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The Best Films Of 2012...So Far

by The Playlist Staff
June 21, 2012 9:58 AM
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"Moonrise Kingdom"
The mostly delightful "Fantastic Mr. Fox" aside, it's been hard not to feel that Wes Anderson's live-action output has been on something of a slide since "Rushmore." There have been moments to love from "The Royal Tenenbaums" to "The Darjeeling Limited," but it felt like the emotion became more and more dishonest, and the worlds more and more airless over time, to the extent that 'Darjeeling' and its eye-rolling baggage metaphor felt like a parody of an Anderson film. But we'd had good vibes about his seventh feature, "Moonrise Kingdom," in the run up to its release, and Wes delivered with a film that was simultaneously like the most Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson film he's made, and yet also the biggest departure. Telling the story through the eyes of a child is something of a genius stroke, absolutely making sense of the heightened reality in a way that some of the more recent films didn't, and the tender (but never quite precious) burgeoning romance and coming-of-age aspects are beautifully drawn. And along with those ace performances from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward were the adults, with turns from Anderson veterans (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzmann) that more than lived up to their previous collaborations, and contributions from Anderson newbies (Edward Norton, Bruce Willis) that showed entirely new colors in the paintbox from some established stars. From its idyllic, adventurous setting to the selection of music and Alexandre Desplat's tremendous score, it somehow felt like a classic kids' film (arguably more so than 'Fox') airing on TV on a Sunday afternoon, while also featuring some of the most exciting filmmaking of 2012 so far. Good to have you back, Wes (read our review).

"Sound of My Voice
On the razor’s edge of suspense lies Zal Batmanglij’s directorial debut, a film that tests the nerves of any thrill-loving moviegoer who thinks they’ve seen it all. We’re immediately thrown into the world of Peter and Lorna, two documentary filmmakers who refuse to shrink from their thesis, dead-set on exposing a phony cult leader who becomes more convincing every single day. As the ethereal Maggie, Brit Marling’s bewitching, alluring presence is both achingly sensual and diabolically Machiavellian, as she turns the most innocuous words into threats, her soft voice and sand-pebble eyes demanding that those who attempt to go down the rabbit hole with her abandon everything they know and love about their past voices. “Sound of My Voice” is almost sickeningly sterile, a counterpoint to the messy, rural landscape of another recent “cult” film, “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” But while you’re never in doubt as to the intentions of the group in that film, “Sound of My Voice” is creepily compelling, an immersive cinematic experience that quietly lulls you before smashing into what would be the year’s most talked-about ending had distributor Fox Searchlight properly marketed the film. For those of you who intend to catch up on DVD, go in blindly, as each twist in the film’s narrative, each tweak of the believability of Maggie’s otherworldly story, opens up infinite possibilities. As “Sound of My Voice” unspools, it becomes clear it’s not happening in the screen so much as it’s slowly unfolding a universe of paradoxes inside your head (read our review).

"The Forgiveness of Blood"
The sins of the father as they pass from generation to generation and the limits of family loyalty are the two taut central themes of Joshua Marston’s powerful sophomore feature film. Moving from the Colombian drug tale of “Maria Full of Grace,” his latest effort finds him deep in Albania where traditional methods for dealing with disputes between neighbors clash with an evolving, slowly progressing society. And that’s where the teenage Nik (Tristan Halilaj) finds himself caught. When his father is accused of murder, his family is essentially exiled, with the men ordered to stay housebound as the elders confer to decide on a suitable punishment (this can sometimes take years). With his father on the run, and Nik unable to work, it falls to his younger sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej) to pick up the slack. What emerges in this multi-layered film is a portrait of how an antiquated system is unable to contain the tides of change. Nik cleverly works around the system to stay in touch with his best friend, and even begin a fledgling relationship, while his sister is given a crash course in the difficulties of making ends meet. As things come to a head, Nik is faced with an impossible choice between saving himself or honoring a blood bound tradition. Immaculately shot, and presenting a fascinating world we simply haven’t seen on the big screen before, “The Forgiveness of Blood” is a remarkable slow burning drama that presents the complex and sometimes puzzle-shaped nature of family relationships, and the tangle of their history that we can sometimes get caught up in (read our review).

