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Feb 7, 2013

My Top 20 Favorite Movies of 2012.

                    Finally, here is my list of the Top 20 Favorite Movies of 2012. I would definitely say that its been a great year for movies, one of the best ones recently. I specially watched many of the foreign releases as well which furthermore proved quite great for me. The Awards Season mania is what makes most of the earlier months a bit bland because of too many low-profile or big blockbuster releases while the last few months are always filled with the gems that i always anticipate. In a year filled with many adaptations of the books that were deemed "Unfilmable" or filmmakers taking risks and doing daring things, i must say it was an amazing experience. Though due to the many incidents that happened in real life, the way people responded to a certain movies was at large understandable but then quite unnecessary. The controversy of Zero Dark Thirty has to be the most ridiculous thing about the previous year. 2012 was also the year when the big summer flicks that i was anticipating (The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers etc) disappointed me in a sense but then movies that i least expected to like (Chronicle, The Amazing Spider-Man) surprised me. Below is the list of my 20 favorite movies of the year as well as some honorable mentions. The changes in my list wont be updated here, you can check my list on IMDB which i would regularly update.

1. The Master:
                             The response that this new Paul Thomas Anderson movie got mainly from people was disappointing but critics sure loved it. The Master is both a provocative and a meditative experience and its take on the two main routes people take in life and its study is extraordinary. It is packed with some amazing performances by Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie, the drifter with no clue about his life, who cares only about women, sex and booze. On the other hand, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic and intoxicating leader of a religious organization called "The Cause" that attracts Freddie. Paul Thomas Anderson created something that lets us observe these characters and then makes us decide who we think is right. Mind that there is no wrong here, no one is the bad guy because life is what you make it. On one hand there is a man who doesn't care about the shit he lets himself into and the other one puts on this big show for people to love him. Also it is one of the most technically amazing films ever. The cinematography with those sweeping moves and uncertainty as well as the powerful score by Johnny Greenwood is excellent. This hypnotic, mesmerizing and gorgeous mini-epic is something that i consider a flawless masterpiece and my favorite movie of the year.

2. Zero Dark Thirty:
                                         One of the best thrillers, crime procedural, journalism based docudrama in the recent years. Zero Dark Thirty is fictional/fact-based dramatization of the decade long events that led to the capture and killing of the al-Qaeeda leader Osama Bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. Navy Seals. Kathryn Bigelow created a wonderful piece of work, her career best and her abilities are seen clearly this time. Bigelow decided to include a character, Maya that is played by the wonderful Jessica Chastain. Whose steadfast and truly stubborn confidence is what drives the narrative and she is the reason that CIA finds the man they are looking for. The movie unfolds in a very thrilling way, the slow build-up of events that you know about and the events that mostly took place within the offices makes up for an amazing experience. Cut to the final few minutes when the operation is happening and you'll see some of the best filmmaking. Nothing beats those final thrilling moments when even you know how it all ends, but the suspense that is created through pin-drop silence, night camera visions and the gorilla filmmaking is mindblowing. A wonderfully written and edited drama with amazing direction and the best female performance of the year with Jessica Chastain who deserves all the praise she is getting. For a much grittier, realistic depiction of the serious political event, Zero Dark Thirty is much better and much thrilling than many believe and the "pro-torture stance" controversy is nothing but a stunt to bring down the credibility and its just downright stupid.

