Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Super Late 2012 Retrospective: Top 10 Directors

So ever since Stage Challenge finished, I've been getting very nostalgic and retrospective and stuff, but mainly only about things that have happened this year. Mind you, the other day I was reading some of my reviews of films like We Need to Talk About Kevin and Shame - which I now saw over a year ago, where the hell did time go?! - and through that little nostalgic blog trip I stumbled across my 2011 retrospective. Which I did in July 2012. Because...yeah, I'm not up with the times. At the moment, I'm having a very chill holidays (which I hate - I would probably go and build a set or something just for fun), so I thought I may as well do a 2012 retrospective. However, I do have to say one thing: 2012 was such a shit year for movies. Like, I remember 2011 a hell of a lot better than I do 2012. Alas, I did my best to whittle everything down into some lists, so over the next week or two (depends on what crops up), I'll explore my favourite directors, performances and films from last year.

As for the directors - well, I can say that there weren't many huge standouts this year for me, unlike McQueen, Alfredson, Refn and Ramsay who took out my top spots last year. And yes, I decided to take Christopher Nolan out of the running for this one because I would literally give him all the awards for being wonderful and perfect and everything I need in my life etc etc etc. It is really only fair. But yeah, he's number one in my eyes.

Honourable mentions: Andrew Dominik - Killing Them Softly, Ang Lee - Life of Pi, David O. Russell - Silver Linings Playbook, Sam Mendes - Skyfall, David Ayer - End of Watch, Steven Soderbergh - Magic Mike, Joss Whedon - The Avengers, Michael Haneke - Amour, Richard Linklater - Bernie, Kristin Marcon - The Most Fun You Can Have Dying

10. Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master
Five years after There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson turned up with his much anticipated The Master. The one thing that I admire most about PTA's work is that they feel like they exist in another planet, away from the 'normal' films that we're getting nowadays. There Will Be Blood is a film that you can't easily put away in a big box with hundreds of other films. Same with The Master. While most of the film ended up confusing me a little bit, there's no denying that what PTA did with this film was extremely different, complex and daring. Plus, the guy has one of the most thrilling filmographies of any director in Hollywood - and he's only 42.

9. Ben Affleck - Argo
While he wasn't my favourite director of 2012, Affleck deserved to win that Oscar. To this day, it confuses me as to why he wasn't even nominated, because the directors who were nominated weren't exactly the most stunning crop. Affleck is one of the most stunningly talented directors in Hollywood right now, with a filmography that just keeps getting better and better with each film. While I can't say that Argo is the absolute pinnacle of what Affleck is capable of, the way he made this movie was just stunning - from the immaculate production design to what he did to produce the graininess of the film (I don't know why, I just find that extremely fascinating). Plus, Argo is a super intense film without even really trying to be.

8. Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Twyker - Cloud Atlas
This movie pretty much only has a placement on here because it is the biggest showing of ambition that I've ever seen. And if there's one thing I absolutely hold onto more than anything else in this world, it is ambition. Yes, Cloud Atlas has a little more ambition than it needs to make a truly great film, but there's just so much to admire about the efforts of these three directors. Cloud Atlas is such a complex beast to even think about attacking, and it is amazing that these guys could translate some of it onto film. It may not have all been completely successful, but I can guarantee you that this is more of a contribution to the world of film than 80% of the films that came out last year.

7. William Friedkin - Killer Joe
I'm a self confessed theatre-on-film fan - any play that gets adapted to the screen is usually a hit with me. Killer Joe is one of the most confusing films to enter that fray, as I could barely even begin to imagine how any of Tracy Letts' play could play out on a stage. This film is kinda like a huge "fuck you" to censorship and morals and everything else, which after all the controversy that Shame got in 2011, was kind of interesting and thrilling to watch. It is difficult material - especially being the darkest of comedies - but William Friedkin handles it all with this weird blend of satirical and noirish panache. And then there's that scene with the chicken. Yeah.

6. J.A. Bayona - The Impossible
While it can be accused of a few of Hollywood's biggest problems: white-washing and the good old "let's make you cry, a lot" kind of thing, The Impossible is a very well made movie. Maybe I'm just very close minded, but I couldn't even imagine how you'd possibly make a tsunami happen on screen. It is in those large scale moments when the film is at its best, especially with all of the underwater sequences, but it doesn't skimp on the human element when it isn't doused in melodrama. One of my favourite things about this film, however, is that final shot where the plane is flying over that beautiful, calm, blue Indian Ocean. That gave me a few nightmares.

5. Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained
Even though this film is a little on the long and self-indulgent (cough QT trying to be Australian for no obvious reason) side, it is still awesome. And it is strangely beautiful, for a Tarantino movie. Yeah, that's pretty much all I have to say about this one without going into full fangirl mode.

