Best and Top of Everything : Top 10 Best Movies of 2012

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 10 Best Movies of 2012








10. The Invisible War

top10_bestmovies_invisiblewar

Armed forces has a second, corrosive meaning when officers force themselves sexually on the women in their command. In Kirby Dick’s almost unbearably powerful documentary about rape in the military, the brave women who testify onscreen argue that they were really violated twice: once by their assailants and a second time by the tough-boy network of commanders protecting the army. “The thing that makes me the most angry,” says Marine Corps Lieutenant Ariana Klay, “is not even the rape itself. It’s the commanders that were complicit in covering up everything that happened.” These women — and the male victims too, for more men than women suffer sexual assault in the military — needed the scourging disinfectant of Dick’s spotlight, in one of the few movies that has done provable good. On April 14, three months after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival (where it won the audience award), The Invisible War was shown to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. “Two days later,” we learn at the end, “he took the decision to prosecute away from commanders.”


9. Frankenweenie

Walt Disney Pictures

If Victor Frankenstein, the monstermaking scientist of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, were a suburban American kid … well, he is in Tim Burton’s feature-length remake, in stop-motion animation, of his 1984 live-action short. Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is a little too weird for his conventional parents (Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara) but a perfect mate for his pit bull terrier Sparky. When Sparky is killed in a car accident, Victor resolves to bring him back to life. The movie transforms what is for most children their first shock of mortality — the passing of a beloved pet — into a sympathetic tale of precocious necrophilia, and a puckish pocket history of classic monster films. Utilizing the stop-motion wizardry of the puppeteers at Mackinnon & Saunders, this 3-D, black-and-white “family” comedy is the year’s most inventive, endearing animated feature.

 

8. Dragon

Image: Dragon (Wu Xia)

 

When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee’s tribute to the wuxia (swordplay) films of the late ’60s, became a megahit with American and European audiences, Chinese producers enlisted renowned directors to elevate the large-scale action genre with their gifts for visual composition and narrative complexity. Zhang Yimou scored with Hero, Tsui Hark with Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Peter Chan’s Dragon (original title: Wu Xia) enthralls both as an evocation of the classic One-Armed Swordsman films, directed by Chang Cheh and starring Jimmy Wang Yu, and as a sophisticated, stand-alone delight. The hidden dragon here is Donnie Yen, as the quiet husband and father whose fierce powers are made known when he saves a shopkeeper from a bandit attack — and reveals himself as the renegade son of the bandits’ leader (a great comeback role for Wang Yu). Yen also choreographed the splendid stunts, in a drama that achieves both gravity and buoyancy, and balances a familial tenderness with chest-caving kicks.

7. Dark Horse

Vitagraph Films 

Abe Wertheimer (Jordan Gelber) is an underachieving schlub. Fat and 35, he lives with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken) and stocks his bedroom with fantasy-film posters and Simpsons action figures more suitable for a 12-year-old. Yet when he kisses Miranda (Selma Blair), a fellow chronic depressive, she muses, “Oh God, that wasn’t horrible.” One or two women, including his father’s secretary (Donna Murphy), love Abe, in the way a child may protectively cherish an injured gerbil. Or their affection exists only in one of Abe’s daydreams, which appear frequently and furtively in Todd Solondz’s sweet, neurotic romantic comedy. Some folks see a sadistic, derisive side to Solondz’s earlier films (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Life During Wartime); we think they show a daring empathy for ordinary people capable of awful behavior. Any misapprehension about the writer-director’s attitude is erased by watching Dark Horse. Ugly is beautiful in Solondz’s gentlest triumph.

6. Zero Dark Thirty

Columbia Pictures 

In the war on terror, the frontline is everywhere, from Afghanistan to Fiji to Manhattan. And among the U.S.’s most valuable soldier-tacticians are CIA trackers like Maya (Jessica Chastain), a spiritual sister to Claire Danes’ analyst in Homeland and the heroine of this powerhouse docudrama from Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the director and writer of The Hurt Locker. That Oscar winner showed the war in a microcosm: a three-man unit of bomb defusers in Baghdad. This is a grand macrocosm covering eight years in the search for Osama bin Laden and climaxing in a scrupulous depiction of the SEAL Team 6 raid that killed him. Bigelow turns Boal’s superb reporting of a complex campaign into a lucid, thrilling action movie for the brain. If the U.S. ever had to go to war, you’d want these two to run it.

