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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?