Unlike 2011, 2012 was not a great year for film, though it did come on strong near the end of the year. And my four favourite films of the year will all make it into my top 100 films of all time, which is quite impressive. But along the way, 2012 featured more Hollywood garbage than we’ve seen in a while, and that’s saying something. Not surprisingly, there are very few Hollywood films in my top ten of the year.
But Steven Spielberg made one of them, making it back into my top ten this year. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is well on his way to greatness, found his way into three of my top ten films. And of particular note is the amazing fact that German director Tom Tykwer has now made my favourite film of the year three times in fourteen years. Wow! It is obvious that he and I connect and indeed I have given all of his films either ***+ or ****, even when the average critic is unimpressed. Going back to 1930, only three other directors have made three of my favourite films of the year (yes, I do have them all listed in case anyone is interested): Stanley Kubrick (my all-time favourite director), Steven Spielberg (who has five films in my top 100 films of all time) and Terry Gilliam.
Here are my top ten films of 2012, counting down from 10:
10. The Dark Knight Rises - While ambiguous in its depiction of redemptive violence, the concluding chapter of Christopher Nolan’s excellent Batman trilogy features outstanding acting, cinematography and music, an intelligent and thought-provoking screenplay, and no 3D.
9. In the Family - A long, slow-moving understated film about how we communicate and how we work together to make the world a better place. Patrick Wang’s debut film is profound, wise and humanizing.
8. The Impossible - A moving, intense, inspiring and expertly-crafted disaster film about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, this true story features great acting by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor and an art-house feel rarely seen in a disaster flick.
7. Life of Pi - Ang Lee’s filming of the bestselling novel by Yann Martel features stunning cinematography and special effects. It is also a thoughtful, wise, spiritual and uplifting adventure.
6. Lincoln - Steven Spielberg’s dialogue-heavy (that’s a good thing) drama may feature an idealized Abraham Lincoln, but the performances by Daniel Day-Lewis (as Lincoln) and an incredible ensemble cast make this film exceptional.
5. Moonrise Kingdom - One of Wes Anderson’s best films, this quirky comedy about teenage romance is beautifully filmed, brilliantly structured and very funny, if also sad.
4. Looper - A thoughtful science fiction thriller, written and directed by Rian Johnson, Looper features not only great acting (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt) and cinematography but one of the best endings ever. It’s a very violent film that profoundly challenges the myth of redemptive violence.
3. Monsieur Lazhar - Written and directed by Philippe Falardeau, this wonderful Canadian drama was made in 2011 but not released until 2012. Brilliant performances (especially by Mohamed Fellag) and an inspiring thought-provoking story.
2. Les Miserables - While not a perfect filming of the magnificent stage musical, Tom Hooper’s film is nevertheless more than good enough to make me want to see it again and again. The highlight is the terrific performances by Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne.
1. Cloud Atlas - Made by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings (Lana and Andy), Cloud Atlas is a breathtaking and imaginative (if not perfect) work of cinematic art. Six stories of varying genres, featuring the same actors in multiple roles, challenge the domination system in the past, present and future while inspiring wonder, hope and a desire to both be more fully human and to make the world a better place. I’ve seen it twice already and can’t wait to see it again.