Top 10 of 2012 – Allen’s Picks
Like Safety Not Guaranteed, Looper side steps the issues of time-traveling and focuses more on character development. Writer/director Rian Johnson creates a cool and slick sci-fi world where time travel is illegal, used only by the mob to kill certain targets that are sent back. One of their hired guns (or, a “Looper”), Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is skilled at his job and never lets a target get away. That is, until he realizes that his latest target is the older version of himself (Bruce Willis). I was impressed with how Johnson allowed us to sympathize with both the younger and older versions of Joe. The younger version wants to escape and build a life of his own, while the older version has come back in hopes of saving the life he lost. Gordon-Levitt continues his winning streak with another solid role, while Willis gives a rare committed performance, showing his character’s good and bad sides fully. Emily Blunt also provides important work as a character attempting to escape her past in hopes of a better future. Full of desire, regret, and redemption, this feels less like a sci-fi film and more like a character study, even when that character is split into two different people.
By the time I walked out of Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, I knew I had seen one of best pictures of the year. Here is a story of survival, magic, and poetry, seen through the lens of a child’s wonder. Quvenzhané Wallis gives one of the best performances of the year as Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl living in The Bathtub, a bayou community similar to that of southern Louisiana. After a terrible storm destroys everything they have, Hushpuppy and her hot-tempered father Wink (Dwight Henry) must work together to survive the rising waters and evade the authorities looking for them. As all this is happening, a mysterious force slowly makes its way towards The Bathtub. The aurochs, ancient creatures as tall as a building and wielding massive tusks, head straight for Hushpuppy, with an intent unknown to anyone.
It’s amazing to see the world through Hushpuppy. She is wise beyond her years, well aware of her terrible situation while still maintaining her child-like sense of imagination. Wink is even more of a fascinating character. He starts off as unlikable, but as the film progressed, he slowly won me over with how much he truly cares for his daughter, even at the risk of his own well-being. Their connection is strained but special, and their final scene together left tears down my cheeks. This is not a film resembling the real world, but something that could have come from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki. Hope is all these people have to survive, and Zeitlin (along with co-writer Lucy Alibar) utilizes that idea in the form of magical beasts coming from a faraway land. No other movie this year left such an emotional imprint as this one; it has stuck with me since I first saw it.
Daniel Day-Lewis proved once more why he is the greatest actor alive in the lead role of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
Sam Mendes’s Skyfall rejuvenated the love for James Bond, and helped wash away the bitter taste that was Quantum of Solace.
Life of Pi is a beautiful work of art from Ang Lee.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix were the driving forces behind Paul Thomas Anderson’s fascinating film The Master.
Animated features such as Brave, Wreck-it Ralph, and Rise of the Guardians continued to show that they are a platform needing to be taken seriously.
William Friedkin’s Killer Joe is an excellent swim into depravity, with a psychotic performance by Matthew McConaughey.
While the themes of Cloud Atlas are relatively straightforward, I admired the ambition from the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer.
Robert Zemeckis’s Flight is a familiar tale exploring alcohol abuse, but Denzel Washington shows why he is still a great actor and movie star.
I’m not the biggest fan of Wes Anderson, but the charm of Moonrise Kingdom is undeniable.
Joss Whedon ascended from his geeky roots to be one of the biggest names in Hollywood, with The Avengers being one of the best superhero movies of all time, and his co-writing work on Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods flipping the horror genre on its head.
Chronicle came out of left field, taking a superhero story and making it much darker, involving bullying and hateful revenge.
David O. Russell continued his examination of dysfunctional families in the well-made Silver Linings Playbook.
Despite the issues involving race and class, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s French film The Intouchables had winning performances and heart impossible to hate on.
It’s been a great year to be a movie lover. 2013 has some big shoes to fill!