Jordan M. Smith’s Top Ten Films of 2012: (Picks 5 to 1) Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is #1

The Master Jordan M. Smith Top Film of 2012

5. Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Another film that took me a while to see, this is the Duplass brothers’ going a little lighter this time around, allowing an almost kooky, spirituality to take hold. With a big-hearted performance by a lovingly stoned out Jason Segel, the film is about fate and putting faith in good intentions, and Mark and Jay allow there to be almost a magical quality in how the film evolves. From the opening scene in which a Porsche is unveiled to have been purchased, there is absolutely no telling where we are going from there, but I was taken by an abundance of laughs and heartwarming intimacies I could have never expected.

4. Oslo, August 31st
There are plenty of films revolving around addiction and the consequences there of, but none of them deal with the aftermath quite like Joachim Trier’s sophomore film. As Anders, the former addict facing a tattered network of relations he left behind before cleaning up, Anders Danielsen Lie turns in a subtly robust performance that matches the artfully calm direction of Trier. Together they graciously show the tragedy that time moves on with or without you. After playing Cannes in 2011 and being released on a limited run early on in 2012 by Strand, it took me a while to catch this one, and then while I was making this list I almost forgot it was even released this year. Silly me, how could I nearly overlook a film this great?

3. Skyfall
Skyfall Top TenBefore seeing the film, I really didn’t expect to put 007 on my year end list (say nothing of #3!), but Sam Mendes’s take on Bond is nothing short of spectacular, and not in the bloated Hollywood sense of the word. Calling back to the series’ roots while acknowledging the out-dated appeal of them, Mendes has made one of the best 007 films to date. Plus, Javier Bardem’s gloriously deranged and effeminate super-villian is worth the price of admission alone.

2. Django Unchained
It should be no surprise that Tarantino’s last minute entry onto the 2012 slate is one of the most memorable of the year. As always, pulling from many of his greatest filmic inspirations, the mad genius bends the traditional western to his will, making a raucously funny, shockingly blunt film about German myth and the repugnancies of slavery. The dialog is upper echelon Tarantino, the action bloody as ever, and seeing Waltz and Fox face off against DiCaprio playing Candie, the villain, is ridiculously tense and entertaining. I’m going to go see this again tomorrow.

1. The Master
This year there wasn’t a film that provoked so much contemplation or conversation than P.T. Anderson’s gorgeous foray into the psychology of control and the lack of it. It’s also one of the only films I ventured back to the theater for repeat viewings. Sporting the year’s best performances, the best soundtrack and the best cinematography, it seems most peoples’ only gripe is its anticlimactic finale, and even that is a wonderfully mysterious showdown of opposing personalities.

Based out of the film deprived rust belt of Buffalo, NY, Jordan M. Smith is a staff writer and film critic for IONCINEMA.com, is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and has been making the rounds at Sundance, TIFF, and Hot Docs. When he's not gazing at the glow of a big screen, he's teaching as a tech librarian. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: P.T. Anderson (There Will Be Blood), W. Anderson (The Life Aquatic), Assayas (Carlos), Almodóvar (Broken Embraces), Coen Bros. (No Country For Old Men), Gibney (We Steal Secrets), Herzog (Grizzly Man), Kar-wai (Chungking Express), Kiarostami (Certified Copy), Malick (The Tree of Life), Morris (The Wog of War), Ross Bros. (Tchoupitoulas)