Monday, January 7, 2013

Favorite 20 films of 2012 (with honorable mentions) Updated 4/8/13

I saw 165 new release films this year, which are all listed at the end with grades. I consider "this year" to be films released in the US during 2012 (in theaters, home video or online, not counting festivals).

10 Biggest Misses: 5 Broken Cameras, Almayer's Folly, The Flowers of War, The Imposter, Middle of Nowhere, Smashed, Snowtown, Tabu, The Waiting Room, Wuthering Heights

20. Killing Them Softly - Andrew Dominik’s critique of American culture (/business culture) is rightfully hard on the nose. The film lives in an empty wasteland of immorality which hit home, especially on the heels of the Newtown shooting. One scene has a character explaining important information as he fades in and out of consciousness while high. Dominik is not using subtlety to attack corruption, and I loved every second of it. This film is currently not available, expect it on home video at some point in the next 3-6 months. 

19. The Invisible War - Both times I saw this movie I broke down. How can our military, constantly under scrutiny, allow a rape epidemic to plague the ranks and harm its members? Watch this movie if you like political documentaries. Available on Netflix Instant Watch and other home video. 

18. Compliance - This movie haunted me, and still does. It's a true story about how when a "prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed." It's so ridiculous and upsetting that it feels like it couldn't have possibly happened. This comes to home video January 8th, 2013.

17. Indie Game: The Movie - This piece about dedicated indie game artists strongly evokes the struggle of independent filmmakers, so naturally fell for its main characters and their struggle. Currently available on Netflix Instant Watch and other home video. 

16. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present - This documentary focuses on Abramovic’s exhibition at the MOMA. Each day she would sit motionless in a chair for hours, staring at whoever sat across from her. This act was transformational for many viewers who lined up hours in advance to sit in the chair. I still think about this all the time. Why would someone make such a fuss about sitting in a chair so that they can be stared at? Something about this art piece is so incredibly vulnerable, caring, and human. Currently available on HBO Go. 

15. Kill List - The first outstanding film I saw in 2012. This movie shook me to the bone. Throughout the film there is an eery feeling and eventually it completely blows up into a chaotic and visually striking ending. Currently available on home video.

14. Jiro Dreams of Sushi - This film didn't leave a strong impression of me initially, but it stayed with me throughout the year. It explores Jiro, an elderly sushi master who dedicates his life to work. Currently available on Netflix Instant Watch and other home video. 

13. ParaNorman -The writing is a wee bit clunky but the animation is among the most creative and handmade that I’ve ever seen. I freaking love this movie for both the originality and its many references (including The Fountain, YES!). Currently available on home video.

12. End of Watch - This broke my heart (I know I have already made similar comments...affecting my heart deeply is what brings a movie to mind at the end of the year). After 10 minutes I was not happy to be watching this seemingly lowbrow cop drama with annoying handheld cameras. Oh boy was I wrong about the film ahead of me. I felt deep sympathy for these characters and was horror struck by the events that unfold. Watch it without knowing what's coming. Will be available on home video 1/22/13. 

11. The Dark Knight Rises - The second time I let all those inconsistencies and cheap plot turns go, and the story swept me away. I fell completely in love with Nolan’s tale this time, being taken by its exploration of hope(lessness) and sacrifice. We can complain all we want about the plot and how it meanders , but I cannot deny the power of watching Bane make Batman look like a child, or a football field, an American institution, having the floor blown up (of course after boy filled with purity sings the national anthem). I completely understand why many didn’t even like this film, but I hope some can get past it being the sequel to The Dark Knight and appreciate it for all that it truly does achieve. Currently available on home video.

10. Cloud Atlas - Cloud Atlas has been quite controversial this year, with everyone agreeing for better or worse that it’s incredibly ambitious. While this movie fails in many ways, I'm still in love with what it has to say and how well its portrayed through the moving image, original compositions, editing and acting. Somehow though, it doesn’t quite grip my heart in the end and I’m not left with something coherent. I hope my appreciation for Cloud Atlas deepens on future viewings, but after two I’m still left a little bit cold. Should be available on home video at some point in the next 2-4 months. 

