The Weinstein Company

The 25 Best Films of 2012
The 25 Best Films of 2012

10

Moonrise Kingdom

On the surface, Wes Anderson’s sixth feature doesn’t seem all that different from his previous work. The usual toy-chest mise-en-scène, the storybook colors, the deadpan line readings, the immaculate visual gags—it’s all there and as fanciful as ever. Yet the filmmaker’s brand of whimsy has rarely been put to such beautifully resonant a use. Anderson’s visual style has often exuded a sense of childlike wonder, and it’s perfect for a film that features, at its heart, two lonely children, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), who find refuge in each other’s company as they try to discover a world beyond their troubled home lives. But Anderson’s films are also as much about the disappointments that come with adulthood’s inevitable loss of innocence, and characters like Bruce Willis’s Captain Sharp offer pointed reminders of the real-world difficulties that await our two young protagonists beyond this film’s joyous finale. But even if Moonrise Kingdom ends up being one of Anderson’s more optimistic films, that hardly means it’s any less rich in hard-won wisdom and generous human feeling.  Kenji Fujishima

The 25 Best Films of 2012

9

The Turin Horse

An immersive exercise in temporality, The Turin Horse entraps us in intertextuality, from its philosophical evocations to the inevitable “a horse is being beaten” Freudian allegories, and the cinematic references it organically evokes: This could be Mouchette’s rickety house in a Sokurov parental eulogy, the horse Balthazar, the father a meeker version of the patriarch in The White Ribbon. But mostly, this is António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro’s Trás-os-Montes, a counter-zeitgeist world where one simply cannot forget about time, where one must endure it, fight it, work through it as though it were the land. Everything seems to conspire against survival, against harmony, against pleasure. It’s only in the labor of the repetition that there’s solace. “You aren’t going anywhere” is how the daughter puts it to the horse, who’s just been flogged by the father’s crop and by Mihâly Vig’s assaulting score. The Turin Horse is essentially a film about the death drive, what happens between the “not going anywhere” of the subject, and the moment when “even the embers” go out.  Costa

The 25 Best Films of 2012

8

Zero Dark Thirty

Much like Fritz Lang’s M, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty begins with violent death that’s aurally suggested rather than seen, and concludes with a woman’s ambiguously symbolic tears. These disorienting overloads of affect bookend a deceptively rational police-procedural thriller, cataloguing the steps taken by a steely C.I.A. operative (Jessica Chastain) to hunt down Osama bin Laden through a political decade defined by torture and mishap. Hyperkinetic drama trumps context throughout; discussion of Operation Cyclone and even Islam is riskily absent, as though Bigelow were writing history with lightning. The code-named characters meanwhile behave like they’re auditioning for HBO; Chastain’s self-proclaimed “motherfucker” of an agent, who scrawls angry notes on her male superior’s office window (a.k.a. “the glass ceiling”), has an anemically sketched inner life. Yet all of these vernacular tropes form a shrewd, daring rouse. In a move worthy not only of Lang but of Brecht, Bigelow has politicized her pop aesthetics. Her compulsively watchable film brings a global exchange of unthinkable pain down to earth while still retaining the essence of its ineffability. Zero Dark Thirty is ultimately about unknowable cost—not only the cost of keeping a worldwide hegemony afloat with grisly violence, but the cost of maintaining a worldwide entertainment industry with facsimiles of the same.  Joseph Jon Lanthier

The 25 Best Films of 2012

7

Oslo, August 31st

Drug addiction is by now overly familiar cinematic terrain, and yet Joachim Trier finds new ways to investigate the struggle to manage dependency with Oslo, August 31st, a piercing snapshot of one man’s struggle to survive a day-long trip out of rehab for a job interview. Along that journey, Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) also visits an old party buddy and attempts to reunite with his estranged sister, and Trier’s camera sticks to Anders with an intensity that’s matched by Lie, whose inner turmoil bubbles with increasing volatility beneath his placid, haunted exterior. Lie radiates wrenching confusion and aimlessness, lending Anders the quality of being on the constant precipice of either transcendence or doom. Throughout, the film never operates as a straight melodrama, instead assuming a tranquil, compassionately observant stance on its lost, ambiguous protagonist, who seems potentially incapable of not just big-picture change, but of making the daily transitions—in attitude, in emotion, in reaction—required by life. It’s a tragedy of personal proportions, imbued with greater dimension through Lie’s magnificent performance and Trier’s affectionate portrait of the titular Norway capital as a place of both perpetual change and of unforgettable, and inescapable, memories.  Nick Schager

The 25 Best Films of 2012

6

Tabu

“The image you keep of me hardly resembles reality,” reads one missive shared between doomed lovers in Miguel Gomes’s Tabu, a line that distills the beguiling play of memory and artifice in the Portuguese auteur’s sublime third feature. A trance-like work at once rigorous and playful, it starts off as a study of intertwined friendships in modern-day Lisbon, where the weight of a troubled past is never far off. Then, a deathbed revelation and an encounter usher in a tragic romance set decades earlier in colonial Mozambique, and Pedro Costa portraiture morphs gracefully, teasingly into Guy Maddin reverie. Titled “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise” and shot in lustrous black and white, these halves form Gomes’s inquiry into the emotional and political aspects of cinematic remembrance, where Portuguese melancholia is given pop expression by a cover of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and a crocodile lurks as an ineffably eloquent silent witness. Like the 1931 F.W. Murnau film with which it shares its title, Gomes’s film is a fable of phantoms and sensuality, an intricate puzzle that squeezes the heart.  Fernando F. Croce

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