best film: It took 4 viewings for me to get there but I’m now pretty damn confident that PT Anderson’s The Master is the class of 2012. It edges out and replaces Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom which is wonderful as well. The Master may have the male acting performance of the decade thus far (Phoenix) but really it’s the formal and visual brilliance (oh that ocean wake in 70mm) of this film that sets it apart. The ending is absolutely brilliant and the film makes a great pairing with There Will Be Blood. It’s much closer in quality than most critics are currently recognizing.
most underrated: Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is strong epic filmmaking with gorgeously constructed set pieces and strong use of Imax cameras. It doesn’t have the narrative punch of The Dark Knight (2008) or the Ledger performance (though Hardy is awesome here) and I hate the finale where cat woman kills Bane and then makes a cheeseball joke that would be better suited in Pirates of the Caribbean 7– but still—this is the most underrated film of 2012 currently. The TSPDT critics have it as the 36th best film of 2012 and that’s just impossible when you combine the technical craftsmanship, Nolan’s parallel editing work, and some of the performances from Bale/Cotillad/Caine.
most overrated: Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is #4 on the TSPDT list for 2012 and after one viewing I’m at complete loss as to why. I didn’t even put it in my archives so it’s likely that I’m missing something. This year is a little loaded for me in this category as I’m not connecting with the critics on many films so far (they have Amour as #1). But it’s early- this was only 5-6 years ago.
gem I want to spotlight: Baumbach’s Frances Ha is a quieter entry into the top 5 after the large footprint of the grandiloquent filmmaking of the Anderson brothers, Tarantino and Nolan. But Baumbach’s sneaky coming-of-age comedy is a bit of Woody’s Manhattan and a bit Truffaut. It accentuates Gerwig’s talents better than any other vehicle for her thus far and is indelibly charming.
trends and notables: I feel great about my top 5 but I’m a mess and all over the place with the bottom 5 of my top 10. I guess it’s not that strange since this was all 5 years ago or less but that second half of the top 10 will look drastically different with another pass through these films. It’s a big year for PT Anderson with a long layoff between There Will Be Blood. The Master is his most difficult film to take, the most opaque, but it’s extremely rewarding and holds up, thrives and rewards upon repeat visits. It’s just such a big year with all of the generation’s most talented auteurs having a go at it as the stars aligned in 2012. We have PT, Tarantino, Wes and Nolan– arguably those are the best four directors from that era. Critics adored Amour and Holy Motors and I’m still not there yet after 2-3 visits. For debuts the only oneI can really find (again if someone had a debut in 2012 it may be 2020 before we have a clear idea of how notable it is) is Adam Driver. Driver is in Frances Ha and Lincoln and at this point, especially after Paterson, it appears that he’s going to be one of this generation’s strongest.
best performance male: Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of the year and the male performance of the decade thus far in The Master. His Freddie Quell is like a flawed character ripped from PT’s “great American novel on film” era from 2007-2012 with There Will Be Blood.. It’s a physical performance, studied yet bare, that has the full admiration of DDL himself (he applauded Phoenix during his victory tour for Lincoln). It’s close to DDL’s Daniel Plainview in its achievement. In particular, the processing scene between Phoenix and PSH is as good as screen acting gets. Which, leads me to my #2 choice for actor of the year in 2012 and its Philip Seymour Hoffman. His Lancaster Dodd would be the runaway winner in this category in most years and for my money is PSH’s best work. Trailing those two heavyweights in the master are Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz in Django and Bradley Cooper in The Silver Linings Playbook.
best performance female: I think I’m actually to go against my choice in 2012 and go with Gerwig here for her work in Frances Ha if I have to mention just one female performance for the year. The nice thing is I don’t have to mention just one so I can highlight Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook who was my clear choice in 2012 and a fine second spot pick here. Behind them we have a few pivotal scenes for Amy Adams in The Master and the remarkably determined performance by Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty.
- The Master
- Moonrise Kingdom
- Django Unchained
- The Dark Knight Rises
- Frances Ha
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Spring Breakers
- Holy Motors
- The Place Beyond the Pines
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|Anna Karenina- J. Wright||R|
|Argo- B. Affleck||R|
|Beasts of the Southern Wild||HR|
|Beyond the Hills- Mungiu||R|
|Cloud Atlas-Wachowski, Tykwer||R|
|Dead Man’s Burden||R|
|Django Unchained- Tarantino||MS/ MP|
|Frances Ha- Baumbach||MS|
|Holy Motors- Carax||HR|
|Killing Them Softly- Dominik||R|
|Laurence Anyways- Dolan||R|
|Life of Pi- A. Lee||R/HR|
|Looper- R. Johnson||R/HR|
|Magic Mike- Soderbergh||R|
|Middle of Nowhere||R|
|Moonrise Kingdom- W. Anderson||MP|
|Mud- J. Nichols||R|
|Pieta- Ki-duk Kim||R|
|Prometheus- R. Scott||R/HR|
|Rust and Bone- Audiard||R|
|Silver Linings Playbook- O. Russell||HR|
|Skyfall- Mendes, D. Craig||HR|
|Something in the Air- Assayas||R|
|The Dark Knight Rises- Nolan||MS|
|The Hunt- Vinterberg||R|
|The Master- P.T. Anderson||MP|
|The Perks of Being a Wallflower||R|
|The Place Beyond the Pines- Cianfrance||R/HR|
|To the Wonder- Malick||R|
|What Maizie Knew||R|
|Zero Dark Thirty- Bigelow||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives