01. Cloud Atlas & Holy Motors
These films take unique looks at primality, transformation and the evolution of personal identity and are pure adrenaline filtered through the lens of fantasy. Deeply-flawed or seriously genius, you decide, but either way both richly spark the imagination.
02. Django Unchained
Tarantino tops himself yet again with this outrageous, creative exploration of freedom.
Moving, relevant and wrenchingly human, Haneke has rarely been so tender, but it is the bite of his acerbic screenplay that lends even more gravitas.
04. Rust and Bone
Few directors can claim to be as consistently original and moving as Jacques Audiard, who tops himself yet again with this modern melodrama that recalls a bloody, impoverished world that might have been constructed by a distaff Douglas Sirk.
Why is Sam Mendes not being talked about more as a serious Best Director possibility for this incredible — and profitable — addition to the James Bond franchise?
One of Speilberg’s finest hours, period. Lincoln is almost like watching a painting from an American master come to vivid life thanks to cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
07. Middle of Nowhere
Ava DuVernay’s film has been widely compared to Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep and other similar landmark films from the Black Cinema canon, yet for my money, the writer-director has really evoked Krzysztof Kieslowski and Ingmar Bergman in this study of loneliness and independence.
08. Take This Waltz
Sarah Polley is a woman who enjoys taking risks cinematically, and her latest film, starring an incandescent Michelle Williams, is funny, heartbreaking, romantic and real.
09. Moonrise Kingdom
The creator of very specific worlds, Wes Anderson must be given his due for yet again staying true to his renowned comic book colorful aesthetic but also for exploring new territory with this bittersweet, highly original film.
10. Keep the Lights On
Ira Sachs’ spare, heartfelt film has stayed with me since Sundance. Keep the Lights On somehow manages to speak both universally and intimately and is a complex, harrowing rumination on trust, need and sexuality.
Best Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, & Tom Tykwer – Cloud Atlas
Runner Up: Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
Also Notable: Jacques Audiard – Rust & Bone, Leos Carax – Holy Motors, Ava DuVernay – Middle of Nowhere, Michael Haneke – Amour and Sam Mendes – Skyfall
Ensemble of the Year: Cloud Atlas
Runner Up: Django Unchained
Also Notable: Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, and Skyfall
Best Actor: Denis Lavant – Holy Motors
In a year that saw so many leading men transform, Lavant’s physical and emotional work in Leos Carax’s brilliant film takes the cake. He holds Holy Motors together with several meticulous characterizations.
Runner Up: Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Also Notable: Richard Gere – Arbitrage, Tom Hanks – Cloud Atlas, Joaquin Phoenix & Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master and Jean-Louis Trintignant – Amour
Best Actress: Emanuelle Riva – Amour
Riva, who is a Statuesque favorite for her work in Alain Resnais’ masterpiece Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), simply gives the performance of a lifetime for Michael Haneke. Brava.
Runner Up: Julianne Moore – Game Change if this film had been released theatrically, Moore might have finally won an Oscar.
Also Notable: Emayatzy Corinealdi – Middle of Nowhere, Helen Hunt – The Sessions, Melanie Lynskey – Hello I Must Be Going, Mira Sorvino Union Square and Michelle Williams – Take This Waltz
Best Supporting Actor: Samuel L. Jackson – Django Unchained
Runners Up: Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook and Jude Law – Anna Karenina
Also Notable: Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln, David Oyelowo – Lincoln, Middle of Nowhere, The Paperboy & Red Tails and Ben Wishaw – Cloud Atlas & Skyfall
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field – Lincoln
Runner Up: Nicole Kidman – The Paperboy
Also Notable: Carmen Ejogo – Sparkle, Isabelle Huppert – Amour, Susan Sarandon – Arbitrage, Cloud Atlas & Jeff Who Lives at Home, Lorraine Toussaint – Middle of Nowhere, Kerry Washington – Django Unchained