3. Amour:
                     This Palme d'or winning Austrian movie by Michael Haneke presents the kind of love that we rarely see being depicted in cinema, thus its effect on us on every level is devastating and moving. Haneke's movies are difficult to watch due to his subjects in films that mostly deals with the violence and ugliness that exists in people and its raw presentation on-screen. His camera is usually fixed to a point, never does it lets you even for a moment to distract from what is going on and he doesn't let you look away. His rather cold and distant filming style have bothered many and some find it compelling. He however used the exact same style but for a different purpose here. Amour (love) tells the story of this aging couple and their life. The wife gets sick one day, the surgery leaves her paralyzed and is bed bound now. The movie then shows how both of them live through all of this. The husband is who takes care of everything, he is weak himself but doesn't let anyone touch or treat her in any way because he promised her. The pain and agony we see both of them go through, specially the wife and the endurance or suffering that is caused by it for both of them is what drives this movie. The intense and realistic passion that Haneke brings here is quite fascinating. Through many symbolic and many straight forward moments, he creates a story that is both an accurate and simply priceless depiction of love, marriage, life and death. In one of the best performances of the year, Emmanuelle Riva gives a breathtaking almost shockingly convincing performance at this age. As well as Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert who are amazing in the movie too. Claustrophobic, symbolic, precious, disturbing, immensely tragic but never sentimental, Amour is one of the best portrayal of true love and how far a person can go for it that i have ever seen.

4. Holy Motors:
                                The most baffling, bizarre and clearly bonkers movie of the year, Holy Motors is a rare piece of experimental cinema that confuses you with its weird plot developments yet you love it. Leos Carax came back with a bang with this movie that tells a strange tale of a man and his job (which is to perform certain characters in real life). From a weird monster-leprechaun to motion capture artist and from a contract killer and an aging billionaire to a disappointed father and a father of a Chimpanzee family. The insanity and bewilderment after a while starts to grow on you and it continues like this. I was neither bored nor was too puzzled to appreciate the strange, surreal and purely visceral extravaganza. Denis Lavant gives a fearless performance and he is easily able to change through the various roles that he has to play. He is able to do that with such convincing and amazing results that makes him an extraordinary performer, the most standout of the year. Holy Motors is pretty difficult to describe in a nutshell but the pleasure comes from experiencing it yourself. It depends on the viewer what they make of it. Its either Carax's take on the sheer diversity of the cinema and its celebration as well as the different developments that have happened in it since his last venture. The movie may also present life as a normal person who has to perform different roles or it may as well tell us about the life of a performer. Holy Motors is an unforgettable movie that is both thought provoking, magical, ugly, beautiful, moving and funny at the same time.

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild:
                                                                Here is the most originally crafted movie from last year featuring two of the most amazing performances of the year, as well as the best debut by an American filmmaker. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a sheer triumph in filmmaking, told with a lyrical and poetical beauty and captured with a raw, jolting and powerful force. It tells the story through the eyes of a young girl, played by the 6-year old Quvenzhane Wallis (at the time of shooting). The very difficult situations that arise in the movie are observed through the eyes of this young girl and her journey through all this is nothing but a powerful allegory of simple, innocent and strong inner ferocious strength of a human being whether a child or an adult through the various ups and downs. For a small budget film like this, Beasts features some of the year's best cinematography, visual effects, music and other technical things. Its score is one of the year's best that celebrates life itself. Telling a simple coming of age story with added fantasy and realism is quite profound and commendable. The best American indie movie of the year.

6. Moonrise Kingdom:
                                              Quirky, dark, strange, sweet, weird, funny, visually striking, these words does little to describe the kind of strange and fascinating world that Wes Anderson creates in his movies. He consistently works in the same fashion but surprises us in his every attempt with how much different they all comes out in the end. Moonrise Kingdom is a love story between two teenagers, the first love, the longing, dysfunctional and messed up characters as well as amazing production design, the use of music and outstanding cinematography creates this wonderful fantasy land where the kids wants to make new rules by doing the opposite of what their elders have been doing. Moonrise Kingdom is an amazingly written movie that shows us the bittersweet, melancholic and odd side of us that we either grow up with or dare to change it by doing what most people don't do. This movie is a feat for the eye, colorful and stunning with hilarious and witty humor that makes up for a fun and delightful experience. A big ensemble with famous actors but specially the two newcomers will surprise you.

7. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia:
                                                                   This police procedural movie from Turkey directed by the acclaimed Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of the most amazing experiences I personally had alongside other such visually striking and brilliantly made movies last year. This movie runs for quite a time with minimum use of dialogues and a straight forward narration, it shows this search for a dead body by a team the consists of police officers, a doctor, the criminals and others through the vast and stunning steppes of Anatolia. Excellent achievement in cinematography, the way it uses lights and wide shots to capture the atmosphere of mystery and uncertainty is striking. It has a few moments where the movie achieves something that will recall the works of the great Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky with the use of slow motion, fluidity of camera and lighting. Not just that but it gets deep into the skins of these people and you get to have a clear look at what they think of their lives and jobs as well as the kind of a people they are just over a course of one night and then a day through their countless small and big conversations. Ceylan created an ambitious masterpiece that creates a world of ambiguities and puzzling dynamics and shows us how every single human being has a conscious of his own and how mysterious a person can be in certain situations. Visually striking and creatively crafted movie.

8. Tabu:
                  This little known brilliant gem of a movie from Portugal, directed by Miguel Gomes features the best love-story of the year (if you don't count the one with Freddie and Dodd from The Master). Tabu begins in a very hypnotic, surreal and mystical way because it tells a fable from the African lands. Then after that, this movie turns into a simple urban indie drama set around 3 women. And after that, it turns into a romantic drama that is told in a flashback sequence that last for nearly or more than an hour (silent and narrated). This black and white romantic movie has a sweeping power of Gone with the Wind to be honest. Tabu has a very erotic as well as hypnotic touch and it shows the power of love, emotions, memories, longing in a very simple but very effective way. Its a daring and completely bizarre attempt but the movie shows how much the filmmaker isn't afraid of presenting his unique vision and making us a part of it so convincingly. I am not familiar with this filmmaker's previous work but he is definitely someone to watch out for. A melancholic, moving and meditative look at life that is set in exotic location and is going to give you the best time of your life.

9. Silver Linings Playbook:
                                                       Its surprising that i loved a romantic comedy so much but then its not because this is not your usual rom-com i must say. David O. Russell is back once again with a movie about a dysfunctional family and the flawed characters who ends up moving the hell out of you in the end. It tells the story of two people with their own sets of problems and mental conditions and are brought together by unlikely circumstances. A sort of screwball comedy with downright emotionally strong center and sensitively handled characters with winning results in the end. Silver Linings Playbook has some of the year's best performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper. The rapid-fire paced dialogue and the fantastic grip Russell has on this movie as both a writer and a director is clearly visible with the way he handled the very cliched moments, turning them into satisfying, realistic exploration of flawed yet humane simple human beings. Hilarious, heartbreaking, neurotic, romantic, rousing, crowd pleasing, emotional and satisfying, this highly optimistic movie is the most amazing feel-good movie of the year. It has a tendency to become a classic romantic comedy.

10. The Turin Horse:
                                           The Turin Horse is the swan song of acclaimed Hungarian director Bela Tarr. An incredible way to end your journey i must say. This is one of the most minimalistic, bleakest and strangest movie i have ever seen. With just 30 takes over a duration of two and a half hours, a deadly slow pace and a repetitive cycle of events during the entire run, this is not a movie i would recommend to anyone but the few people who appreciate these kind of movies. Fans of Tarr would know what i am talking about, his way of making movies is truly out of this world and his vision is quite unique. This movie tells the story of a family (a daughter, her very old father and their horse) in an unknown place. The end of the world is coming and things are getting pretty awful for them. Day by day and slowly their lives becomes a burden on their existence and they seems to be forcing themselves to live through it. The sound of the strongly blowing wind and the drying of well or the scarcity of food is what reminds us of the power that is much greater than us and the little control we have upon our own lives. Its truly a hellish job to sit through a movie like this but then its quite rewarding. The way Tarr ends this movie is amazing, in complete darkness and without any use of VFX, he ends the world just like that.

