Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best of 2012

It is that time of year again.  That time when all we film critics (and all those who claim to be film critics) churn out our annual best of the year lists.  So, without further ado, here are my choices for the best films of 2012.

1. Django Unchained - I am kinda biased when it comes to Tarantino.  I think they guy is just the living end.  To die for, in a cinematic idol worship kinda way.  Can't get enough of the guy's often quite politically incorrect attitude, or his violence-drenched and self-referential playfulness. Of course, with this said, it should come as no surprise that this blood-splattered, inappropriately heee-larious Spaghetti Southern sits atop my list of the best of 2012.  My review can be read here.

2. The Master - Like QT above, Paul Thomas Anderson is another one of those auteur's that seems to be unable to do any wrong in my book.   Also like Tarantino, PTA has made a film that is easily one of the most divisive of the year.  But then again, I have always been a fan of those films that make everyone else a bit woozy in the head.  Oh yeah, and Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of a lifetime.  My review can be read here.

3. The Turin Horse - Somber, distressed and morose.  Sorrowful, sick and mournful.  Dreadfully sad.  So sad, that one may not be able to even make it through this black and white, incredibly slow-moving, and even more incredibly sad, Hungarian film.  Yet, Bela Tarr, in what the director claims is his final film, makes even the most despairing of tales, a thing of rapt and terrifying beauty.  My review can be read here.

4. Zero Dark Thirty - There is controversy galore over this film, with a lot of conservatives bitching that too much confidential information was given to the filmmakers and liberals whining about a supposed condoning of torture, but whatever one thinks of such things (and I think such allegations, from either side of the political spectrum, to be bullshit), Kathryn Bigelow's military thriller is an enthralling, brilliant movie.  My review can be read here.

5. Cosmopolis - This makes four out of four in films I adore, yet are hated by just as many as love them.  David Cronenberg's Odyssean take on capitalism and greed, is an abrasively methodical film, that beats with a cadence that forebodes and foretells the very downfall of man, all the while making the viewer uncomfortable in their seats, as they wait around every corner for the ball to drop on the action.  My review can be read here.

6. The Cabin in the Woods - I am kind of a sucker for the writing stylings of Joss Whedon (film, TV, comicbooks - whatever), and this twisted, Escher-esque mindfuck of a horror film - one that takes all the tricks and tropes of the genre, and flips them on their arse - co-written with director Drew Goddard, is one of his most intriguing screenplays.  My review can be read here.

7. Killer Joe - When a film comes with the tagline, "A totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story," ya just know it's gonna be a hell of a lot of fun.  A rip-roaringly hilarious movie about a cool-as-ice hired killer, the idiots that hire him but cannot afford to pay him, the innocent teenage girl they give to him as collateral, and the most interesting thing ever done with fried chicken on the big screen.  Oh yeah, and Matthew McConaughey is, as the kids are saying, off the hook, yo.  My review can be read here.

8. Haywire/Magic Mike - These two intriguing films, from the always versatile Steven Soderbergh, are the best one two punch from any director since Soderbergh did the same thing three years ago with The Girlfriend Experience and The Informant.  These films, a spy thriller-cum-genre experiment, and a good ole boy, male stripper tale, are like the proverbial day and night of cinema, and that just goes to show that Soderbergh can do just about anything he puts his mind to.  My review can be read here and here, respectively.

9. The Kid With a Bike - Probably the most humanistic, and quite possibly the most humour-filled, of any of the Dardenne Brothers' films, this tale of - you guessed it - a kid and his bike, harkens back to a simpler time in cinema, and to films like the obviously influential The Bicycle Thieves, and, with its no-frills poetic realism, is a simply beautiful film to watch.  My review can be read here.

10. Compliance - A story so unbelievable, so impossible sounding, so implausibly ridiculous, that it just has to be true.  Telling the crazy tale of a fast food manager who is duped by a prank caller pretending to be a cop on the other end of the phone, and the poor young employee who is demoralized, humiliated, and much much worse, this subtly brilliant little film is one of the biggest revelations of the cinematic year.  My review can be read here.

