In 2011, I struggled to come up with a list of my top 10 films. In 2012, I could have easily filled a top 20. In alphabetical order, here are my favourites from last year.
It's no easy thing to make a comic book-derived blockbuster sing to the fans, please the producers, but still win over the neutrals. Director Joss Whedon and a cast of real actors pulled it off.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
A great rambunctious blast of Louisiana magical realism. It's films like this that make the job a joy. Because sometimes you get to share something that blows away any doubt you ever had that cinema is a wonderful medium. Beasts of The Southern Wild is still playing.
BROTHER NUMBER ONE
Directed by the vastly experienced documentary maker Annie Goldson and fronted by New Zealand Olympian Rob Hamill, Brother Number One follows Hamill's journey to present-day Cambodia to confront the man who almost certainly oversaw the murder of Hamill's brother Kerry inside the Khmer Rouge's prison system. Stories don't come much more moving than this. And documentaries don't come much better made.
Martin Scorsese's first foray into "family film" was maybe the most joyous thing I saw this year. Concealed within the plot the trailers hinted at was another story, and a true one at that. Scorsese, his writers, and especially his cinematographer made something truly beautiful here. Hugo showed the world how 3D should be used.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY
Serves me right for opining that Brad Pitt is the worst actor since Ronald Reagan to become a movie star. In Killing Them Softly, Pitt and the even more testosterone -odden crew around him were uniformly terrific. It's a tale of hitmen going astray in pursuit of thieves gone insane. The dialogue was perfection, and the action as brief and brutal as you could wish.
Wes Anderson makes another foray into dysfunctional childhood, and comes back with the most adorable, disarming, and sweetly subversive film of his admirable career. Bruce Willis and Bill Murray had fun playing against type, but the child stars Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman owned the film.
In an abbreviated film festival for me, this was my favourite. Nearly wordless, barely an hour long, Nana followed a 6-year-old girl around her family farm house. We know that a terrible tragedy has happened, she does not. The cumulative power of what played out on the tiniest of stages was unforgettable.
Also still playing. Polisse follows, in near-doco style, a few weeks in the lives of the Parisian Child Protection Unit. What should have been unremittingly grim contained more humanity, and humour, than anything other than a masterfully written script could ever hold. It's a tough watch at times, but Polisse is a wonderful film.
There is such a thing as good dumb fun, and this made in Indonesia-by-a-Welshman fight-fest was the best I've seen in years. It had the propulsion of an early John Woo, and the brevity of a vintage kung fu flick. At the public screening I attended, the audience stood up and cheered.
Two young guys meet on Friday night. They spend the weekend together. On Sunday afternoon they have to part forever. Made for small change, with a cast of unknowns, I don't know if I've seen a funnier, sadder or truer love story than Weekend.
- The Dominion Post
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