9. Amour - Amazing film. Adding this in months later, so I have not yet done a write-up. 

8. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry - This film is the perfect example of how a documentary can transcend being “informational” and carry strong themes and ideas. Ai Weiwei is an incredible artist who sharply criticizes his native China without losing his affection for it. Currently available on Netflix Instant Watch and other home video. 

7. Zero Dark Thirty - One of the worst parts of this season is that when people make their lists or vote for awards, they have seen some films just before and others at the beginning of the year. When I first saw Argo, I thought it was in my top 3 and now it's not even in my top 20. I'm not sure how I will feel about this film in the long run, but right now I'm a huge fan of it.

6. Your Sister’s Sister - This movie felt incredibly real. The chemistry between Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt felt more real than most sisters I’ve seen on film. Currently available on home video.

5. Wreck-It Ralph - The writing of this film is so damn clever and moving. They didn’t get lazy with details, they relished in them. Maybe it’s a bit typical and obvious with its message, but it doesn’t matter to me because I’m a sucker for movies that promote being yourself and/or being an outsider. This film is currently not available, expect it on home video at some point in the next 3-6 months.

4. Hello I Must Be Going - I had little expectation for this film which received middling reviews. I happened to be near the Kendall Square Cinema for a show at the Middle East and decided to just try it out. The gentle way Louiso’s camera follows Lynskey was transfixing, coupled with Laura Veirs beautiful music. This film is available on home video.

3. The Cabin in the Woods - So. Awesome. I’ve seen this five times and plan to watch it many more. Cabin provides an academic dissection of the horror genre and those who pay to watch horror films. It is also extremely fun. Available on home video.

2. Oslo, August 31st - A slow but fascinating narrative about a recovering drug addict. I saw this film at the IFC Center in New York and couldn’t stop thinking about it all year. The film expertly builds to a tragic climax which will shatter your heart. Available on Netflix Instant Watch and home video.

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild - Ever since Fox Searchlight released the trailer for Beasts, I was obsessed. I finally saw the film at the Sunshine in NYC and was disappointed. It didn’t feel like it worked. When it finally came on home video I gave it another watch. That time I fell in love with this film. For me, it’s a story about facing your fears, and most importantly, facing the fear of being alone. Court 13 depicts this in a way that will move you to tears and fill you with strength. Available on home video.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):



