Top Ten Movies of 2012 — An Introduction

I’ve been thinking back on the film year just passed, looking for some sort of unifying theme or idea. As I’ve noted before, I don’t really believe in the sort of cinematic groupthink that other critics are stumbling upon all the time when they survey the wide array of multiplex and art house offerings (much as I like and admire the film writers for The New York Times, they seem to stumble upon a wholly imagined trend about every other week). But I do think the films that speak to any given individual can be somewhat revelatory, offering a glimpse as to where they might stand on their own extended journey grappling with the spells of movie magic. I acknowledged as much in the introduction to last year’s edition of this feature. Those ten films struck me as odder and creatively messier than the sorts of things I’d championed in prior years.

This year, I don’t know. They just look like ten movies to me, arranged in order of preference and admiration, half of them from directors who’ve made my list in prior years and half from those who are effectively discoveries for me (and one person whose earlier work I felt was deeply flawed, but delivered this year, in my eyes, a true breakthrough). There are offerings that are conventional as can be and films that joyously bend the staid rules of cinema. Maybe the inability to group them tidily together into a statement about the current era of filmmaking is statement enough. These movies are the best because they’re nothing like each another. Well, there is a decent amount of French being spoken, but other than that…

Anyway, between now and the presentation of the 85th Academy Awards in late February, I’ll be periodically tracking through my selections of the best films of the past year, one by one. I’m getting to the process later than just about anyone else who devotes a significant number of words to movies, so why not drag it out even further. It starts tomorrow with number ten, one of the more conventional picks, and also a film I’m quite sure will draw me in relentlessly every time I stumble upon it while flicking around channels in the future. But, again, that’s for tomorrow.

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