Gone are the days when a film by Woody Allen suggested anything remotely avant garde. Except for "Blue Jasmine," the Woodman has been churning out unfunny comedies and unenthralling mysteries since the early 1990s, if not before, each film a quote of an earlier one of his or of Ingmar Berman's.
Anyone familiar with novelist Thomas Pynchon will not expect a conventional film in "Inherent Vice," adapted from Pynchon's 2009 novel. Moreover, with screenwriter/director Paul Thomas Anderson guiding this cinematic adaptation through its illogical paces, linear progression is abandoned. As in "There Will Be Blood," "The Master" and "Punch Drunk Love," Anderson presents his stories from a distinctive, idiosyncratic perspective.
All the ingredients are there for a dramatic, heart-punching story of immigrants in the Twenties of the Twentieth Century. Two Polish sisters, Magda and Ewa, arrive at Ellis Island in 1921, separated when Magda is found to have tuberculosis and is quarantined. Ewa must find shelter when the women's aunt and uncle do not show.
Always a little on the outside of things, Spike Jonze has written and directed a film that takes place about an L.A. minute beyond next year. "Her" is set in the near future when companies will write heartfelt letters for strangers and when men might fall in love with a bought woman.
As 2012 ends, the best films deserve acknowledgement, a tip of the hat. Here are the films I most admired in 2012, those that entertained as well as inspired, that offered insight as well as consummate cinematic experiences.