There is no denying that 2012 was a great year for movies. Cinematic pleasures came from all directions from the return of James Bond to minimalist Turkish crime films. However, some films truly stood out from the crowd. Here, in no particular order, are ten of them.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Technically a film released at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, this Turkish language film only recently made its way to American shores. Using beautiful camera work and an almost impossibly slow pace, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: tells the story of a group of people searching for a dead body in rural Anatolia as they come to terms with their own existence and mortality.
Available on Netflix Instant Streaming.
Safety Not Guaranteed (Dir. Colin Treverrow)
By far the film that made me cry the most this year, “Safety Not Guaranteed” melds the romantic comedy genre with the realistic dialog and simple camera angles of the Mumblecore movement. It is a new take on viral images of a newspaper classified ad in search of a time travel partner. Acting is on full display here; Mumblecore staple Mark Duplass does an incredible job of portraying the eccentric time traveler Kenneth while relative newcomer Karan Soni exudes a unique air of realism in his role as a magazine intern helping to investigate.
Killing Them Softly (Dir. Andrew Dominik)
Frequent collaborators Brad Pitt and Director Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) struck gold again with this adaptation of the George Higgins crime novel Cogan’s Trade. Brad Pitt gives one of the best performances of his career as a hit man tasked with finding the people who robbed a mafia poker game. Throughout the film, file footage of the 2008 Presidential election is inserted. The commentary may be a little direct, but what the film lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in sheer originality.
Chronicle (Dir. Josh Trank)
Newcomers Max Landis and Josh Trank wrote and directed this fresh take on the superhero film. The movie uses found footage to tell an origin story, as a group of three friends discover a magical object and begin to develop telepathic powers.
Cosmopolis (Dir. David Cronenberg)
David Cronenberg’s bold adaptation of the Don Delillo novel with the same name follows millionaire Eric Packer (played by Robert Pattinson, in a surprisingly emotive and unique performance) as he travels across New York City in his limousine to get a haircut while enormous Occupy-style protests occur on the streets around him. With its “Matrix”-style futuristic aesthetic and visual allegory, “Cosmopolis” is bold even by Cronenberg’s standards.
Lincoln (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
A great script and fantastic acting elevate this film above the standard celebration of Lincoln’s important work. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the eponymous character with unmatched dexterity and poise, while at the same time keeping an element of humanity and vulnerability. Also notable is Tommy Lee Jones’ incredible performance as Representative Thaddeus Stevens, an extreme abolitionist and rights advocate.
Argo (Dir. Ben Affleck)
Ben Affleck both starred in and directed this film based on the true story of a joint Canadian and CIA extraction effort which involved creating a fake science fiction movie in order to remove American diplomats from a hostile revolutionary Iran. I’m not usually a huge fan of Affleck, but “Argo” was an impressively skillful thriller with just the right sprinkling of comedy to even out the suspense.
Django Unchained (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
The inimitable Quentin Tarantino returned once again to the realm of violent catharsis for this film, which stars Jamie Fox and Christoph Waltz as two bounty hunters looking for criminal slave owners. Though not Tarantino’s best by any stretch, “Django Unchained” is still a very capable film, with numerous homages to classic westerns, especially the 1966 film “Django.”
Skyfall (Dir. Sam Mendes)
Sam Mendes (American Beauty) brings his own unique touch to this latest chapter in the James Bond movie franchise by exploring the elements of earlier Bond films like From Russia with Love while keeping current with action-based storytelling techniques and offering a fresh take on the classic sort of Bond villain.
Moonrise Kingdom (Dir. Wes Anderson)
Idiosyncratic, wacky and colorfully filmed, Moonrise Kingdom might just be the epitome of a Wes Anderson film. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play two children experimenting with adventure and romance at a summer camp. If you love Wes Anderson, you’ll love this movie, but those of you who aren’t fans will only find more reasons not to become one.