Monday, December 31, 2012


Top Ten Films in 2012

I see a trend that instead of top ten, people start to compose top 10, 15, 20, 25, or whatever number films of 2012. However, I am going to stick with ten, for no reason.

During the entire calendar year of 2012, I watched 310 feature films. Again, my top ten films are selected from the films I saw during the calendar year of 2012, not based on when they are released in the theaters. That is how I define "a film in 2012" for me. Allow me to explain the reason behind this: we are living in a small and more complicated world now. If I fly to Beijing or Europe and see a film that has not opened in San Francisco or New York City, does this film belong to 2011, or 2012, or 2013? Why should a film's year be based on a US release date?

Here are the top ten best feature films I saw in 2012.

  1. I Wish (奇跡 | Japan 2011 | in Japanese | 128 min. | My review)

    Blended with gentle humor, renowned Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda (是枝 裕和)'s delightful family drama "I Wish," beautifully depicts how children perceive this complicated world while growing up.

    Koki Maeda and Ohshiro Maeda in I Wish

  2. Beyond the Hills (După dealuri | Romania 2012 | in Romanian | 150 min. | My capsule)

    After the award-winning "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile | Romania 2007), acclaimed Romanian director Christian Mungiu tells another unforgettable story in "Beyond the Hills," an engrossing, poignant, and unflinchingly realistic portrait of lives in Romania.

    Beyond the Hills

  3. The Master (USA 2012 | 137 min. | My review)

    Acclaimed auteur Paul Thomas Anderson's sixth feature film "The Master" is the most anticipated film in 2012 among cinephiles. This exquisitely beautiful film achieves a new height in the art of filmmaking, featuring a fantastic performance by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

    Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master

  4. Argo (USA 2012 | 120 min. | My review)

    Director Ben Affleck's masterfully crafted third feature "Argo" is an awesomely entertaining political thriller about a grand escape scheme for six Americans hiding in Iran in 1979.

    Ben Affleck in ARGO, a presentation of Warner Bros.

  5. Samsara (USA 2011 | 99 min. | My review)

    Two decades after filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson created the astonishing "Baraka," once again, they bring us another visually striking film "Samsara." . Even without a single dialogue or any subtitles on screen, this documentary captivates us with its magnificent and lavish images that stay with us long after the movie is over.

    1000 Hands from SAMSARA

  6. The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin au vélo | Belgium/France 2011 | in French | 87 min. | My review)

    "The Kid with a Bike" is the latest fine work from Belgian auteurs Dardenne brothers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. It tells a heartfelt story about a restless, stubborn, fierce looking 11-year-old boy Cyril (Thomas Doret) whom you will never forget.

    Thomas Doret in THE KID WITH A BIKE. Photo credit: Christine Plenus.  A Sundance Selects release.

  7. Cloudburst (Canada 2011 | 94 min. | My capsule)

    Director Thom Fitzgerald's hilarious "Cloudburst" is one of the funniest films I have seen in 2012. It tells a heartfelt story about a lesbian couple, terrifically played by Academy Award winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker.

    Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker in Cloudburst

  8. Rust and Bone (De rouille et d'os | France/Belgium 2012 | in French | 120 min. | My review)

    Director Jacques Audiard's brilliant new film "Rust and Bone" unflinchingly expresses its characters' raw emotions yet surprisingly unsentimental, mostly. It tells a love story between a mesmerizing couple who become each other's source for strength and inspiration.

    Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

  9. Damsels in Distress (USA 2011 | 99 min. | My review)

    Writer/director Whit Stillman's outright funny comedy "Damsels in Distress" creates a few amusing characters. The film's witty, quirky, funny dialogue stands out as the most enjoyable aspect of the film. Those lines become extremely funny when absurdity in each line is expressed with absolute sincerity.

    Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore, Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton in Damsels in Distress

  10. Sister (L'enfant d'en haut | Switzerland/France 2012 | in French | 97 min. | My review)

    Director Ursula Meier offers us a glimpse of the "under-privileged" in her captivating new film "Sister." However, that's not the only focal point of this film. What's more remarkable is that while she uncovers that often ignored hush reality, she skillfully reveals the devastating inner world of a young boy who desperately longs for love, a family, and a future.

    Kacey Mottet Klein and Lea Seydoux in Sister

Until next year...


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