Finally, an update! I must apologise for posting this so late, but the end of the year wasn’t very kind to me in terms of work, and it was impossible to find the time to write. But as 2013 is off to a better start, here is finally my top 15 for the best films of 2012 (you can view last year’s top 15 here):
1. The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan
2. Argo, directed by Ben Affleck
3. The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne
4. Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson
5. Looper, directed by Rian Johnson
6. Camille redouble, directed by Noémie Lvovsky
7. Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright
8. Seeking a Friend For the End of the World, directed by Lorene Scafaria
9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directed by Tomas Alfredson
10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, directed by Peter Jackson
11. We Bought a Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe
12. Brave, directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman / ParaNorman, directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell
13. Promotheus, directed by Ridley Scott
14. Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes
15. John Carter, directed by Andrew Stanton
Honorable mentions: De rouille et d’os (gorgeous but too depressing to make it to the actual top 15), Les Saveurs du Palais, Frankenweenie, J. Edgar.
I know, I know. I’m biased, I can’t judge objectively, I’m such a Chris Nolan fan that I can’t help putting him on top. But the truth is, for all its flaws, The Dark Knight Rises is still the film that I felt was most exciting this year, most well put together, even though yes it is far less a finer film than the two predecessors. But still, in terms of what I’m looking for when I step into a movie theatre, The Dark Knight Rises comes very close to what I expect. And that’s not even taking into account the HUGE expectations of following up the masterpiece that is The Dark Knight. I won’t deny that the film has shortcomings, but overall, with its spot-on directing, layered characters and technical aspects (cinematography, editing, score and such), to me The Dark Knight Rises is definitely the best film this year.
My second choice is Ben Affleck’s Argo. It’s just the perfect blend of historical reconstitution as well as captivating storytelling. From the opening scene -a real stroke of genius, until the end credits, Argo is just quality entertainment. Without taking itself too seriously nor neglecting the political undertones, it’s one of those rare films that strikes the right balance between thriller and drama, and those are just my favourite kind of films. And I have to say that Ben Affleck’s directing is nothing short of impressive; clearly he’s proved he is a truly worthy director. I can’t give him enough praise for the skills displayed in Argo.
Rounding up my top 3 is Alexander Payne’s the Descendants. There’s something intrinsically personal about Alexander Payne’s directing and to me, it just really hits very close home. Maybe it’s just the way he shoots the scenery, maybe it’s these tragicomic situations his characters always find themselves in, I don’t know, but there’s just something about his films and his screenplays that I completely adore and adhere to. My fourth pick, Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson, also gets its main strength from the fantastically whacky screenplay but I’ve also singled it out for its director’s very personal sensibility, which really appeals to me. I admire Wes Anderson’s artistic integrity and it really is the sign of a great director when one can simply look at a single frame and recognise the master at work behind. Sitting at number 5 is Rian Johnson’s Looper, and a well-deserved spot it is for a film that is clearly very conceptual and should really be recognised for its originality, but also for pulling off what is perhaps the most difficult storytelling device, time travel. Not only did he choose to focus on the characters rather than the (amazing) universe he created, he also has a very good sense of pace -which means that he doesn’t stretch his story for too long, and knows how to alternate action scenes with more intimate ones, and that is a real gift.
I usually just stop here when commenting my top 15, but since I’ve been very behind my reviews and I haven’t reviewed these films, I’d like to say quick words about each of these.
