Friday, January 18, 2013

Jeremy's Top 10 Films of 2012

1. It's Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeldt) "It's Such a Beautiful Day" is a testament to the visual wonders that can be achieved by one man in a room with a 35mm animation camera, so long as he's a genius with thousands of line drawings, photographs, construction paper, pieces of glass and other odds and ends. Never letting limited resources dampen his aesthetic, Don Hertzfeldt achieved remarkable images with multiple exposures, lighting effects and his trademark simple line drawings. Between 2006 and 2012, Hertzfeldt released three short films about Bill, a middle-aged man suffering from a degenerative illness that causes memory loss. The pieces were then combined into a feature that played theaters this year. The screen fills with an ever-flexible collection of windows into a decaying mind. Hertzfeldt's experiments are at times absurdly funny, but also create a fascinating commentary on the value and fragility of human memory.

  2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) Paul Thomas Anderson continues to find new ways to surprise us with cinematic beauty. His latest film meditates on the search for a purpose and something to believe in with remarkable poetry. Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of the year as a drunken World War II vet who becomes a mad muse to a charismatic nouveau-religious leader played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

  3. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) A search for a corpse turns into an existential search for life's answers in Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia." The absurdist road movie roams rural Turkey in the dead of night as an odd collection of civil servants and miscreants travel from one possible crime scene or another. Ceylan combines brilliantly moody cinematography with cutting dialogues that dissect politics, love, death, bureaucracy and yogurt.

  4. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr) The apocalypse has never been so routine as in "The Turin Horse," the story of a husband, a wife and their poor, old, put-upon horse as they suffer through life's routines. Tarr lets us feel the desolation through the sound design's howling wind and his long takes, which build on one another to create a thoroughly savage picture.

  5. Beasts of the Southern WIld (Benh Zeitlin) In his feature debut, director Benh Zeitlin stirred up a magic pot of poetry, neo-realism, surrealism, pre-historic creatures, childhood and lost cultures. The film is a symphony of curiosity that builds toward a glorious crescendo. It's set on an island known as "The Bathtub," located outside the Louisiana levees. It's a forbidden land — off-limits according to the government — but misfits still inhabit it, living in makeshift shelters and using vehicles that would be at home in a post-apocalyptic world. If Zeitlin's sheer ambition weren't enough, the film's young star and narrator, Quvenzhané Wallis, was born with screen presence.

  6. Samsara (Ron Fricke) This film is only about life, the universe and everything. It asks us to look at the world through some of its most remarkable marvels — Buddhist monks making colorful sand artwork, disaster zones, Thai transvestites or gangster funerals, and lots of other things you wouldn't think of. Ron Fricke draws comparisons through compositional parallels, mirrored camera movements and a firm confidence in his audience's eyes and minds. This is poetry at its finest.

 7. Holy Motors (Leos Carax) Perhaps no movie distills the mood of 2012 cinema better than "Holy Motors," Leos Carax's mad mishmash of what it means to entertain and what it means to be human. The film showcases actor Denis Lavant as his character travels around Paris in a limousine, enacting a variety of strange scenarios. We get action sequences, musical numbers, CG motion capture, kidnappings — even talking cars — for daring to go down the rabbit hole.

 8. Anna Karenina (Joe Wright) Realizing that he could never fit all of Leo Tolstoy's story into a film, Joe Wright instead packed in all of its emotions. Putting the melody back in melodrama, Wright orchestrates a series of virtuoso sequences that capture all the joy, desperation and turmoil of living on life's tragic stage.

  9. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino) Nobody lavishes his audience with entertainment like Quentin Tarantino. His southern blacksploitation spaghetti western crackles with humor, suspense and absurd old-school violence. And even without that, it's hard to top Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio in such feisty form.

  10. 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord, Chris Miller) Faced with the obstacle of making another tired film based on a TV series, Phil Lord and Chris Miller concocted a film that at once satirizes its source material, its contemporaries and its own right to exist. Mix their perspective, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum's performances and a classically absurd cameo, and you have the funniest film of the year.

Eleven Twelve tied for 11th: I kept moving films on and off my top 10 trying to get it right, but I would have liked to include them. Oh, the pain of maintaining arbitrary traditions without obligation!
Girl Walk // All Day
The Kid With a Bike
Moonrise Kingdom
Oslo, August 31
Rust and Bone
This Must be the Place

  Honorable Mention
The Cabin in the Woods
Deep Blue Sea
Farewell my Queen
The Gatekeepers
I Wish
Last Ride
Magic Mike
A Simple Life
The Snowtown Murders
Sound of Noise
This is Not a Film
Two Years at Sea
The Waiting Room
Zero Dark Thirty