The 10 Best, No, the 100 Best Films of 2012
by Kam Williams
It's impossible for me to limit my favorite films of 2012 to just 10 of the year's 1,000 or so releases After all, it feels unfair even to compare most of them to each other, since they represent so many different genres, countries and cultures, and enjoyed such a range in budgets.
Therefore, as per usual, this critic's annual list features 100 entries in order to honor as many of the best offerings as possible. And despite the cloud of controversy swirling around Kathryn's Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty for its depiction of torture and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained for its violence and use of the N-word, both of these movies are nevertheless deserving of high accolades in my humble opinion.
10 Best Big Budget Films
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Silver Linings Playbook
3. Django Unchained
6. Life of Pi
7. 21 Jump Street
8. Cabin in the Woods
10. Magic Mike
Big Budgets Honorable Mention
11. The Hunger Games
13. The Amazing Spider-Man
14. Safe House
15. The Sessions
17. The Avengers
18. Think Like a Man
20. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
21. Mirror Mirror
22. Anna Karenina
25. Promised Land
10 Best Foreign Films
1. Amour (France)
2. Turn Me on, Dammit! (Norway)
3. Nobody Else but You (France)
4. Let the Bullets Fly (China)
5. The Other Son (Israel)
6. Putin's Kiss (Russia)
7. Sound of Noise (Germany)
8. Attenberg (Greece)
9. I Wish (Japan)
10. The Fairy (Belgium)
Foreign Films Honorable Mention
11. The Well Digger's Daughter (France)
12. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Japan)
13. Ikland (Uganda)
14. Elles (France)
15. Simon and the Oaks (Sweden)
16. The Intouchables (France)
17. Unforgivable (Italy)
18. Dolphin Boy
19. Oslo, August 31st (Norway)
20. A Royal Affair (Denmark)
21. Busong (Philippines)
22. Gerhard Richter Painting (Germany)
23. Somewhere Between (China)
24. Crazy Horse (France)
25. 360 (Brazil)
10 Best Independent Films
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
2. The Deep Blue Sea
4. Take This Waltz
5. Middle of Nowhere
6. Safety Not Guaranteed
8. Restless City
10. Changing the Game
Independent Films Honorable Mention
11. God Bless America
12. Ginger & Rosa
13. Yelling to the Sky
14. Nobody Walks
16. Tim & Eric's Billion-Dollar Movie
17. Model Minority
18. The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best
19. 28 Hotel Rooms
20. Velvet Elvis
22. Mosquita & Mari
23. Happy New Year
24. 96 Minutes
25. Jack & Diane
10 Best Documentaries
1. The Central Park Five
2. Head Games
3. Chasing Ice
5. The Loving Story
6. The Queen of Versailles
8. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Documentaries Honorable Mention
11. Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story
12. The Revisionaires
13. Six Million and One
15. High Ground
16. Bonsai People
17. Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story
18. Soul Food Junkies
19. Brooklyn Castle
22. Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment
23. Never Stand Still
24. 5 Broken Cameras
OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules: Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening October 5, 2012
by Kam Williams
BIG BUDGET FILMS
Frankenweenie (PG for scary images, mature themes and action sequences) Oscar-nominee Tim Burton (for Corpse Bride) directed this animated horror comedy about a young boy (Charlie Tahan) whose scientific experiment to bring his beloved pet dog (Frank Welker) back to life results in unintended consequences. Voice cast includes Winona Ryder, Robert Capron, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Landau and Christopher Lee.
The Paperboy (R for violence, profanity and graphic sexuality) Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels (for Precious) directed this crime thriller revolving around a big city reporter (Matthew McConaughey) who returns to his tiny Florida hometown to try to exonerate a Death Row inmate (John Cusack) with the help of his brother (Zac Efron), a colleague (David Oyelowo) and a sultry groupie (Nicole Kidman) With Macy Gray, Ned Bellamy and Scott Glenn.
