January 29, 2013

MOVIES - Best Films of 2012

Several stories about stories among my favorite movies this year, and a very close call between the top two.

Starting with #10 and counting down to #1:
  • Seven Psychopaths -- A delicious tangle of meta-storytelling, with fine performances and the year's funniest screenplay.
  • Looper -- Works as a time-travel thriller; works as a meditation on fate and personal responsibilty.
  • ParaNorman -- Beautifully animated, with the most expressive faces I've ever seen in stop-motion; a fine cast of unexpected voices, and enough style and wit to overcome the mildly familiar story.
  • The Cabin in the Woods -- A wildly funny subversion of horror movie cliches and conventions, and an unexpectedly thoughtful exploration of why we tell scary stories.
  • Bernie -- Strange hybrid of dark comedy and documentary that uses its Greek chorus of locals to great comic effect without ever sinking into condescension or patronizing.
  • Compliance -- A chilling study of obedience, with a taut script, and such emotional rawness and intensity that it's sometimes painful to watch.
  • Footnote -- Two men, father and son, each devoted to the study of ancient texts, each incapable of communicating with the other. A deftly comic exploration of the nasty prankster side of God.
  • Argo -- An unlikely marriage of broad Hollywood satire and terrifically exciting thriller, with each half working precisely to balance the other. An awards-friendly movie that never seems to exist only to win awards.
  • Oslo, August 31st -- The tragedy of one man's inability to find the beauty that lies within every life, no matter how mundane. A movie that offers its audience the hope its hero is sadly unable to find.
And the year's best movie:
  • Amour -- Director Michael Haneke, as unsentimental as ever, but finding a compassion that's not always present in his work. A bracing antidote to Hollywood "aren't old people sweet?" pablum.
A few that might have made the list on a different day: 21 Jump Street, Brave, The Master, Premium Rush, Ruby Sparks, Searching for Sugar Man.

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