Contributor, Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire
Choosing a top ten was hard enough, so I am listing my films alphabetically. Some of these are imperfect and leave a lot of responsibility with the audience; they also assert a kind of creative audacity that is increasingly hard to find. With each of the films listed below, the director's voice is clear and uncompromising, the craft is impeccable and there is (in most cases) little regard for commercial obligation. They take risks, ask questions, cause arguments and present stories that truly made me feel something.
BEST FILMS (Listed alphabetically)
"Amour" - Michael Haneke
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" - Benh Zeitlin
"The Master" - Paul Thomas Anderson
"No" - Pablo Larrain
"Oslo, August 31st" - Joachim Trier
"Rust and Bone" - Jacques Audiard
"Silver Linings Playbook" - David O. Russell
"Sister" - Ursula Meier
"Wuthering Heights" - Andrea Arnold
"Zero Dark Thirty" - Kathryn Bigelow
"The Hunt" - Thomas Vinterberg
"The Loneliest Planet" - Julia Loktev
"Our Children" - Joachim Lafosse
"Polisse" - Maïwenn
"The Snowtown Murders" - Justin Kurzel
BEST FILM I MISSED IN 2011:
"L'Apollonide" ("House of Pleasures"), Bertrand Bonello
"The Hunger Games," "Magic Mike"
Editor, Criticwire Blog
In spite of doomsday proclamations from the Mayans and David Denby, it was hard to be cynical about the state of cinema this year. You could gripe in the abstract about formats or frame rates or film culture, but the movies themselves were so goddamn good. Comparing one year of films to another is an utterly arbitrary pursuit; that said, from that utterly arbitrary perspective, 2012 was an amazing year at the movies. Maybe one of the best of my lifetime.
I've certainly never had such a hard time putting together a top ten list. Throughout the year, I keep a running tally of all the films I consider 'best-of' contenders. In 2012, that shortlist ran an overwhelming fifty titles. Winnowing down to just ten final favorites was agonizing work, and a lot of great movies got excluded. At times, I nearly resorted to coin flips to decide what was in or out, and what went where. If Bruce Willis traveled back in time and got into a fight with his past self, and their conflict butterfly effected all ten films on my best-of list out of existence, I could still draft a totally respectable top ten out of my runners-up. It was that kind of year.
Finally, I decided on these ten movies. If you disagree, I don't blame you. There were so many incredible films this year, I kind of disagree with myself. How did I not find room for the haunting "Oslo, August 31st?" Where the hell is the endlessly charming "Jeff, Who Lives at Home?" Why couldn't I squeeze in the wildly ambitious "Cloud Atlas?" Shouldn't "Not Fade Away" be in there somewhere?
It should. They all should. If the Mayans and David Denby had been proved right, at least we would have gone out on a cinematic high note. It would be tough for anything to top this year at the movies, particularly these ten outstanding films.
Editor, ReelPolitik Blog
As an election year, 2012 was particularly rife with political filmmaking. Capitalizing on the highly energized, contentious race for the White House — and a body politic particularly attuned to issues of economic inequality and foreign instability — Hollywood definitely got into the act: Even "The Dark Knight Rises" presented muddled perspectives on the super-rich and the less fortunate, hero-izing and condemning both elite and revolutionaries, alike. I don't think the film is one of the best political movies of the year — can anyone clearly identify its political stance, after all? — nor will I take this space to herald "Argo" — which I've written about elsewhere, and find to be deeply problematic in its depiction of Iran's Islamic Revolution — or "Zero Dark Thirty," which, likewise, confirms my suspicions about any movie that has CIA agents or American men with guns vanquishing an enemy.
Here, instead, is an alphabetical list of the top political movies of the year that don't need any excuses.