List: Top 30 Favorite Films of 2012 (#15-1)


Here you go! My top 15 films of 2012. I hope everyone has enjoyed my year-in-review in list form.
Part One (#30-16): https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/list-top-30-favorite-films-of-the-year-30-16/
Top 25 Performances and Top 10 Song Usages: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/lists-top-25-performances-and-top-10-song-usages-from-2012-film/
The Top Fives in 2012 Film: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/the-top-fives-of-2012-film/
What I’ll Remember About The Films of 2012: A Personal Sampling: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/what-ill-remember-about-the-films-of-2012-a-personal-sampling/
The 10 Worst Films I Saw: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/the-ten-worst-films-i-saw-in-2012/
10 of the Worst Film Posters: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/list-10-of-the-worst-film-posters-of-2012/
Top 20 Film Posters: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/list-top-20-film-posters-of-2012/

This is Not a Film15. This is Not a Film (Iran, Panahi)

“The immediate affinity that we feel for Panahi somehow heightens this already heartbreaking human rights issue. He comes off as kind, mild, realistic and emotionally beaten down by his circumstances (though this work’s existence proves him as anything but). We immediately care for him, beyond the empathy inherent in the situation. To say this film should be seen is an understatement; it must be seen. This statement has been made many times in relation to this film but I make it again; if you care about cinema, about the right we have to tell stories and why we tell them, and about human rights, you must seek out This Is Not a Film.”

Full Review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/review-this-is-not-a-film-2012-panahi-mirtahmasb/

Rust and Bone

14. Rust and Bone (France, Audiard)

Can’t get enough Jacques Audiard. Another triumph from him which sees the French director known for combining auteur arthouse with genre backbone challenge himself with a ludicrous sounding plot. What would have been sentimental puddy in other hands becomes a raw and erotic character-driven story about the cold hard fact of physicality in all its damaging scarred forms.

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY

13. The Secret World of Arrietty (Japan, Yonebayashi)

This is one of the Studio Ghibli films that falls into the category of relaxed. So many kids films today are bursting with structured story; places to go, people to see, villains to defeat and conflicts to be resolved. There is something about Ghibli films that, even when those plot elements are front and center, hardly ever seems in a hurry. We get a chance to take in the sights, sounds and characters; to breathe in their world for a little while. Most considered this to be minor Ghibli (based on its under-the-radar resonance), but its tranquility, reliably minute attention to everyday objects and the conflicting attitudes of its two young protagonists left me full of warmth and gratitude.

perks

12. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (USA, Chbosky)

High school movies pretty much suck now. Let’s face it. I read ‘Perks’ several years ago and liked it enough despite wishing I had read it as an adolescent. Stephen Chobsky’s adaptation of his own novel threw me for a loop with its depiction of teenage angst with an honest light-shedding evocation. Logan Lerman is a revelation, taking a character that could have been portrayed as a typical shy kid and making his anxiety both palpable and justifiably crippling. Ezra Miller, in a complete 180 from his character in last year’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, continues to display his near-freakish amount of assured talent. Using the same soundtrack listed in the novel and keeping the early 90’s setting only makes things better. By the end I was crying quite freely and was feeling a lot at once. I was moved by the lived-in group dynamic of these friends as each went their separate way. I was thinking a lot of time past and regrets of my own. Finally, I was moved by how substantial Chbosky had made his own story.

the-imposter

11. The Imposter (UK, Layton)

“In the end, we return to Frederic Bourdin, whose manipulative scheming brought us into this mess with no answers. Ending with transfixing footage of a younger Bourdin dancing, as Layton inserts Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, an image that visual representative of how bizarre these real-life events were. Yet it all starts with the actual disappearance of 13-year old Nicholas Barclay, a child whose unknowable fate looms over us. The Imposter is a stranger than fiction tale that will have you aghast on the edge-of-your-seat; it is truly mind-boggling to watch unfold.”

Full review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/review-the-imposter-2012-layton-iffboston-2012/

Alps

10. Alps (Greece, Lanthimos)

My love affair with Giorgos Lanthimos continues. He’s offbeat and batshit nutty with his high concepts, interested in the inanity of details and ritual as an emotionless made-up structure. What happens when you break the rules, question what you’ve learned and been taught, construct your own reality? With his second feature Alps he looks at elaborate and hollow role-playing and the role grief plays in our lives. How far do simple factoids contribute to identity? What do memories mean to us? Does something as literal as meticulous reenactments ultimately mean the same thing as what remains in our heads? Lanthimos also wheels and deals in many off-kilter framing or scenes that can almost always exist as separate performance pieces that one cannot look away from. And if every film of his can please star Aggeliki Papoulia, this fan would be very grateful.

Sister Meier

9. Sister (Switzerland/France, Meier)

Earns its comparison to Dardenne Brothers, but this is entirely its own work. Ursula Meier’s second film (I’ll be sure to see her first) is a heartbreaking story dealing with an incredibly complex familial bond amidst the glacial whites of the ski resort and the murky brown-blues of the town below. Kacey Mottet Klein stuns. Between this and Farewell, My Queen, Lea Seydoux is one of my new favorite actresses.

How to Survive a Plague

8. How to Survive a Plague (USA, France)

One of the best magnanimous uses of archival footage to be seen in a documentary and an invaluably important film. ‘Plague’ recounts the long-term efforts and struggle of the ACT UP and TAG coalitions during the raging years of the AIDS epidemic. Based almost entirely around archival footage from throughout the years, a narrative unfolds that demonstrates their place in history but also functions as a blueprint of effective activism. You feel and see the desperation, frustration and looming death everywhere you look as the nation failed to take proper care or measure. Thankfully, the doc portrays the activists as human beings and not necessarily saints though they are unspeakably heroic. There were mistakes made and split factions and we get a sense of that as well. It covers many years within two hours and functions as a treasure-trove history capsule of what feels like an apocalypse for the minority that literally puts you in the center of it all.

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7. Moonrise Kingdom (USA, Anderson)

“Taking on the children’s perspective also allows Anderson to indulge in the ways we expect him to. These include our titular slow-motion sequence, French New-Wavy touches, Bob Balaban’s narrator who deals in geographical factoids with a this-is-where-it-all-went-down resolve. One could go on and on and on. For example, what would a Wes Anderson movie be without something like Suzy carrying around a Francoise Hardy record in her suitcase?”

“Anderson and Coppola never confirm or deny the permanence of Sam and Suzy as a pair. They seem very likely to move onto other phases and people in their lives. It never dampens the occasion though because all that matters to the filmmakers is the ‘present’ moment and what matters to the characters within the timeframe of the film. Moonrise Kingdom is as enchanting as one of Suzy’s fantasy tales and a triumph both within the scope of Anderson’s career thus far and outside of it.”