11. Prometheus - Many of my fellow critical compatriots called this film a dismal failure.  I suppose it was a bit of a failure in certain, perhaps a too-high expectations category (in anticipation of its coming release, I had expected it to eventually make my top three), but the film, though not the desired second coming of Blade Runner, is still quite enjoyable to watch.  At least it was for this critic.  My review can be read here.

12. Damsels in Distress - It has been thirteen years since Whit Stillman's last film, the sardonic Last Days of Disco, and the director is finally back with another quite acerbic, yet also quite fun-loving, look at the emotionally messed-up lives of his lovable but distressed characters.  I have talked with many a cinemagoer who did not understand this film, and therefore disliked, or even hated it, but all I can say to those people is, hooey.  My review can be read here.

13. Les Misérables - My love of this film kinda caught me off guard.  I mean, I love the musical genre, but that love is usually reserved for the old Hollywood style of musical, not the splashy, over-the-top Sondheimian kind, but this newer, stagier version pretty much blew me away anyway - and all you haters can go on hatin'.  My review can be read here.

14. Hit & Run - Written and co-directed by Dax Sheppard, and starring the actor-turned-director, his girlfriend (and every nerd's wet dream) Kristen Bell, and several of their clsoest friends (Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold), this crazy comic chase film may not be your typical high end artistic cinema piece, but damn, it is a hell of a lot of fun.  My review can be read here.

15. Holy Motors - Bizarre and beautiful, this French comedy(?), drama(?), action film(?), thriller(?), satire(?), whatever(!), is another one of those films that the masses will never understand, but that this critic, in all his own bizarre and beautiful tastes, just loves to see.  I am still not able to confidently explain what the damn thing is about, but I still like it.  My review can be read here.

16. John Carter - Yeah, that's right.  I liked this film dammit.  So much hatred, and pure and despicable hatred, formed not by the critically intentioned folk who come down on the films that top this list, but by a bunch of silly pedantic bullies, has been spewed toward this film, but I do not care a wit for them, nor for their priggish criticisms.  The film is fun dammit.  Pure, unadulterated fun.  My review can be read here.

17. Amour - Harrowing.  Terrifying.  Unflinching and quite disturbing indeed.  All the things that make, for better or for worse, a Michael Haneke film, a Michael Haneke film.  But what this film has that no other Haneke film has had, is a streak of humanity, and it is in this quite unexpected humanity, that we are sucked in, and spit out an emotional wreck.  My review can be read here.

18. Little White Lies - It may have taken nearly three years to finally make its way to these shores, but this French dramedy was, as they are prone to saying, well worth the wait.  Written off by many as a mere Gallic Big Chill (and there are blatant similarities, though I doubt if they were necessarily on purpose), this film is actually quite stirring, in the emotional arena of things.  All that, and you get Marion Cotillard too.  My review can be read here.

19. The Avengers - Written and directed by the always able Joss Whedon (haven't we already been here?), this mega billion dollar smash hit (top grossing film of all time, that is not directed by James Cameron), takes this critic back to his long lost youth, when the monthly arrival of Marvel Comics' titular superhero team, was a must read moment in the life of this then ten year old future film critic, and lifelong comicbook reader.  My review can be read here.

20. Beasts of the Southern Wild - Granted, it has its faults, but once one gets past its rather cliché storyline, the remarkable visual beauty of the film, in both its uplifting, awe-inspiring moments and tragic realistic ones, and the surprising powerhouse performance of six year old Quvenzhané Wallis, make for a pretty darn good movie.  My review can be read here.

Ten Runners-Up (in no particular order): Bernie, The Deep Blue Sea, Flight, 21 Jump Street, Attenberg, Moonrise Kingdom, Miss Bala, Turn Me On, Dammit!, SavagesChico & Rita.


Dan Heaton said...

Great list! There are still a lot movies on there that I need to see, including your #1 pick. It's cool that you have Damsels in Distress on there, and there's no shame in liking John Carter! Many of your picks like Holy Motors, Django, Magic Mike, and Amour are definitely on my watch list.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx. And do not get me wrong, I am not ashamed by having enjoyed John Carter.

Anonymous said...

That makes you completely shameless. Wow.

albert muth said...

That's me Bert previous comment. You were doing so well, but as usual you had too open your big mouth too many times. Don't ever change, baby.

Kevyn Knox said...

Got a prob with John Carter, Muth!?