By Eric Kohn | Criticwire December 19, 2012 at 12:55PM
There are plenty of diverse opinions evident from the lists of best films, performances and other highlights from 2012 in film submitted by over 200 critics in Indiewire's poll. While the consensus surrounding certain achievements may generate a lot of attention, there's a lot more to be explored in the differences between various critics' opinions on what truly defined this year's biggest accomplishments.
In addition to voting in 10 categories, critics were invited to submit comments to flesh out their ballots. Here excerpts from some of our favorites. Follow the links for more and browse the full results of the survey here.
"The big news about 2012 is that American popular culture was rescued by a quirkily sexy twentynothing woman with a lot of privilege and not much experience. No, not Lena Dunham, ding-dong! Megan Ellison! I think the "big story" here should be Sharon Waxman's disgraceful article about how Megan Ellison is set to "ruin the movie business"--yes, if ruining means making sure THE MASTER, KILLING THEM SOFTLY and ZERO DARK THIRTY were actual great movies instead of a twinkle in their makers' eyes. Someone should post that article, and I hope people in Indiewire-Land would noodle on it...and comment on why it is that if a very rich woman spends some money on films by PTA/Dominik/K-Big, it's a potential "ruination of the business," yet whatever executive hit send on JOHN CARTER or BATTLESHIP or MARS NEEDS MOMS or whatever big lamebrain turkey you can think of...remains unknown. Anonymous.
"The triage involved in picking a top ten released movies was painful in this exceptionally rich movie-watching year. Having only one documentary choice was also hard since this was a terrific year for docs. I couldn't find a place, for example, for the engaging, surprising 'Searching for Sugar Man.' And there are also many more than ten movies without distribution that I want to see in theaters. And what constitutes distribution, or the promise of same, anyway? This was an exceptionally fine year for movies in all categories."
2012 for me will be highlighted by the essential repertory releases that truly deserve our attention. Most notably, the complete retros of Aleksi German and Pierre Etaix are the highlight, two of the most imaginative directors working completely in a mode of their own, and getting their work to DVD for large consumption is now of the utmost importance. A number of other essential films made repertory rounds over the last year: "Celine and Julie Go Boating," "The Connection," "The Gang's All Here," "Heaven's Gate," "Daises," "The Devil, Probably," and "Ruggles of Red Cap." And thankfully, all but one of these was show in 35mm. I hope it stays that way in 2013.
I was especially impressed by this year's documentaries and chose to highlight in my Best Films of 2012 list several documentaries made by individuals who risked their lives and careers to speak out against authoritarian systems. Whether it is Jafar Panahi of 'This Is Not a Film,' Masha Drokova of 'Putin's Kiss,' or Ai Weiwei of 'Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,' these individuals showed that for art to truly flourish, there first must exist freedom.
"As for trends, I am thrilled to see the success of some films with a certain 1970s style of filmmaking. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Ides of March had it last year and Argo had it this year. Thinking person's thrillers? This year also produced two of the most exciting, original and profoundly cinematic films in recent memory and they're on complete opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Cloud Atlas are both incredible works of art from groups of gifted filmmakers and performers and both cause great debate among critics and moviegoers. That's the best kind of art, in my opinion."
"The marketplace isn't the only arena for the cinema, and neither are film festivals. I honestly don't know what the best arena is, but there's a political spark in my heart that says we needn't worry about such a consideration at all. Then again, I'm participating here, so, I'm plenty complicit within this smaller ball of wax that you can't quite detach from the ever-growing blob of magma that is the world and all its money-mad machinations. I mean, I'm an American: I don't see myself as a cog, a true member of the proletariat (scary syllables!), my ego tells me to see myself as a temporarily embarrassed millionaire."