673 movies. That’s what I sat through this year. This doesn’t include movies that I had already seen once before, classics I watch on a regular or yearly basis, or short films. It does include films that only played local festivals, debuted on DVD, or are still awaiting release, though. So needless to say, it’s been a tiresome year.
Thankfully, it has also been a really good one overall. It wasn’t very hard coming up with 25 worthy candidates for a year-end best of list, and indeed for one entry I actually added three. That doesn’t include a small handful of honourable mentions and films that didn’t even open widely across Canada that could have very easily made this list, but that still count as proper 2012 releases due to showings stateside or on home video.
So going by the “proper” best of 2012 rules (stating a film has to open in New York and LA by Christmas Day) combined with only picking films that are guaranteed a Canadian release at some point, here’s the best films that 2012 had to offer (from my side of things as the film editor. This doesn’t speak for everyone else here as any sort of amalgamation):
Best films to not receive a proper theatrical release in Canada that could have easily made this list, but are still classified as 2012 releases in North America (in no particular order):
This is Not a Film (Dir.: Jafar Panahi)
The Color Wheel (Dir.: Alex Ross Perry)
The Turin Horse (Dir.: Bela Tarr)
Only the Young (Dir.: Elizabeth Mims, Jason Tipett)
Tchoupitoulas (Dir.: Bill and Turner Ross)
Wuthering Heights (Dir.: Andrea Arnold)
The Kid with a Bike (Dir.: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) (which really never got play outside Quebec)
Honourable Mentions (in no particular order):
Amour (Dir.: Michael Haneke)
Argo (Dir.: Ben Affleck)
Fat Kid Rules the World (Dir.: Matthew Lillard)
Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo)
Looper (Dir.: Rian Johnson)
Bestiaire (Dir.: Denis Cote)
Cosmopolis (Dir.: David Cronenberg)
Les Miserables (Dir.: Tom Hooper)
21 Jump Street (Dir.: Phil Lord, Chris Miller)
The Top 25 Films of 2012
25. Chronicle (Josh Trank)
The found footage horror and superhero origin drama get turned on their head simultaneously in Josh Trank and writer Max Landis’ inventive, suspenseful, and heartbreakingly tragic fable.
24. Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh)
People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (for this year, anyway) had a phenomenal year, but his surprisingly introspective turn anchors Soderbergh’s story of economic collapse set amid a culture of stripping where one could party like there’s no tomorrow. It’s the film Killing Them Softly wanted to be, but was far too serious and obvious to pull it all off.
23. Premium Rush (David Koepp) /The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans) /Detention (Joseph Kahn) – A three way tie borne of extreme commitment to craft, love of genre, and desire to entertain. Premium Rush and Detention are smartly crafted, endlessly analyzable bits of genre goodness that never let their foot off the narrative gas for a single second. Both try bold things and succeed with flying colours. The Raid takes a simple narrative and never stops coming up with gruesomely inventive ways to generate suspense, disgust, horror, and thrills. Together, this trio makes the best triple bill of the year.
Not only the best animated film of the year, but also one of the most surprisingly emotional overall. Using old fashioned stop motion with modern techniques, the wizards at Laika have established themselves with this as one of the best and most trustworthy names in animation after only two films.
21. Goon (Michael Dowse)
One of the best Canadian genre films ever crafted, it maintains a true identity while creating universally understandable characters within the nation’s most beloved sport. Also, funny as all hell with a streak of necessary brutality that serves the material better than one would think.
20. In the Family (Patrick Wang)
The best debut feature of the year, this story of a gay man fighting for the custody of the son he had raised as his own following the death of his husband in an accident moves slowly, but carries a wealth of unforced realism and genuine sadness in a situation that very gradually seems to have no real winners.
19. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
Despite a lurch towards the crowd pleasing in the second half of the film, this one is the rare example of a film that earns its formula through the creation of extremely well rounded characters played by actors giving their all.
18. Ruby Sparks(Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris)
The movie that will hopefully put the nail in the coffin of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl craze, writer and titular star Zoe Kazan delivers one of the year’s best scripts that isn’t afraid to get as dark as it needs to in order to deliver its points. The idea that such fictional women are wholly male constructs needs to come up more often, and hopefully this underrated gem gets the ball rolling on that front.
17. Compliance (Craig Zobel)
A chilling look at the constant struggle between power and perception, this tale of a sinister and sleazy prank played out via telephone in a fast food joint might be the most justifiably squirm inducing exercise this year.
16. The Imposter (Bart Layton)
Also in the strange but true category is Bart Layton’s twisty and expertly executed look at a search for identity, the theft of identity, and the struggle to distance oneself from the person they have become.
15. Bernie (Richard Linklater)
Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Linlater’s true crime comedy holds more truth than any dozen similarly structured television expose shows.
14. Barbara (Christian Petzold)
A loving and thorough examination of trying to find a way to care for someone more than you care for yourself even in times of extreme personal hardship.
13. Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
Two men struggle to stay together in times of addiction and pain in Ira Sachs’ intriguingly structured look at a tumultuous long-term relationship.
More QT having a laugh and going the full on exploitation route with a side of social commentary, it’s still an exciting bit of cinema.
11. Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier)
Sparse and bleak, this look at one day in the life of an addict trying to get clean accomplishes more in just over 90 minutes that glossier films can’t accomplish in over two hours.
10. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
Much like Tarantino’s Django, it’s not straight history, but it’s a playful portrait of an iconic figure that benefits immeasurably from the grounding performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.
9. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
Playfulness seems to be the general theme among great films this year, and there isn’t one more openly playful and quietly mournful than Miguel Gomes black and white Portuguese import.
Nasty and sometimes further beyond the boundaries of good taste than anything else this year, William Friedkin and Tracy Letts’s southern sleazefest hypnotizes.
7. Skyfall (Sam Mendes)
The only film on this list made with the express purpose of making a ton of money, it’s a miracle that this James Bond outing actually turned out to be a legitimately great and thoughtful movie.
6. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
Blurring the lines between documentary and literally sitting down and telling the viewer a story, Sarah Polley’s film taps into a degree of personality many filmmakers would be terrified to achieve.
5. Holy Motors(Leos Carax)
A funhouse of crazy scenarios involving love of cinema and the nature of acting builds to one of the most unexpectedly touching and moving films of the year.
4. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson’s ode to childhood contains a sadder undercurrent among the comedy that makes it one of his strongest films to date.
3. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
Kathryn Bigelow directs the living hell out of this three story plotted look at the search for Osama Bin Laden and all the mistakes that were made along the way without shying from some of the lost off putting details.
2. Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
An excellent story about the nature of storytelling, lovingly assembled by Lee into a gorgeous package that improves on the best selling book it was based on by leaps and bounds.
1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
The most infinitely analyzable film of the year if looked at from a scholarly, critical, analytical, or psychological perspective, but still affecting enough to be profoundly disturbing and entrancing even if you don’t care about any of those things. It’s quite bluntly the most satisfying all around film of the year made by someone who can officially be called a true master after only a handful of films.