Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Favorite Films of 2012 (finally)

Living in Kalamazoo, Michigan means not being able to see all the new releases in a timely manner. After finally catching Rust and Bone (on DVD) and Amour (playing to a sold out audience at Western Michigan University) over the last couple weeks, I feel I'm finally ready to lay out of my favorite films of 2012. Note that although some of these were released in 2011 in other countries, all of them saw their U.S. debut in 2012.

Here are my 10 favorite films of 2012. These are based on a **** star rating system.

10. The Imposter (2012) - Layton *** 1/2: This documentary was simply spectacular. Fascinating and proves once again that truth is stranger than fiction.
9. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Russell *** 1/2: Great romantic comedy and hits all the right notes. Wonderful all around cast. Cooper and Lawrence make a great team.
8. The Master (2012) - P.T. Anderson *** 1/2: 2012's strangest and most haunting film. Filled with some of the most intense filmmaking you'll ever see and some of the best acting found anywhere. But at times is impenetrable.
7. The Loneliest Planet (2012) - Loktev ****: Shots, moments and storylines that I've never seen before put on film. For those so inclined, this will be a quiet and rewarding film.
6. 2 Days in New York (2012) - Delpy ****: The best comedy of 2012 and a great throwback to classic screwball comedies. I love Delpy.

5. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) - W. Anderson ****: Anderson's best film since The Royal Tenenbaums. A thorough delight....melancholy and filled with yearning. Beautiful cinematography and design.

4. Amour (2012) - Haneke ****: This film will break you. Dark, moving, and intense. It doesn't let up until the end. Wonderful performances from Trintingant, Riva, and Huppert.

3. Lincoln (2012) - Spielberg ****: Brings history to life, and makes it surprisingly relevant. The cast is perfect, and Spielberg strikes just the right tone. A beautiful film.

2. The Deep Blue Sea (2011) - Davies ****: A sad and tragic look at the life of a woman caught between comfort and passion, and not able to settle into either. Rachel Weisz gives the best performance of the year by an actress. She's amazing, and the cinematography and score are memorably impressive.

1. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) - Bigelow ****: 2012's most perfect film. Bigelow and Chastain hit all the right notes and the film connects viscerally and emotionally for its entire running length. Unforgettable. Sure to rouse opinions from anyone who sees it.

And here's all the rest of the new releases that I saw from 2012, with a short blurb of what I liked or didn't like about them.

Anna Karenina (2012) - Wright ** 1/2: Great cinematography and set design, but rings hollow.

Arbitrage (2012) - Jarecki ***: Fine performances in this taut little suspenser.

Argo (2012) - Affleck ** 1/2: Empty entertainment and one of the most overrated films of the year.

Bernie (2012) - Linklater ***: Brilliant performance by Jack Black in this quirky film.

Brave (2012) - Andrews ***: Fine family fare. My kids love this one.

Compliance (2012) - Zobel * 1/2: Yucky and sensationalist.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Nolan * 1/2: Bloated and overrated beyond compare.

Django Unchained (2012) - Tarantino ** 1/2: Half-hearted Tarantino.

The Five Year Engagement (2012) - Stoller ***: Solid rom-com and really funny.

Flight (2012) - Zemeckis **: A film that doesn't know what point to make.

Footnote (2011) - Cedar ***: Funny and smart film from Israel.

Found Memories (2011) - Murat ** 1/2: No real drive or importance.

Goodbye First Love (2012) - Hansen-Love **: Cliched and forgettable.

The Grey (2012) - Carnahan ***: Solid actioner that gets better throughout.

Haywire (2012) - Soderbergh ** 1/2: Action film that doesn't leave one with any impression.

Hitchcock (2012) - Gervasi ** 1/2: Entertaining but there's no reason for its existence.

The Hobbit (2012) - Jackson **: Boooorrrrring.

Holy Motors (2012) - Carax ***: Interesting experiment. Not wholly successful but excellent in parts.

Hope Springs (2012) - Frankel * 1/2: What were Streep and Jones thinking? Steve Carrell miscast.

