Friday, December 14, 2012


    This list, in its first state, crystallized as pairs and trios that formed on no single principle other than that of automatism: sometimes, three films released around the same time; three independent films; three off-Hollywood films; three films by one director (yes); or groupings that appeared first on the page and only later yielded up a kernel of significance, or quasi-surrealistic insignificance (one-word titles, two-word titles). I’ve kept some, tweaked others.
1-2. “Holy Motors” & Moonrise Kingdom
Tied for first, listed in alphabetical order. Films of blatant, reckless, ecstatic beauty that make the quest for beauty their very subject and that face its moral implications; that take on the ultimate themes of love and death with piercing tenderness and anarchic humor, rapidity and precision, grandeur and intimacy, and an unerring yet personal, spontaneous yet deeply thoughtful sense of form. That take up the challenge of history (cinematic, artistic, personal—and even political, from oblique angles that offer surprising perspectives) and thereby take their place in history. Both have an astonishing reach, a vast geographical embrace. These are the instant classics, ready-made for the distant future.
3. “The Master
No film brought its subject to life with a more surprising style or seemed to surprise its director as much with the conclusions it reached. It’s a movie of inextricable pairings: mastery of others is inseparable from mastery of self; method, from madness; creation, from power; deception, from self-delusion; performance, from being; and the biggest part of life is filling in the blanks around losses. Its subject is greatness in failure and horror in success, so how could it have made money at the box office?
4-5. “Oki’s Movie” & This Is Not a Film
Two movies about making movies. It’s Hong Sang-soo’s year, with three films in release (the other two are below); this one stands out for its jagged emotional edges, aggressively intricate approach to its subject, and extraordinarily inspired, brashly vigorous image-making. As for Jafar Panahi’s film made—largely with his iPhone—while under house arrest in Tehran, it pushes outraged reason to a furious pitch of imagination; it turns cinematic form into a moral assertion.
The next ten, ordered arbitrarily:
To Rome with Love: Woody Allen, master of metaphors, comes up with one of his greatest—and gives Ellen Page a supporting turn close to that of Dianne Wiest in “Hannah and her Sisters.”
Tabu: Love and colonialism, or, can Europeans live well when their countries do good?
The Color Wheel: The director Alex Ross Perry stars alongside Carlen Altman, and, playing a sort-of-grown-up pair of siblings too weighted down for takeoff, they spar as fiercely and draw blood more surely than Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Aided by Sean Price Williams’s cinematography, he keeps the camera at just the distance to stay on the precarious edge between comedy and drama. An independent film of classical elements and modern methods and moods.
The Deep Blue Sea: Minor compared only to Terence Davies’s other films; not as extremely stylized or intimate as “Distant Voices, Still Lives” or “The Long Day Closes.” But it does something they don’t: reproduces the tones and moods of grand melodrama from the time in which it’s set, London, 1950, and features one of the great flashbacks—to wartime, with a Davies standby, the group sing, raised to a new level of historical consciousness.
Damsels in Distress: Whit Stillman’s return isn’t a return to form but the discovery of a new one—his aphoristic brilliance is now couched in a poetically excessive rhetoric of hyperstylized rapidity, which only an extraordinarily nimble and virtuosic cast could keep spinning with a perfect gyroscopic rectitude. The narrowed scope and stylized setting suggest vast inner dimensions of repressed pain as well as overtly prescriptive remedies.
We Have a Pope: The director Nanni Moretti, who co-stars, takes a back seat to Michel Piccoli’s poignant performance as a Cardinal who, with the candor of faith, begins to question his lifetime of faith. The political fury of the final scene is an honorable homage to one of the greatest scenes of all time, the ending of “The Great Dictator.”
“This Is 40”: Or, rictus: the painted-on smile of a man who loves his family as well as the wild life. It’s being called a “kind of sequel” to “Knocked Up” but better seen as a pendant to “Funny People”: imagine Adam Sandler’s character not having cheated on Leslie Mann and finding himself in Eric Bana’s position. Think of Cassavetes and call it “Husband.”
Red Hook Summer: As ferociously skeptical as “We Have a Pope,” with a pair of child actors as talented as those in “Moonrise Kingdom,” a text as exquisite as that of “Damsels in Distress,” and an artistic metaphor as great as in “To Rome with Love.”
Magic Mike: The best choreographed film of the year—and that’s apart from the strip numbers.
Fake It So Real: Robert Greene’s documentary about a local pro-wrestling circuit avoids the clich├ęs of the subject and of the form and offers revelations about its subject as art and sport, about the lives of its agonists and aspirants, and about performance as such.
