I don’t’ share the popular opinion that 2012 has been a terrible year in film. It hasn’t been as strong as previous years but 2012 gave us such gems as Holy Motors, The Master, Berberian Sound Studio, Tabu, Skyfall and Moonrise Kingdom, to name a few. As with every year, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the year’s most memorable individual moments, scenes, and sequences, from movies that may or may not have made our individual year-end lists. Which is no small feat considering just how insane the release calendar has become.
We are keeping out credit sequences since we feel it is an art form in itself.
The Deep Blue Sea – The underground flashback.
Oslo, August 31st – The cafe scene.
Miss Bala – The extended take during the shoot out .
Universal Solider 4 – The opening shotgun sequence.
Universal Solider 4 – The fight in the sport retail store.
Samsara – The performance artist sequence.
Perks of Being a Wallflower – Charlie’s Meltdown at the end.
Cloud Atlas – Neo Seoul action scene.
Wreck it Ralph – The opening scene.
Holy Motors – “Let My Baby Ride” Accordion Interlude
Damsels in Distress – the musical dance number.
Amour – The nightmare.
Rust and Bone – Visiting the orca.
Seven Psychopaths – Flashback to the Zodiac killer.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – The Dwarves sing in harmony.
Argo – Pitching a fake movie to a Hollywood producer.
The Imposter – A turn of events, a perfect murder?
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Mountains come alive.
40: 21 Jump Street – Turkey Explosion
One highlight from 21 Jump Street comes with the highway car chase. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller make clear their affections for action cinema, the tone adapted here is a proudly juvenile one, but it’s the little touches that make the biggest impression. When our officers wind up in a highway chase, they find themselves continually disappointed by the lack of big explosions; that is, until turkeys provide for some nice explosive material\
39: The Grey: The Plane Goes Down
The utterly unforgettable plane crash somewhere in Alaska’s barren, unwelcoming winter land remains one of the best scenes in The Grey. When a plane carrying several workers encounters turbulence, the men on board hide their fear with jokes and laughter. Things go very wrong, very fast, and the film plunges its characters into a survival-of-the-wild-adventure.
38: Chronicle – Space Needle
Chronicle will never be mistaken for an artistic breakthrough, but it is unquestionably endowed with the best special effects this low-budget shaky-cam movie could afford. The effects here (handled by Simon Hansen, second unit director on District 9) are terrific – both seamless and as realistic as can be. Most notable is the climax revolving around Seattle’s Space Needle, a remarkably economical urban view of widespread panic obviously done on a small budget yet rivalling that of any superhero movie of 2011. Shot for a reported $15 million, director Trank wisely strips down the pic – the compositions are visually clutter free, the shots usually static or steady – and the result is pure movie magic.
37: Chronicle – The Spider
The fierce sympathy director Josh Trank extends to the films unfashionable central character puts the film a million miles above the generic Marvel flick. While the aforementioned “Space Needle sequence” is impressive, the best moment comes when Andrew uses his powers to vent his neurotic aggression – there’s a brilliantly staged moment of foreboding involving a spider. What happens next is pure poetry.
36: The Hunger Games – Let The Games Begin
After what has been described as a love fest in reviewing The Hunger Games back on episode 313 of the Sound On Sight podcast, I took it upon myself to go back and revisit the film and see if I would react as positively upon a second view. Admittedly the film did not hold up as strongly as I would have liked it to, and I would agree with the detractors that the build up is far more satisfying than the pay-off. Still, the first half of The Hunger Games offers some of the most memorable scenes of 2012 – starting with Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman, by far one of the more interesting characters in the film. Tucci is phenomenal in the role, playing the darkly funny talk show host, a cross between the Joker and a future Jay Leno. Tucci hams it up but still manages to find time to hold back, demonstrating the Caesar’s humanity before the cameras turn on. His exchange with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is perfectly played, providing more satire than the rest of the film all while communicating the falsity at work.
Special Mention: Monsieur Lazhar – The dance sequence
(The film only had a limited release in 2011 and I only caught up with it in 2012)
While the majority of Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar focusses on the growing relationship between a teacher and two of his students, there is also a subplot following one of his colleagues who takes a romantic interest in our titular character. During a romantic dinner with colleague Claire (played Brigitte Poupart), the dialogue gets as awkward as does the situation, and it quickly becomes obvious that Monsieur Lazhar is coping with immeasurable loss in his own life. His story unfolds quietly in parallel to his experiences with the children and the director offers us little details and visual touches to enhance tidbits of backstory. The best example of this comes when during a school dance, Lazhar hides out in his classroom, closes his eyes and begins to dance to the imaginary music of his home country floating in this thoughts. It is a potent moment and without a doubt the best scene in the film.
