10: Skyfall – Prison Sequence
In Skyfall, Javier Bordem plays Raoul Silva, a cyber-brainiac, who isn’t so much interested in world domination as his goals are more personal. He isn’t your typical 007 megalomaniac but Silva provides many of the film’s highlights. Bardem goes big, and for most of the film he persuades us that overacting is the best option for a Bond villain. His best moment sees him taken captive. Bordem’s performance recalls that of Heath Ledger’s Joker, as Silva sits back patiently with an evil grin stretching across his face while locked in a prison built for an X-Men villain.
9: Holy Motors – Monsieur Merde
Any Leos Carax fan who saw his segment in 2008’s anthology movie Tokyo, will be pleased to know that the character known as Monsieur Merde returns in Holy Motors. The goblin-like beast runs through a graveyard-Beauty-and-the-Beast sequence, in where headstones are engraved with website addresses. He crashes a fashion shoot, kidnaps a model (Eva Mendes), drags her back to his hideout and begins to eat her hair and her money, before stripping himself bare while fully covering her beauty.
8: Prometheus – Caesarean section
Prometheus may have had its share of problems but Ridley Scott peppered the film with enough shocking elements to live up to his legacy. The voluntary caesarean section in a futuristic self-surgery med-pod was both psychologically and viscerally terrifying.
7: Skyfall – Shanghai Skyscraper
Sam Mendes surprised everyone by just how well he could direct action. His staging of Skyfall’s action sequences are expertly done and a work of art. The confrontation between Bond and the bad guy Patrice silhouetted against the electrified gaudy neon backdrop of a Shanghai skyscraper is the most gorgeous set piece, and simply amazing.
6: Skyfall – Climax
In the last act of Skyfall, which takes place at the gloomy abandoned Scottish estate, the film becomes a kind of Western, albeit a Western with machine guns, grenades and helicopters and a heavy influence from Sam Peckinpaw’s Straw Dogs. Roger Deakins is the star here. His cinematography is the best ever in any Bond movie. The entire sequence is punctuated with moments of unanticipated visual brilliance.
5: Holy Motors – Kylie Minogue
Holy Motors lead actor Denis Lavant offers one of the year’s best leading performances. Lavant is amazing in his ability to adopt disguises and personas who are completely unalike. While Lavant’s characters are impersonal, his performances evoke strong emotional reactions and his characters are convincingly incredible and often heartbreaking. The most emotionally rewarding scene in Holy Motors is a musical sequence featuring Lavant and Australian pop pixie Kylie Minogue, backed by the Berlin Music Ensemble. It recalls the best of classic musicals and is entirely engrossing.
4: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia – Opening Scene
Nuri Bilge Ceylan is without a doubt one of the most exciting directors on the international scene. His sixth feature, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia won the Grand Prize at Cannes last year and it is easy to see why. This metaphysical road movie about life, death and the limits of knowledge opens with a brief prologue, a slow, steady out of focus zoom through a service station’s dirty window, eventually shifting into focus revealing a room where three guys eat, drink and converse. It seems like a simple setup but this is one of the best scenes of 2012. As the camera pulls back we see the sights of lightning, hear the distant thunder and end with a train passing by. In these opening minutes the audience is fully aware they are about to experience something truly magnificent.
3: The Dark Knight Rises – Opening Scene
The opening sequence of The Dark Knight Rises – and arguably the best and biggest set piece of the film – rises to the level of any scene from the previous instalment of the series. This gravity-defying skyjacking is a tour de force and without a doubt the best sequence of any blockbuster this year. Shot with IMax cameras, this aerial extraction, void of any CGI, is a remarkable feat in filmmaking. Enough said.
2: The Master – Processing
There are two scenes in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master that stand out as instant classics. The first comes when Dodd challenges Freddie to submit to “informal processing”. Anderson presents a cold-sober take on this procedure, which involves a hypnotic form of questioning. He digs deep into the veterans’ past while demanding that Freddie stops himself from blinking. “Do your past failures bother you?” the Master repeatedly asks. “Is your life a struggle? Have you ever had sex with anyone in your family?” The Master calls Freddy a “silly animal” for his base urges and treats him as his ultimate test subject. Anderson shoots the scene in extreme close ups relying solely on the ability of the two actors. This is a masterclass of both direction and acting.
1: The Turin Horse – Opening Shot
Bela Tarr is known as the Hungarian master of minimalist cinema and one of the greatest moviemakers of all time. At age 56, he sadly announced his retirement and The Turin Horse to be his final film. What better way to retire than with a starkly beautiful and exceedingly demanding meditation on the human condition. Following a brief voiceover about Nietzsche and the abused horse of the film’s title – Tarr opens with the first of the film’s 30 long takes, a sequence focusing squarely on the titular character in motion. Tarr sets up his remarkable expressive black-and-white film with Mihály Víg’s droning score, accompanying Tarr’s trademark long takes. The first of the 30 is the longest-most beautiful establishing shot you’ll ever see.
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