The Invisible War (2012)
Killer Joe (2012)
The Brood (1979)
The Grand Duel (1972)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Promised Land (2012)
The Panic In Needle Park (1971)
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
Three Colors: Blue (1993)
Three Colors: White (1994)
Three Colors: Red (1994)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
The Legend of Bigfoot (1976)
know what you’re thinking and no, that’s not a typo. I find that
end-of-the-year lists are often sprung on us and due to a number of
circumstances they’re not always as accurate as they could be. Sometimes you
miss a movie in theaters and don’t have a chance to catch it before it comes
time to post your Top 10 in late December. Other times a film that initially wowed you doesn’t
seem as amazing with time. And occasionally you’ll just happen to catch a movie
midway through the summer that you hadn’t even considered and be floored by it.
this is why I’ve decided to post my Top 10 of 2012. Hindsight's 20/20 after all. And with much revision, I’ve
come up with a radically different list from the one I crafted back in December
of last year. Some films have stayed; some new films have been added. I still
think that all the movies from my original Top 10 are excellent, but for various
reasons they don’t stand out as much anymore, and space was needed for the
films I felt were more deserving. So, before I go on too long, here are the
best movies of last year.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
I’ve gone back and forth on Beasts since I saw it last summer, but in the end I can’t deny that
it is a beautiful and moving fable, combining Greek myth with Louisiana
folklore and creating a story told through the eyes of a five-year old that
feels neither contrived nor corny. It’s visually magnificent, brilliantly
acted, and probably the best debut feature since Steve McQueen’s Hunger.
This is probably the first time I’ve ever seen Jack
Black disappear into a role and make me forget I’m watching Jack Black. Everybody
has been fawning over Before Midnight
lately, and while that film is excellent, this is the Linklater I love. The
corny, experimental, slice-of-Texas stories he excels at. Shirley MacLaine
delivers an outstanding late-career performance and Matthew McConaughey proves
that he’s at his best when he’s at his sleaziest.
Writing this list I’m starting to realize I have a
thing for quirky comedies about murder. Sightseers
is the story of a couple vacationing across the English countryside, whose
passive-aggressive nature leads them on a cross-country killing spree. Cut from
the same cloth as The Honeymoon Killers,
Sightseers manages to turn
cold-blooded murder into a brilliant black comedy. Worth it alone for the scene
where Alice Lowe writes a Dear John letter with an oversized novelty pencil.
My original number one when I made my first list
last December, but I’ve cooled a bit on the film since. Still, Moonrise Kingdom is another excellent
film in a career full of them. It’s Anderson’s most emotionally honest film
since The Royal Tenenbaums, and it’s
certainly one of his best looking. Not right now, but in another year or two I’d like to
revisit this movie and see if my opinion’s changed at
Basterds was Tarantino making a Sergio Leone film, then Django Unchained is him making a Sergio Corbucci film. It’s raw,
energetic, and able to switch between hilarious and gut-wrenching at a moment’s
notice. One of the more daring films of the year and I have to give credit to
Tarantino for not pulling a single punch.
Zero Dark Thirty
Of all the films I saw last year, this was the last
one I expected to stay with me as much as it has. A haunting flick about the
futility of revenge that doubles as historical drama. The final shot of the
movie is maybe the best single film moment of 2012, encapsulating the empty-catharsis
of a decade long search for justice. Bin Laden is dead, justice has been
served, now what?
Berberian Sound Studio
The scariest part about going insane is that nobody
is actually out to get you. A horror movie without monsters, only the paranoia
and the dread. Toby Jones plays Gildeory, a Foley artist hired to work on an
Italian giallo movie. Through the constant splatter of watermelons and the
screams of actresses in sound booths, the aesthetics of horror are broken down
to their most base elements. It’s spellbinding and ambiguous, and I’m still not
sure I quite understand what it’s saying.
Every few years Steven Spielberg comes along and
makes a masterpiece just to remind us that he’s Steven Spielberg. As much of a cliché
as it is to claim Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest living actor, his
performance as Abraham Lincoln truly is worthy of being considered amongst the
best in all of cinema. Instantly engaging, beautiful, and perfectly directed.
Unfairly dismissed by those who saw the trailer and claimed
it was “Taken with wolves,” The Grey is instead a painful and honest
meditation on death. I wrote about it after my initial viewing and it’s only
dug itself deeper into my mind since.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day
I included It’s
Such a Beautiful Day on my list of my 50 Favorite Films this summer, and I
don’t regret it. Never in my life did I think the man who made Rejected could make such an innovative,
powerful piece of art. It’s gone largely unnoticed outside of Don Hertzfeldt’s
cult following, and that’s just criminal. In a mere hour, Hertzfeldt captures the
fleeting nature of life and the indescribable pain of desire, all with cartoon
doodles. Without a doubt in my mind, it is the greatest film of the year.
Last year, The Onion began running several short miniseries
on Youtube. Amongst the first of them was a mock reality show called Sex House, where “six sexy Americans”
are put together in a house to have sex on national television. What starts as
a cheesy reality show parody quickly turns into existential horror, blending The Real World with Sartre. As the
housemates realize they’re trapped and being manipulated into having sex, they
turn against their oppressors (the network executives) and realize their worth
as human beings. And there’s frogs. Oh boy, are there frogs.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) | dir. Nicholas Ray | 111 min.
Rebel Without a Cause was one of the
biggest canonical films I kept putting off. I made the mistake of assuming that
it would be a whole lot of “buzz off, Daddy-O” and other West Side Storyisms. And while I wasn’t entirely wrong it manages
to go beyond that to make a great statement about the lack of communication and
understanding between generations.
is my first James Dean film and it’s completely understandable why he became
such a star in such a short amount of time – he’s immensely watchable. Despite actually
being twenty-five during filming, he perfectly captures the conflicted mind of
a teenager. He understands the world better than his parents do, but also comes
to find that he really doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. He can’t find
a solution to his problems any better than his parents; none of the kids can.
of the film do seem dated. I’m sure the obvious homosexual tension between
Plato and Jim was a lot more shocking in 1955, whereas today it’s more
normalized. Plato’s unreciprocated crush is still sad, especially seeing him
hanging around while Jim and Judy are crawling all over each other, but it’s
not quite scandalous in this day and age.
general the whole white suburban leather-jacket gang trope has gotten stale. It’s
been reduced to more of a joke by Grease
and Fonzie. But while the shock is gone it’s still a great piece of
entertainment, and the themes of disaffected youth are universal. Not to mention
the beautiful Cinemascope cinematography that gives a curve to the edges of the
screen, adding a layer of distortion to the atmosphere.
also fun for some of the little details. Seeing a 19-year old Dennis Hopper is
a surreal experience. And Dean’s famous “you’re tearing me apart” line becomes unintentionally
funnier in a world where The Room
exists. To be fair, Tommy Wiseau’s impersonation is spot on; he just doesn’t have
the suaveness or inner-turmoil to pull it off like Dean.
Stella Maris (1918) | dir. Marshall Neilan | 80 min.
Maris (Mary Pickford, in one of her famous dual roles) is a young girl who,
unable to walk, is kept bedridden by her aunt and uncle who lovingly shelter
her from the evils of the world. A sign hangs above her door that reads “All
unhappiness and world wisdom leave outside. Those without smiles need not
enter.”Stella is kept
completely ignorant of the crime and poverty that surrounds her, and her visitors
are tightly controlled so that they won’t spoil the façade.
Another young girl, Unity (also Pickford), has grown up
in an orphanage in the town outside Stella’s mansion. She is hired by
Louise Risca (Marcia Manon), the alcoholic wife of journalist John Risca (Conway
Tearle), to help out around the house. Louise is bitter and abusive, ultimately
hospitalizing Unity after beating her. She is sent to prison for three years
and in his guilt John adopts Unity.
At the same time, Stella undergoes surgery to allow
her to walk again. It’s a success, although it takes three years for her to
fully recover. John, a friend of her aunt and uncle, meets Stella and
falls in love with her, but they’re unable to marry because of his marriage to
Louise. Divorce is never mentioned as an option.
I was a bit taken aback by what dire lives these
characters live. Even though Stella comes from wealth, having been
shrouded from the truth about the world sends her into a depression when she is
finally able to walk and experience society for herself. It’s a horrifying
prospect, not unlike the allegory of the cave, to be lied to for your entire
life. She finds sanctuary in her love for John, but becomes suicidal when she
learns he has a wife. She tells him “I no long pity the blind! All the ugliness
of life is shut away from them.”
Unity, coming from nothing, is ecstatic to be living with
John, but can’t help falling in love with him. Unable to have him for herself
she resolves to murder Louise so that he may at least be free to marry Stella.
It’s a dark, grimy world with an insidious tone and
ramshackle scenery. Stella Maris a film that wrestles with whether
ignorance truly is bliss, but ultimately it’s the evil in the world that
reminds us of why love must be treasured.