2012 is already over, but it’s always fun to indulge in more of the year-end awards and Top 10 lists. You can find my Top 20 films here and here, but in this post I list my favorite performances of the year, both lead and supporting, the best scenes of the year, and my favorite: the year in miscellaneous superlatives.

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Denis Lavant in Holy Motors

Best Lead Performances of 2012

  • Denis Lavant – Holy Motors
  • Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
  • Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
  • Jean-Louis Trentignant – Amour
  • Rachel Weisz – The Deep Blue Sea

Best Supporting Performances of 2012

  • Simon Russell Beale – The Deep Blue Sea
  • Michael Fassbender – Prometheus
  • Dwight Henry – Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
  • Ana Moreira – Tabu

Best Scenes or Moments of 2012

Two Years At Sea

1) Processing – The Master

You can’t take your eyes off of the duel of both characters and performers in the centerpiece of the year’s best film. It reveals so much about both men and typifies Anderson’s intriguing approach of using 70mm to scrutinize faces in closeups.

2) Musical Interlude – Holy Motors

There are many fine scenes in Holy Motors, but none more joyous and unapologetic than when Denis Lavant leads a full band of accordion players through a furious performance, exclusively for the pleasure of the audience.

3) The Raid – Zero Dark Thirty

Despite the trailers, Zero Dark Thirty is primarily about the 10 years leading up to the assassination of Bin Laden, not the mission itself. But as the dramatic culmination of the entire film, it’s a true achievement of suspense, relying on silence not noise.

4) Alien C Section – Prometheus

Most of Prometheus is high concept sci-fi, but Ridley Scott delivers one truly terrifying horror setpiece. Noomi Rapace is quite good, and if having an alien forcibly removed from your stomach isn’t harrowing enough, remember, after it’s out she’s still stuck in the surgical chamber with the thing!

5) Cafe – Oslo, August 31st

Recovering drug addict Anders stops for a cup of coffee during his day of temptation in Oslo. He has lots of thoughts swimming around his head, but director Joachim Trier beautifully visualizes the way he takes a moment to simply observe, picking up snatches of other patrons’ conversations and imagining what their lives might be like.

6) Floating – Two Years at Sea

This minimalist documentary portrait of an old man’s hermetic life in the wilderness makes stunning use of widescreen, ultra-grainy 16mm, but no shot is more potent than this static long-take of the man silently floating across a lake. What can I say, I’m a sucker for this stuff.

7) The Iguana – This Is Not a Film

Jafar Panahi’s prison time and filmmaking ban for criticizing the Iranian government is no laughing matter, but Panahi’s film benefits from its ability to discover moments of levity, including from the director’s always curious pet iguana, who loves to climb on anything in its way.

8) Twisted Room – The Hole

Joe Dante’s kid-friendly horror film creatively dramatizes its protagonists overcoming their fears, including one boy’s fear of his abusive father. Dante literalizes the tortured psyche of domestic abuse with a set full of twisted angles and exaggerated proportions.

9) Crossing the Cliff – The Grey

On the run from wolves, Liam Neeson and his band of plane crash survivors must shimmy across a rope above a giant cliff. It’s an intense sequence, but I love the way director Joe Carnahan lingers on a supporting character who’s about to meet his end, rather than picturing his star actor reaching the other side.

10) Ladies of Tampa – Magic Mike

Matthew McConaughey had an amazing 2012, and all his talent, charisma, charm and smarmy-ness is on display in his solo musical number as a male stripper in Magic Mike. An Oscar snub for Best Song!

2012 in Miscellaneous Superlatives

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

  • MVP: Matthew McConaughey – Magic Mike, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Bernie
  • Worst Performance: Logan Marshall-Green – Prometheus
  • Most Unfairly Maligned: John Carter
  • Best Food Porn: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  • How Did They Ever Greenlight This?: Casa de mi Padre
  • Most Surprisingly Successful SFX: Ted
  • Most Obtrusive Music: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Dark Knight Rises
  • Wow, It Didn’t Suck: Chronicle
  • Best Performance by an Animal: The Turin Horse – The Turin Horse
  • Best Comedic Relief: James Spader – Lincoln
  • Best Line: “I wanna go home and tongue-kiss my Maxima.” – Cosmopolis
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