Full Review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/review-moonrise-kingdom-2012-anderson/

The Kid with a BIke

6. The Kid with a Bike (Belgium/France/Italy, Dardenne Brothers)

Speaking of the Dardenne Brothers…I saw The Kid with a Bike in theaters back in March and its depiction of parental abandonment has since embedded itself in me. It gets a Criterion Collection release in February. Young Cyril just wants answers and for things to go back to the way they were, rejecting anything that isn’t what once was. He thinks he can get both from his dad (Jeremie Renier really has a knack for playing shitty fathers) but he can’t. He is fighting for a domestic haven that no longer exists, and seemingly never existed, but he is too young to see the hopelessness of his want. In Samantha the hairdresser Cyril has someone who has taken him under his wing, but he clings to the past and searches for an older male figure no matter who it is. The Kid with a Bike is about what it might take to newly ground a young boy stuck in an underpass of denial and indignation. Is Cecile de France’s Samantha up to the task?

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5. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012, Hertzfeldt)

Terrence Malick with stick figures; this is often how Don Hertzfeldt’s existential trilogy of Everything will Be OK, I Am So Proud of You and It’s Such a Beautiful Day is described. They aren’t wrong. Us fans of the innovative animator had been waiting for this final installment and he delivers a profound wrap-up to a profound trilogy. The title here refers to all three which screened together as It’s Such a Beautiful Day. I don’t even know how to go about describing Hertzfeldt’s work here except that the man is making strides in animation experimentation that most can only dream of; and all on his own to boot. That Bill is an everyman only increases the universality of it. He is getting at something that you feel in your gut. Through the beauty, use of classical music, morbid humor, deadpan yet wandering narration and jumpy structure he is getting to the heart of something (yeah I’ll use the word yet again here) profound.

osloaugust31

4. Oslo August 31st (Norway, Trier)

My top four this year are all on the same tier. I went back and forth, back and forth between what to put where and in the end, the rankings are even more arbitrary than usual.

“What makes Oslo stand apart from other ‘drug addiction’ films is that it is not about the struggle to stay clean. It is about what one is left with after the fact and questioning the point of continuing. Anders has money, friends, family, looks and talent. But when addiction comes to define and ruin, at the end of the day, what is left when a layer of disconnect invades him, his former haunts and his interactions with others? That ever-palpable ‘why bother’ and the honesty with which it ponders this question is what stood out for me most in Trier’s sophomore triumph.”

Full Review:  https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/review-oslo-august-31st-2012-trier/

The_Master_Paul_Thomas_Anderson-70

3. The Master (USA, Anderson)

Just to warn you, in case you haven’t figured it out, the top of my list follows the pack as far as many critics and film buffs go. Remarkably more divisive than anyone ever expected, The Master works for me because of how badly I itch to dig into its opaqueness. It explicitly juggles many themes in its post-war setting but its cyclical inconclusiveness has perplexed many. That inconclusiveness seems to be a statement within itself and it roots its wandering narrative into the push-pull dichotomous relationship between Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Entirely their own characters even as they represent two opposing abstractions of a whole, these two cock their heads and wonder about the other. What can he do for me? Can I fix him? Can he fix himself? There is a lot that Paul Thomas Anderson muses with his latest and while it feels more intrinsic than deliberate, that is the very thing that lends it an endless curiosity. At any stage of his career, Anderson’s films feel like nobody else’s from every standpoint. Where else will you ever see a performance like Joaquin Phoenix’s? I cherish everyone’s contributions to this work like the lucky recipient I am. Yes indeed, blind cultish worship is my drink of choice.

Holy Motors

2. Holy Motors (France/Germany, Carax)

Giddy. Holy Motors made me giddy like a kid in an ever-varied candy store. It manages to be everything at once, mixing and melding genres for brief interludes before moving onto the next. All of this is under the guise of the science-fiction world Carax creates that sees ‘Monsieur Oscar’ (Denis Lavant) taking on different personas over the course of one day. The film hovers over reality like a hawk, zeroing in for flashes before resuming its place in the fantastical ether. Its pretext reads as a statement on the nature of cinema itself but what makes Holy Motors the wonder it is is that it filters this statement in a way that never approaches self-seriousness. It alternates between tones that are touching, bonkers, gently sad, bonkers, morbidly funny and let’s not forget bonkers. There’s a moment towards the end that is the height of hilarity and simultaneous sadness, a genuinely shocking moment the likes of which I have never seen. I cannot get Holy Motors out of my head. It is deliriously entertaining at times, providing me with the rare thrill of having no idea where I’d be taken next.

Amour

1. Amour (Austria/France/Germany, Haneke)

When I first heard Michael Haneke’s next film was called Amour I laughed out loud. Was this a joke? Haneke? Love? Surely the title is ironic. But no. The Austrian provocateur matches his clinical and icy detachment to a compassionate and uncompromising story of the slow process of disintegration and death. This is a masterpiece and it is no hyperbole that it has etched itself into the essential canon in no time at all. It feels permanent. It feels vital. Films about old age are often saccharine. This is wholly unsentimental yet filled with feeling. This is a delicate beautiful script with impeccable framing. The low-key lighting houses these two in a comforting warmth as Anne drifts away. It has two performances for the ages. Brave doesn’t begin to cover the places Emmanuelle Riva goes.

Assuming we make it to old age, we’re all headed here folks. Whether you have your loved one supporting you or not. This is what the end is like. This is about seeing the person you’ve spent your life with slipping away from you in mind and body. This is about losing all dignity and sense of self. This is about seeing yourself become a wisp. This is about losing all control. But it is also about the love and devotion that goes hand in hand with the suffering.

This was the most difficult film I watched all year. Haneke’s eye makes for a brutal but honest and earnest viewing experience. I spent the last half hour in various states of hyperventilation. No, seriously. It gave me a minor panic attack. I was having trouble breathing. At a certain point it just overwhelms because it feels so definitive.

Films Seen This Year: Haywire, The Woman in Black, Gerhard Richter Painting, The Secret World of Arietty, Found Memories, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, The Raid: Redemption, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Miss Bala, Cabin in the Woods, The Imposter, 2 Days in New York, Wuthering Heights, Paul Williams Still Alive, Damsels in Distress, The Queen of Versailles, The Avengers, Beauty is Embarrassing, This is Not a Film, The Kid with a Bike, Take This Waltz, Polisse, Prometheus, The Grey, Headhunters, Brave, Moonrise Kingdom, The Intouchables, Chronicle, Mirror Mirror, The Deep Blue Sea, Bullhead, Shut Up and Play the Hits, John Carter, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunter, Oslo, August 31st, Bachelorette, The Moth Diaries, Bernie, Indie Game: The Movie, V/H/S, Side by Side, Kill List, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Attenberg, Snow White and the Huntsmen, God Bless America, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Master, Silent House, The Innkeepers, Dark Shadows, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looper, Frankenweenie, ATM, The Tall Man, Argo, The Sound of My Voice, Girl Model, Seven Psychopaths, Red Lights, Klown, The Woman in the Fifth, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Michael, Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Girl, Cloud Atlas, Elena, Monsieur Lazhar, Holy Motors, Skyfall, Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina, Lincoln, Marina Abromovic: The Artist is Present, Alps, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Cosmopolis, Sound of Noise, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Girl Walk//All Day, Your Sister’s Sister, The Invisible War, The Central Park Five, The Loneliest Planet, Killer Joe, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, A Royal Affair, Sleepwalk with Me, Compliance, Searching for Sugar Man, Farewell, My Queen, Sleep Tight, Barbara, The Paperboy, Dredd, Sister, Lawless, In Another Country, The Day He Arrives, Zero Dark Thirty, Rust and Bone, I Wish, Amour

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Lists: Top 25 Performances and Top 10 Song Usages from 2012 Film


After this, all that’s left is my Top 30 Films of the Year. Now, to pay homage to the acting and use of music in this year’s films. As far as songs go, the criteria are that use of instrumental score composed for the film does not count nor do songs from musicals. Otherwise Anna and Vronsky’s dance scene from Anna Karenina and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables would have made it.