Taken 2 (PG13 for sensuality, action sequences and intense violence) Principal cast reunites for this adrenaline-fueled sequel which finds retired CIA Agent Mills (Liam Neeson) vacationing with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) in Istanbul where they end up abducted by a revenge-minded gang of Albanian sex traffickers. With Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser and Luenell.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
Bel Borba Aqui (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the career of Bel, the Brazilian artist whose oversized, outdoor sculptures dot the landscape of his beloved hometown of Salvador. (In Portuguese with subtitles)
Butter (R for profanity and sexuality) Social satire, set in small-town Iowa, about a young, adopted girl (Yara Shahidi) who squares-off against an ambitious housewife (Jennifer Garner) in the annual butter-carving competition. Cast includes Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde and Alicia Silverstone.
Escape Fire (PG-13 for mature themes) Medical crisis documentary addressing the question of whether the broken, American healthcare system can be fixed. Featuring appearances by Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Dean Ornish and insurance executive Wendell Potter.
Fat Kid Rules the World (R for sexuality, drug use and brief violence) Coming-of-age comedy about an overweight, suicidal 17 year-old (Jacob Wysocki) who forms a rock band with the street musician (Matt O'Leary) who saved his life by stopping him from jumping in front of a bus. With Billy Campbell, LILi Simmons and Jeffrey Doombos.
The House I Live in (Unrated) War on Drugs documentary takes a penetrating look at the human rights implications of the American criminal justice system's incarceration of over 45 million non-violent, narcotics offenders since 1971.
Now, Forager (Unrated) Marital crisis drama about a counter-cultural couple (Tiffany Esteb and Jason Cortlund), subsisting by selling wild mushrooms to Manhattan restaurants, whose relationship is tested when the wife tires of living hand to mouth. With Almex Lee, Gabrielle Maisels and Marty Clarke.
The Oranges (R for profanity, sexual references and drug use) Romantic comedy, set in suburban N.J., about the strain placed on two couples' close friendship when one husband (Hugh Laurie) has a scandalous affair with the other's (Oliver Platt) daughter (Leighton Meester). With Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat and Adam Brody.
Pitch Perfect (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Musical comedy about a college freshman (Anna Kendrick) who overhauls the repertoire of her all-girl singing group in preparation for a big showdown on campus with an all-male rival ensemble in an a cappella competition. Featuring Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson and Skylar Astin.
Sister (Unrated) Class-conscious drama, set in Switzerland, about a 12 year-old mountain urchin (Kacey Mottet Klein) who supports himself and his big sister (Lea Seydoux) by stealing from wealthy guests at a posh ski resort. With Gillian Anderson, Martin Compston and Simon Guelat. (In French and English with subtitles)
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (Unrated) Introspective character study about a Brown University-bound high school grad (Toby Regbo) who spends a summer of discontent talking about his troubles to his grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and psychotherapist (Lucy Liu). Support cast includes Marcia Gay Harden, Peter Gallagher and Deborah Ann Woll.
Trade of Innocents (PG-13 for mature themes and violence) International thriller about a couple (Dermot Mulroney and Mira Sorvino) grieving the death of their daughter who venture to Southeast Asia to rescue young girls caught up in child prostitution. With John Billingsley, Trieu Tran and Kieu Chinh.
V/H/S (R for gory violence, graphic nudity, explicit sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity) Found footage horror flick about a gang of crooks who get the surprise of their lives after agreeing to break into a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere to find a videotape for an anonymous third party. Starring Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes and Adam Wingard.
Wuthering Heights (Unrated) Screen adaptation of the Emily Bronte classic about the love which blossoms between an orphan (James Howson) and the teenage daughter (Kaya Scodelario) of the Yorkshire farmer (Paul Hilton) who adopts him, much to the chagrin of the girl's overprotective brother (Lee Shaw). With Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer and Simone Jackson.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening September 21, 2012
BIG BUDGET FILMS
Dredd 3-D (R for profanity, sexuality, drug use and graphic violence) Karl Urban assumes the title role originally played by Sly Stallone in this reboot of the futuristic, sci-fi franchise which finds America an irradiated wasteland patrolled by a formidable judge/jury/executioner committed to cleansing the country of undesirables with the help of an attractive rookie sidekick (Olivia Thirlby). Supporting cast includes Lena Headey, Wood Harris and Jason Cope.
