Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top Films of 2012 - guest post

The following is a guest post from my friend George Zaverdas (or George Zaver), who's a filmmaker with a day job in film marketing. He's also one of the most passionate film lovers I've ever met. Just his opinion, of course, but a nice intro to a lot of films if you haven't seen them all like he has. Here's his take on the films of 2012:

by George Zaver

Much to my surprise 2012 was a terrific year for movies. This list is from seeing 127 films.  There is no one best of the year, all the films listed are worthy for different reasons. But in order of preference.

1) LINCOLN  A great story beautifully told, that had me riveted and moved by the spoken word. Spielberg’s most subtle direction and Kushner’s  intelligent screenplay. I never imagined the political process can create such riveting drama. To add an amazing ensemble cast led by Daniel-Day Lewis. Easy to just say its another one of his great performances but its more than that. Daniel’s performance makes you feel as if you might have known what it would be like to have known Lincoln. It feels like he was transported from another time and place. I was deeply moved. This film will stand the test of time and its wonderful that audiences are embracing it.

2) ARGO  From the opening 70’s Warner Bros logo I was prepared to love this film.  I did!  Reminding me of the best of many 70’s films that had something to say but also entertained us. Expertly directed by Ben Affleck on so many levels, excellent editing, intelligent screenplay and another solid ensemble cast.  This is one of the best political thrillers, that’s hard to believe really happened.

3) AMOUR  The most harrowing depiction of death since Bergman’s Cries And Whispers. Watching this film I felt it  a bit cold without  an once of sentimentality.  A very difficult, realistic film experience, almost clinical in its approach about a man’s love for his wife in the face of death. I had to turn away from the suffering of Emmanuelle Riva astonishing performance. I never felt I was watching actors but  human beings deeply living one of the most intimate moments of someone’s life.  I have thought about this film more and more having aging parents and thinking about my own mortality.  Not a film experience to have if you don’t want to see one of the most powerful depictions of dealing with death.

4) BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD  Magical. A visual tone poem is the best way to describe it. Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry both non-actors give  extraordinary performances that will not be easily forgotten.  Director Behn Zeitlin is a major talent in his feature debut.

5) SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK  This film I have now seen twice. Why? I love these characters an the journey they all go through.  One of the best ensemble casts in a long time. This movie shows honesty in its emotions, with lots of heart!  I can’t wait to see it again!

6) RUST AND BONE  Here is a story that is melodramatic, often can be called contrived but filmmaker Audiard who’s last film A Prophet was brilliant has a visual style that is so visceral and exciting that it makes a familiar story seen with fresh eyes. Marion Cottilard  continues to amaze with an emotionally raw knockout performance. These characters are not easy to like or understand but you can’t turn away from how damaged these human beings are. A moving drama that showed me the strength of the human spirit.

7) LIFE OF PI  A beautifully made visual experience. Transporting is the right word. I just could have done without the opening and closing conversation explaining the spiritual experience this film offers.  And yes its worth seeing it in 3D. Which I almost always avoid.

8) SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN  A remarkable and fascinating documentary. This film is a triumph to every artist who feels he will never be recognized. The less I say about this moving film the better. And if you’re a music lover like me you will love it even more.

9) THE INVISIBLE WAR  Ever since I saw this documentary at Sundance I have not forgot the victims of this powerful expose of the abuse of power. It created such rage in me. I was in tears. This is what great docs can do, expose the evil that lurks in this institution and help make a change.

10) THE MASTER  The most challenging film I saw this year. A film that was always compelling, mysterious even though when it was over I was not fully satisfied. I admire P.T. Anderson for taking risks. Phoenix creates a powerful portrait of a damaged soul like I have never seen. Hoffman flawless as a man possessed by his own beliefs. A film with hints of greatness. I think it will be more appreciated 10 years from now.


THE SESSIONS. I saw this moving, funny and honest look at sex at Sundance when it was called The Surrogate. An unforgettable and heartbreaking performance by John Hawkes. Right when the film would steer into sentiment Hawkes humor centers it to truth. Helen Hunts best performance in years. A film about physical and emotional triumph.

EASY MONEY  One of the most exciting crime thrillers from a filmmaker  to watch, Daniel  Spinoza from Scandinavia.

QUEEN OF VERSAILLES  A fascinating documentary that is hard to believe.  The American Dream gone to shit.  Be prepared to laugh and be shocked at the same time.

  I found most of this film procedural, but journalistic filmmaking at its best. The last 25 minute climax had me breathless and on the edge of my seat in its intensity.

 DJANGO UNCHAINED  Outrageously entertaining  is this  new adventure from Tarantino. Once again he takes a film genre from the past, this time the spaghetti Western and turns it upside down.  Christoph Waltz once again creates an unforgettable character. DiCaprio  in one of his best performances.  Tarantino’s movies are so full of life and the love of cinema.

I have to single out one unforgettable cinematic moment not from a film but an episode of the TV series Louie.  The ending of his date with Parker Posey on a rooftop deeply moved like no other scene this year. Don’t ask me why.  Maybe human beings strong desire and fear to connect. See the episode for yourself.