As for the performances, 10-25 are listed alphabetically and the top 10 are listed alphabetically. It feels even weirder to outright rank performances than it does films, so I figure putting them in two broad groupings gives some semblance of structure.

There’s nothing better than the inspired application of a song . Here are the ten, in order, that stayed with me most this year.

Top 10 Song Usages

Honorable Mentions: “Ghost Rider” – Suicide – Attenberg, any number of songs in Django Unchained, “Strokin” – Clarence Carter – Killer Joe, “Let It Out” – Girl Talk – Girl Walk//All Day, anything from Shut Up and Play the Hits, Heroes – David Bowie – Perks of Being a Wallflower, etc.

Perks
Okay, 11. “Come On Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie comes out of his shell to one of the best New Wave songs of all as Patrick and Sam spread their infectious dance-crazed flamboyance.

rust and bone

10. “Firework” – Katy Perry – Rust and Bone
Who knew? A turning point for the character of Stephanie, reclaiming her life as she confronts her former place of employment.

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9. “Skyfall” – Adele – Skyfall
Adele channels Shirley Bassey with her momentous throwback Bond song. Her powerful yet calm delivery backed by surrounding strings and brass gives chills.

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8.“I Got a Name” – Jim Croce – Django Unchained
Folk floats on in as the budding bounty-hunting friendship between Django and Schultz gets a perfect landscape-filled montage.

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7. “Le Temps de l’Amour” – Francoise Hardy – Moonrise Kingdom
Jared Gilman’s flailing inelegance paired with the concentrated smooth of Kara Hayward and Anderson’s slightly hovering straight-on take make this scene an instant classic.

EDIT: Inserting “Revivre” by Gerard Manset in Holy Motors after the fact. Having seen it again reminded me of this scene and how I forgot it for this list is beyond me. Probably still too swept up in “Let My Baby Ride”.

Alps

6. “Popcorn” – Hot Butter – Alps
In a final scene that bookends the first, the Gymnast is finally ready for pop music.

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5. “Take This Waltz” – Leonard Cohen and “Video Killed the Radiostar – The Buggles’ – Take This Waltz
Technically three usages in one spot as the latter is used twice. Burning desire finally gets released as time passes and cyclical yearning reigns in these two wondrous scenes.

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4. “Stand on the Word” – Keedz – Polisse
The employees of the Child Protection Unit let loose  with French rapper Joeystarr as Fred leading everyone in a dance. You can feel the momentary relief of the experience run through as you watch beaming.

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3. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – Johnny Cash – The ImposterA haunting and kitschy end to a film that provides unnerving suggestions about a story with no clear conclusion.

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2. “On a Slow Boat to China” – Frank Loesser (sung by P.S Hoffman) The Master
Transfixing and ever-ambiguous. One of the most beguiling scenes from this year. I could not find a picture from this scene, tried though I did. Instead I chose this frame I’m in love with from an unrelated scene. Loving the color on that suit.

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1. “Let My Baby Ride” – R.L Burnside – Holy Motors
“Trois! Douze! Merde!”

Top 25 Performances:

Honorable Mention: Anne Hathaway – Fantine – Les Miserables

25-10 (in alphabetical order)

Rust

Marion Cotillard – Stephanie – Rust and Bone
Shattered. Defiant. Physical.

Leonardo DiCaprio – Calvin Candie – Django Unchained
Hammy. Savage. Refreshing.

Thomas Doret – Cyril – The Kid with a Bike
Scrappy. Stubborn. Hurt.

Ann Dowd – Sandra – Compliance
Earnest. Misguided. Astray.

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Michael Fassbender – David – Prometheus
Precise. Inquisitive. Blond.

Philip Seymour Hoffman – Lancaster Dodd – The Master
Cloying. Defensive.  Sincere.

Nina Hoss – Barbara – Barbara
Guarded. Austere. Compassionate.

Ezra Miller – Patrick – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Boisterous. Assured. Wounded.

Alps

Aggeliki Papoulia – The Nurse –  Alps
Desperate. Stilted. Cipher.

Michael Rogers – Barry Nyle – Beyond the Black Rainbow
Nightmarish. Unstable. Seething.

Lea Seydoux – Agathe Sidonie-Laborde – Farewell, My Queen
Enigmatic. Loyal. Observant.

Channing Tatum – Jenko – 21 Jump Street
Goofy. Atypical. Dependable.

Walken

Christopher Walken – Hans – Seven Psychopaths
Collected. Grieved. Soulful.

Dreama Walker – Becky – Compliance
Vulnerable. Simple. Credulous.

Rachel Weisz – Hester – The Deep Blue Sea
Luminous. Fretful. Smoky.

The Top 10 (alphabetical order):

levant

Denis Lavant – Monsieur Oscar and about nine other roles – Holy Motors
Grotesque. Chameleon. Encompassing.

Logan Lerman – Charlie – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Authentic. Sheepish. Damaged.

Daniel Day-Lewis – Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln
Timeless. Wise. Reedy.

Oslo
Anders Danielsen Lie – Anders – Oslo, August 31st
Haunted. Splintered. Contemplative.

Matthew McConaughey – Joe – Killer Joe
Virile. Smooth. Penetrating.

Sara Paxton – Claire – The Innkeepers
Naturalistic. Singular. Spry.

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Joaquin Phoenix – Freddie Quell – The Master
Feral. Externalized. Obscene.

Emmanuelle Riva – Anne – Amour
Lost. Fragile. Deteriorating.

Matthias Schoenaerts – Jacky – Bullhead
Brute. Meaty. Blockaded.

Michelle Williams – Margot – Take This Waltz
Childish. Wistful. Idiosyncratic.

The Top Fives of 2012 Film


Continuing to encapsulate the year in film, I present you with my list of Top Fives. After this, all I’ve got are performances, song usages and finally, my 30 favorite films of the year. I’ll probably end up condensing those first two into one post in an effort to save time and space. I would’ve done scenes, but without keeping track of something like that throughout the year, it becomes impossible to make a scenes list. Suffice it to say, The First Processing Scene from The Master would’ve been my number one. Without further ado…on to the 2nd Annual Cinema Enthusiast Top Five Awards! Being a huge fan of The Film Experience’s Film Bitch Awards, I borrowed a few categories from there. All of these are in order and I tried to make them as accurate as I could considering this is all after the fact.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my choices, what you would’ve put in these categories and if there are any categories I should add for next year!

