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January 1, 2013

7

Top 10 Films of 2012

by Franz Patrick


Below are my choices for the Top 10 Films of 2012, the list to change slightly as I catch up on the pictures I missed. My hope is to provide alternative movies that are absolutely worth seeing that do not or will not necessarily appear on “Top Critics” picks. Underneath each picture is an excerpt from my review which can be found on the archive with the exception of Zeitlin’s work in which the whole review will be posted within two weeks. In the meantime, dive in and, as always, feel welcome to let me know what you think.



Prometheus
Ridley Scott

“…the film’s every corner feels vibrant with possibilities. And I think that’s the point. The more questions we come up with, out of frustration, disappointment, or to further immerse ourselves in its mythology, the stronger it ties in to the idea that wanting answers defines us as a species.”



Michael
Markus Schleinzer

“…it is able to transport us into the world of a pedophile where we are almost complicit in [Michael’s] actions because even though we want to stop him, there is nothing we can do to prevent him from physically, psychologically, and emotionally abusing the child…”



The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky

“…With so many children and teens who decide that their life is somehow not worth living, whether it is because of bullies that make attending school feel like walking barefoot through the embers of hell or living with a secret that cannot be shared out of fear that no one can be trusted, this film is a beacon for it shows alternatives on how one can regain control of his or her life and changing it for the better. It makes the case that the foolish twiddle with their thumbs and wait for change to happen while those who choose to participate and try to implement the changes that they want to see happen are the ones who come out on top.”



Monsieur Lazhar
Philippe Falardeau

“…I appreciated that the film is able to distinguish between thought and thinking process. In comparison, thoughts are interesting most often on the surface level. A child’s thinking process, how they attempt to make sense of a nonsensical thing, like a suicide, on the other hand, provides a backbone and emotional center to the story. We want to hear these children speak, to express their confusion, to admit to their anger, and to question why…”



Skyfall
Sam Mendes

“…Notice that there is not one completely original action sequence and yet all of them work because it is able to draw inspiration from the game-changers and construct the stunts in a such a way that it feels fresh to this universe, from an appropriate number of beats between uncomfortable silence and utter chaos to specific shots cheeky enough to remind us that Bond remains a legend and an inspiration because he is the epitome of a debonair man in a timeless suit…”



Polisse
Maïwenn

“…The screenplay should be appreciated for not being afraid to get down on the ugly details. What may appear stupid or common sense to you and me is perhaps a shining revelation to others. In that sense, the picture informs, in a genuine manner, instead of just functioning as a reminder that the world is plagued with all sorts of sickness…”



Beasts of the Southern Wild
Benh Zeitlin

“…[The picture] offers something unique to the table and it is understandable why some might be at a loss on why it is special. Because our film culture, currently, is so inundated with the familiar, I think a lot of us have learned to expect less. I hope young people as well as future filmmakers will see this, be inspired, and follow by example: that it’s perfectly okay to color outside the lines, use nail polish instead of crayons, or perhaps tear up the pages altogether and make a collage instead.”



Jiro Dreams of Sushi
David Gelb

“…Surprisingly, it shifts its focus on the vendors that Jiro and his team consistently rely on to present a pool of ingredients that taste good. Like Jiro and his apprentices, the vendors, too, are specialists. It gave me a new perspective. Before, when I would go to the market and order fish, I didn’t think of the men and women behind the glass as specialists, just people who scaled, gutted, and sliced fish. By relating the common man to Jiro, a restaurateur who commands three Michelin stars, it highlights the idea that given talent as well as skill, ordinary can truly become extraordinary; we all have to start somewhere…”



Chronicle
Josh Trank

“…As much as it is very amusing to watch the guys discover and experiment their newfangled abilities, the more interesting moments involve Andrew talking about how he feels so lonely sometimes. I must admit that I began to get a bit teary-eyed because I found myself able to relate to the essence of his loneliness. As hard as he tries to fit in during social gatherings, he just has a sensitive personality which often leads to disappointments and other emotional disasters…”



Red Lights
Rodrigo Cortés

“[The film] is unwaveringly confident as it moves from the idea that logic offers the best solution for mystifying problems to opening up the possibility that perhaps science, despite being a singularly powerful tool, does not have all the answers…”

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 1 2013

    Missed a bunch of these but check out my picks http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/12/28/best-of-2012/

    Reply
    • Jan 1 2013

      I’ll check out “Sleepwalk With Me” on Netflix streaming some time. :)

      Reply
  2. Jan 1 2013

    First let me address what I didn’t see…

    Polisse is something I meant to watch, but it came and went so quickly I couldn’t. Rental for sure.

