It has taken me longer than usual to make my list of the best films of the year but that is only because I had some catch up to play. I wanted to make the best list I possibly could and there were a few films I hadn't seen yet. I've pretty much seen all of the popular, over-hyped films released in 2012. You won't find them on my list but I have seen "Zero Dark Thirty", "The Master", "Lincoln",
"The Sessions", "Flight",
"Life of Pi" and "Les Miserables" among others. All good films but none of which deeply affected me.
Last year when I made my list of the best films of the year I explained the personal problems I had endure through the year. The death of my grandmother, who shared her love of movies with me, and the break-up of a relationship with a woman I thought would be "the one". I made a point of mentioning the films which touched me the most were the ones which dealt with similar issues I was going through. Sadly 2012 was no different. Once again death affected my family. This time my grandfather passed away, almost a year to the day when my grandmother died. I have been told this is common among couples that have been married for decades. And failed relationships and memories of the past filled my days.
With the lost of my grandparents it represents the end of an era. There are only a handful of relatives left who represent that generation. My grandparents were the anchors of my family. They passed on tradition to us, told us to preserve our culture. They made sure we never forget the past. We never forget who we are, where we come from. For me they provided a certain "order" to the world. And now they are gone. With them so much is now lost. My world is full of chaos and confusion. The world in general is in a confused state. What are we suppose to do now? How do we re-establish order? How do we make sense of the world again?
I tell you this information because once again, the films which affected me the most this year where the ones which dealt with themes close to my heart. The films of 2012 were about living in a world where nothing makes sense. Terrible things happen but people try to move forward. Characters needed something to believe in. They searched for hope. Without hope we have nothing. We all need something to believe in. Something to give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Something to make us face the world.
Film after film in 2012 had characters at a crossroad in their lives. Characters were in a confusing world trying to move forward.
The great movies are usually a reflection of society. There weren't too many "great ones" in 2012 but the ones we did get this year reflected the state of the world. We had a presidential election where people had to decided who could help us move forward. Wasn't "forward" President Obama's campaign slogan? There is so much going on in the world we are all scratching our heads wondering what will tomorrow bring?
Here now are my choices for the best films of 2012!
1. The Impossible (Dir. Juan Antonio Bayona; Spain) - Here is a movie about hope, family and survival. Based on a true story concerning the 2004 Tsunami and the struggles a family goes through to reunite.
The film was directed by a brilliant Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona, who topped my list back in 2007 with his feature length debut film "The Orphanage". "The Impossible" is Mr. Bayona's second film and his first in the English language. Sadly the film was not pushed by its studio and has mostly been locked out this award season. The critics didn't hype the movie in the same exaggerated way they did other movies. A shame. Naomi Watts however is nominated for an Academy Award for best actress and did receive a Golden Globe nomination as well but where is the best picture nomination? Or how about a supporting actor nomination for the young actor Tom Holland who plays her son?
2. Argo (Dir. Ben Affleck; U.S.) - For the longest time I figured this would top my list. A great piece of Hollywood filmmaking. And for my money Ben Affleck's best picture as a director. This is great, old-fashion storytelling.
3. Silver Linings Playbook (Dir. David O. Russell; U.S.) - It took me two viewings to really appreciate this movie but here is a wonderful example of the themes the films of 2012 dealt with. A movie about two people with a troubled past trying to move forward.
4. Little White Lies (Dir. Guillaume Canet; France) - Life. It is pretty damn difficult. Here is a movie about the lies we tell ourselves and the ones we tell others. A man gets into a near fatal motorcycle accident. The film deals with how his group of friends deal with the situation. What are our priorities in life? How precious is life and our time with friends and family? The film goes on a bit too long (it is over two hours) but it has strong moments and is filled with universal truths. The amazing cast includes Marion Cotillard, Francois Cluzet, Benoit Magimel and Jean Dujardin.
5. The Turin Horse (Dir. Bela Tarr; Hungary) - A film which represents the sad end of an amazing career. The uncompromising Hungarian master Bela Tarr says this will be his last film. He is retiring from filmmaking. This is a major lost for the world of cinema. But, Tarr ends his career on a high note. Probably the best film he has made since "Satantango" (1994). A deep movie about the order of things. The mundane routine of our lives. A reminder death is always around the corner in this harsh world we live in.
6. Brave (Dir. Mark Andrews / Brenda Chapman; U.S.) - This wonderful Disney / Pixar gem didn't get a strong push from the critics, who usually are tripping all over themselves in praise for Pixar. As far as I'm concern this was the best animated film of the year. A cute story about the struggle between parents and children and their constant battle trying to understand each other. The movie hits on themes of tradition and family loyalty.
7. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Turkey) - Ceylan has been a filmmaker I've always held in high esteem. A truly gifted visionary filmmaker. I didn't think he'd be able to top his film "Climates" (2007) but "Once Upon A Time" might be his masterpiece. A very interesting movie which makes us question if anyone is ever really innocent. It ask complex moral questions. Aren't we all guilty of something?
8. The Sacrifice (Dir. Chen Kaige; China) - Kaige is one of the great filmmakers to come from China (Zhang Yimou is another) in the last 25 years. Here is a film about revenge, family and moral responsibility.
9. The Dark Knight Rises (Dir. Christopher Nolan; U.S.) - Probably the greatest comic book movie I've seen. And coming from me that is quite the statement. The movie reminds me of a western. A lone man sees a world in chaos and decides it is up to him to make things right. The movie unfortunately has become associated with a terrible mass shooting in Colorado. This, I think, is what prevented the film from getting any Oscar nominations.
10. The Kid With A Bike (Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne/ Luc Dardenne; France) - A movie I wasn't prepared to enjoy as much as I did. Maybe the best film the Dardenne brothers have made since "The Son" (2002). A young boy must come to terms with a father that does not want him and build a new life with a hairdresser that has agreed to take him in. Very emotional, gripping film.
11. Monsieur Lazhar (Dir. Philippe Falardeau; Canada) - An Oscar nominee at last year's Academy Awards in the foreign film category. Here is a quiet movie about the grieving process, death and culture clash.
A teacher commits suicide in a class room. The school and the students try to make sense of this event while another teacher must deal with his own personal demons.