Argo

Beginnings:
1. Argo (Storming the embassy)
2. Attenberg
3. Alps
4. Seven Psychopaths
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Use of Title Card/Opening Credit Sequences:
1. Skyfall (Title Card/Opening Credits)
2. Bachelorette (Title Card/Opening Credits)
3. Cabin in the Woods (Title Card)
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Title Card)
5. Amour (Title Card)

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Endings:
1. The Grey
2. Holy Motors
3. The Imposter
4. Zero Dark Thirty
5. Alps
Honorable Mentions: Take This Waltz and Monsieur Lazhar

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Ensemble Cast:
1. Your Sister’s Sister
2. Django Unchained
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. Bachelorette
5. Moonrise Kingdom
Honorable Mentions: Killer Joe, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Underrated Films:
Films that were critically acclaimed but were forgotten by the end of the year and didn’t get enough attention or films that didn’t get the critical love they deserved. Or, as my number five illustrates,a film that the entire internet invested in minutely taking to task.
1. Gerhard Richter Painting
2. Farewell, My Queen
3. Pirates! Band of Misfits
4. Beyond the Black Rainbow
5. The Dark Knight Rises (yeah, I went there )

wuthering heights

Films That Started Strong But…
1. Wuthering Heights (Older Catherine and Heathcliff are excruciating)
2. Django Unchained (Those last twenty minutes shouldn’t be there, period)
3. Silver Linings Playbook (Don’t buy Pat’s arc once he pieces things together re: the letter)
4. Moonrise Kingdom (The storm made the film lose itself a bit)
5. The Hunger Games (The games just don’t cut it and that climax is laughably bad)
Honorable Mention: Frankenweenie (Turns into chaotic monster movie tribute in last third albeit with fantastic character design work)

Damsels in Distress

Disappointments:
1. Damsels in Distress
2. Django Unchained
3. Lawless
4. In Another Country
5. Paul Williams Still Alive
Honorable Mention: Haywire

Matthias

Newcomers:
1. Matthias Schoenearts (Bullhead, Rust and Bone) (Ok, maybe not a newcomer, but this was absolutely his breakout year as far as exposure in the States is concerned)
2. Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
3. Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, Lawless)
4. Mikkel Følsgaard (A Royal Affair)
5. Sophie Nélisse (Monsieur Lazhar)
Honorable Mentions: Ariane Labed, Sarah Gadon, Dreama Walker, Hani Furstenberg, Alicia Vikander. Any number of other child actors such as Thomas Doret in The Kid with a Bike and Kacey Mottet Klein in Sister.

The Innkeepers

Underrated Performances: (Again, how do you do this? Everyone I think of putting down, I immediately imagine being called out on my choice)
1. Sara Paxton – The Innkeepers
2. Logan Lerman – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
3. Jude Law – Anna Karenina
4. Dreama Walker – Compliance
5. Christopher Walken – Seven Psychopaths
Honorable Mention: Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) (I realize this is in no way an underrated performance. But she’s got a legitimate shot at winning an Oscar for another film, while everyone forgot her work in this. I actually far prefer her work as Katniss)

Seven-Psychopaths-Tom-Waits

Bit Parts/Smaller Supporting Roles:
1. Tom Waits – Seven Psychopaths
2. The Embassy Staff (Clea Duvall, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, etc) – Argo
3. Ben Whishaw – Skyfall
4. Liev Schreiber – Goon (Yes, he’s a main cast member, but I don’t recall much screen time)
5. Paul Giamatti – Cosmopolis
Honorable Mention: Garrett Dillahunt – Looper

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Worst Performances:
1. Lindsay Lohan – Liz & Dick
2. Chloe Grace-Moretz – Dark Shadows
3. Kaya Scodelario and James Howson – Wuthering Heights
4. Johnny Depp – Dark Shadows
5. Guy Pearce – Prometheus

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Scores:
1. The Master – Jonny Greenwood
2. Moonrise Kingdom – Alexandre Desplat
3. Cloud Atlas – Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild – Dan Romer, Behn Zeitlin
5. Beyond the Black Rainbow – Sinoia Caves

Sara Paxton

Characters:
1. Claire (Sara Paxton) – The Innkeepers
2. Patrick (Ezra Miller)– Perks of Being a Wallflower
3. Mr. Whiskers – Frankenweenie
4. Oblonsky (Matthew MacFadyen) – Anna Karenina
5. Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) – Django Unchained
Honorable Mentions: Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd – The Master

Direct action … Quentin Tarantino on the set of Django Unchained.

The Why Are You Even Here Award?
1. Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
2. Laura Dern – The Master (You have Laura Dern in your film and this is what you do with her PTA? For shame!)
3. Maiwenn- Polisse
4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Lincoln
5. Zac Efron – The Paperboy
Honorable Mention: Juno Temple – The Dark Knight Rises

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Character Dynamics:
1. Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd (Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) – The Master
2. Driss and Philippe (Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet) – The Intouchables
3. Claire and Luke (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) –The Innkeepers
4. Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) – 21 Jump Street
5. Louise and Simon (Lea Seydoux and Kasey Mottet Klein)– Sister
Honorable Mention: Sitterson and Hadley (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) – Cabin in the Woods

Killer Joe

Villains:
1. Joe (Matthew McConaughey) – Killer Joe
2. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) – Django Unchained
3. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) – Beyond the Black Rainbow
4. Silva (Javier Bardem) – Skyfall
5. Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) – The Raid: Redemption
Honorable Mentions: Aggie – ParaNorman, Lola – The Loved Ones

Rust and Bone

Romances/Couples
1. Ali and Stephanie (Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard)  – Rust and Bone
2. Lancaster Dodd and Freddie Quell (Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix) – The Master (Not a romance in the traditional sense, but they fit the bill of two people inextricably and inexplicably drawn to each other and I say theirs was a romance ‘of sorts’)
3. Caroline and Johann (Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen)- A Royal Affair
4. Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) – Moonrise Kingdom
5. Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) – Amour
Honorable Mention: Denis Lavant and a certain furry animal – Holy Motors, Anna and Vronsky – Anna Karenina, Barbara and Andre – Barbara

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 2012: A Personal Sampling


My look back at the year in film continues. A newfangled idea was to write a bit about the details, those little specificities that defined the year for me. I’m trying to find a way to display some of the random things that stood out for me and to summarize what I’ll be taking from this year. There will be other lists coming up with which to do that, but I figure this was worth giving a try. Obviously this is just a sampling. Otherwise it would’ve turned into everything I liked and didn’t like about every film I liked and didn’t like. There’s plenty of room in the other lists for everything to get its due recognition.

