Well, it hasn’t always been six, but this year it is. Sometimes it’s eight. Or ten. Regardless, the end of January every year for 27 years has meant the arrival of my Ten Best Films list. But the end of November(or early December)is where I’ve traditionally given readers\listeners\friends an update on where things stand. It marks the point, with roughly eight weeks to go, as to where things are with aligning my annual Top Ten—and what films have the best chance of getting a mention on the list. Now, as I’ve stated many times: my status as an independent film critic has given me an awful lot of leeway. Without mincing words—I am able to avoid the vast majority of crap. And oh what crap there is! You know what’s awesome about 2012 releases like “That’s My Boy”,”Wrath of the Titans” and “A Thousand Words”? Not much, I hear. But the beautiful thing is that I don’t have to suffer through them! Whereas, renowned critics like Roger Ebert do. As my closest friends and colleagues know, I sift through an eclectic variety of sources to determine the 70 or so new releases I will watch from around the world yearly. Oh, an occasional clunker works it way in there. And considering that, come Oscar time, I attempt to see every major nominee (at the very least)—I sometimes willingly view some real detritus(I’m talking to YOU 2011’s “The Iron Lady”!).
I’ve seen 36 2012 releases since early this year—and that number will likely double in the coming weeks. Some have been on DVD, a few on PPV On Demand, the occasional screener and a bunch at the good old-fashioned multiplex. There’s been a selection of mediocrity in there, but most have been at least pretty good. Six, however, have been great. And another six after that are pretty terrific too. All but two of them have been reviewed on the blog so far(“Dark Shadows” & “Dark Horse” reviews are coming soon—I promise), so you can read longer pieces on these at your leisure. A number of the Super Six will most likely make my Top Ten of 2012 list in eight weeks time. In fact, the Honorable Mention list is the lowest they can place. These are the elite. These are the top dogs. The only real question for this group is where they pop up in the final list, because for this entry I’m sighting them alphabetically. But they will be numbered if they place in the final canon, so this grouping should simply be seen as a rough guide. Now, without further adieu, the Super Six are:
- David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis
- Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea
- Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi
- Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master
- Wes Anderson’s Mooonrise Kingdom
- Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s The Secret World of Arrietty
Now, a few notes on this Super Six listing. First off, to the wise guys out there who are asking if I ever leave a David Cronenberg film off of the final tally—the answer is yes. The recently chronicled “M. Butterfly” from 1993 did not make the Top Ten, and neither did 1999’s “eXistenZ”. Does the fact that most DC films do make the elite bunch make me biased? I guess somewhat. But, let’s face it, the main reason I hold up David Cronenberg as my favorite director is simply put: he’s a fucking genius. So, that is what I would say explains his perennial ranking more than anything else. Secondly, “The Life of Pi” is one of the films I saw on a huge screen, in 3D, with pulsating sound. It was an experience. I’m not sure if I would hold it in such esteem if I watched it on a regular DVD at home. That’s not to say that it would be bad. It’s just an urging that if you are going to view Ang Lee’s latest, view it the way I did while it’s still in theaters. It’s a treat. Lastly, I’ve noticed that Yonebayashi’s “The Secret World of Arrietty” is showing regularly on cable television currently. So, if you come across it and watch it that way with American dubbed voices—that doesn’t count as actually seeing the movie. Note the director’s name. The one and only way to enjoy this work is in the original Japanese. So, if you are hearing Amy Poehler and Carol Burnett, among others, you are not seeing the same film. That version was distributed and dubbed by Disney—the DVD has a language option which you should utilize. Btw, “The Master”, “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Cosmopolis” have all made the prestigious UK Sight & Sound magazine Best of 2012 list(at #1, #7 and #9 respectively).
This next list is for the six runners-up. They will all almost certainly be included in my Honorable Mention come list time, but remain just outside of the official Top Ten. But they’ve all made quite an impression on me for a mix of reasons, and alphabetically they are as follows:
Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers”
Todd Solondz’s “Dark Horse”
Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises”
Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote”
Mia Hansen-Love’s “Goodbye First Love”
Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire”
“The Avengers” is that rare summer blockbuster that gets just about everything right. “Dark Horse” is the latest pitch black satire from the misanthropic Mr. Solondz. Chris Nolan succeeds in wrapping up his soulful “Dark Knight” trilogy with panache. The Israeli “Footnote” was actually nominated last year for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar—but didn’t see a U.S. release until 2012. “Goodbye First Love” is the naturalistic teenage romance from France. And “Haywire” proves that an outlandish budget is not always necessary to create a nifty little action corker. What’s still on the horizon? Well, you can be certain that a “Lincoln” review will be popping up soon(can Spielberg astound me and keep it from getting sappy?). And ,of course, the highly touted “Zero Dark Thirty”(with NYFCC and National Board of Review honors firmly in hand). “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Looper”, “Les Miserables” and “This is 40” will be making appearances too. And a bunch of others before the February 1st deadline. Stay tuned…the best may very well be yet to come!