Ty Burr: 1. “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
For me, one of the most memorable film moments of 2012 — of my movie-going life, really — came early, when I staggered out of a Sundance screening room into the bright January air and saw the world with new eyes. “Beasts” is nominally the debut feature of a young filmmaker named Benh Zeitlin, but it plays like an entire community had a hand in willing it to life. The story of a 6-year-old girl (the lion-hearted Quvenzhané Wallis) who rides out a hurricane in a tiny coastal hamlet, the film straddles docudrama and fable with visionary ease; it plays by no rules that Hollywood knows but instead feels like the first movie ever made. A coming-of-age saga for post-Katrina/post-Obama America, this is the film industry equivalent of outsider art — an exuberant foundation myth upon which a new school of genuinely independent moviemaking may yet rise.