End of Watch (R for sexual references, drug use, graphic violence, disturbing images and pervasive profanity) Grisly crime saga about a couple of LAPD cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena) who land on a drug cartel's hit list after confiscating a cache of guns and money during a routine traffic stop. With America Ferrara, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez.
House at the End of the Street (PG-13 for profanity, terror, intense violence, teen partying, mature themes and brief drug use) Haunted house horror flick about a recent divorcee (Elisabeth Shue) whose hopes for a fresh start after relocating with her daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) to a quaint rural town are dashed by the creepy recluse (Max Theriot) living next-door. Ensemble includes Gil Bellows, Eva Link and Jon McLaren.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
17 Girls (Unrated) Baby mama drama set in Lorient, France but inspired by actual events which transpired in a Massachusetts town where a clique of bored high school coeds entered a pact to get pregnant after one of them (Louise Grinberg) was accidentally knocked up. Cast includes Juliette Darche, Roxane Duran and Esther Garrel. (In French with subtitles)
About Cherry (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use) Coming-of-age drama, set in San Francisco, revolving around a troubled teen (Ashley Hinshaw) introduced to the adult entertainment industry by a sleazy attorney (James Franco) and a washed-up porn star (Heather Graham). With Dev Patel, Lili Taylor and Diane Farr.
Dear Mandela (Unrated) Dream deferred documentary highlighting the efforts of a trio of activists spearheading a revival of the South African civil rights movement on behalf of the black masses yet to benefit from independence. (In English and Zulu with subtitles)
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (PG-13 for nude images) Reverential retrospective takes a fond look back at the life and times of fashionista Diana Vreeland (1903-1989), the influential editor of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.
Head Games (PG-13 for mature themes) Brain trauma documentary explores the oft-devastating consequences of concussions suffered while playing football, hockey, soccer and other sports.
How to Survive a Plague (Unrated) AIDS documentary chronicling the efforts of ACT UP and other gay organizations which successfully pressured the federal government to fund the research that turned the epidemic from a death sentence into a manageable medical condition. Featuring file footage of Larry Kramer and Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
Knuckleball! (Unrated) Baseball documentary deconstructing the mechanics of the knuckleball with the help of such proponents of the unorthodox pitch as Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey, Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (PG-13 for mature themes, profanity, and teen sexuality, fighting drug use and alcohol abuse) Screen adaptation of the Steven Chbosky novel of the same name about a lonely freshman's (Logan Lerman) attempt to adjust to high school while simultaneously struggling to cope with a crush on a classmate (Emma Watson), a friend's suicide and his own mental illness. With Paul Rudd, Ezra Miller and Dylan McDermott.
They Call It Myannar: Lifting the Curtain (Unrated) Bamboo Curtain expose' offering a rare peak at Burma via interviews conducted secretly with over a hundred of the repressive regime's political dissidents, including recently-released, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Three Stars (Unrated) Delightful gourmet documentary delineating the culinary philosophy of nine of the world's greatest chefs. Featuring Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Yannick Alleno and Olivier Roellinger. (In Dutch, English, German, Japanese, Italian and Spanish with subtitles)
Trouble with the Curve (PG-13 for profanity, smoking, mature themes and sexual references) Clint Eastwood stars in this minor league diamond drama about an aging baseball scout with failing eyesight who grudgingly agrees to make one last road trip prior to retiring after his daughter (Amy Adams) agrees to accompany him on the trek. Cast includes Justin Timberlake, John Goodman and Scott Eastwood (Clint's son).
You May Not Kiss the Bride (PG-13 for sexuality, coarse humor and violence) Romantic comedy about a mild-mannered pet photographer (Dave Annable) forced to marry the daughter (Katharina McPhee) of the Croatian mobster (Ken Davitian) who wants his little girl to become an American citizen. With Mena Suvari, Kathy Bates, Rob Schneider, Tia Carrerre and Vinnie Jones.
Just back from IDFA, where there was a plethora of great docs. The official prize for Best Feature Length Doc went to the South Korean film Planet of Snail and the Audience Award to 5 Broken Cameras. Other festival favorites: Putin's Kiss and Mads Bruegger's newest film, The Ambassador. We released his prior film, Red Chapel, which you can download here.
Sushi: The Global Catch also had its European premier and will be coming to a featival or theater near you soon.
