The Masters: Movieline Critic Alison Willmore's Top 10 Films of 2012
The pleasant surprise of the year for this critic was that Steven Spielberg's film about the 16th President was no sepia-toned hagiography but a film about the actual blood, sweat and tear-soaked process of getting an amendment passed. Lincoln turns the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery into something suspenseful and tricky: votes are won with patronage jobs, ideals are bent and dozens of individual agendas are navigated for the greater good. It's a powerful argument for the messiness of democracy and for its greatness, brought to life by Tony Kushner's well-wrought dialog and a performance of subtle strength by Daniel Day-Lewis, who shows Lincoln's incredible political mind and moral compass as well as his humble, folksy charm.
3. The Master
Stunning, mysterious and haunting, Paul Thomas Anderson's film about an alcoholic, half-feral WWII veteran and the leader of a Scientology-like movement who takes him up as a protege resists easy reads. Is it a story about the American-born belief system, is it about the war? I'd like to think it's about exerting power over others. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, in the performance of the year) is a man unable to control his own impulses, but one who's alluring because of this earthy, unbound quality. Freddie draws the attention of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) because he represents a chance for the would-be guru wants to prove his powers, to shape this quicksilver being into something new. But conforming is not for Freddie, not even to please his aspiring master. And though it seems he escapes something repressive and false, a path of isolation is all that's left for him — set to the tune of Hoffman's spooky and sad rendition of "(I'd Like to Get You on a) Slow Boat to China."