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— Discovering the music of Rodriguez via Searching for Sugar Man

— Liking the big blockbusters that so many others ripped to shreds (Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, by far my favorite of the trilogy)

— The hand-to-hand combat scenes in The Raid: Redemption

Amour causing fits of hyperventilation

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— Seeing Don Hertzfeldt at the Coolidge Corner screening of It’s Such a Beautiful Day

— This actually happened! Think about that… (Compliance and Zero Dark Thirty)

— How much does marketing construct our expectations? (Brave and Looper)

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— The concoction that is Freddie Quell (The Master)

— Seeing enough of Lea Seydoux, Matthias Schoenaerts, Aggaliki Papoulia, Mads Mikkelsen, Anders Danielsen Lie (who is a medical doctor?!?!?!?!?!) and Sarah Gadon to consider them among my new favorite actors

— Becoming a Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum fan (Killer Joe, Bernie, 21 Jump Street, Haywire)

— The painstaking process of the artist in documentaries (Gerhard Richter Painting, Beauty is Embarassing, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Indie Game: The Movie, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and heartbreakingly in This is Not a Film)

— The first Quentin Tarantino film I didn’t love (Django Unchained)

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— Directors feeling the need to distract and/or partially ruin their films with their own presence. I’m looking at you Tarantino and Maiwenn. To the latter; the centralization of your character kept Polisse from being one of my favorites this year.

— The rare thrill of having no idea what will happen next and the absurdist surreal invention that makes up Holy Motors

— The jaw-dropping narrative of The Imposter and getting to experience it with a sold-out audience in a state of collective disbelief at IFFBoston

Take This Waltz and resulting life decisions

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— A gay animated character (Paranorman)

Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook leaving me adrift and still conflicted with my thoughts (The former was beautiful and lyrical but also kind of uncomfortable us vs. them poverty porn where the latter was thoroughly entertaining but can’t get away with depicting love as a cure-all for mental illness and having its characters make crucial decisions I don’t buy)

— Docs How to Survive a Plague and The Invisible War shaking, horrifying and moving me to my core

— Jessica Chastain’s wardrobe and lack of wardrobe in Lawless

— Child actors astound everywhere you turn (Moonrise Kingdom, The Kid with a Bike, Sister, Looper, Michael, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Monsieur Lazhar, I Wish, Wuthering Heights)

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— The darkly humorous parade of spiraling stupidity (Killer Joe)

— The smorgasbord of Les Miserables (Great songs, distracting Dutch angles and incessant close-ups, me crying at parts but also hating a lot of the final half because Marius/Eponine/Cosette are the worst. My most erratic theatrical experience this year)

— Having the main character in Michael, a pedophile, remind me of Buster Bluth and distracting me for its entire runtime

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— The continued mourning of not having gone to LCD Soundsystem’s last show (Shut Up and Play the Hits)

— Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy have better chemistry than you and anyone you know (The Intouchables)

— The pristine detail of the off-kilter black-and-white design of Frankenweenie’s world

— The first prison visit scene in The Paperboy showing me something I’ve never seen before

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— Merida’s life-of-its-own red mane (Brave)

— Being reminded that boredom is worse than car-crash bad (Numerous offenders)

— Bringing the moors to muddy naturalistic life (Wuthering Heights)

— Falling for the first half of Wuthering Heights like a lifelong soul mate only to loath the final hour

— Seann William Scott? Giving a good performance? Surely you jest (Goon)

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— The META-SPECTACLE of Anna Karenina

— Film vs. digital (Side by Side)

— When it soars, it soars…regarding the best moments of Cloud Atlas

Sinister not giving me a moment’s rest

Nothing better than an excellent costume drama; they’re like porn. (Anna Karenina, A Royal Affair, Farewell, My Queen)

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— The bizarre daytime strolls of Attenberg

— Falling in love with Sara Paxton and her character in The Innkeepers more than any in years. She makes slapstick comedy out of taking out the trash.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower filling me with all the bittersweet in the world

— Eiko Ishioka single-handedly getting me through Mirror, Mirror with her whimsical fairy-tale couture

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Last but not least, Arietty’s room in The Secret World of Arrietty

Double Features Seen This Year:
This is Not a Film/The Kid with a Bike
Silver Linings Playbook/Anna Karenina
Moonrise Kingdom/The Intouchables
Argo/Girl Model
The Exorcist/The Thing

List: Top 20 Film Posters of 2012


It’s that time of year again; and joy and elation of 2012 lists! The others will be posted in January, far after everyone is sick of reading round-ups of the past 12 months. But since I’ve got stuff to catch up on, the date stays.

The poster lists are perhaps the ones I always look forward to the most. The vast majority of film posters, in their primary advertising function, are rehashes of the same basic format depending on the genre and plot. Not to sound too condescending but casual movie-goers tend to gravitate towards repetition and the comfort of being able to rely on concrete expectations. Posters have to sell this too. Marketers want people to be able to look at a poster and know what they are going to get when they walk into that theater.

But this is a considerable generalization; for all the forgettable to questionable images each year has to offer, there are a lot of top-notch posters too. These are the 20 posters that rank as my favorites from 2012. The only condition is that it had to get a US release this year and only one poster per film. Since most films do not get released here, it disqualifies a lot of great work, but it would just be too hard to sift through everything otherwise.

Here is 2011’s list: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/list-top-20-film-posters-of-2011/

And 2010’s: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/top-20-film-posters-of-2010/

The best poster I came across that I could not count (but will post here anyways because, um, amazing) is Xavier Dolan’s latest Laurence Anyways which right now has no US release date. Does it even have distribution yet? Not sure. Anyways, it’s very Last Tango in Paris, very effortlessly retro, very pink and just all-around sickening.

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So while in theory, this is supposed to be about the poster art and not the films attached to them, it is impossible not to bring that context into the proceedings. If this list has is skewed towards my own taste (I’ve seen 16/20 of the films) from this year than that would be why.

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Honorable Mention:  2 Days in New York

My reason for this is the instantaneous reaction to the colors which are vibrant, lively and look almost crayon-like in execution. It is a very simple and even bland image, even if it feels sacrilegious to refer to a picture of Julie Delpy as bland. But I am easy to please and while there were plenty of more creative options out there to choose from, my instinct said ‘oooooh cooolllllooooorrrsssss’. I also cannot get enough of how the colors ever so slightly run into their hair.

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20. Gerhard Richter Painting

We continue on the ‘Katie is Easily Pleased by Colors’ theme (an ongoing one that will appear constantly). The poster quite literally reflects the title of the film. Cheeky. The long sequences in this doc that show Gerhard Richter painting is some of the best documentary footage from this year. Honestly, this could have been the whole film and it would likely have an even higher spot on my year-end list.  So the poster evokes a sequence I could not take my eyes off of, so between that and the startling colors = on the list.

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19. Lincoln

This is a surreally uncanny image that immediately immortalizes the idea of Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. It’s actually disturbingly uncanny. The longer you look at it the more reality seems to implode on itself. Has Daniel Day-Lewis always been Lincoln? Was Lincoln in fact Daniel Day-Lewis? Oh, the questions this poster raises. The profile shot and the statuesque look really make this the best it can be.

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18. Zero Dark Thirty

I love me some minimalist posters. This one is a teaser image that just sticks with you immediately. I cannot get enough of the redaction and how the only actual additional non-text element of this poster is something that tries to take away. Like everyone else I cannot wait to see what Kathryn Bigelow does with this film and the way its advertising was handled has been thoroughly successful.

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17. Michael

Another really minimal poster, but with all honesty, how does one go about advertising a difficult-to-watch (but for my money worth it) arthouse film about a pedophile who has a boy in his basement? So I’d call this a resounding success on all counts considering that it gets around the challenge and is fabulous to boot. The color choice is memorable as well as the puzzle concept allowing for subtle shading and dimension.