5. The Dark Knight Rises

 Warner Bros. Pictures

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and an idealistic young cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) must save Gotham from a blight named Bane (Tom Hardy), with occasional help or intrusion from a lovely philanthropist (Marion Cotillard) and the revived Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). All five are orphans in masks; they repress or express their true natures by playing roles. Christopher Nolan’s stupendous climax to his Batman trilogy is a masquerade too. Nolan is pretending to be a director of comic-book entertainment, when he’s really out to excoriate Americans’ greed, laziness and implicit yearning for an omnipotent father figure, whether superhero or demagogue. In a tragic coincidence, another masked man strode into an Aurora, Colo., movie house in a Bane-like gas mask during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and slaughtered a dozen people. The killer, identified as James Holmes, hadn’t seen the movie, but he underlined its mordant thesis: that in the real America, the creature that emerges from our dreams and into the night sky is as likely to be a madman as a savior.

4. Anna Karenina

Laurie Sparham / Focus Features 

All the world — the world of landed Russian aristocrats — is a stage in Joe Wright’s brazen, exhilarating film of Tolstoy’s story about the lady, her lover, her husband and the train. Tom Stoppard’s script manages a suave synopsis of the 900-page novel, while Wright stages most of the action in a reproduction of a 19th century theater to underline the artificiality and poisonous grace of high society. He sets dozens of characters awhirl and aghast at the reckless affair that Anna (Keira Knightley) pursues with the dashing soldier Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographed much of the movie: a Moscow ball, a horse race, a ballet of waiters and accountants, even the big love scene. The prima ballerina is Knightley, boldly dancing on thin ice as her marriage to respectable Karenin (Jude Law) crumbles into ignominy. This is tragedy played as comic opera soaring into grand opera, and a triumph of art and artifice over the grubby banalities of movie naturalism

3. Life of Pi

20th Century Fox

An Indian teenager, his family killed in a shipwreck, must navigate a small boat across the Pacific Ocean with no company but a ravenous Bengal tiger. Both creatures endure a rite of passage in Ang Lee’s visually spectacular, emotionally resonant film of the Yann Martel novel. Pi, played by Suraj Sharma as a boy and Irrfan Khan in the framing story, channels millennia of seafaring heroes, from Noah to Ulysses, and centuries of solitary survivors, from Robinson Crusoe to the Tom Hanks character in Cast Away. But the real wonder of Pi is Lee’s poetic use of 3-D — conjuring a looking-glass ocean, schools of flying fish and about a million meerkats — and the motion-capture technology that put an imaginary tiger in a real boat. The line of ascension runs from Avatar to Rise of the Planet of the Apes to this entrancing feat of magical realism.

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Fox Searchlight Pictures 

 

Some people get hit by a ferocious weather system once every few decades. In the soggy Louisiana delta area called the Bathtub, home to Hushpuppy (Quvenzhan√© Wallis) and her ailing daddy (Dwight Henry), every day of the week is storm day. Six years old and ageless, Hushpuppy converses with her farm pets and lost mother, endures a hurricane and spends time with surrogate moms on a floating bordello. Benh Zeitlin’s Sundance award winner, written by playwright Lucy Alibar, is a work of cinematic imagination as vast and verdant as Hushpuppy’s. This wonder of a film speaks in eloquent images and moves to the music of Wallis’ astonishing performance. As a wise, wild child, she is a tiny, irresistible force of nature.

1. Amour

Sony Pictures Classics 

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are wiry 80-something retired music teachers who have been together for more than half a century. When Anne suffers two serious strokes and loses her powers of speech and movement, Georges cares for her with the stern ardor of a teen attending to his first love. Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke is renowned for his forbidding parables of families beset by a malefic outside force: Funny Games, Cach√©, The White Ribbon. The villain here is the decay to which we are all heirs; granted, in the filmmaker’s oeuvre, there is no happy Haneke. But this is his most intimate, positive, human drama. The two great actors, icons of French films since the 1950s, are at the peak of their art in a story of devotion pushed to the limit. The body may wilt and perish, but love — and Amour — will never die.