Stay tuned for more.
The linup of guest speakers for selected screenings of EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS at Film Forum has been announced! Read More
It also fits his vision for the festival. Mr. Prince has tried to model Lighthouse—now in its second year—on festivals like those in Nantucket and the Hamptons "that bring in films from the top festivals around the world." Of this year's 70 movies, several are hot off the reels from Sundance and Berlin. Opening night will feature "The Red Chapel," a movie best described as "Borat" in North Korea. Named best world documentary at Sundance, it features two Danish comedians and one journalist traveling in the Communist state under the pretense of a cultural exchange.
Italy's culture minister has snubbed an invite to the Cannes Film Festival in protest at a decision to screen a film about the L'Aquila earthquake. Sandro Bondi has objected to the satirical documentary which criticises Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's handling of the disaster. Read more
Meditate & Destroy is now accessible to viewers from the comfort of their homes or on the go exclusively via Alive Mind's Video On Demand service. Meditate and Destroy is an 81-minute documentary about punk rock, spirituality, and inner rebellion. The film focuses on the bestselling author of Dharma Punx and Against the Stream, Noah Levine. Tattoos, motorcycles, and Buddha are featured in this hard-hitting look at how Buddhism has a place in the world of punks. This inspiring film opens our perception to the possibilities of finding new paths- even in our darkest hours.
This film provides an up-close look at how the driving forces in Noah’s life changed from violence, addiction and rebellion to taking on the role of dedicated meditation teacher and community leader - an individual whose candor inspires others to integrate Buddhist teachings of nonviolence and inner peace with a Western lifestyle.
Available to all U.S households or mobile devices with a high-speed Internet connection, Meditate & Destroy will inspire viewers to embrace the transformational power of Buddhism.
I hope you enjoy this quirky, unconventional film.
Love and Light,
Back from Silver Docs, where Albert Maysles was awarded the 2009 Guggenheim Lifetime Achievement Award. A fun time was had by all at the after-party with Al, Christo, Jeanne-Claude and the entire Maysles team basking in the limelight and enjoying the champagne.
By Chris Knight, National Post
You might expect the director of programming at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival to have a fixed notion of what is and isn’t a documentary, but Sean Farnel, now in his fourth year in the job, says it’s a moving target.
“I’m becoming less of a purist about the form as I see filmmakers doing impressive things,” Farnel says. “This is a case where the term ‘non-fiction’ is better than ‘reality’ — whatever that is. Documentary as a non-fiction form has become very fluid in the last 10 years ... You see docs consistently pushing the form in new directions.”
Two popular, form-pushing films released last year illustrate his point. Waltz with Bashir, by Ari Folman, recreates the Israeli filmmaker’s memories of the 1982 war with Lebanon through animation. Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg was part monologue, part travelogue and partly made up, though clearly even the imaginary parts of Manitoba’s capital are close to Maddin’s heart.
This year’s festival, which opens next Thursday with a screening of Jennifer Baichwal’s Act of God, includes a number of what Farnel calls “creative documentaries.”
Cooking History, about soldiers’ food during wartime, uses tableaux and elaborate reconstructions. Antoine, a Canadian film by Laura Bari, immerses the viewer in the universe of a blind five-year-old boy. Big River Man, which Farnel calls a “demi-documentary” in the festival’s program notes, “might be another example of walking the line between fiction and non-fiction to achieve what Werner Herzog would call poetic truth.”
Another coup for Lorber HT Digital, who acquired North American theatrical and home video rights for the 2008 New York Film Festival winner, Tony Manero. Set in Chile during the grim days of the military dictatorship of General Pinochet, the film opens with the seemingly benign protagonist, Raul, protecting a little old lady from neighborhood thugs (where are the ubiquitous Chilean police when you need them?). Any sympathy is quickly shattered when Raul bashes her brains out with his bare hands and then absconds with her color television set, although not before taking care to feed her cat.
A macabre political parable, Raul's obsession with Saturday Night Fever is an apt metaphor for the dictatorship. The film's use of violence and sexual disfunction is appropriate and powerful. Raul's fantasy, and his single-minded pursuit of it, paints a dark picture of life under a dictator.
Read more at Indiewire.
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