The Hunger Games (2012) - Ross ***: One of 2012's funnest movies.

The Impossible (2012) - Bayona ** 1/2: Too short for the material. A bit offputting at the end too.

The Kid with the Bike (2011) - Dardennes ** 1/2: More of the same from the Dardennes.

Killer Joe (2012) - Friedkin * 1/2: VERY atmospheric, but ultimately sort of ugly for ugly's sake.

Killing Them Softly (2012) - Dominik ** 1/2: One of 2012's great misfires.

A Late Quartet (2012) - Zilberman ** 1/2: I didn't believe the actors as accomplished musicians.

Lawless (2012) - Hillcoat **: Unnecessarily violent and wasted the talent of good actors.

Les Miserables (2012) - Hooper ***: A very solid musical filled with good performances.

The Life of Pi (2012) - Lee ***: Inspiring and solid film.

Looper (2012) - Johnson **: Back to the Future meets Blade Runner.....with poor results.

Monsieur Lazhar (2011) - Falardeau ***: Moving portrait of a class and a teacher.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) - Ceylon ***: Solid film if a bit overrated.

Oslo, August 31st (2011) - Trier ** 1/2: Retread of The Fire Within misses the mark for me.

The Paperboy (2012) - Daniels *: 2012's WORST movie.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) - Chbosky ***: Solid second half and Watson is great.

Prometheus (2012) - Scott ** 1/2: Entertaining film, but not up to Alien or Aliens.

Rust and Bone (2012) - Audiard ***: Solid performances and fine cinematography.

Skyfall (2012) - Mendes ** 1/2: Does Bond have to be SO SERIOUS?

Take This Waltz (2011) - Polley ***: Uneven, but has some great elements and Williams is amazing.

To Rome with Love (2012) - Allen ***: Really funny and touching film from Woody.

The Turin Horse (2011) - Tarr ***: Worth another look someday. Might be better on repeat viewing.

The Well-Digger's Daughter (2012) - Auteuil ***: Elegant and beautiful melodrama.


Catherine Short said...

I had to laugh at The Hobbit comment. I'm the only Short that just can't get into any of those movies ;-)

Sam Juliano said...

Finally saw this just now Jon. I am leaving for Tribeca but will return late tonight to give my commentary. Looks great!

Jon said...

Haha sis....yeah The HObbit not my cup of tea.

Thanks Sam....I'm late to the party, but still had to get my opinion out there.

Shubhajit said...

I'm a bit surprised, Jon, to see Lincoln being placed above Amour. To me Lincoln represented both the best & worst of Spielberg. It was richly detailed & technically sound; but it was also, in my opinion, too sentimental, straight-jacketed, and almost in the domain of hero worship. Amour, on the other hand, ranks as the best film of the year in my opinion. I was fortunate to have watched it on 70-mm screen, and was incredibly overwhelmed by this gut-wrenching masterpiece.

Silver Linings Playbook, I feel, had good potential, but the cliched climax spoiled the experience for me a bit. Zero Dark Thirty was of course a relentlessly gripping thriller. Moonrise Kingdom is one film that somehow had skipped my mind - so thanks for reminding me that I ought to catch it sometime.

Here's how my Top 10 would look:
1. Amour (Haneke)
2. No (Pablo Larrain)
3. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik) - so yes, I obviously don't consider as a misfire :D
4. Like Someone in Love (Kiarostami)
5. Holy Motors
6. The Master
7. Zero Dark Thirty
8. Django Unchained (Tarantino) - my opinion of it is more favourable than yours :)
9. Beyond the Hills (Cristian Mungiu)
10. Something in the Air (Assayas)

Honorable Mention: Gangs of Wasseypur I & II (Anurag Kashyap)

p.s. I went strictly by the year of release. So I didn't consider the likes of Turin Horse (which is a masterpiece in my opinion) or Once Upon A Time in Anatolia.

Jon said...

I so really like Amour a lot as I did Lincoln and it's splitting hairs a bit. I do like Lincoln a lot more than you did though. I liked Silver Linings a lot but didn't rate it at the full 4 stars. I particularly liked the cast.