"The Deep Blue Sea"
Though both the filmmakers and the setting for their films are separated by decades, Terence Davies’ latest shares much in common with Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz.” In both films, women chase the excitement of new love and sex, only to realize that passion can be fleeting or, more in the case of “The Deep Blue Sea,” not quite what you thought it would be. Based on the play by Terence Rattigan, the film is led by a towering, heartbroken performance by Rachel Weisz, who plays Hester Collyer, married to a much older, respected judge (Simon Russell Beale), who chases an affair with a dashing, handsome fighter pilot played by Tom Hiddleston. What emerges is a deeply affecting portrait of the complexity that relationships carry with them, the blurred line between love and lust, and the emotional peaks and deep, dark valleys the blue flame of intense passion can carry us into. Pitched against the social mores of 1950s England and the class divisions that were more pronounced at the time, only heightens the power of Davies’ already soft-focused, amber-toned and stylized film, which itself feels as if it were (beautifully) unearthed from another era. Masterfully constructed, with a torrent of emotion that ripples beneath nearly every scene without a wasted word, moment or frame, “The Deep Blue Sea” presents the idea that love lost and love gained can often share the same beautiful pain (read our review).

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  • Jeff | August 1, 2012 2:24 PMReply

    I just saw "Take This Waltz" last night and oh my god was it atrocious. It was convoluted, disjointed, and meandering. My friends and I described it as "if David Lynch were to do a rom com/dramedy", using his usual Lynchian trademarks, but failed miserably on every level. I want my money back. That aside, most of this list is pretty solid. I like how the Playlist equally balances commercial, indie, and foreign films. Although "21 Jump Street" was one of if not THE worst film I've seen this year. I'm glad they brought up "Kill List", as that was one of the most diabolically clever movies I've seen of that genre in as far back as I can remember.

  • Richardo | June 26, 2012 1:15 AMReply

    Have never seen anything about Ava Duverney's Middle of Nowhere on here. Won Sundance Best Director and I finally saw at LAFF last week and it kinda knocked my socks off. That and All is Well and Sunkissed were really quite excellent. Saw all at LAFF.

  • bohmer | June 24, 2012 8:58 PMReply

    I'd put THE GREY and LAURENCE ANYWAYS in that list, both films are a bit flawed but so much refreshing and surprising.

  • Leonardo | June 23, 2012 4:57 PMReply

    Damn i have to wait till some of these get to my country, and other ones were arlready here but i dind't have money to go to the cinemas.

  • Alan | June 22, 2012 3:32 AMReply

    Thomas Doret should played Aaron Cross in 'The Bourne Legacy'. The CIA would never be able to catch this kid.

  • basilbeast | June 21, 2012 4:49 PMReply

    If you're going to stick Avengers in with this eclectic selection of visual fare, I'd add John Carter ( of Mars ).

  • basilbeast | June 21, 2012 8:43 PM

    Interesting, I had the same reaction to Avengers sharing space with your 20 best list. A glitzy cgi remake of "Master of the World" ( Vincent Price starring, in case you were unaware of it ) with a plot-line to answer my Top Question of the Cinematic Year, "Whatever are they gonna do with the Hulk?"

    But still, I'm happy that I made you happy, even for a brief fleeting moment.

  • Katie Walsh | June 21, 2012 7:26 PM


  • Tim | June 21, 2012 1:23 PMReply

    The best films out so far this year was "The Deep Blue Sea" (Rachel Weisz's performance was amazing) and "Moolight Kingtom". The rest of the year so far has been mediocre at best.

  • Lady in Waiting | June 21, 2012 1:52 PM

    Loved Rachel Weisz in Deep Blue Sea, her performance was actually better than the film itself but she kept you interested in it till the end. A Oscar worthy turn by her.

    P.S. I think you mean Moonrise Kingdom;)

  • ben | June 21, 2012 12:50 PMReply

    Hey, I loved the list. You got some really great films there. But in terms of documentaries, I thought "Indie Game" definitely should be mentioned. I found it to be one of the most fascinating and entertaining documentaries I have seen in quite sometime. I know it played in limited release but I really think it should be searched out for those who love documentaries.

