2012 was a wonderful year for movies. I could have listed a top 35 without breaking a sweat and loving every damned one of them. Breaking myself off at 20 caused some internal consternation - it illed my constitution, y'all. So my apologies to [names redacted to keep the crowd guessing], I loved you too, but I only have so much time of everybody's to waste and this is gonna have to do. Let's go!
Anna Karenina (dir. Wright) - See what I mean? In a dumpier year this would easily be top ten material, and here it is one dainty slipper, one tuft of passionately loosed hair, clinging to the top twenty. I think what Wright did was marvelous though, and Knightley marvels as well in ways I'd never seen from her before - ways that make me look forward to watching her mature even more than I had been. And the music box spins, so beautiful and suffocating. (original review)
How To Survive a Plague (dir. France) Sometimes you can't separate a film from how you saw it, and having been at the NYC premiere of this with so many of the activists and survivors I'd just watched on-screen in attendance made this already tremendously powerful movie even more resonant. I was too young when the events depicted here were happening to fully get it at the time, and now that I'm old enough to get it, this film as a document, as a testament, it awes. (original review)
The American Scream (dir. Stephenson) I wish it happened more often that before the end credits were even through with a movie I was hitting the back button and starting the movie over, watching it an immediate second time, but that's a rare bird. Bless Michael Stephenson then, for serving up the most delicious rare bird. I can't say TAS is gonna be everybody's delight-fest like it was mine, but it's so perfectly attuned to my pleasure center - it's crack for Halloween lovers. (original review)
The Wise Kids (dir. Cone) There's always a period at the start of a new year where I'm playing catch up, trying to see the movies I missed before getting to these awards, and watching The Wise Kids is exactly the experience I'm hoping to have every time. Something that comes out of nowhere (not that Joe is nowhere!) to knock my socks off. Socks fully knocked. Faith is an iffy topic for me - I don't often have a lot of patience for it, but then movies don't often have the patience to have honest discussions about it either. The Wise Kids is wise beyond its years. (original review)
No (dir. Larraín) the first of two Gael Garcia Bernal movies on the list! He and one other fellow to be determined are the only foregrounded repeaters. No's the kind of movies that makes me mad about American movies (indeed I spent the whole of my review of it using it to bash Argo). It's just such a smart compelling take on smart compelling material filled with smart compelling characters that Hollywood seems to have so little interest in making these days, much to my chagrin. At least we've got some folks in Chile willing to make the effort. (original review)
The Kid With a Bike (dir. The Dardenne Bros.) How is this movie only 87 minutes long? Talk about a master class in efficiency - I feel as if I lived this young boy's life, from every angle. It's sincere from inside out - there's enough heartbreak and hope and horror for a lifetime, all wrapped up in one determined kid on two quick (too quick) wheels.
Bullhead (dir. Roskam) A fascinating dissection of modern masculinity, with a towering star-making performance from Matthias Schoenaerts - what makes simultaneously unmakes the man. (original review)
Cosmopolis (dir. Cronenberg) I didn't like Cosmopolis the first time I saw it, but something totally clicked into place on a second viewing. Yeah it's airless and episodic, but once I slipped into its very particular groove there was no turning back. Airless and episodic is where it's at when the movie can convince you that you never needed air to breathe - just words, tectonic shaking eruptions of them. That said I do the film a discredit by implying it's a coldly Cronenbergian intellectual exercise - that second viewing is where its heart revealed itself; a pulse, sort and sad, thrums alongside that limousine. (original review)
The Loneliest Planet (dir. Loktev) Hi Gael, again! This movie is one moment, and everything that ripples forward in time and backwards in time from it like you hear about in time travel science-fiction stories. For some people that might not be enough; I consider this a ten course feast. The before and the after, presented nearly identically, and yet it's as if we've slipped through the looking glass. I found it to be an entirely hypnotic experience. (original review)
Wuthering Heights (dir. Andrea Arnold) I didn't even notice until just now that I put right next to each other two movies directed by women where plot's largely eschewed in favor of staring at stalks of grass moodily, but here we be. And oh such mood! And oh such staring! And oh such stalks of grass! This novel's never felt more immediate to me - more tactile, more profound. (original review)
Coming tomorrow... Numbers 10 - 1!