In spite of this menu of prime cuts, though, I found myself drawn back to a few movies or recommending the same handful of films above others. It was still quite difficult to whittle a Top Ten list out of the number of strong films I saw this year. At one point, I tried splitting the lists into fiction films and documentaries, but that didn’t feel right to me since three of my favourite films of the year are docs. Some of them also tread the line between truth and fiction, so I felt that I was doing them a disservice by taking them away from the head table. Likewise, I debated including festival films from this year that did not yet make it to a theatre near you, but I decided to push them back – both to free up some spots and to keep them in the conversation when moviegoers outside of Toronto could see them. On that note, shout oust go to Frances Ha, Twice Born, Something in the Air, Great Expectations, Imogene, and What Maisie Knew. They will set the bar for 2013. Before we get to 2013, however, let us celebrate the year that is ending.
The Best Films of 2012:
(UK, Dir. Joe Wright)
This year had a heavy slate of strong page-to-screen efforts, but director Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard rewrote the book on adaptation with their ingenious take on Tolstoy’s classic novel. Joe Wright deserves especially strong recognition for his innovative decision to shoot Anna Karenina in a dusty old theatre when budgetary restrictions prevented him from filming in the conventional scope one would expect for such a sweeping epic. Wright makes astute use of the setting and incorporates the theatricality into the dramatic energy of Anna Karenina, which in turn stresses the themes of Tolstoy’s novel. It’s a stunningly realized feat that accentuates Stoppard’s economical adaptation. Not a page feels lost. Adding to the inspired artistry of Anna Karenina is Keira Knightley’s fearless showstopper of a performance as Tolstoy’s heroine. Equally good are the supporting performances by Jude Law, Matthew Macfadyen, Olivia Williams, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Kelly Macdonald, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, et al. and sumptuous arts and crafts work by costumer Jacqueline Durran, composer Dario Marianelli, production designer Sarah Greenwood, and DP Seamus McGarvey, who captures the film in exquisite theatrical lighting and offers another noteworthy long take. Anna Karenina, with all its breathtaking boldness and ingenuity, stands tallest in year of strong contenders. If all the world’s a stage in Anna Karenina, then the cast and crew should take a well-deserved bow.