As I looked through the list trying to sieve out my 10 favourite films it becomes apparent to me there were many good films, but none that really left a particularly deep and lasting impression – some films from previous years that did include The Life Of Others (2007), Toni Takitani (2005), Atonement (2008) and Never Let Me Go (2011). Of course, this has little to do with the calibre of films released but rather my own personal taste; I hope I get luckier this year.
Here are my 10 favourite films/series of 2012 : ( actual release date of some films may not be 2012. )
1) The Dark Knight Rises ( Director : Christopher Nolan, DP : Wally Pfister )
I caught this on IMAX – the epic presentation and lucid clarity of the format blew me away completely. I’ll pick IMAX over 3D any day. Technical discussions aside, the literally painful journey of Batman’s descent into darkness and utter defeat at the hands of his tormentor Bane kept me riveted and emotionally invested for the whole movie. A great finale for a fantastic trilogy of films.
2) Moonrise Kingdom ( Director : Wes Anderson, DP : Robert Yeoman )
A colorful, whimsical ensemble of characters and intricately designed set pieces have become the visual hallmarks of Wes Anderson films. The cinematography often emphasize on locked shots with carefully planned composition and framing to leverage the stellar set design in relation to the characters, with layered, secondary performances happening in the mid or background. ( the hilarious kid on the trapeze, for example. )
3) The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey ( Director : Peter Jackson, DP : Andrew Lesnie )
I enjoyed this especially for the amazing CG characters. The fully CG realized white orc Azog in particular held his own really well against the real life actors; Weta digital’s work is just getting better all the time. The dwarves versus Orcs flashback sequence is exactly how I would imagine a live action Warcraft film will look like.
4) The Man From Nowhere ( Director : Jeong-beom Lee, DP : Tae-yoon Lee )
South Korea continues to reign as the recent powerhouse of Asian cinema, churning out films that not only deliver engaging narratives but with very polished production values to match, especially in the areas of cinematography and production design. The story isn’t anything novel, but the sleek execution of the action pieces is easily on par with the very best that HongKong cinema dish out.
5) Frozen Planet ( Various filmmakers, DP : Mark Smith )
BBC makes the best nature documentaries, and together with Sir David Attenborough’s impassioned narration you really can’t go wrong. The photography for the series is spellbinding as expected, and I learned more than a thing or two about the North and South poles, the incredible Taiga forest (which make up 30% of the planet’s forests), and much much more.
6) The Game ( Director : David Fincher, DP : Harris Savides )
This one is a little out of place because the film was released in 1997, but better late than never. ( I saw Pakula’s All The President’s Men only in 2009. ) Regrettably, the DP for this film Harris Savides passed away in October 2012. His credits include such beautifully shot films like Zodiac, Margot At The Wedding and my favourite, Birth.
7) Life Of Pi ( Director : Ang Lee, DP : Claudio Miranda )
The incredibly life-like CG tiger is reason enough to watch this film, but Ang Lee delivers so much more in this adaption of Yann Martel’s novel, weaving a rich tapestry of visual poetry to complement the narrative. Probably my favourite film of the year.
8) Argo ( Director : Ben Affleck, DP : Rodrigo Prieto )
I enjoyed Affleck’s last film The Town, and this one didn’t disappoint either. Alan Arkin’s performance is always a delight to watch. DP Rodrigo Prieto ( who also photographed Biutiful, a film I really love ) shot parts of the film on 35mm and blew it up 200% ( 2 perf ), increasing the graininess of the stock to recreate the look of 1970s films.
9) Wolf Children ( Director : Mamoru Hosoda )
From the director of Summer Wars & The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Mamoru Hosoda, this film plays suspiciously like a family propaganda film designed to promote parenthood in a rapidly graying Japan. This alleged subterfuge however, takes little, if any enjoyment away from what is a fantastic anime at heart, with a great score to go with. The superb background art in the film is worth mentioning too – check out the art book here.
x) Game Of Thrones ( Various directors/DPs )
One of the best TV series I’ve ever seen, Thrones never shies away from nudity and violence when it is deemed appropriate, something I found mildly shocking at the beginning of my viewing. I also like how the fantasy elements are played ever so lightly, and as such the impact of their appearances are greatly amplified. Eagerly awaiting season 3.
Some of the other films I enjoyed include Fincher’s remake of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Skyfall, Carlos, Paranorman, Snow White & The Huntsman (mostly for its superb photography and vfx), and Ted.
What are some of the better films you watched in 2012 ? I’ll love to hear recommendations. :]