  • gerty | June 21, 2012 12:36 PMReply

    for me the best was jeff who lives at home so far, i did enjoy some others as well but they didnt exactly stood out. cant wait to see monrise kingdom and pretty much anything else from my most anticipated list. personally i think 2012 has been pretty bad for movies so far but the second half will probably make it one of the best years in recent history.

  • AS | June 21, 2012 12:04 PMReply

    At this point in the year there isn't much to choose from but The Deep Blue Sea is by far the best so far.

  • Brian | June 21, 2012 11:45 AMReply

    Out of curiosity, what are we considering 'Kill List' at this juncture? 2011 or 2012?

  • Brian | June 21, 2012 12:04 PM

    Thanks. I'm working on my own list and it's one of those border oddities.

  • The Playlist | June 21, 2012 11:52 AM

    Yeah, Kill List is technically 2012 so technically should be on this list somewhere. We'll likely amend soon. thanks for this Brian. Most of us saw it in 2011 and I guess we unfortunately forgot about it.

  • Oogle monster | June 21, 2012 11:29 AMReply

    Moonrise Kingdom ftw! Also, Take this Waltz- while I can defend it to a certain degree (the cinematography and score are splendid and Rogen gives a commendable performance)- Michelle Williams is essentially playing Cindy from Blue Valentine with an awful wig, chubbier face, and hipster meets farmers market clothing. I say this as a big big big fan of Williams, Polley and especially Blue Valentine. It’s an extension of her character in BV… transplanted to Canada. I’d say go see it to watch Rogen play the straight-laced guy (and he has a few funny zingers as well) but there isn’t much to it other than the fact that you want to slap Williams’ character in the face for being sullen ALL THE TIME.

  • Cribbster | June 21, 2012 11:25 AMReply

    I would have included "Goon" and HBO's "Game Change" over "The Deep Blue Sea" and "Safety Not Guaranteed."

    I might need to see "Deep Blue Sea" again (I was really disappointed), but I'm positive "Safety Not Guaranteed" is only slightly better than mediocre. It's not terribly funny, and the film really only becomes about whether the guy can travel through time. The filmmakers try to distract you from that with a bunch of shallow character stuff, but it's an aggressively mediocre movie, I think.

  • bonzob | June 21, 2012 11:50 AM

    On the one hand, I really liked Goon, and agree it could have received a mention here. Sweet, funny, strong performances, hugely entertaining.

    On the other hand, I completely disagree on Safety Not Guaranteed. I found it very funny, I don't think it's ever really about "whether the guy can travel through time," and the character work was solid for a movie of this sort -- far from shallow.

  • matt | June 21, 2012 10:26 AMReply

    no love for Oslo, August 31?

  • Mike | June 21, 2012 8:53 PM

    Totally agree on this one.

  • Rodrigo | June 21, 2012 10:54 AM

    Yeah, personally I have yet to see it, but I'm a huge fan of "Reprise" so it's possible it could end up on my year-end list.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | June 21, 2012 10:30 AM

    Oh, shit, good point. It was in my Top 10 last year, I'd forgotten it finally got a U.S. release. Not sure how many others on staff saw it: I know Kevin did, but was a bit cooler on it than me.

  • Monica | June 21, 2012 10:09 AMReply

    Great list, except forThe Avengers was a stupid blockbuster. Script full of holes and horrible performances.

  • Andy | June 21, 2012 12:05 PM

    And the critics that gave it 93 percent positive in Rotten Tomatoes are stupid, too. In that case, you should replace them, man. Or you could make a movie with the performances less "horrible" than the performances of The Avengers. If you can, I'll watch your movie and enjoy it!
    Hope you're not a Batman's fan that hates everything about Marvel.

  • bonzob2000 | June 21, 2012 10:44 AM

    Wrong. Horrible performances, seriously?

    Also, did I miss it, or is there no mention of Headhunters? And I think I liked it more than most of the Playlist, but I thought Bullhead deserved a mention.

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