04 February 2013

The 10 Best Films of 2012 (Part 1)

moonrise kingdom 1

According to Letterboxd (which I'm officially obsessed with), I saw 73 of the 2012 releases. That's not as high as it should be, but it's not terrible. I'm usually able to avoid the vast majority of the dreck, which keeps the total down but my sanity in check, and while I'm able to get screeners on occasion, I'm still largely dependent on location and such. Basically, I have trouble getting to the Oscar limited release stuff before the Muriels deadline (January 31st). Netflix Instant helps. A lot.

Some notable films I missed: Amour, Django Unchained, It's Such a Beautiful Day, Searching For Sugar Man, Life of Pi, The Cabin In The Woods, and Promised Land.

Having said all that, here are the 10 best films I saw in 2012, in 2 parts:

1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)

At my core, I'm an Auteurist. I think the Auteur Theory is probably one of the smartest things ever written about film. And nowhere is the Auteur Theory more evident than in the work of Wes Anderson. You don't even need the credit anymore. You know instantly you're watching a Wes Anderson film. You also know what you're getting: twee art direction, actors in the center of the frame, Bill Murray. And yet, Anderson's seventh film is his deepest, richest exploration of childhood yet, like he's finally gotten it right.

2. Sleepwalk With Me (Mike Birbiglia)

To me, this is the surprising gem of the year. How it isn't getting more award consideration is beyond me. It's a funny and inventive debut. Honestly, my expectations were low. I fully expected this to be one of those Sundance films that loses all appeal once it leaves Park City, but it's possible it was undersold. Whatever Mike Birbiglia does next, I'm on board.

3. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)

According to IMDb, there are 30 takes in The Turin Horse. Three-zero. The film is 2 hours and 26 minutes long. There's almost no dialogue. There's four names in the credits and one of those is the horse. Wrap your head around that for a minute. It's a bleak, relentlessly dismal view of humanity from one of the masters of cinema. And it's riveting. A lot has been said about the opening shot, but the final one is just as powerful, only for completely different reasons. And the other 28 aren't so bad either. Actually, there isn't a frame of the film that couldn't tell a story all by itself. When was the last time you could say that?

4. Alps (Giorgos Lanthimos)

Not nearly as strange and unnerving as Dogtooth (but what could be?), Alps plays out quite a bit more conventionally, but it ain't exactly a romantic comedy either. It's strangely compelling in a completely different way, as Giorgos Lanthimos gives us, ultimately, a film about acting, about the process of becoming someone else. It's not a film that's going to blow you away, instead Lanthimos gets under your skin somehow and before you know it, you're hooked.

5. Indie Game: The Movie (Lisanne Pajot & James Swirsky)

This might only be interesting to me, but there's more Kickstarter films on this list (2) than there are Best Picture Nominees (1). What does that say about the state of film these days? Well, I think it means that great filmmaking can quite literally come from anywhere, which has always been true in theory, but now it's a lot easier to get those films over the hump and into existence. Which, in a way, is kind of what Indie Game is about. They've finished marching around Jericho. It's time for the walls to come down. This is a fascinating look behind the scenes of indie video games, chronicling the obsession behind creating something. It's a must-see for anyone who fancies themselves an artist.

To be continued...