    I know Jiro Dreams of Sushi is critically acclaimed up the wazoo, but it just sounds so dreadfully dull.

    I’ve never even heard of Michael, but I don’t know if I can endure a film like that.

    And finally Red Lights. I applaud your chutzpah for putting something so critically reviled on your list. I admire the fact that you stand by your own convictions, because I have heard nothing but horrible things about that film, my friend.

    Most everything on your list I enjoyed so BRAVO! for an overall splendid list.

    Reply
    • Jan 1 2013

      Hi Mark,

      Tell you what — if you can stomach “Polisse,” I say go on ahead and take a look at “Michael.” The latter is more unsettling in its depiction of abuse, but I think it packs quite a punch. I assure you that you will not forget it for a long time.

      I think you just might be surprised with “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” It isn’t just about making sushi, really, (but it does show a lot of delectable seafood!) but about what can accrue with passion and (very strict) discipline.

      Ah, “Red Lights.” You know, I went into the film not expecting much precisely because of the negative reviews it received. However, I was interested in its premise and I hold the main actors in high regard. While I read some criticisms that are fair, there are plenty that sound like they hold such opinion for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon. I stand by the film and am prepared to say, “I told you so” if or when it does become a cult film twenty or thirty years from now.

      Reply
  3. Jan 5 2013

    Franz,

    first, I’m sorry about letting the reply slide for a couple of days. I always look forward to your list, not least because a) you see so many movies, and thus have a great overview of the year’s output, and b) you are uncompromising in championing your favorites, regardless of general critical consensus.

    You’ve almost convinced me I should finally sit down and see “Michael”. It’s one of those movies I’ve been meaning to get around to, but the subject and the running time has been an effective deterrent. As for “Monsieur Lazhar”, it just opened in Norway, so I hope to see it soon.

    In total, I’ve seen a modest 6 of your 10 movies. As you know, I’m right behind you on “Polisse” and “Perks”. As for “Skyfall”, while it was nowhere near making my top 10, I was very pleasantly surprised by it. The action scenes were impressive, and – I mean this sincerely – it was refreshing to see an action blockbuster without having to sit through an obligatory torture scene. Sure, Bond-style movies never really aim for the psychological depth necessary to “earn” its excessive violence, but this time, it got close by at least giving the villain, played with entertaining menace by Javier Bardem, a remotely believable motivation. And, perhaps most surprising of all, I actually enjoyed the small attempts at deadpan humor, be they from Craig, Dench or Whishaw. So yeah, a solid movie, particularly considering I’ve never been much of a Bond devotee.

    Before moving on to “Prometheus”, allow me a bit of furious and unreserved self-correction. I seem to remember that at the end of the last decade, I wrote in this very space that A,I. was an underwhelming movie and not worthy of inclusion on your Top 100 of the decade. I was wrong. I’ve rewatched the movie a couple of times since then, and I can see noiw that A.I. is a beautiful and truly moving piece of cinema. Now, I only regret that I didn’t rewatch it in time to include it on my own best of the decade list.

    I write of all this because Michael Fassbender’s character and performance in “Prometheus” reminded me of Haley Joel Osment’s David in “A.I.”, in a good way. For me, he brough some much needed (if paradoxical) heart and warmth to Scott’s relatively cold picture. I wasn’t particularly taken with it as a whole, but I’ll admit that much-discussed Noomi Rapace scene (you know which one I’m talking about) was kinda great.

    It was interesting to read about your personal reaction to “Chronicle”. I didn’t have that reaction, and thus the final act of the movie was a tough sell for me. However, it was a movie I really wanted to enjoy, and for a debut feature, I think it showed promise. That said, I thought it was something of a mess narratively, and I’m kind of tired of the hand-held aesthetic.