The Tsunami & the Cherry Blossom

Crazy Horse

For Ellen

The Grey

Life of Pi

Little Birds

Nobody Walks

Sleepwalk with Me

The Tsunami & the Cherry Blossom

All films I saw in alphabetical order with grades:
  1. 1/2 Revolution: B-
  2. 1:1 Thierry Herny: B-
  3. 2 Days in New York: C-
  4. 21 Jump Street: C+
  5. 28 Hotel Rooms: B- 
  6. Abel: A-
  7. About Face: The Supermodels, Then and Now: B-
  8. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry - A-
  9. Alps: B-
  10. The Amazing Spider-man: B 
  11. Amour: A 
  12. Anna Karenina: C+
  13. Arbitrage: B+ 
  14. Argo: A-
  15. The Atomic States of America: B
  16. Attenberg: B-
  17. The Avengers: B+ 
  18. Bachelorette: C+
  19. Bad 25: B-
  20. Barbara: B+ 
  21. Beasts of the Southern Wild: A+ 
  22. Bernie: B-
  23. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: B-
  24. Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story: B-
  25. Boy: B- 
  26. Brooklyn Castle: A-
  27. Bullhead: B+ 
  28. Bully: B+ 
  29. Brave: B+
  30. The Cabin in the Woods: A
  31. Casa De Mi Padre: B- 
  32. Celeste & Jesse Forever: C+
  33. The Central Park Five: A- 
  34. Chasing Ice: A-
  35. Chicken with Plums: A-
  36. Chico & Rita: C+
  37. Chronicle: A- 
  38. Climate Refugees: B- 
  39. Cloud Atlas: A- 
  40. The Comedy: B 
  41. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope - B
  42. Compliance: A-
  43. Coriolanus: C+
  44. Cosmopolis: D+ 
  45. Crazy Horse: A- 
  46. Damsels in Distress: B-
  47. The Dark Knight Rises: A- 
  48. Dark Shadows: C+
  49. Declaration of War: B
  50. The Deep Blue Sea: B
  51. Detachment: B-
  52. Detention: C+
  53. Detropia: B-
  54. The Dictator: B
  55. Django Unchained: B+ 
  56. Elena: B
  57. End of Wach: A
  58. Escape Fire: B+ 
  59. The Five-Year Engagement: B
  60. Flight: B
  61. For a Good Time Call...: B 
  62. For Ellen: A-  
  63. The Four-Year Plan: B-
  64. Frankenweenie: B 
  65. Girl Walk // All Day: B-
  66. God Bless America: C+ 
  67. Goon: B-
  68. The Grey: A=
  69. Gringos at the Gate: B-  
  70. The Guilt Trip: B-
  71. Happy: B
  72. Haywire: B-
  73. Hello I Must Be Going: A-
  74. HERE: B
  75. High School: C+
  76. Hitchcock: B-
  77. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: B
  78. Holy Motors: A- 
  79. Hope Springs: C+
  80. The House I Live In: A-
  81. How to Survive a Plague: B
  82. The Hunger Games: B-
  83. The Impossible: B+ 
  84. Indie Game: The Movie - A-
  85. The Intouchables: B
  86. The Invisible War: A- 
  87. The Island President: B+
  88. Jack and Diane: C+
  89. Jeff, Who Lives at Home: B+
  90. Jiro Dreams of Sushi: A-
  91. John Carter: B
  92. Katy Perry: Part of Me - B
  93. Keep the Lights On: A-
  94. Kei: B-
  95. Keyhole: C+ 
  96. The Kid with a Bike: A- 
  97. Kill List: A 
  98. Killer Joe: A-
  99. Killing Them Softly: A-
  100. Klown: B+   
  101. Lawless: C+
  102. Lay the Favorite: B-
  103. Les Miserables: B-
  104. Liberal Arts: B
  105. Life of Pi: A-
  106. Lincoln: B+
  107. Little Birds: B+
  108. The Loneliest Planet: B-
  109. Looper: A-
  110. Magic Mike: B+  
  111. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present - A- 
  112. Marley: B-
  113. The Master: B+
  114. Me @ the Zoo: B-
  115. Michael: B- 
  116. Mirror Mirror: B
  117. Miss Bala: B
  118. Moonrise Kingdom: B+
  119. Nobody Walks: A-
  120. Norwegian Wood: B-
  121. Obselidia: B
  122. On the Ice: B+ 
  123. On the Road: D+
  124. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: A
  125. Oslo, August 31st: A+ 
  126. The Paperboy: B-
  127. ParaNorman: A
  128. Parental Guidance: D+
  129. Paul Goodman Changed My Life: A- 
  130. People Like Us: B- 
  131. The Perks of Being a Wallflower: B+
  132. Pitch Perfect: B+
  133. Prometheus: B
  134. Puppet: B 
  135. The Queen of Versailles: B-
  136. The Raid: Redemption: C 
  137. Red Hook Summer: B
  138. Restless City: C-
  139. Robot & Frank: B-
  140. Ruby Sparks: B 
  141. Rust and Bone: B
  142. Safety Not Guaranteed: B+
  143. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: B
  144. Samsara: B+
  145. Save the Date: C+ 
  146. Searching for Sugar Man: B
  147. The Secret World of Arrietty: B+
  148. The Sessions: B+ 
  149. Seven Psychopaths: B-
  150. Shut Up and Play the Hits: B+
  151. Side by Side: B
  152. Silver Linings Playbook: B+ 
  153. Skyfall: C-
  154. Slavery by Another Name: B-
  155. Sleepwalk with Me: A-
  156. Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap - B-
  157. Sound of My Voice: B+
  158. Take This Watlz: B
  159. Ted: C+
  160. This is 40: B+ 
  161. This is not a Film: B+
  162. This Must Be the Place: B
  163. Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie: C-
  164. to.get.her: A-
  165. To Rome with Love: B-
  166. The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom: A-
  167. The Turin Horse: B+ 
  168. Twilight Breaking Dawn Part II: B
  169. Twixt: D+ 
  170. Undefeated: A
  171. We Have a Pope: B+
  172. We're Not Broke: B-
  173. Wreck-It Ralph: A
  174. Your Sister's Sister: A
  175. Zero Dark Thirty: A+