BEST FILMS OF 2012

As this year reaches its end, and our mayan demise continues to be flaky as hell, I figured I’d look back at what is without a doubt the best year in film I can remember.

 This wasn’t a year characterised by a glut of vapid costume dramas, romcoms or dull and “apolitical” action/thrillers. Kubrick’s eclecticism came to mind when looking at these gems.  

SPOILERS:

PROMETHEUS 

Do you wanna see the original  girl with the dragon tattoo gleefully searching space for the origins of mankind, bathed in the glow of awe-inspiring technology only to be rewarded with the task of performing her own alien abortion? It’s worth it :) 

Prometheus does not outdo the flawless Aliens. But what it does do is provide a context for the aliens - It sets up an intellectual debate between empiricism as evidenced by David’s rational attitude and the desperate quasi religious endurance of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace).  Elizabeth is of the mind that mankind has been dumped like an orphan on earth, and she wishes to make sense of what she construes as an abandonment. Her unwavering faith and the grandiose vision of the future realized by the filmmakers are achingly beautiful strengths which put prometheus not far behind Aliens in the sci-fi canon. 

RUST AND BONE

I had no idea what this film was about as I sat in the darkness waiting for the adverts to finish. I sat there with an almost embryonic ignorance that I haven’t had since I went to the cinema as a kid. The reason for going in blind? Jaques fucking Audriard. After A prophet and The beat that my heart skipped, the man has earned the benefit of the doubt. 

This film from the outset grabs you with the brooding music of Bon Iver, and the images of a towering father and his innocent child, clearly quite poor and surviving life on the streets. 

Beneath this  initially quaint image of fatherly commitment, is a profoundly selfish man who learns his lesson after almost loosing the most important thing in his life. 

The journey to that place of enlightenment starts off with him meeting a woman at a club he is a bouncer for. He finds her already having been beaten by a man. 
At her house we see  that she has a possessive partner. To be blunt all the men in that scene including him are sexist tools to her. She is just a beautiful body to them. A body to be analysed and claimed. She knows this, but she is beleaguered. 

overwhelmingly the film seems to be highlighting the primacy that humans are still capable of even with our high rises and insurance plans.

She is a whale trainer, and after the accident at her job which claims her legs and (in her mind) her beauty, everything slows down. 

She needs a new project; she needs a new way of being human - of being desireable. The bouncer comes back into her life and they develop a codependant relationship where she gains a very primal assurance from him that she in fact is still a woman, and he gets someone to love and practice his ability to be responsible for something. 

As things progress the woman learns of the former bouncer’s street fighting. In a turn of a events later in the film she finds herself in charge of managing him. from training wales she moves onto training the powerful man in her life. 

We get a return to the mesmerising shooting style previously employed with the whales. Deep down we’re still just animals the film seems to be saying, but Audriard doesn’t leave us feeling empty with this observation. The whale that claimed her legs and the man who put his child in danger throughout the film, are both so capable of malevolence and warmth but fate has willed it that they must uknowingly punish those that love them the most. In the end however redemption is achieved and a wholly deserved happy ending unfolds.

LAURENCE ANYWAYS

Does the plight of a teacher deeply in love with his girlfriend but with the innate desire to become a woman sound intriguing to you? Xavier Dolan finally masters his directorial voice in this touching movie. Gone is the obnoxiously overblown slow mo. Gone is the jarring interviews with random folks running parallel to the movie. This film’s focus is simple: Two people so desperately in love but unable to cope with the reality of the world outside the bohemian cocoon of their relationship. It’s the most touching love story i’ve seen next to Linklaters before sunrise/sunset double whammy. 

KILLING THEM SOFTLY 

Full disclosure: this is my earlier review I did for the film a little spruced up.  

This film is so tightly held together, so psychologically unsettling and so bloody visceral that by the end you’re just left gasping.  In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis having a film which finds a clever metaphor for the bankers in the gangster milieu is refreshing and powerful.

As with many of the other films on the list, killing them’ offers viewers a post baby-boomer vision of new masculinity. The film provides an unfettered look at what happens when men are trapped in the vicegrip of manhood for too long. 

This is best encapsulated by James Gandolfini character. 

When James Galdolfini’s character breaks down  in front of Brad Pitt’s character spilling the details of his fractured marriage, how worried he is of his wife leaving him, and how little control he feels he has over anything, i was at the edge of my seat - eyes glazing over. This character was such a nasty piece of work if you zoomed out of this scene. However here the director and actor give us something so honest and laid bare that we see the fundamental humanity of the character: he is a lonely alcoholic with no control of his life. 

Lastly Brad Pitt does a fantastic job of playing the closest thing this film has to the grim reaper. He plays his character as though he is a sports coach/therapist; coaxing poor fools to their demise with a charisma edged with a bubbling ferocity. 

CInematographically this film is pretty sexy: Aptly applied Slow mo. Innovative and haunting use of shadow and colour to illustrate characters slipping in and out of drug induced highs. 

Last point: Brad’s ending monologue is just genius. 

END OF WATCH

A found-footage-bromance cop movie with Jake Gyllenhal and Michael Pena (crash. babel) - as brothers from different mothers uncovering a truly brutal case? dizzyingly violent yet engrossingly sincere. Honesty and male anxiety are central to this movie. These two men have reached a stage where they can talk so bluntly and unguardedly about their individual neuroses without offending one another. They love one another plain and simple.  And it’s a damn shame what they go through. It is a thrillingly scripted and gloriously acted trip to the depths of hell. 

Honestly you’ll realise after watching this that Training day only took you to the precipice of despair. 

SHAME 

A well-to-do city worker must masturbate and sleep with everything with a face due to unspoken childhood trauma. Before I watched this film I had doubts; i mean yeah I loved Hunger and the trailers for Shame looked slick - but it was about sex addiction. How visceral and unrelenting can you make that without just making porn.

Mcqueen gave us a 20 odd minute shot between Bobby sands and a priest in Hunger. (one of the greatest scenes in cinema history) Steve Mcqueen proves himself more than capable in Shame, which is meditative in its exploration of the protagonists issues. His interiority is what we explore. We’re waiting for his performance of “normalcy” to falter, and when it does it is powerful. 

2012 OVERVIEW

On one end of the spectrum you have the hard-hitting and ultimately cathartic story of a male-to-female transsexual - on the other end of the spectrum, you have space exploration and a deep existential debate on man’s agency in a universe with seemingly no god. 

2012 = year of pure cinematic brilliance.