Armond White’s Better-Than List for 2012 from CityArts

Critic Armond White assesses the past movie year
By Armond White
In 2012 politics became personal fantasy. Movies weren’t just entertainment but were used to justify prejudiced (even escapist) points of view. Critics misread films to suit political partisanship but they could do so only because filmmakers were similarly biased. 2012 movies glorified power (as when Spielberg’s Abe Lincoln replaced honesty with political chicanery) timed for our presidential election. That heartbreaking reconfiguration of history parallels our distorted contemporary art and politics. Thus the 2012 Better-Than List salutes the movies that preserved aesthetic complexity, humane values and honesty.

Unforgivable > Zero Dark Thirty
Andre Techine tested political correctness against the difficulty of family/social life. It was the most sophisticated and morally challenging film of the year. Its essential politics exposed Kathryn Bigelow’s non-committal and unexceptional genre movie, a “mission accomplished” delusion.
The Deep Blue Sea > The Loneliest Planet
Terence Davies’ gay sensitivity to sex roles bested Julia Loktev’s juvenile view of female infidelity and male weakness.
Sacrifice > The Master
Chen Kaige finds the roots of culture in patriarchal responsibility; P.T. Anderson loses culture’s meaning in anti-religious hysteria and high-art folly.
Holy Motors > Cosmopolis
Leos Carax’s dreamy limousine kineticism shamed Cronenberg’s oft-entrancing limousine stage drama. Carax parked and bloomed. Cronenberg parked then harangued.
Les Miserables > Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Tom Hopper and cast preserved the power of pop opera while Nuri Bilge Ceylan cynically, tediously observed man’s inhumanity to audiences.
Dark Horse > The Turin Horse
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