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by Indiewire
December 27, 2012 4:26 PM
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Indiewire's Editors and Bloggers Pick Their Top 10 Films of 2012

"Moonrise Kingdom" Focus
Bryce J. Renninger

Contributor, Indiewire

1.  "Moonrise Kingdom"
Ah, to be young again. Anderson's masterpiece takes you to another realm.

2.  "Only the Young"
In their first feature film, Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims expertly challenge age-old documentary conventions and craft a mind-blowing exploration of the suburban California quotidian life of three cool Christian teenagers.

3.  "The Waiting Room"
Wonderfully captivating and dignified human beings struggle for emergency room care in a film that shows how complicated the American health care system is for so many of its citizens.

4.  "Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present"
A complete surprise: a moving, frank portrait of one of the art world's most popular and divisive stars. This film is genius at showing us its subject.

5.  "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Absolutely unbelievable first film. Benh Zeitlin should be incredibly proud... and energized to work more!

6.  "Brave"
Apparently, I'm a true champion of a good Pixar underdog. My favorite so far is "Monsters, Inc.," and I think "Brave" did not get the respect it deserves. It's touching with artful storytelling.  

7.  "Amour"
Ah, Haneke. There aren't words. Though Emanuelle Riva's performance is incredibly strong and challenging, Jean-Louis Trintignant carries this movie and makes its unbelievably believable plot points as tragically beautiful as they need to be.

8.  "Tchoupitoulas"
The filmmaking in "Tchoupitoulas" seems effortless, though when you contemplate it afterwards it is clear that this atmospheric, dreamy trip through New Orleans was expertly -- and painstakingly -- crafted. I defy you not to be swept away into these boys' journey.

9.  "Keep the Lights On"
Ira Sachs has provided an absolutely stunning film documenting a caring but tumultuous relationship with ellipses to crowd out all the parts when this on-again-off-again couple was back at it. It is absolutely stunning, heartbreaking, tragic, lovely to see this relationship unfold.

10.  "How to Survive a Plague"
One of the most affecting cinema experiences of the year. This film is a powerful, powerful testament to the power of direct action and what can happen when caring people get together to make change.

Steve Greene
Assistant Editor, Criticwire

1. The Imposter
2. Lincoln
3. Searching for Sugar Man
4. Moonrise Kingdom
5. Killing Them Softly
6. Holy Motors
7. Café de Flore
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
9. Footnote
10. Magic Mike

"Life of Pi." Fox
Anne Thompson
Editor-at-Large, Indiewire
Thompson on Hollywood

1. "Life of Pi"
Taiwan-born Ang Lee, more than any director working today, is a filmmaker for the world. His three great love stories -- martial arts romance "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," gay tragedy "Brokeback Mountain" and Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" -- were accessible to multiple cultures. With "Life of Pi" Lee has fashioned, with screenwriter David Magee ("Finding Neverland") adapting Yann Martel's global bestseller, another love story that transcends borders. In this case, it's between a 17-year-old young man (non-pro Suraj Sharma) from India and a Bengal tiger. But it is also a stunning technological triumph, as the VFX required were impossible until now. Conceived four years ago before the arrival of the 3-D "Avatar," this movie is a live-action/animation hybrid, as major characters such as the threatening tiger and sublime phosphorescent Pacific seascapes could only be created by artists in the digital realm.

2. "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
When he won the grand jury and cinematography prizes at Sundance, director Benh Zeitlin, who shot "Beasts" with his ragtag film collective on a constantly flooding delta island below the New Orleans levees with a cast of non-actors, said: "We had more freedom to make this film than any filmmakers in America ever." Zeitlin was able to control the chaos: the end result is a constantly surprising and deeply moving fantastical portrait of where we are, right now.

3. "Zero Dark Thirty"
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's incredibly timely movie about the CIA's ten-year pursuit of Osama bin Laden is as relentless as its heroine (Jessica Chastain), laying out the hard facts and details without flinching from its purpose, which is to make real the daily headlines. Bigelow deploys 120 speaking parts from all over the world and three to four roving cameras to catch the unfolding action in wide-ranging locations from India, Egypt and Jordan to London and Washington, D.C. As Bigelow avoids Hollywood narrative conventions, she also gives us the toughest motherfuckin' woman lead since Ripley.

4. "Silver Linings Playbook"
This delicately edited family relationship comedy is both funny and moving. The film's two romantic leads, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, are two lost, emotionally damaged yet attractive people who draw comfort and kinship from each other. Writer-director David O. Russell has, dare I say it, Billy Wilder's tough unsentimental approach to romance. Even in this cynical age, we root for these two characters in pain to heal each other, make their families happy, win their dance contest and find true love.

