DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Best of Cinema 2012

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Best of Cinema 2012

There are some familiar and unfamiliar titles on this list. Despite the chosen order, I could easily rearrange these films. The fact is, there wasn’t one film that stood out from the rest. Instead, the commonality between all these pictures is a certain 'boldness', often telling familiar stories in unconventional ways, or in the case of Goon and The Hobbit executing its genre to perfection.

I’ve kept the list only dramatic features as I could have populated this list with a number of superlative documentaries – see my top docs at the end of this list.

I should also say that this list did take into consideration other lauded ventures such as Holy Motors, The Master, Les Miserables, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Life of Pi etc. Unfortunately I have not yet seen Zero Dark Thirty or Amour, so in a couple weeks this top ten list might become a top twelve list. But for now, here’s the most memorable films of 2012 from Daily Film Dose:

Jacques Audiard’s unclassifiable crowd-pleaser is a masterpiece of pulp melodrama. Audiard executes the mostly preposterous story of a female whale trainer who finds a bond with a roughneck bouncer who then goes into partnership as an underground MMA streetfighter/manager team with the utmost authenticity, believablility and sincerity.

Behn Zeitlin's immensely moving coming-of-age story set in the fringes of civilization in Southern Louisiana in the most environmentally vulnerable place in the region, is an experiential film about youth stylized with the same kind of dreamy realism as The Tree of Life. The cutesy five-year old actress Quvenzhané Wallis is receiving most of the credit, but Beasts avoids schmaltz due the credibility of its lead actor Dwight Henry.

Wes Anderson is a treasure, even in his most indulgent and idiosyncratic films we have to admire his unique artistry and viewpoint on cinema. No one makes films like his. Here, Anderson returns to live action, but with the kind of innocent simplicity which made Fantastic Mr. Fox such a delightful experience. And after seven films we almost take for granted the visual splendor of his film, but every frame in Moonrise Kingdom is a work of art.

Michael Dowse’s raunchy hockey movie dazzles in a different way. Superlative execution of the sports movie formula aided by the impeccable timing of its comedic gags, action, and perfectly appropriate pop music results in a mainstream comedy so rousing and watchable it’s impossible to ignore.

Despite success at the box office, I feel this picture needs to be defended. I can’t help but think the factors not on the screen (the Del Toro issue, the running time, the High Frame rate, the third movie recent announced, and Jackson’s recent films) has made this film a cinematic persona non grata. A shame because The Hobbit fits in so perfectly to the world of Lord of the Rings, the same world which critics gushed over 10 years ago. In fact, The Hobbit is so thrilling and satisfying, as anchored by Martin Freeman’s accessibility, it’s probably better than any of the LOTR films.

Terence Davies adaptation of Terence Rattison’s 1952 play is undeniably cinematic. Davies rings out some of the powerful emotional moments of the year from Rattison’s mostly contained play to achieve an epic war time love story as grandiose and earth shattering as anything in say Tom Hooper’s Les Miz exercise.

The performance of Michelle Williams as the decision-challenged wife tempted by the carnal attraction to her charming neighbour is astonishing. Williams’ ability, simply by the unspoken reaction in her face to the agonizing conflict of sexual desire anchors this film. This is an unconventional film made from the gut. Not everything works, but writer/director Sarah Polley follows her instincts guiding us through the treacherous dissolution of a marriage with hypnotic allure.

Xavier Dolan’s third film about the 10 year relationship of a transsexual male and his female lover has all the hallmarks of a young ambitious filmmaker pushing his aesthetic to the max boldly grabbing for grandeur in style and substance. We can’t help but reminded of a young Paul Thomas Anderson, for good and bad, exercising all his cinematic muscle in Magnolia. At 2 hours and 40 mins Laurence Anyways threatens overindulgence but the film is such a stylish force of nature it’s something we just can’t take our eyes off of.

Andrew Dominic’s small scale crime saga, an uncomplicated story of a heist of a poker game and the hit man hired to track down the perpetrators, exists in part as an exercise in style. But under Dominic’s superlative vision, the formal beauty of its imagery and his stone cold emotional tone is inseparable from the story. And look out for the best supporting performance of the year that won’t get recognized, James Gandolfini as a prostitute-addicted self-destructive hit man.

The Liam Neeson renaissance continues. Hard to believe this guy was Darkman and Oskar Schindler. Now in his 60’s he a legitimate action star. His immense screen presence and physicality serves Joe Carnahan’s survivalist story well. A group of oil workers crashed and stranded in woods up north, battling the environment and some nasty gray wolves makes for a surprisingly resonant internal journey of reconciliation for Neeson’s character.

Top Five Documentaries:

THE OTHER DREAM TEAM - Unbelievably inspiring story of freedom and liberation from repression told through the triumph of the Lithuanian basketball team which toiled under the Soviet regime before their bronze medal victory as a sovereign nation in the 1992 Olympics. With the added gravitas of the political upheaval of the Iron Curtain and the deeply emotional human story at its heart this picture becomes a truly epic and powerful piece of cinema.

THE IMPOSTOR – Bart Layton’s true crime story of a man who poses as the identity of a missing child is stranger than fiction. Layton’s style reminiscent of Errol Morris and James Marsh makes this film as thrilling as suspense as any dramatic film this year.

SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN - Malik Bendjelloul's fascinating story of the myth and aura of a strange but immensely talented folk artist Rodriguez, who, according to the producers he worked with, was as talented and poetic as Bob Dylan. But one who disappeared into obscurity in the 70’s only to be unlikely resurrected by its South African fans.

ROOM 237 - A fun look into the detailed obsessions of devoted fans of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, the now legendary, much discussed and debated horror film, which at a glance appears to be a simple story about the breakdown of a psychologically damaged writer from the effects of isolation. Yet, with microscopic frame-by-frame analysis there emerges some equally deranged but sometimes irrefutable dramatic subtext that deepens this already beguiling film.

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI – First, a story of the long-standing world master of sushi, but also an equally intriguing story of father and son, and the burden of success across generations. Don’t be fooled by the film’s simplicity, David Gelb’s pristine cinematography matches Jiro Ono’s one-of-a-kind works of art of fish and rice.

1 comment :

Breezy said...

I wasn't aware that Xavier Dolan was working on a third film. I absolutely fell in love with "J'ai tué ma mère" and "Les amours imaginaires", so I can't wait to get my hands on his third installment. Thanks for retroactively bringing it to my attention.