    And speaking of breakthrough directors, there’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, which I liked a lot. People who try to protect the people closest to them but end up harming them in the process (think Curtis’ in “Take Shelter”, Bernard Berkman in “The Squid and the Whale”, and Hushpuppy’s dad in this movie), is one of my favorite motifs in cinema, and it’s devastating here, too. I had some problem with the implicit “heroism” of the defiant community (how the insisted on staying, regardless of risk; Slate’s Culture Gabfest discussed it here: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/culturegabfest/2012/12/beasts_of_the_southern_wild_the_art_world_and_beck_s_song_reader_slate_s.html ), but in all it’s a gorgeously shoot, incredibly well-acted and deeply moving piece of magical hyper-realism.

    Reply
    • Jan 6 2013

      Aloha Jørgen,

      Don’t be silly, there’s no need to apologize! We all have things going on outside of the internet so I totally don’t mind. I’m just glad you take the time to check out my list and get a chance to share your insight.

      Out of all the movies on this list, the one I really want people to see is “Michael.” It’s a small and mostly unseen movie, but I think it’s such a great way to use the art form not because sick things happen in it but because it forces us to experience what we can’t even begin to imagine or things that we refuse to even think about because the subject is taboo. On my original review, I gave the movie a 3 out 4 because it made me so uncomfortable, I found myself pausing the movie and doing something else (something fun! …or a chore around the house, anything that would take my mind away from what I had just seen). Now that months have passed, I changed my rating because it is the movie of 2012 that I thought about most often in terms of the writer-director’s decision to show (or not show) certain things a certain way.

      I hope you find “Monsieur Lazhar” as refreshing as I did. I’m sure you know the premise and I’d like to share more but I don’t want to ruin anything. =p We’ll talk about it more after you see it.

      It’s interesting that you mention “Skyfall” and its lack of torture scene because I did not notice that at all. I guess I was too engaged with everything that was happening, especially Bardem’s quiet, off-the-wall menace. My only complaint is that Naomie Harris wasn’t used more often. I think she’s so beautiful and I loved her on “28 Days Later.” I’d rather look at her than the other Bond girl, Berenice–somethin’ or other. Ha!

      I don’t remember specifically the comment you made about “A.I.,” but I do remember your disapproval of it being on the list. I believe I deleted those posts because I’ve seen more movies since then and the some of the comments I made about them I find no longer true. But! Maybe in the near future I’ll post another one of those, something that is more accurate to what I think is deserving of a spot. I’m happy that you’ve seen the light (lol–so to speak) by giving “A.I.” another chance. I have been meaning to watch it again so I can write a proper review of it… Whatever the heck happened to Haley Joel Osment?!

      Hmm, yes, I’ve read similar comments about “Prometheus” David and “A.I.” David, but I just did not (and could not) see it. When I saw the film (and I only saw it once, in theaters) I thought P-David was much colder, more menacing. I found that there was always a threat that he was going to turn against the crew, even when he was headless and all. With A-David, on the other hand, there were times when I had to remind myself, “But wait, he’s a robot.” I didn’t feel the same while watching P-David. I have to admit, though, that Fassbender was very good in portraying a cyborg. Wouldn’t wanna mess with that guy. Oh my gosh, that scene with Rapace and the machine thing–I squirmed in my seat like no other, covered my eyes (yes! …but partly, I still wanted to see), and look of sheer horror plastered all over my face. I feel sorry for pregnant women who watched that scene. LOL

      I can see where you’re coming from regarding “Chronicle.” But I do have to say this about the hand-held camera: it was utilized much better in “Chronicle” than any other horror, science fiction, action, and sci-fi/action movies of 2012 by far. I felt like the conceit is secondary to the actual story being told. Finally, Dane DeHaan — I love him. My hope is for he and Leo to be in the same movie sooner than later. It is bound to happen.

      I will take a look at that link for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” I share your feelings about the implicit “heroism” of the defiant community. Although it felt off-key, I must say that it does tie in to the idea of the marginalized sometimes so used to not being considered that when they are finally treated as visible by those in charge, being stubborn is almost like a badge of honor. I think that aspect of the picture remains underdeveloped by the end so it’s worthy of criticism.

      Reply

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