5. "Lincoln"
The thing that hits you on first viewing "Lincoln" is how unconventional it is. It's organic, grown from the seeds in Doris Kearns Goodwin's 800-page Lincoln tome "Team of Rivals," nurtured over five years by playwright Tony Kushner, and shaped by Steven Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis into something we've never seen before. This alchemy of a torrent of words, well-researched history, and the powerful personality of the world's most popular American president has yielded a magical biopic that is the current front-runner in the Oscar race.

6. "End of Watch"
David Ayer celebrates the work ethic and bravery of two cops, partners on the beat in East Los Angeles, who face an unforgiving world with humor and verbal acuity. Shot on the run, the movie was choreographed with no room for waste or error: Ayer shot 135 hours of footage in 22 days. Jack Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena were primed and ready and give the best performances of their respective careers.

7. "Argo"
Ben Affleck directs this taut and commercial thriller, his third behind the camera, with screw-tightening efficiency that would make Michael Mann proud. Think "The Insider" on steroids. Affleck gives a solid, naturalistic performance as Tony Mendez, a smart and experienced CIA operative who specializes in pulling people out of tight situations. Affleck, like other actor-directors Clooney and Clint Eastwood, sees the value of staying hands-on with a modest budget. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Oscar-nominated for "Brokeback Mountain") does outstanding work on location in Turkey, Los Angeles and the Ontario airport, while composer Alexandre Desplat ("The King's Speech") could land a fifth Oscar nomination -- unless his "Zero Dark Thirty" score cancels himself out.

8. "The Sessions"
"The Sessions" starts with a script from Australian filmmaker Ben Lewin, who suffered polio as a youth and still limps with a cane. Helen Hunt and John Hawkes saw rich material in this story about the late great intellectual Mark O'Brien, who wanted more from life than lying immobile in an iron lung. He found a sex surrogate to help him find love in his life. The surrogate came to care deeply for O'Brien -- within the confines of a professional relationship -- and was able to teach him how to make another woman happy.  Audiences are often uncomfortable with sex in cinema, and this movie embraces moments that are awkward and embarrassing, even humiliating. This intimate sexual souffle is so delicate and sensitive -- both actors are literally naked -- that it could easily have gone flat. Instead it is uplifting.

9. "Moonrise Kingdom"
This coming-of-age romance takes place inside an artificial fantasy based on the children's books writer-director Wes Anderson still loves. He builds the movie on the shoulders of two young kids in love. "I love artifice and very emotional movies," he told me in Cannes. The art direction, tone and acting -- one standout is Bruce Willis's sweet buffoonish cop -- are all perfectly in tune with Anderson's precise imagination.

10. "Anna Karenina"
The decision not to shoot "Anna Karenina" on location in Russia liberated director Joe Wright. Without changing the Tom Stoppard adaptation of Tolstoy's classic, Wright used an old London theater as a way to free himself completely from the constrictions of period costume drama. "Anna Karenina" is a swirling, mad, exuberant, joyful, passionate celebration of the novel. Anna (Keira Knightley of Wright's "Atonement" and "Pride & Prejudice") is far from your ordinary romantic heroine. She's doomed to meet that train. But there's more to this story than adultery. Tolstoy's counterpart, Levin (Domhall Gleeson), balances out the drama. And Jude Law gives one of his best performances as Anna's cuckolded husband.


"Barbara," Germany's Oscar entry, is Christian Petzold's fifth collaboration with actress Nina Hoss. She plays an intrepid East Berlin doctor in 1980 who has been sent to the boonies as punishment for wanting to leave the country. Like everyone around her, she lies to survive; she sneaks around in the night to meet her West German lover in the woods. But she cares for her patients; that bonds her with her fellow doctor (up-and-comer Ronald Zehrfeld). Even though she's surrounded by fear and suspicion and paranoia, she comes to trust him.


Eugene Jarecki's incisive and incendiary "The House I Live In," which won the U.S. documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and is shortlisted for next year's doc Oscar, will blow your mind. That's because it tackles a subject that you think you know a little about -- America's war on drugs -- and in excruciating detail shows you how the whole system is broken and dysfunctional.


With "Frankenweenie," Tim Burton filmed his most personal movie since "Edward Scissorhands" in black and white and stop motion. He returns to the Burbank suburbs he has loved to show us ever since the 1984 Disney short on which the movie is based. Not a box office success, this feature serves as an inspiring reminder of what an artist can do when he's not playing to the marketplace.

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  • pook | December 28, 2012 11:40 PMReply

    Cloud Atlas; a jaw-dropping, spiritual experience, wildly creative, and with a spectacular cast.
    The Intouchables; inspiring, funny, and my introduction to Omar Sy, who I will make a point of seeing again
    Beasts of the Southern Wild; a remarkable film carried by a fiercem six year old girl.
    The Secret World of Arrietty; carrying on the tradition of the great Miyazaki. A work of art.
    The Master; with a screenplay and direction which defies convention, and a brilliant turn from Joaquin Phoenix.
    Bernie; the use of the townspeople and an incredible Jack Black, the film is a gem.
    Django; Another Tarantino masterpiece, unapologetic, and audacious.
    Skyfall; a proven director, genius cinematography and sound editor, a respected cast, and a kick-ass, sexy Bond.
    Moonrise Kingdom; whimsical, embracing, a terrific surprise with a perfect cast
    Looper; an intelligent genre film which ties up the time paradox better than any film I've seen tackle this. Bruce Willis has had a great year.

