10 movies of 2012 – and more: part 2

And here are another 5 movies in my list.

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6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

It is quite a long night for them. They have been going around the wide area for hours, but they have not yet found what they are looking for. The sky gets darker, and they become more bored, tired, and frustrated in the deepening darkness. The wind blows ominously, the reeds on the field are shaken by the wind, and they begin to reflect on themselves as the search is being fruitlessly continued in front of their eyes.

What happens on the surface during the first half of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s haunting film “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” can be simply summarized like that. Slowly and leisurely moving his story outside the conventions of its genre for more than 140-min, the director/co-writer Nuri Bilge Ceylan finds the space and time wide enough to focus on his characters and their surrounding environment, which are beautifully captured by the cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki. Appreciating the notably contrasting looks of the landscapes of Anatolia on day and night, we also feel how much this long night’s journey into day is affecting the characters through the weariness shown in their faces. Even when watching the characters from the distance, it cares about the characters, and I was drawn to their circumstance. I liked the way their humanity can be glimpsed through the small gestures like offering a biscuit, and I began to like some of the people in the movie as the time goes by. I did not understand or know everything about them, but I could understand how they feel throughout the story even when they do not say anything

In the end, as the final scene suggests, the life will go on as usual for them – and they will probably look back on what they went through during that night from time to time. In the middle of their search, one character says to the other that they will probably regard their long journey as one of the amusing episodes in their life. Maybe they will begin like this: “Once upon a time in Anatolia, I was…”

Skyfall01

7. Skyfall

Along with “Casino Royale”, “Skyfall” is the best James Bond movie in recent years. Although it is not an exciting action film like “Casino Royale”(2006), the movie goes deep into the characters, and, in spite of its slow pace, it eventually pulls an unexpectedly powerful drama from the long relationship between James Bond and one of the major supporting characters in the series.

In the opening scene, we see James Bond shot and fallen into the river, but, not so surprisingly, James Bond survives and he goes back into action again when the circumstance becomes quite dire for MI6. The secret information about MI6 agents starts get leaked, and its headquarter is attacked, and the leadership of M is seriously questioned by the top-ranking government. As slowly building the story, the director Sam Mendes moves the movie and Bond around several exotic locations, and the great cinematographer Roger Deakins does a wonderful job of dazzling us impressive sights on the screen.

The plot faithfully follows the conventions of Bond flims, but it keeps finding something surprising and unexpected in its conventions. The villain, Raoul Silva(Javier Bardem), is a weird mix of smooth campiness and brooding intensity with a few personal scores to be settled with M, and the movie even approaches to a sort of dysfunctional family drama between Bond, Silva, and M. Judy Dench has her own dramatic moment as her character goes through a full character arc in the story, and it can be said that the movie is about M rather than Bond – and that she is the ultimate Bond girl he will never desert till the end as her dutiful rogue knight.

small_sister018. Sisters 

Simon, a young hero of “Sister”, knows how to earn the money he needs, and he is very good at it. His town is near a ski resort in the Alps Mountains area where rich people come every winter season, so he goes up to the resort and steals many things including skis, sunglasses, helmets, and others he can sell. It is crime, but he does not think much about it: “They don’t miss them. They just go and buy new ones”

The motive behind his criminal activities looks simple on the surface. He lives with his older sister Louise(Léa Seydoux), who is an immature young woman who cares more about having fun with her boyfriends than settling on a stable job to earn money from them. She just comes in and out of their home at a shabby apartment building, and it is mainly Simon’s job to take care of their home.

The director Ursula Meier made an unconventional family drama, and she moves the story in a calm and cool pace while maintaining the faint uneasiness in the relationship between its main characters until a hidden fact is suddenly blurted out at one point. The movie depends on two good performances by Kacey Mottet Klein and Léa Seydoux at its center, and Klein is especially terrific as a kid struggling through his harsh environment while hiding his deep loneliness. I thought the finale was rather abrupt, but now I feel that it is an appropriate and effective ending for the story – and it is a haunting one that will linger on your mind after the end credits roll.

moonrisekingdom059. Moonrise Kingdom

“Moonrise Kingdom” is as charming and innocent as Wes Anderson’s film can be. As a picturesque tale about a little romantic elopement, the movie has that sweet aspect we have seen from such films as “Melody”(1971) and “Small Change”(1976) along with that distinctive deadpan attitude we have observed from Anderson’s previous works. The characters are more or less than caricatures and their world has artificial qualities, but there is something sad and melancholic beneath their quirky personalities and comic circumstances, and that makes that little romance at the center of the story both endearingly real and magical.

Its very young couple Sam(Jared Gilman) and Suzy(Kara Hayward) have been secretly corresponding with each other through letters since they had a chance encounter between them a year ago, and they have recently decided to have their private time as little lovers without telling anyone. When they meet at their rendezvous spot, they are adequately prepared; as a good scout, Sam knows how to get to a certain place in the island, and Suzy brings books to read along with her little kitten and a record player.

While they are having their own private time at the cove somewhere in their island, the adults are looking for them, and everything in the movie is handled well with the calm deadpan approach by the director/co-writer Wes Anderson. His characters never reach for laughs while being serious about their circumstance no matter how much they look offbeat or whimsy, but there are also lots of understated emotions in its detachment. As implied in its finale, romantic moment never lasts long, and it eventually goes away into somewhere in our memories – but something else can be grown and extended from that as we move on in our life.


smallgrey0110. The Grey

“The Grey” made me very grateful to our modern civilization. The nature is surely beautiful to look at, but it is also merciless to its inhabitants, and, thanks to our civilization, most of us are fortunately protected from being ground by its ruthless ecological order. I became more conscious of the cold night when I walked out of the local theater right after watching it, and I was again thankful for the modern civilization providing me a ride, thick clothes, a warm room where I can sleep. What chance will I have if I am hurled into their situation in the film, as a clumsy, bumbling graduate?

The movie is about a bunch of unlucky guys who happen to face one of the harshest sides of nature and have to go through it for their survival. The temperature is below zero even during day. The blizzard frequently slaps them with no mercy. They have little chance of being rescued in the vast area surrounding them. To make the matters worse, there is also terrible menace watching on them. They must do something, or they will possibly meet the end worse than the accident they have just survived from.

The movie is not entirely humorless, but the level of tension is never lowered even when we are allowed to see the grim humor inside the characters’ circumstance. The cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi is excellent with bleak icy beauty, and Liam Neeson is very good as a tough guy who knows how to confront the dangers surrounding him and others. He is on the verge of killing himself at first, but now, ironically, his survival instinct is stimulated again in the middle of the wilderness – and, as shown in the finale, he will fight for his life as far as he can.

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