The Best Films of 2012 – Part Two

5. ‘Argo’

argoWords by Yazen Al Samen

In ‘Argo’, Ben Affleck breaks into the Hollywood elite, by embracing what made Hollywood great. The true story of 6 escaped American hostages in Iran in 1980 and the plan to rescue them is too crazy to be true, and Ben Affleck’s movie takes this story and turns it into one hell of a thrill ride.

But the film goes to show the effect the media and the cinema has on the mind of the people, wherever they come from, and how they can influence politics. Affleck also embraces Hollywood “escapism”, by making a movie so fine tuned that even when you think it’s cheesy and predictable it enthralls and captures you. “Argo” is for the ages, and one of the leading contenders for Best Picture at the Oscars.

4. ‘Skyfall’

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Here is Bond for the 21st century. The 23rd installment into the Bond franchise is one of the best, probably the best. It is also quite a bold film, with the question in the center of it “Is Bond needed in today’s world?” This film takes Bond from Cold War antiquity and into 21st century technology, it is a film of a confused Bond, of a confused MI6, facing a whole new terror what they were used to, a more personal terror.

It is also a very self aware film, and with that it tests us the audience with relics of the past from Bond himself or his gadgets. It culminates into a movie about moving on, letting go, and effect of time itself on the human soul and the objects around it. Sam Mendes’ movie is quite a rare thing, a downright philosophical, entertaining, personal, blockbuster.

3. ‘Amour’ 

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Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ (‘Love’) probably has the most fitting title of any of this year’s films. It stars of cinema’s most memorable actors, Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, as Georges and Anne, an 80-something couple living a quiet life in the twilight of their lives. Soon, Anne has a stroke and starts descending into paralysis, leaving Georges to care for her.

The film goes into Georges’ struggle to care for Ann, and provides a test for his love and their enduring marriage. “Amour” ends up presenting quite a strong and powerful exploration of what love is, and where it comes from, and how it transforms along the ages. It is one of the most heartfelt and hard hitting films of recent years, and one of Haneke’s best films.

2. ‘Life of Pi’

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‘Life of Pi’ is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. It has outright the best use of 3D in movies, and surely some of the best special effects set pieces. It is quite an experience. Adapted from Yann Martel’s novel, it is about a young Indian boy who is left in the middle of the sea after a shipwreck, on a lifeboat, alone with a Bengal tiger. Very few modern films are this un-cynical of their mention of God, and the film’s hero starts off by saying that “this story will make you believe in God”.

But this is not the direction the movie is interested in. It is more about the nature of religion, the nature of belief and faith, and how the human mind works to give meaning and acquire comfort and relief, and how experiences shape our lives, in ways we may not know, and it touches on how “God” and nature work, and where we, and animals, stand in the world. Ang Lee’s film is of the most joyously uplifting spiritual experiences you can have at the movies. ‘Life Of Pi’ is tied in my eyes for the year’s best film, but my number 1 pick left me in more shock and awe, simply…

1. ‘The Master’

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This film has divided people. It is one of the most baffling of films. Yet it remains there, imprinted in our minds. An out of the body experience. No film has taken so much effort and detail in bringing onto the screen a relationship between two people.

Joaquin Phoenix’s alcoholic WWII vet is drifting in Fifties America, when he meets a cult leader, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who takes him under his wing. The two men bounce off each to other, two men of different styles, behaviors and mindsets. The movie leaves them there, as we see them in 70mm, and we stay mesmerized by how human interactions work, and how conversations, demeanors and charisma influence the mind and the body.

The film is a heightened experience, and its highly human and psychological content is well concealed within 50s American society, yet the film first and foremost is an experience, that works on the mind and the senses, and amazes you as it baffles you. No other film has been made like this.

The Best Films of 2012

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Words by Yazen Al Samen

What a year 2012 has been for franchises. From Superheroes to teenage vampires to Hobbitses to even British secret agents. Films that have grossed in the billions, and still do. However, there were films that stood on their own alongside those big hitters. 2012 has been again a rich year for films, here on English shores, even though we are yet to be hit with ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Lincoln’,  ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ or ‘Flight’, among other movies, which have already took sweep of the US and have gained critical momentum.

Yours truly has watched as much as he can during the past year and here I present my personal list of the best films I’ve seen during the past year, I’ve discounted films like ‘The Artist’ and ‘The Descendants’ because even though they were released last January, they’re not really 2012 movies as they were 2011 releases in America and are even considered 2011 movies by the BAFTA. Anyway, here I roll with the list (excluding Documentaries):

First, some honourable mentions:  ‘The Deep Blue Sea’, ‘End of Watch’, ‘The Grey’, ‘The Impossible’, ‘Killer Joe’, ‘Killing Them Softly’, ‘Looper’, ‘Prometheus’, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, ‘To Rome With Love’.

 10. ‘Holy Motors’

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I guess “Holy Motors” is what you call a wild ride. This is a movie like no other, one of the most all out bat shit crazy films I have seen. The plot involves Denis Lavant as a certain Monseiur Oscar, who spends his day travelling around Paris in his limousine, and attending different “appointments”.

In each appointment he dresses as a different person and acts differently. Featuring supporting turns by Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, and directed by Leos Carax, one of the less active, yet most famous of modern French directors. The end result is a wildly entertaining film that reaffirms your faith in the originality of cinema.

9. ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

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Benh Zeitlin’s first film, winner of the Camera D’Or at Cannes Film Festival, is a feast. A film awash with originality and wonder. At its center is Hushpuppy, a 6 year old, as played by Quvenzhane Wallis, who is already gaining Oscar momentum, and rightly so. Hushpuppy lives in a Louisiana Bayou which is secluded from civilization, and her home is about to be hit by a giant storm.

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is full of first time actors; it’s been gaining momentum since it premiered at Sundance almost a year ago. This is one of the best independent films of recent years.

8. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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Unlike the first 2 films on this list, which might have slipped under some people’s radar, I doubt you missed this one. Christopher Nolan’s climax conclusion to his Batman trilogy, which is not without its flaws, is one hell of an achievement. It is such an ambitious film that elevated Batman from a superhero into a right tragic figure.

It is quite something to see a film that goes as far as this, to take an already glorified super hero, pretty much imprinted in our minds, and go into a story that explores peace in modern society and the implications of violence. It is far from perfect, but it is hard not be taken away by Nolan’s movie.

7. ‘Anna Karenina’

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The team behind ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Atonement’, led by director Joe Wright and his muse Keira Knightley, return here in an eloquent adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic, starring Knightley as the titular figurine who blasts into an adulterous affair with a young officer (Aaron Johnson).

The film is a spectacle, filmed on a stage and in close spaces with expert choreography, the movie plunges into the passions and taboos of 19th century Russian society. Includes supporting roles for Jude Law, Emily Watson, Kelly McDonald and Olivia Williams.

6. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

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Wes Anderson has always been an acquired taste, and here he continues to show why. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a magically whimsical film, with characters so freshly conceived and minutely detailed, it explores common Anderson themes like young love, in this case between two eleven year olds (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman), who escape into the wilderness of their small Island in the 60s.

And in turn get the whole people of the Island searching for them. Features an impeccable turn by Bruce Willis, along with Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton among many many others.