2012 has been a good year for me film wise. As I sit here three days before the end of the year I've seen over 365 films, a few poor, many good and some excellent. Before I write my Top 10 of 2012 List (which will appear on my blog's one year anniversary on January 25th 2013) I thought I'd make a list of the best films which were new to me this year. These are the films which I've seen for the first time this year and were released in 2011 or before. So without further delay, here is the Top Ten. Click the title for a full review.
10. Paris, Texas 1984. The story of a man found wandering the desert for years after suddenly disappearing might not sound like much fun but in Wim Wenders hands it is a touching tale of confusion, loss and reconciliation. Featuring an incredible slide guitar soundtrack and stunning cinematography it is slow, measured and impeccably timed.
Highlight - long single camera tracking shots in the Texan desert.
9. Punch Drunk Love 2002. I never imagined a film starring Adam Sandler would ever make a Top Ten list of mine but Punch Drunk Love was my favourite romantic comedy of the year. Sandler, playing off type is edgy and angry rather than dumb and clumsy and delivers a spell binding performance which makes his last ten years even more inexcusable. Paul Thomas Anderson's beautiful direction, interesting camera angles and a great John Brion score complete what is a wonderful piece of film making.
Highlight - The great reverse angle shot of Sandler looking at a piano on the side of the road.
8. I Saw the Devil 2010. Gruesome revenge thriller I Saw the Devil isn't an easy watch but a great story and exquisite framing help to soften its edges. The story of a Police man who tracks a serial killer, beating him to within an inch of his life and fitting him with a tracking device so he can keep surprising and attacking him is both vicious and inspired. Throw in the acting talents of Choi Min-sik and Lee Byung-hun along with Kim Ji-woon's stylish direction and you've got one of my favourite of many great recent Korean thrillers.
Highlight - The jaw dropping ending.
7. OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies 2006. The film that first bought together The Artist's Michael Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, OSS 117 is a pitch perfect Connery era Bond parody. Not only one of the funniest films I've seen this year but also one of the best period pieces too. The 1960s setting is perfectly replicated in everything from clothes, props, cinematography and rear projection. A real comic gem which is worth seeking out.
Highlight - Jean Dujardin's eyebrows.
6. Joint Security Area 2000. The second Korean film to feature on this list and possibly the most interesting watch I've had this year, JSA is a post Korean War film set on the DMZ separating North and South Korea. With a fantastic story and one of my favourite actors (Song Kang-ho) being directed by possibly my favourite living Director (Park Chan-wook) the film is a stylistic masterpiece set amongst one of the most politically volatile areas on the planet. Thrilling and bewildering right to the very end.
Highlight - The payoff
5. The Circus 1928. In a year in which I've watched 36 Charlie Chaplin films it was inevitable one would end up on this list. The Circus is one of the few feature length Chaplin films I hadn't already seen and to me it is a bit of an overlooked gem. Made during one of the many tumultuous times in the star's career the film was forgotten for decades before being rediscovered by him and his fans. As funny as anything he ever made and with a typical poignant story and high wire stunts, The Circus ranks as one of my favourite Chaplin films.
Highlight - The chase through the mirror maze and Noah's Ark ride.
4. Psycho 1960. "What? You've never seen Psycho before?" I know, I know, I'm arriving late to Hitchcock and have still only seen a handful but Psycho absolutely blew me away. The Direction is amongst the best I've ever seen and by some miracle I'd never had the twist spoiled so was able to enjoy it fresh. It was a total shock and one of my favourite film moments of the year.
Highlight - The ending aside, it has to be 'the shower scene'.
3. Sunrise 1927. Winner of the very first Best Picture Oscar, Sunrise is an incredible film about a man who is persuaded to drown his wife by an admirer. Featuring a mixture of Director F. W. Murnau's incredible German expressionism with newly found Hollywood techniques the film is a visual and technical masterpiece. Forced perspective, double exposure and beautiful lighting give the film a fairytale like quality which juxtaposes the often harsh storyline. In addition to some fine acting the film is one of the last great masterpieces of the silent era.
Highlight - The Dutch Angle used as 'The City Woman' enters for breakfast.
2. 12 Angry Men 1957. Amazingly the début film of now legendary Director Sidney Lumet, 12 Angry Men is one of the most tense and claustrophobic films I've seen all year. Set within the walls of a single room as twelve men deliberate a murder trial, the film swings as it's characters make up their minds before being confronted with Henry Fonda's refusal to agree to a guilty verdict. The next two hours are fraught with confrontation, anger, denial, racism, sweat, indecision and manipulation before the twelve men are ready to announce their decision. Wonderful acting, terrific dialogue and a great script make 12 Angry Men one of the highlights of my year.
Highlight - The building tension.
1. Cinema Paradiso 1988. Simply sublime and one of the best films I've ever seen, Cinema Paradiso charts the life of a film director as he grew up in a small Sicilian town and fell in love with cinema. A true love story to the medium, it is sweet, toughing and beautiful throughout and takes the audience back to a time when cinema was more than just a dark place to eat popcorn and browse Facebook. It evokes a time when cinema bought a community together and people were able to discover the world through its flickering images. I don't have a bad word to say about the film and now rank it as one of my favourite of all time. Funny, charming and with a fantastic cast, I highly recommend you see it. Now.
Highlight - The look on young Toto's face as he enjoys the wonder of the big screen for the first time.
So there it is, my Top 10 'New to me Films of 2012'. I hope 2013 brings as many great new films my way.
The next five (in no alphabetical order) The Big Lebowski 1988, The Goat 1921, The Prestige 2006, Rope 1948, The Thing 1982.