Review of 2012: Film (part 1)

A Turkish crime thriller leads the way in a year of tortured male leads and crocodile tears

 

Animal of the year

For soul, solemnity and enigmatic art-house charisma, there was only one contender – the “sad and melancholy crocodile” in Miguel Gomes's bewitchingly eccentric diptych Tabu, arguably the great left-field discovery of 2012.

Marmite movies

Loved by some, hated by others. Nothing in 2012 divided viewers so much as Léos Carax's Holy Motors, which sent some into trance-like exaltation, left others shrugging – me included. I was also lukewarm about the much-lauded Beasts of the Southern Wild. Conversely, many were immune to the chilly sleekness of David Cronenberg's hypnotic Cosmopolis and to Bela Tarr's magnificent, wind-blasted The Turin Horse (which admittedly made Samuel Beckett look like just another cheeky Irish stand-up).

Rosy glow of 2012

Amid all the top-quality gloom, one film filled me with more pure joy than any other – The Muppets, a witty but not over-ironic franchise relaunch. Miss Piggy proved that pigs can wear Prada too, and Jason Segel and Amy Adams offered game human support. Fab songs, too.

Genre pleasures

Grisly kicks were provided in plenty by the devious Cabin in the Woods – although, along with The Muppets, it made me wonder whether I'd ever get again to enjoy a Hollywood movie that played it straight rather than metafictional. As it happened, Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly proved just that, a terrific hard-nosed rewiring of the paranoid style of the 1970s American thriller.

Performances of the year

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman were magnificent in The Master, although they shouldn't eclipse the mesmerising strangeness of Amy Adams's turn. Best female performance overall was Nina Hoss for her wire-taut lead in the German drama Barbara. Plaudits too to an astonishing male ensemble performance for the cast of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. But above all, veterans Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour truly put body, soul and dignity on the line, to awesome effect.

Brit pleasures

This year wasn't as resoundingly triumphant for the UK as last, but two very individual films stood out: Peter Strickland's unnerving investigation of sight, sound and horror, Berberian Sound Studio; and Two Years at Sea, Ben Rivers's no-budget portrait of a Scottish hermit and the great outdoors.

Documentary of the year

Patricio Guzman's audacious political and philosophical investigation Nostalgia for the Light, which took on nothing less than Chile's nightmare history – and the history of the cosmos.

Chef-d'oeuvres of the year

I'll go for three, all heavyweight in different ways. Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master was all the more alluring because you didn't quite know what PTA was up to or was after: he seemed as much a searcher as Joaquin Phoenix's racked hero. Michael Haneke's brilliant, painful Amour took on the human condition more directly than any other, confronting the taboo subject of old age with fearless lucidity. But the film released in 2012 that for me most resounded with depth and subtlety was Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, a metaphysical detective story of teasing complexity and simplicity, as close as cinema gets to Dostoyevsky – and without the theological speeches.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015