4. Gareth Evans - The Raid: Redemption
For some reason, whenever I think about 2012 movies, I always forget that The Raid: Redemption was one of them. But once I remember it, I remember what a totally thrilling adrenaline-rush it was: and unlike most action films, it was a thrilling adrenaline-rush for the entire film. In my review (probably why I keep forgetting about it - it feels like I was reviewing films an age ago), I called it a "ballet of violence", and said that "while cinema should be predominantly used to tell a story, it is always nice to see a story so well shown on screen." And that's exactly what Gareth Evans did best with this film: he showed his story instead of telling it.

3. Rian Johnson - Looper
Rian Johnson is a filmmaker I admire a lot - not just because his films seem like they exist in a different planet (much like PTA's, but to a differing degree), but because he's a man with true ambition. Looper is another ambitious piece from him. Yes, it is a complex time-travelling film with it's fair share of action sequences, but the one thing that strikes me the most about Looper is that it plays out like a realistic vision of the future, and not a dream. Also, with all the action-genre trappings and the futuristic gadgets, it remains pretty much like an independent film with a tiny budget. It is such a bizarre mix, but it works so damn well.

2. Kathryn Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty
Maybe it is a little unfair of me to put Kathryn Bigelow in contention for this list as well, since with her being my absolute idol at the moment it's obvious that she'd be so high up. However, I just watched Zero Dark Thirty again last week, and in between being freaked out by how similar I am to Maya and loving it even more the second time around, I realised that no one else could have made this film better than Bigelow. In all honesty, I find her directorial work here a lot better than it was in The Hurt Locker - mainly because she's not so obsessed with her hand-held camera movements - because she has such a knack for making films that don't feel like films. This is stuck somewhere in the middle-ground between being a documentary and being a film, but it can't be accused of being either. Just excuse me while I'm over here worshipping Kathryn, but damn, Zero Dark Thirty is still one of the most inspiring films I've ever seen because of her.

1. Joe Wright - Anna Karenina
Okay, I'm going to cop a lot of flack for this one. While Anna Karenina wasn't perfect, or even all that great, I fell completely and utterly in love with the way it was made. It was just so...achingly beautiful and perfectly choreographed. I think when I was explaining this film to a teacher a while back I said it was "like a musical without people singing". Because some of the pieces just acted like they were a musical waiting to happen, and I adored that. The stage setting was beautiful. Every single thing about the production design was beautiful. I just have a lot of love for the beauty of this movie. Please someone tell me that I'm not the only one.

If you can remember that far back, who were your favourite directors of 2012?


  1. I missed your blogging. And I knew Kathryn Bigelow would be on this list, I'm just surprised she wasn't number 1!

    How can I begin to describe Killer Joe? I didn't even finish my review. It was my very first MIFF film, and I saw it at 11.30 at night and I was alternately laughing out loud, and hiding my face in the wall because it was, well..grossing me out? But god I love it.

    Mamoru Hosoda would be on a list for me, because Wolf Children was a 2012 film (though I didn't see it until this year). He just has such as gift for blending the simple, joyful moments of life with the inevitable sad ones, yet he still gives us a hopeful conclusion.

    (This is hard because I haven't done a 2012 retrospective at all!)

    Haneke for Amour would be high up there as well, and Whedon for Avengers and Cabin in the Woods.

  2. As much as I love Nolan, he wouldn't have him in my top 10 for last year. And Ben Affleck missing from the Oscar list was just criminal!

    Nice to read a post from you again!

  3. Good to hear from you. For me, it's Leos Carax, Jacques Audiard, Noah Baumbach, Michael Haneke, P.T. Anderson, Francois Ozon, Quentin Tarantino, Derek Cianfrance, Rian Johnson, and Kathryn Bigelow.

  4. Nice to see you back for a while. I love that you included the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer for Cloud Atlas, which was one of my favorite films last year. Joe Wright, J.A. Bayona, Rian Johnson and Gareth Evans are inspired choices, and the rest of your choices are terrific as well. Great list!

  5. Ooo nice list. The Wachowskis and Tyker topped mine, though Wright is a great choice too. I totally agree with Afleck deserving that Oscar. Argo was a very well-made film.

    And yaay you're blogging again (somewhat).

  6. I am 100% with you on Joe Wright and Anna Karenina. I LOVED that movie. I know it didn't work for some people, but whatever. It was gorgeous.

    Glad to see you post!

  7. Great list! I'm with you on all the choices I've seen, though I'd also throw in Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, David Cronenberg for Cosmopolis, Leos Carax for Holy Motors and Lenny Abrahamson for What Richard Did. Fine films there, and superb direction. It's never too late for a 2012 list, especially when you're still catching up. Great work!


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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