I’ve made it my mission to “end” every year with a “Favourites Films of the Year” list. Yet forming it on the basis of UK release dates has become very difficult and in a wider sense, has lessened the relevance of the list itself. Therefore this year I’m going to include films that were released in the US in 2013. However I felt that it was necessary to highlight and add to my previous “Best films of 2012” under this new criteria. So these are films that would undoubtably have been placed on my Top 10 of 2012 if I’d followed US release dates.
Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning picture The Hurt Locker brought her name back into the public eye and presented her with her first major awards. Continuing her exploration into the conflict in the Middle East, Zero Dark Thirty proved to be another well-received and controversial addition to award nominations. Following fictional character “Maya”, the film explores her insane commitment and struggle in her hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Even with the uncertainty surrounding the depiction of the actual events, Zero Dark Thirty was an engrossing and intense watch. While its apparent “pro-torture” stance created controversy amongst politicians, critics and the public, the film was a determined and daring accomplishment that continued to show the boldness of Kathryn Bigelow’s direction. Bigelow also reiterated her vision and the ability to get the best from her leads. Like Jeremy Renner’s outstanding performance in The Hurt Locker, Jessica Chastain sells this entire film and thoroughly deserved her Golden Globe Award. Indirectly and directly suffering from Al Qaeda’s action and the sheer magnitude of her mission, Chastain managed to capture the stress and resolute personality of her character. With sophisticated editing and diverse approach to cinematography, Zero Dark Thirty just pipped Argo for my favourite “Middle-East thriller” of 2012.
As you may know, Quentin Tarantino’s recent form hasn’t really impressed me. To be brutally honest, neither has much of his filmography. Reservoir Dogs still remains my personal favourite of his. Yet Django Unchained offered something more than typical-Tarantino. Remaining engrained in his love affair with grindhouse/ exploitation cinema and spaghetti-westerns, Django proved to be an entertaining and strangely thought-provoking view of slavery and race. Uncompromising in its depiction of violence, racism and slavery, Tarantino’s writing and direction offered a sensory-overload that had bags of style, personality and charm. Leonardo Di Caprio and Christoph Waltz stole the show presenting the best characters to grace a Tarantino screen, and that’s a huge statement. Over-the-top, yes, but both left a lasting impression that was hard not to be mesmerised by. Subsequently their impact on the overall film was undoubtably felt after certain circumstances arrived, leading to the last 20 minute feeling rather redundant. I’m sure that if you were to do a serious breakdown of Django Unchained, then you would be able to compare and highlight massive similarities to his previous works, but I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how “refreshing” it was. Good job Tarantino.
Silver Linings Playbook
I rarely choose to go and see “Rom-Coms”, yet David O’Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook managed to blend the difficult notions of mental illness and comedy with some fantastic performances. Sharply written, O’Russell didn’t necessarily stretch the boundaries or tropes of the genre but still offered a “feel-good” film with a lot of charm and heart. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper did a terrific job both in individual capacities and as a fictional “couple”. Cooper has thankfully found is range of recent, and I think this is undoubtably his bes. His troubled psychology and frequent bouts of frustration conflict with his desire to get control of his life and find some sort of serenity. Lawrence, the winner of the Best Actress Oscar in 2013, really shined with her spontaneous performance that highlighted her sudden development and diversity as an actress. Both created a spiky rapport that saw their relationship constantly on edge yet remaining endearing. The supporting cast deserves a lot of credit with the likes of Jackie Weaver and even Chris Tucker offering notable performances. And De Niro doesn't do half-bad either. Silver Linings Playbook offered another surprisingly entertaining affair in “2012” that firmly showcased both Bradley Cooper’s and Jennifer Lawrence’s ability to play. While I don’t think it would have been in the top half of my list, David O’Russell continues to impress with his recent form, The Fighter being my favourite of his.