Never Mind the Oscars, Here are the Top Five Movies of 2012
With the 2013 Oscars come and gone, here’s a look back at five intriguing 2012 films. Whether they have been nominated multiple times or utterly overlooked at the Academy Awards, here are – in no particular order – five movies that merit recognition for their boldness, conviction, and innovation: Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Steve McQueen’s Shame, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe and the Wachowski siblings’ Cloud Atlas.
Based on one of the most interesting true stories of the past decade, Zero Dark Thirty is a masterpiece of film. It underscores the truly arduous task of conducting the manhunt for one of the most notorious criminals in the world. Kathryn Bigelow presents this previously classified tale with a kinetic realism, while never sacrificing the composition of her frame.
Although Zero Dark Thirty has earned many accolades from critics and audiences, its portrayal of torture has marred the perception and reputation of the United States. Zero Dark Thirty boldly tackles that issue head on, refusing to compromise the repercussions and outcomes of its subject matter. For this reason, it should be studied and contemplated for years to come.
Boasting an amazing cast, director, and story, Zero Dark Thirty is an unforgettable triumph that dares its audience to contemplate the current zeitgeist and our country’s standing in history within an ever-smaller world.
Daring, offensive, brilliant, and downright crazy, Quentin Tarantino’s new “Southern” appeals to his dedicated fan base, Western enthusiasts, and lovers of great cinema.
The film’s juxtaposition of the classic German “Siegfried” fairy tale and the sordid past of the American slave trade yields a grounded, yet romantic, perspective on a troubling historical period. The protagonists, brilliantly portrayed by Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx, possess undeniable depth, simultaneously embodying and subverting classic movie archetypes. Both are intrinsically likable but also contain a hint of Tarantino’s sadistic nature. The villains, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, are ruthless and downright scary.
Furthermore, Django boasts an attention to frame that many movies lack. The picture is always saturated with beautiful imagery. Not a single frame of this film has a dull moment. This is due to the brilliant work of Robert Richardson, one of the foremost cinematographers of his generation and a regular Tarantino crew member.
Much has been made of Django’s use of the word “nigger.” However, recognition of the history and strife inherent in the institution of slavery in America is embedded in the soul the film. Like most Tarantino films, Django has the ideal of revenge and escapism at its core. Tarantino invites the audience into his fantasy in order to cleanse our collective soul in bloody catharsis, all the while providing maximum entertainment value.
If there is any director that needs attention at this juncture in film-making it is British director Steve McQueen; and if there is a performance that truly deserves recognition this year, it is Fassbender’s sex addict. In this outing, McQueen tackles the life and laments of a successful Manhattanite with a lust for, well, lust. Michael Fassbender portrays Brandon Sullivan with a subtle rage that makes us feel he will break down and cry at any moment.
Shame is heavy and difficult to watch. It speaks volumes about promiscuity and a post-sexual-revolution world. I’ve heard people call it almost puritanical. In fact, it has more to do with our current throwaway culture and sensibilities. It only masks itself with scenes of sex addiction in service of larger themes.
What Shame is really talking about is gluttony. In this sense, it is puritanical. Its message is particularly applicable to the film industry. For every ten bloated blockbuster films with explosions, monsters and robots that don’t illicit a human response beyond munching away at a bathtub of popcorn, there is one Shame. This is a film that enters your mind and makes you reevaluate yourself and your beliefs, subtly and intimately.
William Friedkin, the director responsible for The French Connection, The Exorcist, and a host of other classics is back, comeback guns blazing. Killer Joe is ridiculous in the best possible sense of the word. It is comical, it is dark, it is outrageous and it is by far one of the most interesting films of 2012.
It follows the story of a trailer park family desperately trying to get out of debt, out of strife and to transcend their meager lives. They encounter a detective, played by a devilishly unhinged Matthew McConaughey, with some not-so-noble intentions and professional expertise.
Killer Joe is rated NC-17, as William Friedkin did not believe it would have worked if it had been edited down to an R rating. Viewers beware: this film is nasty, at some points tasteless, but never at the expense of quality.
This film is monumental. I have never been a big fan of the Wachowski siblings, but with the help of Tom Tykwer, they have accomplished the impossible: a stellar adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel of the same name. This film transcends time and space, gender, race and character.
While not good in a traditional sense, Cloud Atlas is a completely unique experience. I have never seen a film like this. Even at its worst, it pulls you back and bids you decipher its overall theme: the transcendental nature of love. It includes six narratives, all taking place in different times and places, but bound together with interconnected themes.
Adding to its unique storytelling approach is the fact that the principle cast members play different characters throughout the different narratives. The result is an impressive feat of movie making. It is hard to be on the fence about this film, but it is definitely a must-see.