Favorite Films Of 2012

22 Feb 2013

"The Master"

(originally published at the now defuct Screensyndrome.com)

Anybody will do for you. Not for me. I must have somebody, and with the Oscars (silly as they may be) just hours away, paired with the time-honored tradition of self-indulgence, I’ve decided to put forth a list of my favorite films of 2012. Better late than never. God bless cinema and all her pretty whores.

The Top Ten

10) THE COMEDY This number 10 spot was difficult, but Rick Alverson’s The Comedy was a movie that worked for me because of its unusual dissection of human interaction. Tim Heidecker was surprisingly good in a dramatic role. Brooklyn bullshit. Unnerving scenes of uncomfortable ironic conversation and loads of comedians. I can see why some of my contemporaries found it annoying, but the very intentional discomfort was intended and I loved it.

9) LOOPER Best Sci-Fi of the year. The 3rd act of the film started to lose me, but the movie still worked as a whole. The tiny details were the best including the unique firearms (peashooter and blunderbuss), nods to Chinese economic domination and late 20th century fashion influences. I feel as though it could have done without the whole telekinesis sub-plot, but the audience and myself was able to push forward through the picture with little regard for its minor flaws.

8) I WISH 奇跡 Known in Japan as Kiseki (Miracle), this Japanese film brought me to tears with its unusually adept children protagonists (played by real-life brothers) who want to reach passing bullet trains to make a wish. Heartwarming without the often accompanying cheese, Koreeda uses his actors and the location perfectly in putting together a great film with a very innocent story. (This is a film from 2011 in Japan, but its American theatrical release was in 2012)

7) ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA Slow to start, but this Turkish “Who done it” has some of the most interesting visuals of any film in recent years. The narrative pushed by simple dialogue and incredible cinematography was artfully executed. The dark and piercing moments of humanity, and the mysterious ending left sad and fulfilled. 

6) DJANGO UNCHAINED Western, blaxploitation who’s violence and outrageous illustration of the madness that was and is racism is all Tarantino. Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio commanded memorable screen control. Tarantino’s kitschy cameo is the only down-side to this modern Western/Southern.

5) SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK Beloved director of I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter and Three Kings, David O Russell creates a vision of Bipolar America where fuzzy lines are drawn between the “crazies” and the “norms.” The film’s narrative maintained a tone that jumped seamlessly from hilarious to emotionally gripping. The recently obnoxious Bradley Cooper was perfect, as was Jennifer Lawrence and De Niro. Simple, American fun. More clever than people are willing to admit.

4) MOONRISE KINGDOM Though this film has been the subject of some criticism from those near and dear to me, Moonrise Kingdom is attractive, vivid and entertaining. Of all of Wes Anderson’s previous films, Moonrise Kingdom might the most meticulously planned in terms of the auteur’s aesthetic and attention to detail. One of my favorite Anderson films? No. One of the best films of 2012? Without a doubt. Loved the one long shot of Bob Balaban’s narration to the weather balloon in the darkness to the boat with the children passing to shore, as well as everything that happens on the beach that would be named Moonrise Kingdom.

3) AMOUR French actors/language. German studio. Austrian director. Michael Haneke, director of Funny Games, gives the viewer a brutal and moving translation of love and death. Psychotically sad, but worth the pain. I wanted to kill myself more than once, but in the best way. Great performances from Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. Haneke’s choice to subject the viewer to a brutal depiction of the reality of a slow death was shocking and unforgettable.

2) HOLY MOTORS The much talked about Franco-German comeback film from Leos Carax is the elusive Holy Motors. The multiple characters played by Denis Lavant threw me into a new world every ten minutes. What is real and what is trash? An avant-garde film with sci-fi undertones that takes on the future’s meaning of acting and cinema itself. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I’m still sorting through it in my mind. Who are the actors? Dream-like images of future versions of myself and everyone else we’ll meet. 

1) THE MASTER Regardless of what the majority of audiences are willing to admit, The Master is a truly unique illustration of a very particular sort of American discontentment and the best film of 2012. The lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix is heartbreaking and a feat that is easily on par with any performance this year. With cinematography from Mihai Malaimare in astonishing 65mm, a fitting soundtrack by Radiohead’s ever-impressive Jonny Greenwood and a chiseled vision by director Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master is a noteworthy followup to 2010’s There Will Be Blood. Master was the only film of 2012 that I wanted to watch again immediately after it finished. Strange, ambiguous long shots of motorcycle rides in the desert, spiking our cocktails with paint thinner, hazy memories of masturbating into the sea. The Master is the great American Film.

Honorable Mentions

1). Beasts of The Southern Wild - Magically real epic on the bayou.

2). Cosmopolis - David Cronenberg’s interesting adaptation of Don Dellilo’s novel. Sexy asymmetrical prostate squeezing, limo driving fun.

3). Sleepwalk with Me -Film-making debut of comic Mike Birbiglia. Semi autobigraphical tale of the young comics battle with comedy, relationships and sleepwalking. Honest, well done and very funny.

4). The Deep Blue Sea - A Dour English romance that is stunning in parts and over the top, melodrama in others.

5). The Color Wheel - Annoying as it was cool. This Clerks-esque indie is worth the watch.

Favorite Actor in a Lead Role: Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

Favorite Actor in a Supporting Role: Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Favorite Female Actor in a Lead Role: Emmanuel Riva for Amour

Favorite Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables

Favorite Sunday Afternoon Films (Very Fun but far from great. Perfect for a hangover.)

The Dark Knight Rises




Favorite Comedies

Sleepwalk with Me

Jeff Who Lives At Home


Casa De Mi Padre


Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie


Zero Dark Thirty (Very well done, but I had no interest in it.)

Life Of Pi

Skyfall (though I enjoyed it)

Les Miserables (Overrated, but the music and vocal performances are amazing)

Publicly Notable Films I Failed To See


The Loneliest Planet


Read the list at screen syndrome film blog.