On this, the final day of the year, I offer my personal top ten of the best in cinema.
1. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Sundance). Reviewed here.
2. Après mai (Olivier Assayas, Toronto 2012). Reviewed here.
3. Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, Cannes)
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, Chicago press screening)
5. Beyond the Hills (Cristian Mungiu, Cannes 2012). Reviewed here.
6. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, Toronto) Reviewed here.
7. Bastards (Claire Denis, Cannes)
8. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang-ke, Cannes) Reviewed here.
9. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers, Cannes)
10. American Hustle (David O. Russell, Chicago press screening)
It was, I think, a fairly exceptional year, so much so I never had such difficulty finalizing my preferences. I’ve listed, in the parenthetical, the director, and where I first saw the film.
The two other Linklater films that make up the trilogy, interestingly enough, both predate the existence of this blog, but not my putting together a personal top ten. Nine years ago Before Sunset was my number one film. I believe Linklater and Assayas are the other directors to top my list more than once.
The Assayas and Mungiu films were first screened, at festivals, in 2012; four of the titles premiered at Cannes, three in competition, one in the parallel official selection program, Un Certain Regard.
I’ve also included links to longer essays about the films in question. The ones that lack longer reviews I plan to publish over the next couple of days.
The following are those titles that I struggled with, for one reason or another, before putting them on my second ten. In most years, I’d have found a spot for them in my primary list.
11. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
12. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
13. I Used to Be Darker (Matt Porterfield)
14. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)/The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola)
15. Her (Spike Jonze)
16. Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami). Essay.
17. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Alain Resnais)
18. Fill the Void (Roma Burshtein)
19. Lenny Cooke (The Safdie Brothers)
20. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)
Finally, the following constitute films I thought quite accomplished and in many cases, lovely, just unfortunately, no room at the top.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery)
All is Lost (J.C. Chandor)
The Attack (Ziad Doueiri)
At Berkeley (Frederick Wiseman)
Blue Caprice (Alexandre Moors)
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
Byzantium (Neil Jordan)
Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Drug War (Johnnie To)
Fast and Furious 6 (Justin Lin)
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)
The Go For Sisters (John Sayles)
The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino)
Hannah Arendt (Margarette von Trotta)
Kill Your Darlings (John Krokidas)
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel)
Magic Magic (Sebastian Silva)
Mother of George (George Dosunmu)
Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
Night Across the Street (Raúl Ruiz)
No (Pablo Larraín)
Passion (Brian DePalma)
The Past (Asghar Farhadi)
Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve)
Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh)
The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt)
A Teacher (Hannah Fidell)
This is Martin Bonner (Chad Hartigan)
To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)
Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)
Blue is the Warmest Color (top), Frances Ha (middle) and Bastards. Images courtesy of IFC Films and Sundance Selects.