“If all serious lyrical poets, composers, painters, and sculptors were forced by law to stop their activities, a rather small fraction of the general public would become aware of the fact and a still smaller fraction would seriously regret it. If the same thing were to happen with the movies, the social consequences would be catastrophic.” – Erwin Panofsky, 1934.
2012. 365 Days. 140 Films. 280 Hours. That’s 11.66 days I’ve dedicated this year to watching new releases. Obviously, I haven’t seen every film this year (That’s My Boy, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2), but I have seen enough great movies to make the task of creating a Top 10 List a total pain in the ass.
The annual ritual of narrowing down hundreds of titles to just 10 is a cruel but necessary discipline as a film critic. I, however, lack discipline and have found it necessary to cheat. I’ve expanded my Top 10 to include 10 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order) and a Top 5 Documentaries list, making for my 25 Best (or Favorite, if you prefer) Films of 2012.
OK, enough with the chit-chat, let’s get down to the business of celebrating cinema. Here are 25 moving pictures that moved me this year:
10 Best Films of 2012
1. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) — Nothing has moved me as much as The Perks of Being a Wallflower this year… simply fantastic, blissful cinema.
2. Amour (Michael Haneke) — Flawless performances by Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant fuel Haneke’s heartwrenching and honest depiction of love and death.
3. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell) — A humorous, relatable journey into all matters of the heart, Silver Linings Playbook is a reminder that we’ve all got baggage and problems and shit to worry about – but we can get past it and find things that make life worth living.
4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax) — Mesmerizing. An unforgettable, spellbinding work of cinematic madness. Holy Motors is an unapologetically challenging film with mind-blowing visuals and a terrific performance by Denis Lavant.
5. Life Of Pi (Ang Lee) — One of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful, visually staggering films I have ever seen. Life of Pi is a cinematic triumph and a return to form for director Ang Lee, a film that must be seen (in 3D) to be believed.
6. Cabin In The Woods (Drew Goddard) — Executive Producer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard have given birth to something of a masterwork – a holy text of horror that has changed the genre by exposing (in hilarious detail) the minutiae of what has become the standard in horror movies.
7. Bernie (Richard Linklater) — Beyond fascinating, Linklater’s exceptional true-crime comedy benefits from an impressive, award-worthy performance by Jack Black.
8. Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow) — A wonderful little comedy – an unexpectedly heartwarming cinematic experience overflowing with positivity and the power of belief. Great performances by Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, and Mark Duplass.
9. Your Sister’s Sister (Lynn Shelton) – There’s a genuine warmth and sensitivity to this film – an authenticity that can’t be replicated with rehearsed scenes and script-driven narratives. Touching, realistic performances by Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, and Rosemarie DeWitt.
10. Killer Joe (William Friedkin) — Matthew McConaughey and Gina Gershon are brilliant in this exceedingly dark, macabre, and violent film that shows human beings at their absolute worst and their most cold and calculated.
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
Anna Karenina (Joe Wright); The Avengers (Joss Whedon); Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin); The Do-Deca-Pentathalon (Jay and Mark Duplass); Flight (Robert Zemeckis); Klown (Mikkel Nørgaard); The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson); The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans); Robot & Frank (Jake Schreier); Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
Five Best Documentaries of 2012
1. Brooklyn Castle (Katie Dellamaggiore) — Directed by Katie Dellamaggiore and edited by her husband, Nelson, Brooklyn Castle is a charming, heartfelt film that celebrates dreams and the kids chasing them. It’s so perfectly balanced, so clean in its telling of a story with multiple characters and many layers, that it seems almost effortless. Brooklyn Castle is the best documentary of 2012.
2. Searching For Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul) — Sixto Rodriguez was a Detroit factory worker considered the greatest ‘70s singer/songwriter who never was. Now hailed as one of the finest recording artists of his generation, Rodriguez is the subject of this intriguing, well-crafted documentary that attempts to unravel the mystery of the man behind the music.
3. The Central Park Five (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon) — A gripping, heartbreaking, and infuriating documentary and serves to expose the myriad injustices and prejudices within our country’s judicial system. The Central Park Five is one of the most powerful documentary films of the year.
4. How To Survive A Plague (David France) — A compelling, exasperating, and sometimes painful film about the fight against AIDS. France’s inspiring documentary is as hopeful as it is tragic.
5. Samsara (Ron Fricke) — By dispensing with dialogue, Samsara subverts expectations of a traditional documentary and encourages interpretation inspired by incredible photography that fuses the ancient with the modern. Like its 1992 predecessor, Baraka, Samsara has no plot, storyline, actors, dialogue nor any voice-over whatsoever – a truly meditative experience.
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