11. Footnote:
                           This darkly comic gem is from Israel and it was nominated for a Foreign Language film Oscar last year. Joseph Cedar's excellently crafted part serious part funny take on a dysfunctional family's dynamics is one of the most cleverly made dramas i have seen in years. It tells the story of this family who are well known and respected in the country. The son is about to get a big prize for his work in the literature concerning with the religious texts and research. His father has been wanting to get the prize too and due to a misunderstanding, it is revealed that the father is getting the prize (though infact its the son). The rivalry and awkwardness that exists between both of them gets more intense than ever and we see some downright funny and some very serious things happening. The screenplay is wonderfully written and the movie is presented using some amazing ways and a score that is both witty and thrilling and adds pulse to the craze. Footnote is a movie that will recall the dark humor that you see in the Coen brothers movies. Family dynamics, generation gap, matter of seeing things in a particular way and the goods/bads of too much success is brilliantly explored. And tell me if you don't love the amazing ending that just makes you fall in love with this movie all over again?

12. Skyfall:
                       While i am not a big James Bond fan but i love some particular movies of the series, specially Casino Royale. This latest installment in the series after a slightly disappointing Quantum of Solace is exactly why i love the new bond. Though completely different in every way from the previous movies, Skyfall is directed by the Oscar winning Sam Mendes. The very first thing that hits you is the brilliant way the movie is captured, cinematography is done by the legend that is Roger Deakens. Definitely the most good looking bond movie yet, it is more intimate, emotional, dramatic and darker in terms of its depictions of the very deep feelings of these characters that we have known from so many years. It does however attempts in some key scenes to bring in the playful and silly nature of bond, which doesn't work but that is the only point where it feels underwhelming. Skyfall has a brilliant villain as well as some really pulse pounding but carefully done action sequences. And how can you not like the energy of the bond theme that is played in the beginning that truly sets the tone for the entire movie. Skyfall is sexy, slick, offbeat and pretty much the best in every way. Its also my favorite action movie of the year.

13. Oslo, August 31st:
                                            This wonderfully profound but grim take on a person's addiction with drugs and his hopelessness regarding his life was something that instantly connected with me. Not that i am a drug addict but this film is made with utmost sensitivity and insight into the most deepest and personal corners of a human being. Its cinematography is amazing with a sense of complete immersion and exclusiveness that you get because of the way they captures everything else that goes off the main character's surrounding and how he evaluates that for the decision that he makes in the end. Packed with naturalistic performances and brilliantly written dialogues, this movie is something that everyone should watch.

14. Looper:
                       The best mainstream sci-fi movie of the year is one of the best takes on the usual sci-fi stories of time travel in a movie that its both creative and refreshing. Directed by Rian Johnson and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis who plays the younger/older versions of the main character. Now this movie takes place in a futuristic world where time travel is a proper thing but has a restricted use. Loopers are assigned to kill those people who are sent to them from the future through loops. A fascinating sci-fi story that suddenly turns into a sci-fi drama with such creativity that the odd nature of narration doesn't feels odd at all. The clever way this movie ends is something that wipes off everything that happened so far in an amazing fashion. Johnson uses sci-fi for a surprisingly moving human story and it works, not a surprise though as he is an indie filmmaker who just happened to make a sci-fi movie. Its entertaining and very brilliantly written movie, some of the best original screenplays written last year.

15. The Perks of Being a Wallflower:
                                                                          Adapted for the screen and directed by the writer of the book himself, in a brilliant debut by Stephen Chbosky. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an honest tale of high school teenagers, told with surprising amount of sensitivity and emotions that makes it an standout among all the movies of its genre in many of the previous years. It has an amazing cast that delivers excellent performances like Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson (in her first hefty role outside the Harry Potter). This coming of age tale is very authentic in its depiction and definitely nostalgic as it reminds you of your days back then, the soundtrack is amazing as well. It touches many serious and silly aspects of life as a teenager or life as a misfit and brings in to an amazing conclusion that will definitely makes you weep (though its never overly sentimental).

