Trey’s Top 10 of 2012

by Trey Hock on January 8, 2013

in Top 10s

Though I may have been more excited about a couple of films from 2011, 2012 was a far more consistent year when it came to great filmmaking. So to wet your appetite here is the prelist list.

I give you The Runners Up (or 11 – 20 in no particular order).

Sound of My Voice is a compelling indie that should give hope to any young filmmakers and proves that solid story always works.

21 Jump Street is far funnier than it should have been.

Beyond the Black Rainbow shows a filmmaker’s unwavering commitment to genre and it pays off beautifully.

Safety Not Guaranteed avoids the traps that most stories with an insane central character fall into, and doesn’t choose quirk over character.

Seven Psychopaths gives a viewer crazy bloody action with wonderfully engaging characters.

Smashed shows us that you hardly need 90 minutes to tell a simple story heartbreakingly well.

Killing Them Softly gets a little preachy, and sometimes overreaches with style in spite of content, but it’s bold filmmaking and worth seeing.

Compliance traps a few characters in a room and allows the actors to shine in disturbing brilliance.

Hello I Must Be Going is a wonderful reminder that sometimes a good story can be both honest and make you feel good.

Moonrise Kingdom allows Wes Anderson to explore some new emotional depths, and gives us perhaps his most tragically beautiful single scene ever.

I may have been able to make an even longer list, but enough of an intro, here is my Top 10 of 2012.

10. Django Unchained

It may not be his best, but what Quentin Tarantino lacks in smooth pacing and music that fits seamlessly he makes up for with an unapologetically bold approach. This film will divide critics and make many question the cultural appropriateness of the content, but that is exactly why it should exist. Why can’t we make the pre Civil War era South into a revenge fantasy of the most just and ugly order? Tarantino may be pushing on just the right cultural pressure points with Django Unchained.

9. ParaNorman

Animated films often get left off my list. There are usually grittier more driven films to chose from. Laika Entertainment, the company that gave us Coraline in 2009, this year released ParaNorman. The commitment to effectively blending stop-motion animation techniques with modern computer-generated techniques, the attention to detail in the visual feel of Norman’s world, and the simple story told in a new and unique way all make ParaNorman worthy of its 92 minutes.

8. The Imposter

I wanted to get a documentary into the list, because it was a strong year and there were a number of contenders. I chose The Imposter because it is impossible not to get sucked into the story, and the control that the filmmakers use to tell the story is imperceptible and complete. Each discovery that the viewer makes was laid out for them like so many breadcrumbs to the final reveal. Though director Bart Layton exerts his control over the telling of the story, he allows the viewers plenty of space to come to their own conclusions about a strange missing child from the States found years later in Europe.

7. Anna Karenina

I will be the first to admit that I have been a skeptic of director Joe Wright, but Anna Karenina is exceptionally well-executed visually reliant story-telling. Wright’s use of his sets, art direction, and framing to tell his story, puts all of the power into his hands, and he does an exceptional job exploring the characters and culture in Tolstoy’s classic novel.

6. Amour

If ever you have had to care for an ailing loved one, or been privy to the slow grueling ravages that end-of-life care brings, then you will understand just how close to the bone Michael Haneke’s Amour cuts. It is the story of Georges and Anne. They are a lovely elderly married couple that now faces their final days together. Set entirely in the small apartment they share, Haneke shows us that our greatest loves also bind and cage us. Amour is striking in its honesty and heart.

5. Rust and Bone

I always appreciate risky filmmaking, and Jacques Audiard’s film about a double amputee whale trainer and a bareknuckle boxer is about as risky as it gets. Marion Cotillard commits completely to the character of Stéphanie, and makes her raw and vulnerable, while still allowing her a huge amount of inner strength. I can guarantee you won’t see another film like this one, and it is well worth your time.

4. Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell continues to make fascinating and complex films. A romantic comedy about two people with personality disorders should not work as well as Silver Linings Playbook does. Even the dance competition that Pat and Tiffany all but lose feels right within the context. Jennifer Lawrence continues to show off some real skills, and Robert De Niro turns in a more heartfelt supporting performance than I have seen from him in years.

3. Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow took a story that is fresh and politically charged and managed to make it about human beings instead of just crafting a soapbox. She shows brutal acts without condemnation or glamorization, and saves her most cinematic shot for last, once Maya’s mission is over. Jessica Chastain allows herself to look raw and rough. She looks real, like a woman driven by her passion for finding this single person. Who knew this film could be so good?

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild emerges from energetic and emotionally driven filmmaking. It is raw and dangerous, yet director Benh Zeitlin gives us a film that is both allegory and utterly real. Hushpuppy’s fierce nature shows us fight and humanity in a six-year-old girl, and her father, Wink, is aggressive, ugly, and still somehow unimpeachable. Beasts of the Southern Wild is an undeniably magical film.