35: Polisse – Dance Sequence
Polisse is filled to the brim with memorable scenes that range from disturbing to hilarious to downright tragic. Perhaps the first that quickly comes to mind is a heartbreaking sequence where a young African boy is separated from his alien-immigrant mother who can’t provide him adequate shelter. When Fred (played by rapper Joey Starr) gets involved in the case rebelling against the bureaucracy, we feel that something has clicked deep down inside. The child breaks into hysterical tantrum, and all Fred can do is hold him close. But the best moment of the film comes when the group head out to a nightclub for some heavy drinking and wild dancing. The scene comes at just the right moment, a much needed break from the constant shouting, ranting, and bantering that fills much of the screen time. It is these moments that we realize the sheer beauty of Polisse, an emotional powerhouse of a film that feels truly authentic in every respect. We also get to witness rapper/actor Joey Starr’s dancing skills! (Watch the clip here)
34: Dollhouse – Home Improvement
Dollhouse is set in a wealthy designer home outside Ireland’s capital, invaded by a gang of inner-city kids fuelled by chemicals and hormones. Equal parts A Clockwork Orange and Kids, Dollhouse bounces between lower class rebellion and turbulent escapism. The destruction instigated by the four lower class kids on the house serves as a bold statement against being disaffected and disenfranchised their whole lives. Director Kirsten Sheridan’s structural inserts are pretty incredible, most notable is a set piece involving furniture glued to a ceiling. In one of the stronger sequences, the main character redecorates her room to a 2009 track called “Lose Your Soul” by Dead Men’s Bones.
33: Tabu – Prologue
With his third feature, Portuguese critic-turned-auteur Miguel Gomes has proven himself to be a director in complete control of his craft. The film is divided into two parts preceded by an enigmatic prologue, which turns out to be a short film within the film about a courageous adventurer who is still haunted by the death of his wife and decides to end his life. Much like his previous feature (Our Beloved Month of August), the Portuguese director presents an allegory fastened by an animal: In this case the crocodile, a reptile that symbolizes forbidden passions, deceit, treachery and hypocrisy. Tabu is a universal tale about love, passion, friendship and betrayal – as seen through the eyes of crocodile’s tears.
34: Rebelle (War Witch) – Spirits Warn of Danger
Montreal-based filmmaker Kim Nguyen paints a poignant and harrowing portrait of Komona, a 14-year-old girl who has been kidnapped from her African village by rebels to become a child soldier. The film’s pseudo-supernatural moments are by far the most memorable. In one scene Komona crosses paths with a spectre who warns her of danger to come.
33: The Snowtown Murders – Opening scene
First-time director Justin Kurzel and screenwriter Shaun Grant, using pointers from the books The Snowtown Murders and Killing for Pleasure, tell the story of John Bunting, Australia’s most notorious serial killer, whose modus operandi led to his 1990s killing spree – dubbed the “bodies in the barrels” case. Snowtown is unrelentingly grim and terrifying – a strong directorial debut, showing great promise for a first time filmmaker. In a film with so many dark and twisted moments, the scene that stands out best is the opening sequence. The production values are solid across the board. The minimalist, pulsating score of Jed Kurzel really gets under your skin. Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (who also lensed Animal Kingdom) does a wonderful job to convey the bleakness of the events in contrast to the beautiful landscape. Arkapaw really does have a unique eye for finding beauty in ugliness. This simple scene which basically features two men driving down a highway aptly sets the mood for the events that follow.
32: Excision – The ending
Writer-director Richard Bates. Jr. draws on years of movie-watching for his audacious feature debut Excision. Traci Lords gives a bravura performance as Pauline’s fanatic mother while Robin McCord finds ways to make Pauline unlikeable and likeable in equal measure. Their final on-screen moment together is a combination of pathos and shocks – a grand guignol nightmare orchestrated with the creepy elegance and jaw-dropping precision of Dario Argento finest moments.The dark climax is carried by the performances, and not the visual terror on display. The standout sequence is the ending which is reminiscent of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers.
31: Sightseers – Dysfunctional couple argument
Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers offers a number of memorable sequences thanks to the fine performances from Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. Their deadpan performances are the true heart of the film. In one scene the couple stops alongside the highway and begin to argue after running over an innocent bicyclist driving by. This is just one of the many great scenes that makes Sightseers one of the best films of the year – striking the right balance between sharply observed characterization and black comedy.