Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number One

There are some movies that inspire adoration from their very first moments, that simply feel exactly right. That’s what happened when I saw Wes Anderson’s sophomore effort, Rushmore. I truly thought that would be a one-of-a-kind experience from the director, especially as his very particular brand of pinched emotion and tightrope whimsy became a little more strained with every outing. Oh me of little faith. From the very beginning of Moonrise Kingdom, with Bob Balaban calmly, sagely explaining the world of New Penzance, Anderson offers a pitch-perfect delivery of an enchanting tone, spirit and rhythm that is uniquely his own, … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number One

Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Four

Pure audacity at twenty-four frames per second (or whatever the digital projection equivalent might be), French director Leos Carax’s fifth feature film, and first since 1999’s Pola X, is a meta examination of the art of creativity, both in the ways people transform identities across their daily lives and in the elaborate, beautiful artifice of cinema. Or so it seems. Part of the grand appeal of Holy Motors is its stubborn, exuberant cryptic nature, challenging the viewer to make sense of its swirling senselessness. The kaleidoscope has been smashed against the pavement, and Carax practically dares his audience to try … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Four

Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Five

It is Hushpuppy’s voice, which is also (or actually) Quvenzhané Wallis’s voice, that first establishes the dreamlike grittiness of Beasts of the Southern Wild, the dazzling debut feature from director Benh Zeitlin. Accompanied by an intoxicating montage of her cheerful hardscrabble life–pressing small animals to her ear to hear their heartbeats, racing across grassy ground with fireworks in her hands–six-year-old Hushpuppy talks about “The Bathtub,” a fictional island off of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast that is marked by poverty, perseverance and a taut, tenacious sense of community. Cut off from nearby neighboring cities and towns so dramatically that it can seem … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Five

Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Six

One of the most rattling news stories to emerge near the end of 2012 noted that reported sexual assaults were up dramatically at U.S. military academies during the year, a rise of 23 percent. That is alarming, but there is potentially a positive element to that jump, and it is discernible in one key word: “reported.” There is a value in the problem being brought more into the open and some amount of hope that a commonly covered-up dilemma is instead being addressed, thanks in part to those who are increasingly willing to raises their voices. Kirby Dick’s documentary The … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Six

Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Seven

There is a creative exuberance to Valérie Donzelli’s Declaration of War that stands in beautifully paradoxical contrast to the smothering sorrow of its subject matter. Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm play a French couple with classically familiar names, Juliette and Roméo. They meet, fall in love and marry through the popping wonder of movie montage techniques. They also have a son, their idyllic shared life apparently progressing exactly as expected, at least until they discover–belatedly, painfully–that the boy is cursed with a brain tumor, setting into motion an almost unfathomable existence marked by constant treatment and visitations done over a crib … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Seven

Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Eight

I hedged a bit when I first wrote about Magic Mike, noting that the final act had problems. I stand by that, but as time has passed, I find I care less and less about where the movie sags and more about its thrilling thrust. Inspired in part by star Channing Tatum’s own experience as a male stripper, the film makes this hedonistic world appear both unbearably sleazy and wickedly intoxicating, often in the same gasped breath. In that way, it races along the same track as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, but Anderson’s vivid sprawl is replaced by director … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Eight

Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Nine

With Your Sister’s Sister, writer-director Lynn Shelton positions herself as an auteur of particularly tricky terrain. She structures her scripts as if they’re challenges to herself, writing the story into tight corners and seeing if she can plausibly extricate the characters. It’s a little like she’s the creator of a television series that specializes in crazy cliffhangers, but instead of meth empires or bipolar spies, Shelton’s territory is far more treacherous: human emotions. As opposed to the earlier Humpday, which found comic drama in the trap of escalating bravado among two friends, both heterosexual, who commit to making a gay … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2012 — Number Nine