It is a moot point to say if any year is a good or bad one in cinema, especially if one watches films on theatrical release, as I do, even more so if one is considering films from all corners of the Earth, and only a tiny sampling at that. That said, there were long stretches this year when I wondered whether I was going to see anything of note again; the better releases mostly seemed to come in clumps in the spring and the autumn, with long stretches of unremarkable fare in between. In the end, though, it was a decent enough year, with more than a few films that will be remembered in years to come as classics.
On the awards front, 2012 was a year when nobody was happy with anything. The Artist was a surprise Academy Award winner (or maybe not such a surprise) with many in the US complaining that the Academy was becoming increasingly detached from the concerns of ordinary filmgoers (that a film as ultimately unchallenging as The Artist might be considered an avatar of elitism just shows how alternative a universe the Oscars actually do inhabit). At Berlin, though the Taviani brothers’ Caesar Must Die was in many respects an admirable film, few people expected Miguel Gomes’s Tabu to be overlooked for the Golden Bear in its favour. Michael Haneke picked up a second Palme d’Or at Cannes for Amour, and there was much grumbling about the overweening deference to realist dramas shown by Nanni Moretti’s jury; in truth those films that were rewarded were, by and large, quite good but, like many others, I think it might have been a shot in the arm for unconventional cinema to have given the top prize to Leos Carax’s wonderfully barmy Holy Motors. The Mostra’s arcane rules prevented Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master from winning the Golden Lion at Venice, Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta being a surprise winner instead. All of these controversies are piddling in the wider scheme of things but it was curious how resistant to (qualified) popular opinion the voters were throughout the year.