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16. Girl Model

This poster is really just one of the first shots of Girl Model, a haunting documentary that just scratches the surface of the unsurprisingly seedy underbelly of the bottom rungs of the modeling industry. The mirror image creates a slight distortion that reflects the sad logic of how this occupational world works. And I love slightly out-of-focus images and the mirror gives it that inestimable ‘feel’ that I am so drawn to.

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15. Attenberg

I could have easily chosen another poster from the film but went with this one which really captures the off-kilter strangeness of the small but very significant recent wave of Greek films to make their way over here. First of all, I love this scene. Throughout Attenberg are sprinkled scenes of the main character and her friend walking along a street in increasingly complex synchronization. There is something about two young girls letting in their instincts and being confrontational about it that reminds the amazing feminist and surrealist film Daisies. So there’s that. The poster has a great combination of having a simple background that forces focus to the pose and stance of the subjects. It reflects the extremely strong focus these films have on the body and body language with its possible contortions and positions.

Here is the scene containing the pose depicted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SrOfBIvrpQ

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14. Frankenweenie

It’s a Tim Burton sketch so of course this poster rules. It is like they are saying ‘don’t forget Tim Burton was once capable of not sucking’. It is a strong enforcer of the idea that Burton is revisiting and updating his roots with this one. This was not one of the main posters used for the marketing, which from that standpoint I understand. But it’s a gorgeous illustration that brings the Sparky design back to its “Family Dog” influence (more like replica) and he has just about the quirkiest expression of endearment I’ve ever seen.

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13. Paul Williams Still Alive

Stop Making Sense font; check. The top of Paul Williams head; check. Number 13 spot; check.

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12. Elena

The illustration here is so stark and evocative. It depicts two colors, trees, the outline of a person looking out and a bird flying by. The color feels like the sun is just about to rise which is how Elena starts. The left side is used for some deserved festival bracket whoring. It’s a foreboding image with a blue I cannot take my eyes off of. And I love that microscopic eye detail on the bird.

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11. The Cabin in the Woods

Another poster that was nowhere near the primary one used but thankfully it was given the frameworthy poster treatment. A take on Escher’s Relativity, the sepia-toned drawing nails what Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon’s film is really about. The picture gets the trapped and constructed environment of the characters. And the tagline, which seems cliché at first glance, just like the purposely broad title, is actually perfect.

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10. Sound of My Voice

This is so mysterious and ambiguous just like the film’s conceit. The handshake feels like another language. The instructional format feels like a retro kitsch-piece. The crunched up folding makes it seem like we are looking at something we shouldn’t be seeing. It feels like something from a pastime, which is apt given what the characters in the story’s cult are wont to believe.

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9. Paranorman

There is a whole batch of Paranorman posters equally fabulous that could be in its place. Again, the main posters were certainly serviceable but there is a whole slew of great artwork that was done to promote the Focus Features film. It’s the blocking of the different images that draws me in as well as, again, the use of the orange, green and blue colors. The way the font is strewn across the poster is reminiscent of a 50’s B-movie.

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8. Compliance

This is my number one movie I haven’t seen this year. I feel like it’s got a fair shot at being near the top of my year-end list, however unfair those expectations may be. Dreama Walker, who can be seen on “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23”, has a somehow enigmatic expressionlessness. I just love this shot and where she is in the frame related to the text. And quotes galore! Quotes make you go ‘ooooh what is this about’. Walker’s prominence in the poster could mean anything. Add in the dubious title and I was dying to find out what all the fuss and controversy of the film was about and whether or not it was justified. It grabbed my interest immediately; exactly what a poster is supposed to do.

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7. The Master

The film is quite a bit like a Rorschach test. Though one pops up early in The Master, this image also reflects the open-wide interpretive room of the characters and how they interact with and change each other. It’s an enigma but at the same time it’s not. Again, loving the folded-up quality, making it seem like a pamphlet of sorts. There is a black-and-white version but I actually prefer the color. In a substantial misrepresentation, Joaquin Phoenix is looking far too sane, no?

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6. Holy Motors

This would have been in the top 5 if not for the distracting title art. The title art and font look very cheap to me and is not successfully integrated into the rest of the poster. It looks like the title is uncomfortably resting on top instead of being part of. But Denis Lavant, playing many different identities here, is seen as a black shadowed blank slate. The headlights of the limo are the eyes, placed in the headspace, which is likely where the film takes place. At the very least Holy Motors has its own internal logic that gleefully defies any explanation. And the poster certainly hints at this. My favorite thing about this is the sketchy yellow scribble. Just one of those inspired touches.

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5. Beauty is Embarrassing

Using Wayne White work in a documentary about Wayne White equals a spot in my Top 5 posters. It’s playfully bizarre and the way the letters form a kind of landscape in the background is seamlessly appropriate.

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4. Alps

Here is yet another minimalist poster. The abstract Dogtooth poster had a place this high as well two years ago. This one actually has the characters in it and I find the shape their placement creates to be hypnotic, much like the film. There is an almost slightly oversaturated grainy quality to the images that make them blend in with the background in interesting ways. And anything featuring Aggeliki Papoulia’s mesmerizing face is okay by me.

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3. Barbara

I think you all know what’s coming. You can sense it the second you look at the poster. COLORS!!!! Oh the glorious combination of these colors! Look at how lush this visual is. It’s quite stunning. Everything pops here and it’s a really creative poster in a lot of subtle ways. The red! The green! The yellow! The title placement! See? Subtle.

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2. The Loneliest Planet

Let’s start with that intensely profound statement at the top. Jeez Louise. Talk about lofty expectations. After Compliance and Amour, this is probably what I’m craving to see the most that I haven’t yet. Luckily it’s on demand so first thing when I get back to CT? Yep. This gorgeous green, which just barely reveals itself as actual land is to die for, as is the juxtaposition of the two close-up faces against their far-away selves amidst the green. And let’s talk about that red hair! Well, okay I’ve got nothing more to say about it….but look at it! And are her eyes green too? This poster just stuck with me instantaneously and its pleasing to look at but also further piques my interest.

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1. The Innkeepers

I already knew this would be my number 1 poster before even doing my 2011 list last year. Since The Innkeepers had been kicking around at fests for a while, the poster has been out for quite some time. It’s so intricate and beautifully haunting. It’s got a snarky tagline. The blue-grays, the title design, the borders and shapes; all of it is flawless. There’s a lot going on here but it’s not too much. And lastly, it’s got my favorite film character from a 2012 film no contest. Yeah, I’m looking at you Sara Paxton.
Stay tuned because within the next week my Top 10 Worst Posters of 2012 will be posted.

List: Top 30 Fall Films to See (September-December)


We are two weeks into the Fall Movie Season; that lovely time of year when theaters are crowded with anticipated releases big and small. I have to admit that there are not a ton of films I’m dying to see these last several months of the year. My Top 30 is a strong group indeed, but this is the first year in a long time where I didn’t have about 45 films clamming for a spot on the Top 30. To put it simply, several of the bigger fall releases I’m feeling ambivalent towards. These include Flight, Promised Land, The Impossible, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Hyde Park on Hudson and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I’m really looking forward to On the Road, Therese Raquin, Skyfall, Frankenweenie, Detropia, This is 40 and The Sessions but not enough to earn them a spot on the list.

