Maybe 2012 could be described as the year of the Anderson. My two favourite films were directed respectively by Paul Thomas and Wes. Maybe it was the year of the independent drama/comedy. There were quite a few this year that sparkled. I really enjoyed Safety Not Guaranteed, Liberal Arts, Ruby Sparks and Your Sister's Sister even though none made my top ten in the end. It did feel like a quiet year for Australian film. Not Suitable For Children was probably the pick of the bunch. It was the year that a silent film took home the Oscar for Best Picture. The Artist was a fine film. Delightful and original, but one has the feeling it won't stand the test of time. Hugo would have been a better pick. Of course The Tree Of Life would have been the ultimate pick. But I knew it would be too original to take top honours. Similarly I think The Master is basically no chance in 2013's ceremony. The Academy have snubbed Paul Thomas Anderson in the past and I don't see anything changing now. Having said that The Master was easily my favourite film of 2012. It was a compelling, daring and original piece of cinema. I should note a few films that I thoroughly enjoyed but just missed by top ten. Ben Affleck's Argo was intelligent and satisfying. Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret finally saw the light of day and was definitely worth the wait and Once Upon A Time In Anatolia was quite remarkable. But I have settled on ten. Please enjoy.
1. The Master, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
The Master is a remarkable, challenging, perplexing, confronting film. It is many things, but most of all it cements Paul Thomas Anderson as the greatest film maker of this generation. His films are all basically masterpieces and this one might not be his best, but it still towers over 99% of cinema out there. This is a psychological drama, a love story, part history lesson. The story of a psychotic drifter who falls under the spell of a religious leader in 1950 is a powerful one and a compelling one. The acting is off the charts good with Phoenix and Hoffman sublime in every scene. Shot with rich and beautiful colour this film demonstrates a director in complete control. A film with minimal plot, it rather is a complex character study, a study of the weaknesses of humanity and the need to find a meaning in life. This film will do many things to you, but most of all it will make you think.
2. Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson
In all of Wes Anderson's dedication to style and form, and it's pretty great in that regard, there is something always overlooked in his films. A deep undercurrent of reality and sadness. Sure his films are hyper real in look and attitude but there is so much heart and love in his films. This small and personal film ranks with his best yet. Set in 1965 New England a boy and a girl run away to create their own world. The awkward interplay between them is quite precious and lovely. Trailing in their wake are a motley group of emotionally broken adults. All played with grace and intuition by Norton, Murray, McDormand and Willis. This lovely film contains the usual Anderson flourishes and wry comedy but it also displays a sad heart that will stay with you long after the final credits.
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin.
A remarkable film. Without doubt one of the films of 2012. Set in a small rural community, The Bathtub, off the New Orleans we meet Hushpuppy and her rambling father. They live unlike us and survive unlike us. We are drawn into their world with equal parts stark realism and joyous magic. This low budget film that uses non actors is overflowing with heart, humour and pathos. There are scenes that will make you cry and feel all of the weight of the world. The use of Auroch creatures is particularly effective and is just one of many things that will drill a hole in your heart.
4. Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese.
A near perfect film that utilizes 3D to full effect. Scorsese's love poem to cinema is superbly welded to the story of young Hugo's search for redemption. This film sings with love and is full of heart and magic. Paris is captured with exquisite beauty and grace. A knockout film that will stay with you for days. This was Scorsese's best film in years and was unlucky not to win Best Picture.
5. Shame, directed by Steve McQueen.
Steve McQueen has crafted another compelling, powerful and brave film about human addiction, weakness and need. Michael Fassbender is incredible as sex addicted New Yorker Brandon whose narrow lifestyle is put into disarray with her arrival of his wayward sister. How he wasn't Oscar nominated is beyond words. This film is dark and unsettling but unique and necessary. Beautifully shot, it is a revealing look into the soul of humanity.
6. The Sessions, directed by Ben Lewin.
The true story of polio victim Mark O'Brien is emotionally honest and deeply moving. It's directed with tenderness and care and the performances are all superb. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt are especially great. Both give very honest and expert displays of fine acting. This is a sad tale that will deeply affect you, it's full of beauty and pain. It's rare for a Hollywood film to display this sort of honesty.
7. A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi.
Intelligent, extremely nuanced film about family conflict, truth and lies in modern day Iran. A wife wishes to divorce her husband so she can leave Iran. He refuses, wanting to stay behind to look after his ailing father. A woman is hired to help in this duty and an incident creates conflict with devastating effect. This film is so complex and subtle, showing that people can easily be wrong and right, truthful and dishonest in so many situations. Superbly written and acted, a great film.
8. Killing Them Softly, directed by Andrew Dominik.
This film is a conversation and also of conversations. It's a stark conversation about modern day America and broken promises, empty dreams and economic breakdown. This superb film is also a series of conversations. Between men living on the outskirts of society. Some desperate, all violent. Andrew Dominik is a singular film maker. He has crafted an extremely tight, robust crime thriller set in Louisiana in 2008. Brad Pitt, stellar again, shines as Cogan, a man whose job is to 'take care' of people who get in the way of the mob. Filmed with great clarity this a brutal film that doesn't play the easy card.
9. Looper, directed by Rian Johnson.
Inventive, compelling cinema. Rian Johnson is an exploding talent. In his third feature he has given us a film that will keep you guessing, have you enthralled and sometimes gaze in awe. Gordon-Levitt is superb as Joe, a 'looper' in 2044, who disposes of criminals sent from the future. Time travel films can be tricky to make work but here it does. With a superb cast, Emily Blunt is fantastic, the material is exciting, intense and quite often cerebral. Rich and exciting cinema
10. The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne.
Wonderful, honest and perceptive film about a man who has to confront a terrible truth and at the same time try and keep his family together. Alexander Payne has superbly directed and written a film that easily moves between humour and pathos. George Clooney is outstanding as the father and husband who is swimming in a sea of worry. This film is full of rich and warm characters who are shaded grey. They are flawed people just trying to manage and get by. Rich and rewarding.
Films I plan to see in 2013-
Life Of Pi
The Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
A Late Quartet