My sixth pick is a French film, Camille redouble. Noémie Lvovsky, as an actress and director, really did an amazing job on this film because it turned out to be one of the most touching and sweetest films I’ve seen this year. Here time travel is given a diametrically opposed definition to that in Looper, but in the end, none of it matters except for the characters and the heart she put into it. Number seven is Joe Wright’s gorgeous Anna Karenina. For its aesthetics alone, this film ranks higher up than it should. Not to say that its screenplay isn’t any good, in fact it is quite excellent, but the film is overwhelmingly beautiful and for that alone, Joe Wright displays astonishing and masterful directing skills. Okay, next, we have Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which you know, seems to be your traditional rom-com. Well, it really isn’t, and the charisma and chemistry pulled off by Steve Carell (in yet another brilliant dramatic performance) and Keira Knightley makes it all incredibly believable. The characters are just really endearing and the screenplay is a little gem. Number 8 is Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which is a dense, unbelievably rich patchwork of a film. Its cinematography and production design is superb, the cast is one of the best assembled in a long time. But it is a bit emotionally dry, despite Gary Oldman’s outstanding, subtle performance. Closing up the top 10 is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit (I won’t even bother with the subtitle because I’m so pissed about the whole three movies thing). Pete Jackson is still the masterful storyteller he was back when he made Lord of the Rings, and that’s a fact. The Hobbit is by all means solid entertainment, but it lacked that particular depth and beauty that made The Lord of the Rings so special.
Finally, at number 11, I picked We Bought a Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe. It’s an unusual choice for sure, I think it might have been much too sentimental and too much of a tearjerker for some people, but I’ve decided against my better judgement because I thought it was just very genuine in what it was trying to say. I’m very inclined to Matt Damon, yes, and I thought his performance was one of his best. But I loved the film entirely for its honesty and its lack of pretentiousness. Up next we have two animated features, Pixar’s Brave and Focus Features’ ParaNorman. I couldn’t choose between either of them because the former is graphically superior but the latter has a better screenplay. I have to admit that Brave was subpar regarding Pixar’s usual standards, but it’s only because they’re so high that I felt that way. Otherwise it is a perfectly good film, and so is ParaNorman, which is surprisingly scary but also one of those animated films which in fact targets an adult audience, so that it was just downright enjoyable and well-made. The next film on the list is (Sir) Ridley Scott’s Promotheus. I had issues with this film when I saw it and I still do. On one hand I can’t help but admire the directing which was just brilliant but on the other hand I can’t forget how poor the screenplay is, even though its level of complexity still sends my mind reeling with questions. If only the characters were a little more polished (if they all had the same treatment than David, the android), it would have been such a great film… But still, I don’t think anyone but Sir Ridley could have salvaged this, and he still did a tremendous job as far as directing is concerned, so it still is superior entertainment than what we see elsewhere. Okay, so at number 14 I’ve chosen Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. This is going to be quite an unpopular opinion -I enjoyed Skyfall, I really did, it is very good entertainment, with great rhythm and characters, but it doesn’t quite encompass the James Bond spirit as I see it. I know it was very relevant and well-directed and overall good, but I can’t help thinking that this is not what James Bond is about, even if there were little nods to the franchise. But the choice of Javier Bardem as Silva was just amazing and Thomas Newman’s score, of course, made it all even better. Finally, the last film of my top 15 is John Carter, directed by Andrew Stanton. I think I must be going crazy because I really don’t understand the backlash against it -it almost bankrupted Disney, got its CEO fired, the marketing campaign was awful… Fine, but the film is awesome and I really enjoyed it? I guess it’s one of those instances where I just don’t understand why the film wasn’t more successful. If people had given it a chance, they would have seen that it is old-school, pure entertainment, that could have easily been made in the 70s and the 80s (that’s one of the highest compliment I can give out to a film). Yes, John Carter is magical, and you haven’t been that immersed in a universe since Avatar. Its characters fit certain kinds of stereotypes but the screenplay is much more subtle and much more fun than you’d imagine. In fact I was tempted to rank it higher than that, even though in all objectivity, I really couldn’t, but if you can, give this film a try, I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Well that’s it for 2012! And as usual, a quick top 5 of the performances of the year:
1. Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Dark Knight Rises
2. George Clooney, The Descendants
3. Matthias Schoenaerts, De rouille et d’os
4. Steve Carrell, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World / Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
5. Michael Caine, The Dark Knight Rises / Javier Bardem, Skyfall
1. Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World / Marion Cotillard, De rouille et d’os
2. Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises
3. Alicia Vikander, Anna Karenina
4. Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
5. Emily Blunt, Looper / Noomi Rapace, Promotheus
The end of yet another year! 2013 promises to be another exciting year in films for sure. Stay tuned for my comments on the Oscar nominations, and once again, sorry for having taken such a long blogging break!