2. Moonrise Kingdom
In just a few minutes Anne Hathaway sets up a storm and makes Les Mis work under every level. Her I Dreamed A Dream rendition is the best moment of the movie and arguably one of the best scene of the year: rawness, inspiration, perfect pitch and devastating emotional power in just one take. Even who hates the musical loves this performance. A truly deserved Oscar.
The Paperboy, Lee Daniels' follow up to the deeply acclaimed but overestimated Precious, was quite universally panned by critics and a commercial misfire, although beautifully shot and very well acted, especially by Kidman. But it should become a classic for its decadent, hot, wet, southern charm, for the sprawling narrative and the otrageous sense of humour. The Nicole Kidman pissing over Zac Efron scene is the signature moment of this delirious journey: quite embarrassing but sexy and surprisingly funny.
It's not easy to fulfill the expectations when the opening sequence sets the bar so high but Skyfall succeeds on every level, thanks to the brilliant direction by Sam Mendes, the gorgeous cinematography, Daniel Craig's tense body, Dame Judi Dench, front and center as the new bond-girl in a kind of M swan song, and Javier Bardem's disturbing grin. The title sequence is the greatest ouverture of 2012: moody, dark and dreamy, a perfect match for Adele's haunting vocals and phrasing.
"I want you know what you'd do to me" says Margot to Daniel. The sexual fantasy conversation scene in Take This Waltz is the most arresting, sexy, well written (and acted) dialogue of the year. "What do I smell like?" "You smell like you do. The way you smelled on the plane. The way you smell right now. A mixture of... sweetness and... fuck". John Kirby is sensual and tempting but is Michelle Williams who holds the scene with her trembling voice, wide open eyes and revelatory silent reactions to his dirty words.
Holy Motors is a shape-shifter hell of a movie. Something that changes, evolves and transforms under our eyes from frame to frame. With Kylie Minogue singing Who We Were the Leo Carax ipnotic trip into the tricky, delusive, adventurous nature of the movie-art becomes a sad, nostalgic musical about the love we lost, the ruins of the history and the death of cinema. Spellbinding.
You can easily say Anna Karenina is all style over substance and you will be right. But you can't deny the artistic and technical quality - and even the bravey - of this bold adaptation. It's a feast for the eyes and the ballroom scene is the highlight of the movie and the moment when the baroque, theatrical, stylized Joe Wright's vision takes really flight.
Maya is an enigma throughout the almost-three-hours of the amazing Zero Dark Thirty but her mistery is finally unveiled in the last shot: she's an empty shell of cold, obsessive, spiral determination. No personal feelings, no identity outside the Job and the Mission. And when the mission is finally, successfully over, there's nothing left inside and ahead. Jessica Chastain is brilliantly detailed and nuanced even with zero information about her character and she is absolutely breathtaking.
Rachel Weisz is classy. In The Deep Blue Sea she found her best role in years and gives the greatest performance of her career yet. It's a very stylized, controlled performance that succeeds where Keira Knightley fails in Anna Karenina, by conveying the soul, the inner turmoil, the rawest emotions under the beautiful surface and by taking the audience step by step in this descent into abandon, despair and depression. The close-up at the metro station is pure magic: iconic and emotionally wrenching. She is drowning and the audience drowns with her.