16. Take This Waltz:
                                         Okay so an independent movie that no one watched? Yes, Take this Waltz was one of those early year surprises that caught me off guard. This brilliantly made movie from director and actress Sarah Polley stars Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen as this married couple whose life gets in a bit of turmoil once Margot fall for her neighbor. Shot in Canada, it brilliantly uses the sunny, candy colored streets and the brimming warmth it brings. Featuring amazing performances from its cast, specially Michelle Williams and some cleverly added sequences by Polley (the theme park ride sequence, the 360 degree camera rotation and many more), Take this Waltz is a gem. Its unlike any other romantic drama you will see as Polley shows us her characters the way they are, sometimes ugly, sometimes flawed, sometimes stupid and most of the time just plain children.

17. Life of Pi:
                          This too is adapted from a popular unfilmable novel of the same name. The amazing Ang Lee directed this fascinating tale of survival, spirituality, faith and miracles. The movie is packed with colors, powerful and excellent imagery and a stunning use of modern technology to breath a new life into the medium and while doing that, it never forgets what its purpose is, thus creating a magnificent use of 3D, visual effects and a powerful quite intimate tale to blow your mind in every way possible. Its the story of a boy named Pi who lives in India, his father has a zoo. Due to some reasons, they have to shift it to US and on their way, they are hit by a storm and Pi is stranded on a boat with certain animals including a Tiger named Richard Parker with whom he develops an unlikely relationship. This movie is what makes you believe in the power of faith, which doesn't necessarily means faith in the God but its simply in you. Life of Pi has a wonderful ethereal score too that is brilliantly used and believe me, you wont find another movie that is going to dazzle you with both its imagery and underlying emotional resonance. Its a wonderful and unforgettable adventure movie.

18. Frankenweenie:
                                         The best animated movie of the year is made by none other than Tim Burton who based it on his own short film of the same name. Now this movie features one of the best nods to the horror movies ever. It follows the same plot as the short movie did but then it changes into this mashup of clever horror movie references that further elevates the goodness and creativity of the movie. As you can see from the name, it tells the story of a boy who does a Frankenstein by bringing his dead pet dog to life through scientific means. This black and white, stop motion movie is very touching, emotional and funny as well as visually stunning and quite creepy.

19. Django Unchained:
                                               Quentin Tarantino's 2012 movie is his take on the spaghetti western genre and the usual revenge drama stories but in strictly Tarantino style. The movie is filled with blood, red oozing flowing blood! This ultra-violent take on the previous movies of this sort is outrageously funny, serious, thrilling and just pure cinematic fun. It stars Jamie Foxx as the slave in search for his wife, Leonardo DiCaprio as the insane bad guy as well as Tarantino's up and coming muse, Christoph Waltz as the dentist who helps Django. Now the movie is a feat for the eye and a delight for Tarantino's fans who knows his style and loves his use of pop culture things, music (which is used amazingly here) and as well as action and violence. Though it occasionally suffers from editing issues and some inconsistency in plot but Django Unchained still comes off as rather fun.

20. Cloud Atlas:
                                 Directed by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas is the most underrated (and trashed) movie of the year. Highly ambitious and daring with a big budget and an expansive plot. Based on an unfilmable novel and featuring a very unusual narration, Cloud Atlas tells 6 separate stories in different time periods featuring more or less the same actors but in different roles (gender, race, get ups are changed) but all of these are shown one by one creating a web. The cyclic weaving of plot that must be viewed carefully is what bothered many people, though its clearly a mistake to deem it as the "Worst movie of the year". A movie made for cinema lovers featuring different genres and stories told if not perfectly, making it an unbelievably stunning experience. The cosmic or spiritual relation that characters has is fascinating to see unfold right in front of your eyes. This is the most you can get out of one movie, its visual effects and other technical aspects are worth praising.

Honorable Mentions:

-Safety Not Guaranteed
-Wuthering Heights
-The Amazing Spider-Man