The year's best movies explored masculinity, old age, and even geology and philosophyby Francine Stock / November 14, 2012 / Leave a comment
Top films in 2012 included (from left) Holy Motors, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games
In what was probably the most impressive grandstanding speech of the cinema year, at the close of the gangster film Killing Them Softly, Brad Pitt declared that America was not a country, it was a business. This portrait of failed capitalism at the dawn of the Obama era may not have been 2012’s most popular film—too on-the-nose for some critics; too esoteric for some audiences—but it was distinctive. While openly referring to mobster movies from Scorsese to Peter Yates, Andrew Dominik’s film was bold and contemporary: it didn’t murmur its message, it shouted.
But film in 2012 also looked back at its own history. There was the success of The Artist—a black and white French film with (almost) no dialogue which took five Oscars and seven BAFTA awards. It also made back its $15m budget eight times over. Then at Cannes the most heated debate surrounded Leos Carax’s gloriously deranged Holy Motors, which put one spookily gifted actor, Denis Lavant, in a series of predicaments and personae inspired by a century of film from silent comedy to the latest digital movie-making.
A degree of retrospection even dominated the blockbusters. Avengers Assemble rounded up the old Marvel superheroes to take $1.5bn, making it the third highest grossing film of all time, after Avatar and Titanic. Avengers was fitted with 3D in post-production, unlike the re-booted Amazing Spider-Man, in which the 3D was elegantly integrated. Yet for all the artistry, did it add anything to the story?
There was a mini-rebellion against the extra dimension this year. James Watkins, British director of the stylish The Woman in Black, said he would have walked away if producers had insisted on 3D. Gary Ross did not consider it appropriate for his massive box office success, The Hunger Games, a pastiche of earlier films from Rollerball to Battle Royale. Neither Christopher Nolan for his final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, nor Sam Mendes for the latest Bond, Skyfall, wanted to mess with it. At present 3D does not yet serve filmmakers or audiences properly. We may, as in the early days of colour, still be waiting for the proper technology.
Both Batman and Bond, incidentally, celebrated the middle-aged male’s powers of recuperation. And, elsewhere, even more mature…