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10 best business films of 2012

The 2012 film year started with a bang as the annual award nominees set the pace.

But this year the pack is still coming around the corner, with only one strong contender, Ben Affleck’s Argo, having bolted early.

However, this month or next will see the release of at least three other hot favourites: Ang Lee’s spectacular Life of Pi (now in release), Steven Spielberg’s historical drama Lincoln (Jan 31) and Tom Hooper’s musical, Les Miserables (Jan 10).

Others firmly in contention are David O Russell's Silver Linings Playbook (Jan 31), Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (Jan 31) and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master.

Among the outsiders are two others that have already made their run, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Both were highlights of July’s International Film Festival and have been on general release.   

But my pick of the festival, Michael Haneke's French-language Amour, is still to have a general release though no doubt is ready to ride on any Oscar publicity.

The two big hits of the holidays so far, Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, are also being mentioned among possible nominations, along with The Dark Knight Rises (of which more is below) and The Sessions.

Others such as Anna Karenina (Jan 31), The Impossible (Jan 24) and Hitchock are also slated for early release.

The film year was marked by a wide variety of excellent films in all genres. Most critics could easily have doubled their top 10 picks (and some did).

To be different, NBR ONLINE has opted to reduce its choice to those with specific business themes in the hope of generating interest in some of the year's more obscure offerings.

Here goes (in alphabetical order):

Arbitrage Richard Gere would not be your first pick for a ruthless Wall Street financier trying to stitch up a crooked deal to save his failing hedge fund – Jeremy Irons did it best in Margin Call (see below). But this film had plenty of authenticity and made its points well.

Compliance The entire action takes place in a fast-food outlet and it’s as unsavoury as it is challenging to its audience. But it’s based on fact and raises legitimate questions of where authority should stops and decency takes over.

The Dark Knight Rises Reclusive businessman Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) returns for the third time save Gotham from evil forces that are prepared to use nuclear power for destructive rather than peaceful purposes. Seldom has a blockbuster packed in so much business into its spectacular mayhem. 

The Jewel (Il gioiellino) This sophisticated thriller, based on the 2003 corporate collapse of dairy giant Parmalat, was the standout of the Italian Film Festival and deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Director Andrea Moleioli carefully details how the company’s ambitious founder refuses to change his methods and, to keep the business afloat, succumbs to a plan dreamed up by his aggressive chief financial officer.

Le Chef A light French concoction that’s better than it sounds as Michelin-starred restaurateur faces up to reality that he can’t rest on his past successes when a new master chef turns up.

Looper Futuristic thrillers usually have a shadowy business in the background but few are as ruthless as the despatching people 30 years back to the past for their execution. Highly original with an ending that pays homage to Terence Malick’s Badlands.    

Margin Call The best by far of attempts to explain the beginnings of the global financial crisis and double-dealing on Wall Street. Although fictional, it refuses to take the short route to pointing fingers; instead it presents a wholly convincing drama that focuses on realistic personalities.

Moneyball Sport business and politics combine in an exciting underdog beating the odds drama based on the real story of how Oakland Athletics used player statistics to build an unbeatable baseball team.

Romantics Anonymous (Les Emotifs anonymes) Another light French comedy with a food theme, telling how a failing chocolate company owner overcomes shyness and wins the hand of a talented and equally shy chocolatiere. If chocolate is your confection of choice, nothing should stop you from this tasty indulgence. 

You’ve Been Trumped Donald Trump tried to ban the screening of this documentary on British TV – and no wonder. Seldom has business arrogance and stubborn opposition to progress been so carefully dissected as how the American bulldozed his way into building a golf course in a remote part of Scotland. 

More by Nevil Gibson

Comments and questions

Nice list.

Try Face to Face as well - an excellent portrayal of workplace bullying, negotiating and the complex work of employment relations

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1648154/

'Margin Call' doesn't really explain the beginnings of the GFC. Rather, it examines the behaviour responses and the conduct of those who function in the predatory financial milieu of Wall Street. Which is -- as the director would have us believe -- predicated on wantonness, greed and duplicity. Specifically, Lehman Brothers (Dick Fuld morphs into John Tuld). But the movie didn't touch on what precipitated the meltdown: the creating-and-trading of those financial instruments -- such as, synthetic and non-synthetic CDOs. The bundling of over-leveraged securities that were hocked-off to the unwary investors (often, to other financial houses) and then -- cynically -- insuring against the borrowers defaulting. Essentially: the manufacturing, the selling, and the insuring of each other's junk. At every stage of the process, huge fees were being generated. And all the while, the assets were deteriorating in value.

The ending was unsatisfactory; too truncated and slick to be credible. As we know, Lehman Bros weren't able to salvage themselves at the 11th hour by offloading their toxic assets at knockdown prices. Yet alone, give them away.

The "dying beloved pet" was a needless -- and maudlin -- metaphor; to convey introspection, grief and humanity as a counterpoint to all the cold-hearted rottenness that preceded doggy's nocturnal interment. And in the front yard, too!

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