And a dozen more:
The Comedy
Bad Fever
And a blank space because I’m sure there’s at least one important film that’s missing and that I expect to catch up with in the next little while—will report back.
Best Director: Don’t make me choose between Wes Anderson and Leos Carax. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, if the coin rolls under the davenport, I’d go for Paul Thomas Anderson.
Best Actor: Denis Lavant (“Holy Motors”); Joaquin Phoenix is a close second, Philip Seymour Hoffman a close third, both for “The Master.”
Best Actress: Greta Gerwig (“Damsels in Distress”); second, Rachel Weisz: I’m gratified by the N.Y.F.C.C.’s choice of Weisz for her performance in “The Deep Blue Sea,” which is distinguished by her recreation of a period style of acting. But Gerwig sends a very difficult text aloft with deft humor and graceful emotion; it’s an astonishing feat.
Best Supporting Actor: Clarke Peters (“Red Hook Summer”).
Best Supporting Actress: Edith Scob (“Holy Motors”), with, as close seconds, Amy Ferguson, in “The Master,” and Rosemary DeWitt, for “Promised Land” (not for “Your Sister’s Sister”). And there’s a brief scene in “Red Hook Summer” for which an actress deserves mention here, too, but my notes don’t suffice to identify her; when my DVD arrives (release date: December 21st), I’ll report back.
Best Original Screenplay: “The Master,” followed closely by “Damsels in Distress,” “Tabu,” “Red Hook Summer,” and “The Color Wheel.”
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Deep Blue Sea.”
Best Cinematography: “The Master”; followed closely by “Oki’s Movie,” “The Color Wheel,” “Magic Mike,” and “Promised Land.”
Best Foreign-Language Film: “Holy Motors,” obviously.
Best Ensemble: “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Best Undistributed Film: “Sun Don’t Shine,” followed by “When Night Falls” and “Marvin Seth and Stanley.”

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Monday, November 26, 2012


1Marvel's The AvengersBV$623,357,9104,349$207,438,7084,3495/410/4
2The Dark Knight RisesWB$447,937,0004,404$160,887,2954,4047/20-
3The Hunger GamesLGF$408,010,6924,137$152,535,7474,1373/239/6
4The Amazing Spider-ManSony$262,030,6634,318$62,004,6884,3187/3-
6The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2Sum.$226,951,0004,070$141,067,6344,07011/16-
9Madagascar 3: Europe's Most WantedP/DW$216,391,4824,263$60,316,7384,2586/810/18
10Dr. Seuss' The LoraxUni.$214,030,5003,769$70,217,0703,7293/27/26
11MIB 3Sony$179,020,8544,248$54,592,7794,2485/259/9
12Ice Age: Continental DriftFox$160,714,3103,886$46,629,2593,8817/13-
13Snow White and the HuntsmanUni.$155,136,7553,777$56,217,7003,7736/19/6
14Wreck-It RalphBV$149,512,0003,752$49,038,7123,75211/2-
15Hotel TransylvaniaSony$143,484,0003,375$42,522,1943,3499/28-
1621 Jump StreetSony$138,447,6673,148$36,302,6123,1213/167/1
17Taken 2Fox$136,503,0003,706$49,514,7693,66110/5-
19Safe HouseUni.$126,181,6303,121$40,172,7203,1192/105/17
20The VowSGem$125,014,0303,038$41,202,4582,9582/105/17
21Magic MikeWB$113,721,5713,120$39,127,1702,9306/299/27
22The Bourne LegacyUni.$113,203,8703,753$38,142,8253,7458/10-
23Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandWB$103,860,2903,500$27,335,3633,4702/106/28
25Think Like a ManSGem$91,547,2052,052$33,636,3032,0154/207/8
26The CampaignWB$86,904,3423,302$26,588,4603,2058/10-
27The Expendables 2LGF$85,028,1923,355$28,591,3703,3168/1711/22
28Wrath of the TitansWB$83,670,0833,545$33,457,1883,5453/306/28
29Dark ShadowsWB$79,727,1493,755$29,685,2743,7555/118/16
31John CarterBV$73,078,1003,749$30,180,1883,7493/96/28
32Act of ValorRela.$70,012,8473,053$24,476,6323,0392/246/7
34Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness ProtectionLGF$65,653,2422,161$25,390,5752,1616/299/20
