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TOH! Top Tens of 2012 (UPDATED)

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by TOH!
December 20, 2012 12:26 PM
12 Comments
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The Loneliest Planet
'The Loneliest Planet'

RYAN LATTANZIO

For this top 10, my favorite top 10 in years, for my favorite movie year since maybe 2007, I went with my gut. Rather than try and convince myself that I loved all the obscure, esoteric offerings out there, I chose films that moved me and made me feel something. With the except of a few arthouse giants, most of the filmmakers I've mentioned are young, burgeoning, intrepid risk-takers who may pratfall here and there, but whom are the future of our cinema.
 
1. “Take This Waltz,” Sarah Polley

A sumptuous, dizzying jaunt through love and all its warts, Sarah Polley's delicate, deceptively small film charmed me with the winsome performances of its romantically challenged leads, its lush visual treatment of Toronto, and a script that -- however on-the-nose -- is funny and feel-good but not afraid to dip into the lower depths of learning how to be alone.
 
2. “Amour,” Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke's "Amour" is the sort of imposing arthouse monolith you may feel you must love but actually don't. But I did. All this talk of the brilliance of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva is true. It's like walking through a gallery of dying French cinema titans. Haneke sets his penchant for castigation aside -- but thankfully, not his spartan style and brutal unsentimentality -- in the best film he's ever done.
 
3. "The Color Wheel," Alex Ross Perry

Director and star Alex Ross Perry co-wrote the film opposite Carlen Altman, our year's manic pixie dream girl par excellence, in one summer. And in that time, they were miraculously able to craft the snappiest, squirmiest, and most chatty indie of lost souls of the year — all while playing the leads, a brother and sister pair with bundles of neuroses and baggage. Rarely has the plight of the adrift late-twentysomething been captured so exuberantly — and in the grainy glory of 16mm — with so much psychosexual dysfunction. Perry out-mumblecores mumblecore.

4. "The Loneliest Planet," Julia Loktev

Loktev's spare yet visually fecund adaptation of a little-known short story is the perfect example of Manny Farber's idea of "termite art." That a film as small as this one, with a revelatory lead performance by Hani Furstenberg as the female half of a wayward young couple mired in betrayal, manages to be as revolutionary as — if not more than — some of the big elephants of the year puts a song in my heart.


5. "In Another Country," Hong Sang-soo
Two Hong films reached our shores this year -- "In Another Country" and "The Day He Arrives." While the former is not so much a radical departure for Hong and his trademark affinity for the meta-antics of long sozzled, chain-smoked conversations amid filmmakers, it is the South Korean director's first film that feels high on the possibilities of cinema, as if (re-)discovering it for the first time.


6. "Paradise: Love," Ulrich Seidl

Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl is some kind of latter-day Pasolini in his unflinching use of brute symmetry and highly constructed set piece as a means to suffuse the banal with a colorful sense of wonderment. All the boos and jeers at Cannes should be long forgotten by the time, if ever, this other film called "Love" comes stateside -- this is a funny, tragic piece with an amazing lead performance by Margarete Tiesel as a dowdy sex tourist at its center.


7. "Silver Linings Playbook," David O. Russell

Levy any criticism of this unabashedly heartwarming charmer upon me and I will likely concede. I cannot explain away some of the faults and contrivances of David O. Russell's cracked, whacko romantic comedy but I can forgive them. In a year of chilly, arthouse dirges, no film kept a smile on my face as consistently as this one. For once, a feel-good movie that earns its foolish feel-goodery.  Jennifer Lawrence > Jessica Chastain.

8. "The Master," Paul Thomas Anderson
Like "Amour," "The Master" is another one of those skyscraper movies that feels imposing and large, at once out of your reach but made specifically for you, that you may feel you have to love even if you don't "get" it. I don't love all of it. I think Phoenix overdid it, and even, at times, Hoffman. But unlike many of the film's detractors, I adore "The Master" for its ambiguity and fearlessness in terms of storytelling. Anderson does leaps and hurdles over his own "There Will Be Blood," forsaking tight, rigorous style for filmmaking that is looser, more open and potentially more dangerous.

9. "Kill List," Ben Wheatley
Holy hell, this is a fucked up movie. It is the occult movie sent caterwauling, the Lynchian art film crossbred with the One Last Job crime movie. With impeccably creepy sound design, a looming sense of dread and a balls-to-the-walls willingness toward batshit insanity, "Kill List" is the best horror movie in years. And it's unfair to call it a horror movie, because that kind of genre-pigeonholing doesn't do this film justice, nor do any adjectives or alliterations I could possible conjure.

