A diverse, impressive group highlight top films of 2012


Cinema is always in a constant state of change; look no further than the films released in 2012 for examples. Technology, playing a major role in change, is allowing filmmakers to work cheaper and quicker than ever before. Documentaries and independent features abounded in 2012, most made with small budgets on affordable equipment. However, technology is also permitting filmmakers to push the boundaries on bigger scales. The Hobbit, released in 48 frames per second (double the traditional speed of film), was a bold and visible change.

Though, not all films needed the saturations of technology. History, whether truthful or manufactured, populated screens with thrilling regard. Complex, adult themed dramas charged forward with staggering and compelling results. All of these worthwhile endeavors make picking just 12 so much more challenging. However, these are the 12 that resounded with me most in 2012.

12. The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan)
The finale is always the most difficult performance. Especially when the body of work that leads before it is so expertly crafted. Nolan’s ending to the Dark Knight trilogy simply solidifies the entire franchise as the best comic book adaptation and one of the best trilogies ever made.

11. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
Daniel Day-Lewis gives the best acting performance of the year as Abe Lincoln. Lincoln excels at showcasing the humanity and humility of a man guiding a country in the darkest of times, but more impressively the cunning and, at times, conniving nature of a man fighting for what he believes is right amongst a conspiring political system. Spielberg crafts a film of delicate sensibility while equally portraying the light and dark moments of our nations history. 

10. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
At its heart Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy, however it feels like something entirely different. The establishment of tone could be the greatest feat for this film, equally allowing damaged individuals time to cope with their lives, heal from their past, and find opportunities to make amends. It’s a challenging mix of elements to incorporate, but director David O. Russell accomplishes just that. The cast is great and the story is manic in the best way. This is one of the better romantic comedies in recent memory.

9. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
A well-executed send off to the media saturated manhunt for Osama bin Laden that comprised the headlines of the evening news for over a decade. Jessica Chastain is great in role that displays both quiet resilience and fevered determination. Bigelow achieves a thrilling and meticulously paced procedural that culminates in gripping fashion.

8. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
Complex filmmaking didn’t get greater, or cause more decisiveness, than Cosmopolis did. This film is purposefully muddled, a composition in which the viewer will get out of the experience something different upon every watch. Cronenberg establishes an intriguing tone from the start and slowly manipulates the audience along the way with droves of dialogue seeming to hold equal amounts of importance and authority. This is a daring film from a bold director.

7. Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
At 157 minutes it’s easy to call this a film of patience. Once upon a time there were two law officials and a medical examiner in search of a buried body. What transpires during the journey is an examination of existence layered over a plodding crime procedural. Beautifully shot with long, looming takes, this film is a journey to the dark side of Neverland.

6. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Though complex and levied with open interpretations, this film focuses on a lost man (Joaquin Phoenix) who finds inspiration and direction from a duplicitous leader (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) of a pseudo-therapeutic group know as The Cause. An examination of ambition, failure, and purpose; Anderson makes a multifaceted character study a captivating experience.

5. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
I’ve described Holy Motors as a dreamlike experience. A film about film, theater, performance, and sometimes all of those elements at the same time, nothing seems to be off limits. Shouldered by an impressive performance from Denis Lavant, who plays 11 different characters during the duration of the film that all stem from one main character, Holy Motors is a confounding and stunning work of originality.

4. Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
Director Ang Lee brings a visual work of art to the screen in this wonderful adaptation of the Yann Martel novel published in 2001. Life of Pi is a fable of faith, a parable of virtues, a work that stands as an example of human nature and the gravity of choice. A boy stranded on a boat with a mix of animals, one being a ferocious Bengal tiger. Though it may seem simplistic, it actually holds much more under its surface. Life of Pi is a visually stunning and often hypnotizing film, one of Lee’s best.

3. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino is crafting an interesting body of work for himself. Whether it’s rewriting history or reshaping the definition of a genre’s identity, Tarantino’s films are captivating and insightful. Django Unchained is an ode to spaghetti westerns, wrapped in Blaxploitation style, and infused around the atrocities of slavery. Tarantino’s analysis on race and the still lingering effects on history offer observant insights into a filmmaker operating for something more than just entertainment.

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
There is a minimalist perspective utilized in this film that permits the superb, poetic storytelling to speak volumes. Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a mature beyond her years girl, lives with her father in a dilapidated swamp known as The Bathtub. This is a film of enchanted realism, a joyful and exhilarating example of the power of the human spirit.

1. Amour (Michael Haneke)
While being painstakingly technical with actors, editing, and camera framing, Haneke crafts a film about the process of love and death in the latter days of an elderly Parisian couple. Unnerving and depressing in its’ realistic portrayal of death though transcending in its’ beautiful depiction of life and love, this film evoked pain, sorrow, compassion, and peace in one truly magnificent film.

Honorable Mentions:
Anna Karenina
The Avengers
Cabin in the Woods
The Deep Blue Sea
End of Watch
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
The Kid and a Bike
Killer Joe
Moonrise Kingdom
The Raid: Redepmtion
Ruby Sparks
Rust and Bone
Safety Not Guaranteed
Sound of My Voice
Take This Waltz
This Is Not A Film
The Turin Horse
Les Miserables
Jeff Who Lives At Home