  • Vanessa Erazo | December 28, 2012 2:48 PMReply

    My Top 10 (via Remezcla.com): 10 Latino Films You Probably Didn’t See in 2012 But Should

    Mosquita y Mari
    Joven y Alocada (Young & Wild)
    7 Cajas (7 Boxes)
    Love, Concord
    Juan de los Muertos (Juan of the Dead)
    El Medico: The Cubaton Story
    Searching for Sugar Man


  • Vanessa Erazo | December 28, 2012 2:53 PM

    And here is my survey of film programmers' top picks of the year. "LatinoBuzz Asks Programmers: What's Your Top 5 Latino Films of 2012?" (via Sydney's Buzz) http://blogs.indiewire.com/sydneylevine/latinobuzz-asks-programmers-whats-your-top-5-latino-films-of-2012

  • bob hawk | December 28, 2012 5:17 AMReply

    My ten are not about "the best" -- and they're in alpha order because I consider them incomparable. The only thing they have in common is that they all had a visceral impact. They provoked and haunted and stayed with me. A few I consider masterworks, others are somewhat flawed but balls to the wall. The honorable mentions that follow them are films I admired and enjoyed, and some are vastly superior in craft to the very subjective picks that follow:

    Beasts of the Southern Wild
    Consuming Spirits (best animation)
    Holy Motors
    The House I Live In (best documentary)
    How to Survive a Plague
    Keep the Lights On
    The Loneliest Planet
    Moonrise Kingdom
    Zero Dark Thirty

    Honorable mentions: Argo, Chasing Ice, The Dark Knight Rises, The Invisible War, Lincoln, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, My Sister's Sister, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Searching for Sugar Man, Silver Linings Playbook.

    Most overrated films (each with their virtues, but...): Compliance, The Master.

    (I have not yet seen Barbara, Django Unchained and Tabu, among others.)

  • bob hawk | December 28, 2012 2:45 PM

    In my post above I keyboarded my top ten in a vertical stack, thus flattening it all out into an unpunctuated stream. Here's a more reader-friendly version, with a tweak that concerns a film I associated with 2011. Top ten: AMOUR, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, CONSUMING SPIRITS (best animation), HOLY MOTORS, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (best documentary), KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, THE LONELIEST PLANET, MOONRISE KINGDOM, OSLO AUGUST 31st, ZERO DARK THIRTY. Honorable mentions: Argo, Chasing Ice, The Dark Knight Rises, How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, Lincoln, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, My Sister's Sister, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Searching for Sugar Man. Most overrated films (each with their virtues, but...): Compliance, The Master. (I have not yet seen Barbara, Django Unchained, Tabu and West of Memphis, among others.)

  • randy | December 28, 2012 4:21 AMReply

    where is oslo august 31st?

  • justin | December 28, 2012 4:26 AM

    thank you randy. "oslo" was one of my favorite movies of the year.
    other than that i do love some of the more oddball inclusions.

    i have to ask though, am i the only one who found the directing in "lincoln" to be heavy handed and the screenplay to be too quaint and feel-good?

  • Michael | December 27, 2012 10:07 PMReply

    Jay Fernandez, I'm glad someone finally noticed People Like Us. It's conventional on the surface, but very well done and contains some great moments of realism rarely seen in studio films.

  • Harris Gurny | December 27, 2012 6:07 PMReply

    I still plan to see Django Unchained, Tabu and Les Miz

    Check out my film blog, where an updated list will be posted with explanations soon: http://thecinemaniacs15.wordpress.com/

  • Tyler Belk | December 27, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    2012 was such a good year for film-fans. To name just ten of my favorites seems like a crime when so many good ones would be left out. So here are my top 25 picks:
    25- Cabin In The Woods
    24- Les Miserables
    23- The Avengers
    22- Skyfall
    21- Compliance
    20- Chasing Ice
    19- Argo
    18- Carnage
    17- End of Watch
    16- Seven Psychopaths
    15- Django Unchained
    14- Headhunters
    13- The Master
    12- The Imposter
    11- Looper
    10- The Dark Knight Rises
    9- Hitchcock
    8- Holy Motors
    7- Cloud Atlas
    6- Silver Linings Playbook
    5- Killer Joe
    4- We Need To Talk About Kevin
    3- Prometheus
    2- Beasts of the Southern Wild
    1- Moonrise Kingdom