37Mirror MirrorRela.$64,935,1673,618$18,132,0853,6033/308/16
38Chronicle (2012)Fox$64,575,1752,908$22,004,0982,9072/36/7
39Hope SpringsSony$63,536,0112,441$14,650,1212,3618/8-
40Pitch PerfectUni.$62,605,0002,787$5,149,4333359/28-
41Underworld AwakeningSGem$62,321,0393,078$25,306,7253,0781/203/8
43The Lucky OneWB$60,457,1383,175$22,518,3583,1554/207/19
44The DictatorPar.$59,650,2223,014$17,435,0923,0085/167/26
45Total Recall (2012)Sony$58,877,9693,601$25,577,7583,6018/310/7
46Titanic 3DPar.$57,884,1143,674$17,285,4532,6744/46/7
47American ReunionUni.$56,758,8353,203$21,514,0803,1924/65/31
49This Means WarFox$54,760,7913,189$17,405,9303,1892/176/14
50Project XWB$54,731,8653,055$21,051,3633,0553/25/17
51The Woman in BlackCBS$54,333,2902,856$20,874,0722,8552/35/3
52Paranormal Activity 4Par.$53,676,0003,412$29,003,8663,41210/19-
53The Devil InsidePar.$53,261,9442,551$33,732,5152,2851/63/22
54Ghost Rider: Spirit of VengeanceSony$51,774,0023,174$22,115,3343,1742/175/10
55The GreyORF$51,580,2363,208$19,665,1013,1851/274/19
56The Odd Life of Timothy GreenBV$51,484,0002,717$10,822,9032,5988/15-
57Red TailsFox$49,876,3772,573$18,782,1542,5121/206/7
58The PossessionLGF$49,130,1542,860$17,732,4802,8168/3111/22
59Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog DaysFox$48,885,3313,401$14,623,5993,3918/3-
61Beauty and the Beast (3D)BV$47,617,0672,625$17,751,9052,6251/135/3
62Savages (2012)Uni.$47,323,1002,635$16,016,9102,6287/69/6
63The Best Exotic Marigold HotelFoxS$46,385,1131,298$737,051275/4-
64Moonrise KingdomFocus$45,512,466924$522,99645/2511/1
65The Three StoogesFox$44,338,2243,482$17,010,1253,4774/138/16
66Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (in 3D)Fox$43,456,3822,655$22,469,9322,6552/105/28
67Resident Evil: RetributionSGem$42,345,5313,016$21,052,2273,0129/14-
68The Cabin in the WoodsLGF$42,073,2772,811$14,743,6142,8114/137/12
69Here Comes the BoomSony$41,349,2793,014$11,816,5963,01410/12-
70What to Expect When You're ExpectingLGF$41,152,2033,021$10,547,0683,0215/188/2
71Finding Nemo (3D)BV$40,516,2062,904$16,687,7732,9049/14-
72End of WatchORF$39,169,4112,780$13,152,6832,7309/21-
73Rock of AgesWB (NL)$38,518,6133,470$14,437,2693,4706/158/16
74Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterFox$37,519,1393,109$16,306,9743,1086/229/20
76That's My BoySony$36,931,0893,030$13,453,7143,0306/157/22
77Trouble with the CurveWB$35,561,2753,212$12,162,0403,2129/21-
78The WatchFox$35,353,0003,168$12,750,2973,1687/2710/18
79Step Up RevolutionSum.$35,074,6772,606$11,731,7082,5677/2710/4
80Tyler Perry's Good DeedsLGF$35,025,7912,132$15,583,9242,1322/245/17
822016 Obama's AmericaRM$33,449,0862,017$31,61017/13-
83Rise of the GuardiansP/DW$32,607,0003,653$24,025,0003,65311/21-
84House at the End of The StreetRela.$31,385,0003,083$12,287,2343,0839/21-
85The Pirates! Band of MisfitsSony$31,051,1263,358$11,137,7343,3584/278/5
86Joyful NoiseWB$30,932,1132,735$11,225,1902,7351/133/22
87Life of PiFox$30,150,0002,902$22,000,0002,90211/21-
89The Five-Year EngagementUni.$28,700,2852,941$10,610,0602,9364/276/21
90One For the MoneyLGF$26,414,5272,737$11,515,7902,7371/274/12
91Cloud AtlasWB$25,782,0002,023$9,612,2472,00810/26-
92Alex CrossSum.$25,417,0002,541$11,396,7682,53910/19-
93Katy Perry: Part of MePar.$25,326,0712,732$7,138,2662,7307/58/30
94Sparkle (2012)TriS$24,397,4692,244$11,643,3422,2448/179/30
95Red Dawn (2012)FD$22,004,0002,724$14,600,0002,72411/21-
96Premium RushSony$20,275,4462,255$6,030,1642,2558/24-
97Big MiracleUni.$20,157,3002,133$7,760,2052,1292/34/5
98The Secret World of ArriettyBV$19,202,7431,522$6,446,3951,5222/176/7
100Man on a LedgeSum.$18,620,0002,998$8,001,9322,9981/273/1