If all of those highly anticipated films do not appear on this list, the question begs; what does? These are the 30 films I am most looking forward to. What are yours?

30. Barbara (Germany)
Synopsis: A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.

Germany’s official submission for this year’s Oscars. I have yet to see a film directed by Christian Petzhold although I always meant to see Jerichow. I’m always going to be a sucker for films set in East Germany.

29. Lincoln
Synopsis:
As the Civil War nears its end, President Abraham Lincoln clashes with members of his cabinet over the issue of abolishing slavery.

The recently released trailer for Lincoln felt admittedly stuffy and anticlimactic. But I have faith in this film, despite the actors playing historical dress-up vibe and not caring about Spielberg’s 2011 one-two punch of War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin. But look at this cast! Look at it! Daniel Day-Lewis appears in one film every few years, so any opportunity to see him on screen must be seized immediately. Especially since his last film role was the start-to-finish miscalculation known as Nine.

28. Dredd 3D
Synopsis:
In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

Out of nowhere, Dredd 3D is getting really solid notices. Like, ridiculously solid review. In a world where the film industry deals in remakes and comic book adaptations as a daily ritual, I don’t think anyone had this on their radar. For the countless middling forgettable release and anticipatory disappointments, there aren’t as many ‘where did this come from’ surprises. Alex Garland wrote the screenplay, whose credits include Never Let Me Go, Sunshine and 28 Days Later. Color me intrigued. But if the notices are to be believed, this is more than worth checking out.

Bonus: Olivia Thirlby sporting blonde hair while kicking ass and taking names.

27. Sister (France)
Synopsis: A drama set at a Swiss ski resort and centered on a boy who supports his sister by stealing from wealthy guests.

This sibling drama doesn’t seem to fit too comfortably into any easy box (outside of the aforementioned ‘sibling drama’) which is what draws me to it.  Lea Seydoux continues to stamp her presence as a French arthouse bombshell with her second release of the year after Farewell, My Queen.

26. Smashed
Synopsis: A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.

I have had my eye on Mary Elizabeth Winstead for a while now. Forget Scott Pilgrim. We’re talking the days of Final Destination 3, Death Proof and Black Christmas. Yes that’s right; Black Christmas. Last year she got a starring role in the remake of The Thing, walking away with all of her dignity in a film as forgettable and rote as they come. I think what most people are excited about in regards to Smashed, is Winstead finally gets a chance to show us what she’s got. And by all accounts, it was worth the wait.

Bonus: Aaron Paul, people. Aaron Paul. Aaron Paul: that is all.

25. How to Survive a Plague
Synopsis: The story of two coalitions — ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) — whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

This documentary has the subject matter and the kind of upcoming exposure to really get some attention. It looks like the type of inspiring impassioned history lesson that I look for in this type of doc.

24. Killing Them Softly
Synopsis: Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.

I have to admit that the trailer for this left me really underwhelmed and relatively uninterested in the story. However, the pairing of director Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt has me salivating for this. Considering that The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is in my top 10 of the 2000’s, you best believe this earned a spot.

23. Argo
Synopsis: As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

Ben Affleck’s first two films managed to impress me enough without bowling me over. But it’s clear the man’s got a sure and efficient directorial hand. The cast, the based on a true story concept and 70’s period detail are all promising, not to mention its warm reception on the festival circuit.

22. Zero Dark Thirty
Synopsis: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osams Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy SEAL Team 6 in May, 2011.

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to The Hurt Locker, chronicling the hunt and kill of Osama Bin Laden. I can’t wait to see how the film depicts its subject matter and how functionally rooted in factual reconstruction it is.

21. The Other Dream Team
Synopsis: The incredible story of the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team, whose athletes struggled under Soviet rule, became symbols of Lithuania’s independence movement, and – with help from the Grateful Dead – triumphed at the Barcelona Olympics.

Been hearing a lot about this documentary (one of only 3 on this list since the majority of documentaries come out during the Spring and Summer months). This is a truly fascinating subject, ripe for potential exploration, and it looks genuinely educational and uplifting to boot.

20. Sleep Tight (Spain)
Synopsis: An embittered concierge at a Barcelona apartment building plots to make one happy-go-lucky resident completely miserable in this psychological thriller from [REC] and [REC 2] co-screenwriter/co-director Jaume Balaguero.

I feel pretty confident that this is going to be a reliable, solid slice of horror. It looks like the kind of low-key, suspense ratcheting creepfest that focuses on its antagonist over other characters. And Spanish directors certainly know how to deliver the scares: The Orphanage, The Devil’s Backbone, REC, The Others and last year’s The Last Circus to name a few obvious examples.

19. V/H/S (seen)
Synopsis: When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.

I’ve already seen this one but this is where it would have been placed. Horror anthologies are always worth a watch and these directors take the stylistic experimentation that videotapes inherently offer, with its glitchy worn-down visuals and static white noise, and channel it through the possibilities of the genre. That alone makes this worth watching. For all the mediocrity of the stories themselves and the fevered gender-based discussion it has incited, V/H/S has a DIY aesthetic that makes its mark.

18. Keep the Lights On
Synopsis: In Manhattan, filmmaker Erik bonds with closeted lawyer Paul after a fling. As their relationship becomes one fueled by highs, lows, and dysfunctional patterns, Erik struggles to negotiate his own boundaries while being true to himself.

This looks emotional and moving with strong lead performances. It has been impressing audiences since Sundance.

17. Bachelorette (seen)
Synopsis: Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school.

Another film on the list I have already seen, this is where Leslye Headland’s self-adapted mean streak of a comedy would have been placed.

16. Sinister
Synopsis: Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity.

Since premiering at SXSW in March, I have heard nothing but good things about this one. Good horror films that get wide releases are far and few between, but this looks like it will garner Insidious levels of attention with the buzz I’ve been hearing.

15. Silver Linings Playbook
Synopsis: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Winning the Audience Award at Toronto today is a huge signifier as to how this film will be received. The trailer didn’t do much to impress, looking too by-the-book with empty quirk thrown in. But all signs point to David O. Russell having a huge hit on his hands post-The Fighter. Russell is one of my favorite directors working today so I cannot wait to see him working in the comedic realm again.

14. Girl Model
Synopsis: A documentary on the modeling industry’s ‘supply chain’ between Siberia, Japan, and the U.S., told through the experiences of the scouts, agencies, and a 13-year-old model.

The second of two documentaries on this list, Girl Model looks like a chilling and illuminating look at the international modeling industry.

13. Seven Psychopaths
Synopsis:
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges reunites him with Colin Farrell as well as Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, both of whom starred in his play “A Beheading in Spokane”. McDonagh a master of the kind of dialogue that knows it’s clever, a Snatch-like trait that I usually veer towards not liking. Somehow he pulls this style off with aplomb and if it’s anywhere near as good as In Bruges, we are in for a treat. Oh, and Tom Waits people. Tom. Waits.

