Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Top 10 Canadian Films of 2012

2012 was a really good year in Canadian cinema as demonstrated by the titles below but also by a few that narrowly failed to make the list such as Kim Nguyen’s Rebelle (War Witch). Any other year, Rebelle would have been in this list. Also, there are quite a few attention worthy films that I missed seeing last year such as Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, Peter Mettler’s The End of Time & Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell.

Top 10 Canadian Films of 2012

1) The World Before Her (Nisha Pahuja)

A perfectly balanced and insightful film that examines two very different camps of thought in India. The two camps, beauty pageants vs fundamentalism, contain the essence of issues that are dividing and ruining India. Given the recent brutal crime in Delhi, The World Before Her is one of the year’s most relevant films which should kick-start a debate about improving women’s rights in India.

2) Take This Waltz (2011, Sarah Polley)

Perfectly etched characters depicted in a beautiful fluid manner. Plus, Leonard Cohen's title song elevates the film emotionally.

3) I’m not a Rockstar (Bobbi Jo Hart)

Bobbi Jo Hart has edited over 4 years of footage to craft a documentary about the struggles and journey of a young girl, Marika Bournaki, to become a pianist. There are few scenes which show Marika’s natural talent but for the most part, the film shows her relationship with her father and the sacrifices the father makes for her success. This focus on father-daughter is why the film works so well as we get to know both of them better and even listen to things that we should not have access to. The subject matter applies to all arts in general and highlights pitfalls that can trip up young artists.

4) Mallamall (Lalita Krishna)

A highly relevant Canadian documentary that looks at India's economic rise via the countless malls being constructed there. The film also highlights a Canadian connection crucial in developing these mega stores, something that is hardly ever seen in any newspaper headlines.

5) Lowlife (Seth Smith)

This unique film follows two characters who get high on slugs. Their repeated usage of slugs blurs the line between reality and their slug induced nightmares. The drug visions are shown in black and white while reality is shown in color but as the film progresses that changes, especially with a jaw dropping ending.

6) Midnight’s Children (Deepa Mehta)

Midnight’s Children is such a dense rich novel that it seemed too difficult to ever adapt into a film. Of course, if anyone could accomplish this feat, it could only be Salman Rushdie himself. He has used his story telling strengths along with his well documented love of cinema to carefully adapt segments which contain the novel’s essence while providing a smooth cinematic flow. Huge credit also goes to Deepa Mehta for smartly using Rushdie’s narration to smoothen over the decade long gaps in the story without losing a beat. Rushdie’s voice comes across like a wise story teller preparing us for events we are about to see before our eyes. Also, the presence of many actors, regardless of their screen time, enhances the film as each actor adds a distinctive ingredient to the overall flavor.

7) Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)

This carefully constructed Cronenberg limo was cruising towards the #2 spot on my year end list until it hit a roadblock. That caused the driver to get out of the car and inquire the damage. However, the young passenger Eric Parker got frustrated and jumped from back of the limo into the driver’s seat. He sped the car past the roadblock and made it to his destination in an impressive manner. Unfortunately, he arrived a little bit too late for the end of 2012 party. Still, Eric didn’t realize that his quick thinking allowed him to narrowly edge past another Cronenberg vehicle hot on his tails.

8) Antiviral (Brandon Cronenberg)

An absolutely juicy debut film that one can sink their teeth into. Antiviral looks at a not too distance future where society’s obsession with celebrity culture results in people lining up to buy meat grown from celebrity cells and happily injecting themselves with a celebrity’s virus. Given current addiction to anything celebrity related, such a scenario is not entirely unbelievable so full credit to Brandon Cronenberg for extrapolating the present in such a thoughtful film.

9) Mars et Avril (Martin Villeneuve)

Martin Villeneuve adapted his own graphic novel for the poetic and meditative Mars et Avril. The film is a labor of love and demonstrates that beautiful visuals can be made on a tight budget and a sci-fi film can be made without any horror or mindless action scenes.

10) Bestiaire (Denis Côté)

At first, this Denis Cote documentary looks like a peaceful observation of animals in a zoo. However, that perception is quickly shattered when the first agonizing sounds of animals wanting to break free from their cages are heard. The camera angles also emphasize the struggles most animals have in coping with a harsh winter which restricts their roaming space. Once summer arrives, Cote smartly frames his camera to give the appearance that it is the humans who are in cages and are observed by the animals. This shift of just who is the real observer coupled with the indoor winter shots raise plenty of burning points about caging of animals.

Interestingly, Antiviral & Mars et Avril also extended the cinematic family tree of two famous Canadian names. Brandon is David Cronenberg’s son while Martin is Denis Villeneuve’s brother. However, it is good to see that both Brandon and Martin have successfully made their own mark with their debut feature films.


Sam Juliano said...

Sachin, you may well remember that I am a huge fan of REBELLE (WAR WITCH) which I found the crowning achievement of the Tribeca Film Festival back in April, but as it is technically by the rules I stand by, a 2013 release (USA commercial release in the middle of the coming March) it will surely appear on my list for next December. IO realize I like the film a bit more than you, but you seem to like it well enough.

I also like THE WORLD BEFORE HER, though in this case a bit less than you, and I have mixed feelings on Polley's film. I am greatly looking forward to MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN and the others, and must again commend you on this terrific post with excellent capsule reviews.

Sachin said...

That is true Sam, you do like War Witch more than me. But as you mention, it is a film that I appreciated as well. If it was released in any other year, then it would have been much higher on my list, both in the Canadian and overall end of the year list. As it stands, the film is also facing a tough battle against Amour in the Academy's foreign film category. it won't win simply because Amour got a nod in the best film category which means it surely has many more votes. But War Witch has won many accolades already. I do think it is a much finer work than Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Thanks for your generous comments.

Sam Juliano said...

Sachin, I definitely agree it's easily a better film than BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.

But yes, the Academy will definitely be going with AMOUR for precisely the reasons you document.