10. "Shit Year," Cam Archer
Does this count as a 2012 release? I don't know, but let's run with it. It debuted at Cannes' Un Certain Regard in 2010 and floated around in the ether until reaching San Francisco this past summer, which is when I caught it. Archer's disturbing, cinematic fluxus box of jagged, jangled images is one of the most criminally forgotten films of this or any year. Clad in a fur coat and fiery wit, Ellen Barkin plays the kind of iconic diva only a gay man who's seen "Opening Night" a thousand times could have dreamed up.
 
Honorable Mentions, which I loved as much as the rest: Antonio Mendez Esparza's "Here and There" (I love quiet, subtle movies that eschew obscurity); Leos Carax's "Holy Motors" (inventive but kind of soulless); Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" (this is the year of "messy," "sprawling" filmmaking, isn't it?); Xavier Dolan's "Laurence Anyways" (see this in the Spring).
 

12 Comments

  • Austin | December 28, 2012 9:47 PMReply

    Great lists! I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought TDKR has received undeserved praise.

  • raprap | December 28, 2012 1:39 PMReply

    AMOUR for me was the best film this year. Hands down.

  • Simon Paiva | December 26, 2012 7:06 PMReply

    Ok, I just need to say something here. I've been trough all the lists and I see that The Hobbit was not mentioned in any of them, not even as an " honorable mention", and I find that to be quite unnaceptable. Anyone with knowledge of Tolkien's book knew months prior to seing the film, that it was not going to be like LOTR, it's a different story, different aproach at times. But I didn't think the movie was dissapointing. It's Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth after nine years, that alone for me made the movie the biggest cinematic event of the year. And it didnt made it into any of these lists? and movies like: Hunger Games, Premium Rush and Cabin in the Woods did? Seriously???

  • LeZee | December 21, 2012 7:53 AMReply

    Really good specially Top5

  • JAB | December 19, 2012 8:23 PMReply

    After revisiting "The Dark Knight Rises" & getting some distance from it on a 32" Blu-Ray TV screen after having 1st catching it on IMAX this summer, I think this film maybe even better than "The Dark Knight" & will go down as the most under-appreciated movie in an "awards season" since Michael Mann's crime classic "Heat". How long is Christopher Nolan going to have to wait for his Oscar?
    (I loved "Lincoln" & "Argo" & really enjoyed "John Carter" & "Flight". Haven't seen "Zero..." yet, but I'm big fan of Kathryn Bigelow.)

  • JAB | December 19, 2012 8:23 PMReply

    After revisiting "The Dark Knight Rises" & getting some distance from it on a 32" Blu-Ray TV screen after having 1st catching it on IMAX this summer, I think this film maybe even better than "The Dark Knight" & will go down as the most under-appreciated movie in an "awards season" since Michael Mann's crime classic "Heat". How long is Christopher Nolan going to have to wait for his Oscar?
    (I loved "Lincoln" & "Argo" & really enjoyed "John Carter" & "Flight". Haven't seen "Zero..." yet, but I'm big fan of Kathryn Bigelow.)

  • Steve G | December 16, 2012 9:47 PMReply

    Is a list from Meredith Brody forthcoming?

  • eurocheese | December 15, 2012 9:13 PMReply

    Love all the lists and loved hearing Anne's comments on the podcast. It's been such a wonderful year for movies. In other years I've ended up passionately defending the one or two I really like, but this year there is so much to love. I'm hoping Jan/Feb just serve as catch up time to watch all the great films we had in 2012. We need more years where a slew of great directors make top tier work and we all walk away liking them more!

  • John | December 15, 2012 6:34 PMReply

    I think I like Jacob Combs list best. No critic would probably put it in their top 10 list for the year, but I had a hell of a good time watching the Avengers. A few good movies (like the Master and Lincoln) I still haven't gotten around to seeing yet.

  • brian fantana | December 14, 2012 11:14 PMReply

    so BEASTS is a better film than either DARK KNIGHT RISES or SKYFALL - seriously??? the absence of serious film criticism in this country is stunning (but then again not surprising given this blogger's history)

  • Sara | December 18, 2012 12:40 PM

    Dude... TDKR was bad... I mean... when you really think about it... I can see that was a bad film

  • turner | December 16, 2012 11:37 AM

    @Brian-Beasts is an original piece of work and deserves mention here. Batman and James Bond are well executed rehash.

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