12. Wreck-It-Ralph
Summary: A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

This is the only children’s film I really can’t wait to see this Fall. The trailer had me full-on cracking up in a way no trailer has in ages and it has got a golden goose of a high concept. Add in the voice work of John C. Reilly at the helm and the smorgasbord of video game references and this looks like a guaranteed winner.

11. Looper
Synopsis: In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.

A brainy sci-fi headed by Rian Johnson? The amount of hype going into this one is considerable, but it looks like it will live up to expectations. I’m a huge fan of Brick and Johnson has directed two of the best “Breaking Bad” episodes in existence (“Fly” and “Fifty-One” respectively). So to see him get the opportunity to headline a considerably mounted genre film with its own world and rules is sure to impress. It is already well on its way to its own spot in the pantheon of great sci-fi flicks.

10. Wuthering Heights (Seen)
Synopsis: A poor boy of unknown origins is rescued from poverty and taken in by the Earnshaw family where he develops an intense relationship with his young foster sister, Cathy. Based on the classic novel by Emily Bronte.

I got the opportunity to see this at the Independent Film Festival of Boston and this is where Andrea Arnold’s adaptation would have been placed had I not seen it. It would have been one of my favorite 2012 films had the last hour not been entirely unbearable. Here is my review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/review-wuthering-heights-2012-arnold-iffboston-2012/

9. Django Unchained
Synopsis: With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

I realize that it looks like Quentin Tarantino’s latest gets a pretty low spot. Surely this is Top 5 material, right? Well, while I’m sure this is going to be fantastic, I’m also feeling ready for the director to do something else besides revenge across different genres. But this promises memorable characters, references galore and the type of crackling two-person dialogue scenes we love from him. I think I’m most interested to see how Leonardo DiCaprio fares in one of the auteur’s films and as a villain at that. It’s a much-needed and refreshing step out of his comfort zone.

8. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Synopsis: An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.

I’ve had high hopes, really high hopes for this, for a long long time. A lot of us have been waiting forever to see if Stephen Chbosky seminal coming-of-age novel was ever going to be adapted, and lo and behold, the day is almost upon us. It has a remarkable trio of actors in the lead roles. I am particularly amped for Ezra Miller, who quickly climbed his way onto my list of favorite young actors. There hasn’t been a memorable high school flick in a while. And this soundtrack, which takes from the book, is to die for. To. Die. For. The fact that Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” is going to be in this film is a fact that single-handedly earns ‘Perks’ a spot on the list.

7. A Royal Affair (Denmark)
Synopsis: A young queen, who is married to an insane king, falls secretly in love with her physician – and together they start a revolution that changes a nation forever.

This is shaping up to be a great year for Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. He won Best Actor at Cannes for The Hunt (which will hopefully get a Spring release for 2013), he is set to star in a TV series as Hannibal Lecter and he received excellent notices in the very well-received historical drama A Royal Affair. This looks like an intriguing much better-than-average historical drama that is right up my alley. It also stars Alicia Vikander, a young actress to watch out for who also will appear in Anna Karenina.

6. Rust and Bone (France)
Synopsis: Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali’s bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.

This being the latest from Jacques Audiard (A Prophet and Read My Lips) with a reportedly stellar lead performance by Marion Cotillard gives this a very high anticipatory spot. Cotillard has been relegated to pretty thankless roles since catapulting to the Hollywood A-List. It’ll be nice to see her in a meaty lead once again.

5. Holy Motors (France)
Synopsis: From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man…

All I heard during this year’s Cannes coverage was Holy Motors, Holy Motors, Holy Motors (well, that and a certain other film to appear on this list shortly). By all accounts, this is a surreal whackadoo head trip in the best way possible. It seems well on its way to earning a cult status and I intend on checking it out the moment it comes near me.

4. Cloud Atlas
Synopsis: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

What will likely be the most divisive film to come out this season, I for one am counting down the days until this film gets released. The 6-minute trailer is a thing of beauty, bringing tears to my hypersensitive eyes. We can attribute a lot of this to the inspired use of M83’s brilliant “Outro”.  And I am over halfway through David Mitchell’s novel as we speak.

The way I see it, whether the film turns out to be a disaster or a triumph (or both at the same time), these filmmakers are going for it. The Wackowski’s and Tom Tykwer have together tackled what is widely thought to be an unadaptable novel (more so than most novels given the unadaptable label). It’s weaving six stories in one film, all in different time periods, with the same actors with the tired old theme of interconnectedness. No matter what the outcome, the film will be discussed for years to come. Without having seen it and going on gut instinct, it feels like the type of film that will possibly be reassessed for the positive as decades pass. As you can see, I’m preparing myself for the bashing to come. I can already see that Cloud Atlas is going to bring out the worst in the blogosphere, Prometheus-style. But no matter what the outcome, this is going to be an ambitious, epic and challenging work that nobody can fully write off. It may end up becoming a flop, but it sure as hell will go down swinging.

Ridiculous Bonus: Bae Doona, one of my very favorite actresses working today is going to get some serious international exposure here as Sonmi-451.

3. Amour (Austria)
Synopsis: Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple’s bond of love is severely tested.

New Micheal Haneke. That not enough for you? It won the Palme D’Or. That still not enough for you? Haneke regular, and my favorite actress, Isabelle Huppert appears. Want more? This is Haneke doing a tearjerker about the elderly with two lead performances that supposedly devastate. My common sense tells me that Amour is going to stomp out my soul. Part of me has been mentally preparing myself for this film since this year’s Cannes.

2. Anna Karenina
Synopsis: Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.

Another film that is sure to divide. Joe Wright’s decision to set the Tolstoy adaptation on a stage and to use theatrical stylization is sure to distract some. But frankly, if all we are left with are the visuals evident in the trailer, this will still likely land a spot on my favorites for the year. The costumes, production design and overall look of the trailer is sickening. Joe Wright is one of my favorite directors working today. He pushes himself into challenging and creative directions that breathe new life into familiar tales. Wright reteaming with Keira Knightley, surely one of modern cinema’s most rewarding director/star collaborations, is always thrilling. The way his camera illuminates this woman (who is already stunning to begin with) is beyond my ability to comprehend. We’ve got a screenplay by the great Tom Stoppard, cinematography by the great Seamus McGarvey, music by the great Dario Marianelli and costume design by the great Jacqueline Durran. So basically what it comes down to is that lots of great people are involved in this. I plan on reading this monster of a novel before the film comes out. Now that’s anticipation for you.

1. The Master
Synopsis: A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

I honestly feel like I don’t even need to put reasons here. It’s at the top of everyone’s list. Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite working director. It’s been 5 years since his last film. This was very close to not getting financed. It’s a near miracle we even get to see this. His films engage me more than any other director. They make me feel things that are unrepeatable, unfamiliar and challenging. His films are dense, complex, elusive, pretentious and indefinably uncomfortable.  I live for his films. And on Friday I will finally be seeing his latest in 70mm. Oh, and welcome back to Joaquin Phoenix. It’s been too long. And if the trailers are any indication, this performance is one for the books.