For me, the greatest pleasure of producing a best of list midway through the year is to prove that there are indeed good movies released during that period. They may perhaps be harder to spot than more mainstream fare, but then again, good things rarely if ever come easy. Here is my list of the best films from the first half of 2012, from January 1 through June 30.
Loosely adapted from the novel Le Feu Follet by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, the film does not make any grand gestures in depicting the aftereffects of drug addiction. Director/co-writer Joachim Trier simply observes. He never aims to make the main character a tragic victim of circumstance; he's a young man who knowingly chose to walk a self-destructive path.
See the full review, "Nothing Waits on the Other Side of Addiction".
Loosely adapted from Lucy Alibar's stage play Juicy and Delicious, Beasts of the Southern Wild is an amazing experience, a testament not only to the craft of filmmaking but also to the indomitable spirit of life. It's helped in large part by the casting of child actor Quvenzhané Wallis, who's so perfectly cast that one wonders if the role possessed her as opposed to the other way around.
See the full review, "They Gonna Know That Once There Was a Quvenzhané".
The challenge is not to understand what the filmmakers are feeling, but to actually feel it as they do. There's no question that the story is elegiac, and yet I believe we're given reason to hope, for we know that people are capable of the most astounding changes, even in the throes of unimaginable hardship.
See the full review, "Have You Lost Your Senses?".
This is one of the most refreshingly original oddities to come along in quite some time – a crime caper, a deadpan comedy, and a fantasy all rolled into one. It's a revitalizing experience, not just as a story but also as a celebration of sound and music. Here is a film in which audiophiles should be just as entertained, if not more so, as avid movie watchers.
See the full review, "Anarchy to the Beat of a Different Drum".
After taking a slight misstep last summer with the amusing but superficial Cars 2, the creative teams at Disney/Pixar have thoroughly redeemed themselves. Brave is an absolute joy – a seamless blend of spectacular animation, intelligent writing, and tremendous heart and imagination.
See the full review, "Disney/Pixar's Return to Form".
Not even a pointless debate over the final rating could dampen the effect this movie had on me. Here is a documentary that should be required viewing of all adolescents, teenagers, parents, bus drivers, and school administrators.
See the full review, "There's Only So Much a Person Can Take".
I don't see it as a movie so much as a wakeup call, a way for audiences to understand not just the world but themselves as well. At its essence, it's an examination of behaviors that are perpetuated by people that have the power to stop it. Although it's depressing and hopeless, it will also get you thinking.
See the full review, "Desperation and Despondency as a Wakeup Call".
Under the guise of a 3D science fiction thriller, it begs most of humanity's most basic spiritual and/or philosophical questions. Why are we here? Were we created, and if so, by who or what? Is there a purpose to our very being? The film does not presume to answer all of the above, although it does leave us with the strong possibility that such truths are not only out there but can be found.
See the full review, "Mankind's Search for Truth and Meaning".
Here is a film that doesn't pressure us into suspending disbelief. The pacing, structure, and characterization are such that we find ourselves swept into the narrative. I didn't know where it would go, but I knew I wanted to stay and find out. And even if the epilogue is merely a tying up of loose ends, you have to marvel at the intricacy of the knotting.
See the full review, "A Short Art Thief in Deep You-Know-What".
This documentary is all at once a travelogue, a history lesson, a biography, a critical analysis, a psychological study, and to a very small degree, a fan testimonial, with artists, scholars, publishers, and writers exploring what W.G. Sebald's novel The Rings of Saturn personally mean to them.
See the full review, "A Novel Gets Deconstructed".
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more