film by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) is a fisherman from Vestmannaeyjar, a volcanic island off the southwest coast of the near-arctic country’s mainland, who sets off with his best friend, Palli, and four others on a ship in the north Atlantic ocean—a ship which soon sinks, killing all but Gulli. Astonishingly, supernaturally, Gulli swims in the sub-freezing temperatures for six hours back to Vestmannaeyjar to save his own life, solidifying himself almost instantaneously as a national hero. Kormákur has stated that The Deep was the most difficult shoot he’s ever done and that making the film was a labor of love; the end result is a minimalist, touching film that is one of the purest and most effective Icelandic features ever made. Also brought me to tears. Trailer



7) Something In The Air (Après mai) - France, dir. Olivier Assayas. French director Olivier Assayas has delivered his version of a historical revolution film with Something In The Air, and he has done so with bravura and feeling. Following the zeitgeist of the May 1968 demonstrations in Paris, a group of students, passionate as ever, continue the quest for activism and change; the film follows their actions, decisions, and maturation over the brief but impacting time of their lives. Some exquisite music selections, and there are delightful nods to American poets Gregory Corso and John Ashbery as well. Something In The Air deserves its place alongside such other recent revolution-period French films as Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and Garrel’s Regular Lovers. Trailer



8) The Hunt (Jagten) - Denmark, dir. Thomas Vinterberg. Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, famously a co-founder of the Dogme 95 movement with Lars von Trier, has been reaching greater and greater cinematic heights in recent years, and following 2010’s heartrending Submarino, The Hunt is an even more poignant, powerful work. Mads Mikkelsen plays a kindergarten teacher who is wrongfully accused of a heinous crime, and his impressive performance understandably garnered him the Best Actor award at Cannes. The Hunt contains all the lack of resolution and frustratingly predictable overkill of a Danish tragidrama but is beautifully, poetically photographed, extremely well-acted, and a story of the highest maturity. Trailer



9) Jack Reacher - USA, dir. Christopher McQuarrie. Jack Reacher may be for Tom Cruise what No Country For Old Men was for Tommy Lee Jones: a change of pace, if not possibly a new direction. Based on Lee Child’s popular pulp novel, One Shot, this relatively straightforward Hollywood flick isn’t, actually, overacting and major studio effects, but rather, stripped down, clean, organized storytelling. Very little music scores the film, driven instead by its own steady pulse. Jack Reacher was one of the most overlooked films of 2012 and appeared on not a single year-end top 10 list of more than 90 major film critics, but the film is easily a crowd-pleaser; following some pre-release vitriol over casting and thus expected to flop in commercial performance and possibly even fail to meet its $60 million budget, the film grossed more than $215 million in the box office. The picture’s well-crafted narrative is the self-evident reason why. Werner Herzog as villain is stellar and anything but gemütlich. Trailer



10) Flight - USA, dir. Robert Zemeckis. At first, Flight seems like a no-surprises Hollywood action production about a plane crash, but it soon becomes clear that this film is taking a different, more elongated, elliptical course. Denzel Washington gives one of his strongest, most emotionally honest performances to date in this film about addition and loss. There is no easy way through or out of the pains of the story or its protagonist, Whip Whitaker, and the viewer feels them along the way. Ultimately, the realistic and gritty solution forward and upward is chosen, and it is a refreshingly virtuous one. Also brought me to tears. Trailer



Other Years’ Top Ten Lists: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011

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