Friday, February 1, 2013

2012: Top 10 Best Films:

Not a great film year but some brilliant, innovative stuff nonetheless. I'm yet to see 'The Master' so that may be a big exclusion to a lot of readers. So, without further ado here we go...

1. Zero Dark Thirty:

there’s a stunning scene in Katheryn Bigelow’s new film where President Obama is giving a press conference deploring water-boarding as a means of dealing with terrorists while a group of CIA agents look on. It takes them all of three seconds to casually turn away and start planning their next move. The point of the brilliant Zero Dark Thirty has thus been made explicitly clear to the viewer, who up to that point had no idea that the new administration was at odds with the methods used. Whereas Bigelow merely scratched the surface of combative complicity with The Hurt Locker, this time around she has struck to the core of the mission to hunt (and kill) Osama bin Laden. Through its feminist hero Maya (Jessica Chastain), the film spirals dangerously from setback to setback before Maya gets the all-important break. The final twenty minutes of the film though is what vaults it into the stuff of greatness: the shots fired at the unmoving bin Laden and the relief when death is confirmed brings Maya, and by extension at entire nation, to a heart-wrenching stop.

2. Cloud Atlas:

the year’s most ambitious film was also the most polarizing…either you got it or you did not. I got it so well that the near three hour film time went by without me even realizing it. Cloud Atlas enthralls because of several reasons. One, it teems with the type of ambition that, no matter your contempt for it, is admirable. The ever-excellent Jim Broadbent sizzles and the myriad stories intertwine smoothly. To its credit too, Halle Berry gets something substantial and doesn’t fuck it up. More precociously though is the look of the film and its air-tightness. We’ll look back on this in a decade and laud its cult status.

3. Argo:

Ben Affleck’s steadiness as a director continues with this tense, impressive political saga. At every turn, this is very well oiled machine. Argo retells the story of a hostage situation in 1979 Tehran and the ruse of serious film-making to get them out alive. What the film solidifies though is that despite the Best Director snub handed out by the Oscars; Affleck is a serious director, able to present chilling tales of human frailty and decision-making.

4. Silver Linings Playbook:

before Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) turns up in Silver Linings Playbook, the film was zipping by mildly pleasant. Once she issues the first “fuck” though, things escalate from being a comedic love story to a dark look at love, suburbia style. Like many sleeper hits, this one gathers momentum once we’re fully aware of all the damaged cards each actor is holding: Pat (an endearing Bradley Cooper) inherits his father’s violent restlessness and is trying to recover from being cheated on. Tiffany sees a broken yet kindred soul in him and orchestrates the wonderfully-told tale that unravels. Silver Linings Playbook never overplays its hand and that’s why so many critics are rooting so heartily for its success.

5. Pariah:

The adult life gleaned in Pariah—as in real life—is one of a homogenized and heterosexual lifestyle in a constant state of unison. It may tolerate male philandering but it hasn’t caught up to homosexuality yet. Alike leaves home fully aware of this and neither parent is strong or brave enough to stop her. They have, with or without reason, based on your own judgment, their own struggles to deal with. You see, they too are caught up in a different time-warp which no one else seemingly can understand or reach out to’s just that they have no alternative destination to escape to.

6. Djanjo Unchained:

Tarantino’s controversial slavery epic somehow manages to engage yet stimulate viewers while pulling in the cash at the box office. What makes it remarkable though---even though it is very flawed—is the willingness to explore the murky side of racist pasts and the revenge fantasies of many, all wrapped up with some spectacular performances. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson especially bristle with venom and humour but nothing tops the hilarious KKK meeting that breaks up in dispute over ill-fitted hoods.

7. Moonrise Kingdom:

perhaps the biggest disappointment with the Oscar nominations last month was the sole nod for West Anderson’s quirky Moonrise Kingdom. Sure enough, it’s a trademark effort from him but with each film, Anderson is getting darker and darker with his examination of life. Though the love interest story here is between two youngsters, Anderson has aged them with maturity beyond their years, which leads to a type of satire unto itself, the type he’s pulling off in his sleep and adults are yet to catch up to.

8. Unforgivable:

a craggy old crime writer wins and losses all the important women around him in Venice, all the while heavily questioning the lush life around him. As only European directors seem capable of doing, Andre Techine lifts the veil of sophisticated life to examine the suspicious truths: lurking between lovers are hidden pasts and insecurities that never get overcome. Francis’ (Andre Dussollier) love for feminine beauty costs him a lot in Unforgivable but he finally learns redemption as well.

9. Holy Motors:

dystopian look at the ever changing state of actor to art, audience to expectancy. Leos Carax’s film remains dry and brilliantly maddening yet its existential points zip by, connecting dots that you may or may not see coming. True, it asks a bit too much of its audience but what is the point of art if it can’t question the viewer? Denis Lavant gives a disturbing, totally compelling turn as the main actor we follow around his many roles, immersed so deeply that at times one loses sight of the fact that this is all acting .

10. Elena:

a Russian housewife must choose between her husband and son in this subtle drama of will and family allegiances. Elena (Nadezhda Markina) lives a plain life in fear of her husband Vladimir and fearful for her son, Sergey. The film delves the issue of dependency on several levels: mother-son, father-daughter, etc with only the cunning children understanding the buttons being pushed. Both parents, getting on in age and weary of each other, will themselves to ignore personal plights to criticize the other until the final, desperate act shatters them all forever.