30. The Master
Though I was largely ecstatic with this film when it first arrived, subsequent viewings have tempered my enthusiasm. Paul Thomas Anderson is a great writer and visual craftsman, but The Master is, thematically speaking, one-note, and though it is staggeringly powerful at times, I do not believe it succeeds at its own ambitions as well as the rest of the films on this countdown. That being said, the film features some of the absolute best acting of the year, including career-best turns from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, gorgeous cinematography, and stunning production design. The film is certainly worth watching, and stands as one of the 30 best films of 2012, but does not reside in the upper echelon.
The Master is not currently playing in most theatres, but is expected to arrive on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2013.
This low-budget indie from Zal Batmanglij is, to my mind, a stronger and more meaningful look at the allure and dangers of cults than The Master, primarily because Brit Marling – who co-wrote the film with Batmanglij – is simply entrancing as a cult leader who claims she is from the future. Watching Marling for five minutes, I immediately understood where a cult may derive its power – if a leader is this caring, nurturing, and utterly piercing, how could you resist?
Sound of My Voice is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
28. Beasts of the Southern Wild
A powerful and refreshing burst of originality, insight, and total, enveloping authenticity, Behn Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantastic story of community, love, and endurance through tough times. Young Quvenzhané Wallis does not just give one of the best performances of 2012, but one of the all-time great pieces of child acting, while her on-screen father, Dwight Henry, stuns as one of the year’s most complex and genuine characters.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
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