JEFF DEUTCHMAN, director of acquisitions, IFC Films
I'm disincluding films that I worked on from this list, which is always unfortunate because I love many of them.
1. TABU - The best film of the year does what cinema does best: immortalizes the mortal.
2. ZERO DARK THIRTY - At a screening of ZODIAC several years ago, Kent Jones commented (I'm paraphrasing) that most films about uncertainty seem to suggest that humans can only achieve a 50/50 level of knowledge about anything, but that ZODIAC suggests a more realistic 80/20. From this, I started to think about the new crop of meta-procedurals (ZODIAC, THE WIRE, POLICE ADJECTIVE, ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA) -- wherein professionals test the boundaries of what it is possible to achieve/know in a flawed society/uncertain universe -- as 80% Cinema. ZERO DARK THIRTY may have started out as an entry into this canon, but it turned out to be the rare story of 100% success. Or did it? Even if we are to believe that Maya's identification of her victim is completely trustworthy, Bigelow leaves open the question of what comes after total success for a character who zeroes in on the "How?" at the expense of the "Why?"
3. THE TURIN HORSE - The film equivalent of an ancient rock formation that looks precarious to stand under, but after all, they've been there for so many thousands of years, you can trust them not to fall on you.
4. AMOUR - Haneke takes our universal best-case scenario and creates a Rorschach that evokes beauty and horror in equal measure. When the worst thing you can say about a movie is that it's too perfect, I'll take it.
5. THE MASTER - An intimate inquiry into two opposite world-views: the war vet who sees reality too clearly versus the cult leader who bends reality to his will. PTA's trick is that he takes them both seriously. And it's funny.
6. NORWEGIAN WOOD - Perhaps this year's most underrated film, a gorgeous descent into the madness of young love.
7. DETROPIA - If the City Symphony film was designed as a tribute to the ascendance of modern American cities, in all their hubristic utopian glory, DETROPIA flips the genre into a study of postmodern urban decay. The results are mesmerizing and devastating.
8. MAGIC MIKE - The most fun you will ever have contemplating the flaws of Capitalism.
9. MOONRISE KINGDOM - It takes many partial adults, as well as an Auteur/God willing to use bolts of lightning, to raise a child. Anderson's best live-action film since RUSHMORE.
10. THE COMEDY - Hilarious and alarming at the exact same time.
NELSON GEORGE, filmmaker, “Brooklyn Boheme”
“An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” — Terrence Nance's autobiographic, experimental, funny look at a woman who got away. Passed up a glamorous dinner to see this and was happy I did.
“Looper” — Clever as hell with a sly Bruce Willis.
“Django Unchained” — Black folks have been worried about this film since the script started floating around cyberspace over a year ago, but the craziest stuff is out (I credit producer Reggie Hudlin with that) and the resulting film is both challenging and dynamic.
“Moonrise Kingdom” — Haven't liked this director's stylish, lightweight work in years, but he charmed with this. Another fine performance by Bruce Willis, who's quietly become one of the best actors working.
“The Dark Knight Rises” — Opera in comic-book form.
“Chico & Rita” — Delightful, vivid and musically sophisticated animated film about Cuban jazz. Bravo.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” — It worked for me.
“Boss” — Criminally unappreciated cable series with a majestic performance by Kelsey Grammer.
DADE HAYES, senior VP, Rubenstein Communications, Inc.
“Mad Men,” Season 5
“Moonrise Kingdom” soundtrack
“Louie,” Season 3 finale
“Side By Side”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
EUGENE HERNANDEZ, Director of Digital Strategy, Film Society of Lincoln Center
In the early years of Indiewire we talked a lot about discovery. This was our raison d’etre. We aimed to find, support, showcase and introduce new faces, filmmakers, ideas and industry. Since I’m gearing up to attend my twentieth Sundance, the fest where Indiewire was conceived in the mid-’90s, I’ve been thinking a lot about discovery. It’s the ideal theme for a Top 10. Setting aside my love for new films by Bela Tarr, Paul Thomas Anderson, the Dardennes Brothers, Michael Haneke and Wes Anderson (hailed on my Criticwire Top 10), this was a terrific year for discoveries. These are the filmmakers to watch (and it was such a strong year for new voices that there were even more I could have included)!
1. "Holy Motors" (Leos Carax): The film of the year is actually a re-discovery. The return of a director perhaps many had forgotten. In the exceptional “Holy Motors” Carax asks, do we still want experience? In just one day, the French filmmaker explained, we witness the experience of being alive.
2. "Tabu" (Miguel Gomes): While it’s his third feature, “Tabu” introduced me to the Portuguese critic-turned-filmmaker. The Berlin fest award winner, toying with our notions of memory, is an engrossing two-part tale told with the stunning flourishes of classic art cinema.
3. "Neighboring Sounds" (Kleber Mendonça Filho): Not unlike the upstairs-downstairs dichotomy that people love so much in "Downton Abbey," “Neighboring Sounds” explores tension within northern Brazilian lives situated on an urban block in Recife. Another former film critic, Mendonça Filho described his own movie as, “A melodrama that would rather be a thriller.”
4. "Bonsái" (Cristián Jiménez): Literature and loneliness among a pair of 20-somethings is captured in Chilean Cristian Jiménez’ second feature film. They share the screen with a tiny tree. “Bonsai” is a movie about memory and maturity that’s rooted in a profound political moment from Chile’s past. Kids seek solace in books.
5. "How to Survive a Plague" (David France): Powerfully assembling home video footage from New York’s ACT UP movement in the '80s, American journalist David France’s first documentary is a poignant look at the seeds and solutions of activism.
6. "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present" (Matthew Akers): An insightful non-fiction exploration of performance art and art itself, American Akers’ first feature is an expertly crafted, moving portrait that offers a unique perspective on observation and seduction.
7. "Now, Forager" (Jason Cortlund, Julia Halperin): Is it easier to find a famous fungus than achieve a perfect relationship? It turns out both are quite rare, as is explored in this American indie about fragility and obsession, both in mushrooms and in people.
8. "The Night Watchman"/"El Velador" (Natalia Almada): This observant Mexican documentary, Almada’s first film to receive a theatrical release, explores violence in the country at large by patiently studying a flourishing cemetery that’s filling with deaths driven by the Mexican drug crisis.
9. "Girl Walk // All Day" (Jacob Krupnick): An exuberant music video that has Girl Talk’s “All Day” as its feature-length soundtrack. 372 interlocked music samples drive a trio of dancers to unexpected moments around New York City. See it to believe it.
10. "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty" (Terence Nance): Winner of the Gotham Awards' prize for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, American musician and artist Terence Nance’s vibrant, personal exploration of love and emotion was a festival favorite all year long. As 2012 came to a close it was rewarded with a distribution deal. Watch for it in theaters early next year.