1. The Master

This is Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatest achievement, and a stunning work of art. Like all important works, it is decisive, deliberate and will not appeal to everyone. The way Anderson uses his frame and sound, and the performances he elicits from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are worthy of the highest praise. It is the best of 2012 because it shows deliberate vision and every aspect of this film is as near to perfection as one could hope. That said this film is a critical choice, and not a film to enter lightly. If a film about a tyrannical cult leader and an irredeemable drunkard does not appeal to you, then check out my #2 or #4 of 2012. They should treat you marginally better.

In addition to contributing to Scene-Stealers, Trey makes short films and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute. Follow him here:

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Xavier January 8, 2013 at 1:30 am

Just curious but did anyone at scene-stealers see the Portuguese film Tabu, I’d be interested to hear thoughts (if not consider this a strong recommendation). Also Zero Dark Thirty hasn’t released here yet and I was wondering if it manages to avoid what my biggest issue with the hurt Locker was. For a film so obviously trying to evoke a sense of realism it stretched believability plot-wise just too far several times for the sake of drama (slightly cheaply I thought). Does ZDT manage to tone those down and keep it grounded enough.

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2 Trey Hock January 8, 2013 at 7:15 am

Xavier,

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with Zero Dark Thirty. Though it does follow the hunt for OBL, it is really more a character study of Maya, the CIA agent tasked with tracking him down.

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3 Eric Melin January 8, 2013 at 9:35 am

Nope, haven’t seen ‘Tabu’ — but I agree w/ Trey about ZDT.

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4 Xavier January 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Well that’s encouraging for ZDT, I really like Bigelow as a director but I thought the script failed her a few times in the hurt locker. Also great list Trey, I’m glad to see some love for Rust and Bone, that movie has by and large been overlooked. Also a little surprised not to see Life of Pi on your long list, you seemed pretty positive on the podcast.

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5 Trey Hock January 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Life of Pi is getting plenty of love from other places and it hasn’t stuck with me the way I always want a film to if I’m going to give it consideration in the Top 10. It could easily be yet another honorable mention though.

6 Xavier January 10, 2013 at 2:21 am

Well I just got my hands on and watched Zero Dark Thirty, and was very impressed. The balance between the character study and suspense was even better than Hurt Locker and the movie said a lot more about the issues it presented by saying less, if that makes any sense. There were no contrived plot meanderings that broke the authenticity and the technicality and choreography of the last 30 mins were stunning. The film definitely makes my list. Also Trey I haven’t heard if you saw Lincoln yet and what your thoughts are.

7 Evelyn January 8, 2013 at 4:23 am

The Hobbit is not included to the list? Is it because it’s still playing on the theatre now? I guess The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be the best movie of 2013 because I haven’t heard any of people who have watched it comment negatively on it.

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8 Trey Hock January 8, 2013 at 7:21 am

Though I felt the LOTR trilogy was exceptional, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was flat and thoroughly uninspired . It was no where near my Top 10.

If you want to check out my full review, click the link below.

http://www.scene-stealers.com/reviews/print-reviews/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-movie-review/

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9 Jessica Maria January 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

Great list. I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews through the year. I saw The Master in 70MM, and I think it looked beautiful and was dazzling, but the story wasn’t there (for me). Joaquin was fantastic, but I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s casting was kind of… uninspired? There was no stretch or surprise there. It just lacked, narratively, for me, but it looked damn beautiful.

I’ve been wanting to see The Imposter for so long; I remember the New Yorker story when it first came out!

My Top 10 shares Anna Karenina, Silver Linings, Amour, and Zero Dark Thirty. I really loved 2012 in film because there were so many good movies for diverse tastes, it seems. Lots of great directors put out films.

Here’s my Top 10: http://jessicaxmaria.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-top-films-of-2012.html

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10 Trey Hock January 8, 2013 at 10:30 am

Jessica Maria,

You definitely chose some worthy contenders on your list. I think that the most surprising thing about 2012 was the consistency of the big budget, Hollywood fare. It was a good year to be a casual movie-goer.

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11 Terzah January 8, 2013 at 8:53 am

I admit I have seen none of those movies, but I think I saw only two movies period last year, so that’s my excuse. It looks like a smart list.

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12 Trey Hock January 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

They’ll all be available on home video or streaming soon. You can watch one while you’re recovering from one of your marathons.

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13 Alan Rapp January 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

Did Keira Knightely make your list? Nice!

Half of our lists in common (and a couple of shared honorable mentions)? Am I rubbing off on you, or are you rubbing off on me?

Interesting… although I wasn’t a fan of either of your bottom two choices (ParaNorman didn’t do much for me and don’t get me started on Django).

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14 Trey Hock January 8, 2013 at 10:34 am

Alan,

I’m having an influence on you without a doubt. As to ParaNorman and Django, both showed bold vision, and that’s almost always gonna get a nod from me. I do understand that others may disagree, and to be fair they were miles away from my top 5.

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15 Eric Melin January 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm

This is a great list, Trey. I need to expand my runners up, too. So many good flicks this year…surprised to see Django on there for you, though…

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16 Trey Hock January 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I went back and forth with Django, and finally decided to add it because it has stuck with me and isn’t an easy film.

To be honest, #7 through #10 were somewhat flexible and my honorable mentions could have been 10 titles longer. #6 and up were pretty well set in stone though.

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