Another year, another list. While I am always discounting my lists as not being comprehensive of all the important movies that came out in a given year and also that they are comprised of movies from all times, not just the current year, I have to say that the Best of 2012 lists that I’ve been reading lately have been remarkably the same as one another, so maybe my Film Diary’s quirks are somewhat of an odd advantage. I dunno. You tell me.
In the theater, the highlight event was seeing director Abel Gance’s 1927 masterpiece Napoléon with a full orchestra at the beautiful Paramount Theater in Oakland, CA. At nearly six hours, it’s an epic of an epic beyond epic ambition and epic invention. No one other experience came close to this as the most profound trip to the cinema this year. Though it’s interesting that the last film that I saw in the theater this year was another epic, a beautiful digital restoration of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, during which Gance’s Napoléon frequently came to mind. An interesting contrast between Gance’s radical cinematic experimentation for his sprawling biography versus Lean’s cleanly codified and polished masterpiece.
For new films in the theater, most of the year my answer for best film would have been a tad begrudgingly Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) prequel, Prometheus. That was, until I saw Django Unchained from Quentin Tarantino. Controversial perhaps on a number of levels, I think that this is probably Tarantino’s most inspired film. Time will tell, of course. It’s still fresh in my mind. But I came out of it really thinking “Wow.”
I know some friends who will think that I’ve really lost it with those recommendations, but, you know, I really enjoyed those two films.
At the home cinema, there were fewer surprises and discoveries. More visits to old favorites and re-visiting things with the kids.
On the discovery front, Erle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls (1932) is a terrific pre-code horror film. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before.
The Polish film Night Train by director Jerzy Kawalerowicz really impressed me. As did Czech filmmaker Jaromil Jireš’s 1970 fantasy, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Werner Herzog’s madcap and surreal Even Dwarfs Started Small, and David Cronenberg’s gruesome, politically mordant horror film Rabid. The 1970’s were a good time for weird, subversive cinema.
Django Unchained (2012) director Quentin Tarantino
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) director Drew Goddard
Prometheus (2012) director Ridley Scott
Looper (2012) director Rian Johnson
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) director Brad Bird
Monsters, Inc. (2001) director Peter Docter
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) director David Lean
The Docks of New York (1928) director Josef von Sternberg
Napoléon (1927) director Abel Gance
Mantrap (1926) director Victor Fleming
The Queen of Versailles (2012) director Lauren Greenfield
War of the Worlds (2005) director Steven Spielberg
The Incredibles (2004) director Brad Bird
Stand by Me (1986) director Rob Reiner
Aliens (1986) director James Cameron
Alien (1979) director Ridley Scott
Rabid (1977) director David Cronenberg
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970) director Werner Herzog
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) director Jaromil Jireš
Psycho (1960) director Alfred Hitchcock
Night Train (1959) director Jerzy Kawalerowicz
Pinocchio (1940) directors various
Island of Lost Souls (1932) director Erle C. Kenton