Best Movies of 2012
Brian Lee, MFA
01 ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA – Murder mystery as tone poem in the Turkish countryside, incredibly nuanced commentary on characters’ lives.
02 HOLY MOTORS – Leos Carax and Denis Lavant team up again in a wonderfully bizarre, almost indescribable flight of fancy.
03 THIS IS NOT A FILM – Deconstructs narrative and reality as well as highlighting the state of Iranian cinema.
04 AMOUR – Unflinching look at aging and death, powerful performances from Trintignant and Riva.
05 MASTER, THE – Perfectly captures the strangeness of the post-WWII era and the emotional struggle between two twisted men.
06 JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI – Both inpsiring and depressing, what complete commitment looks like.
07 56 UP – The latest installment in what Ebert called “the most noble use of film,” this is real humanity in the age of “reality” shows.
08 DAMSELS IN DISTRESS – I’d been waiting for years for the next Whit Stillman film, he didn’t disappoint.
09 MOONRISE KINGDOM – Childhood is the perfect subject for Anderson.
10 5 BROKEN CAMERAS – The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is so compelling almost any documentary would be near the top of my list.
11 INTO THE ABYSS – Herzog stares death in the eye, again.
12 OSLO 31, AUGUST – Graceful deptiction of a day in the life of a recovering addict.
13 BULLHEAD – If Scorcese made a gangster movie about the illicit bovine hormone trade in rural Belgium.
14 GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING – At times opaque, it was an interesting look at an artist showing some vulnerability in front of the camera.
15 HAYWIRE – For me, the perfect action film, long takes, no shakey camera, awesome stunts, Gina Carano is a superstar.
16 DJANGO UNCHAINED – QT has got the revenge flick down pat.
17 TURIN HORSE – Bleak and nearly silent, this was almost unbearable but in a good way.
18 ZERO DARK THIRTY – Tense and understated, I still questioned the verisimilitude of much of this film.
19 SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – Although I wasn’t excited by the subject matter or the trailer, I correctly put my faith in David O. Russell.
20 TAKE THIS WALTZ – Emotionally wrenching, Sarah Polley is very talented.
21 HEADHUNTERS – Clever and amusing, why are Scandinavians so good at thrillers these days?
22 AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY – More about Ai WeiWei the activist than the Ai WeiWei the artist, my favorite parts were when he had to talk about his child out of wedlock.
23 PATIENCE: AFTER SEBALD – A meditation on one of my favorite writers, it is a mimetic journey through his book, The Rings of Saturn.
24 KLOWN – Raunchy Danish equivalent of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
25 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK – Julie Delpy is so funny as a writer, director, and actor. This follow-up to 2 Days in Paris had a much more hopeful outloook.
26 HELL AND BACK AGAIN – I first saw footage from this on a Frontline about Afghanistan. An all too familiar story about a veteran adjusting back home.
27 KID WITH A BIKE, THE – Dardennes brothers have never missed the mark. They show what families can be at their best and worst.
28 QUEEN OF VERSAILLES – Funny and ironic look at capitalistic excess during the Great Recession.
29 TURN ME ON, DAMMIT! – This Norwegian movie was like a female Superbad, more naturalistic but just as funny.
30 CHRONICLE – This is the last “found footage” movie I will tolerate. Still, the core of the movie was the relationships between the three protagonists.
31 LOCKOUT – I love a sarcastic, quipping Guy Pearce, especially if he’s on a space fortress.
32 AVENGERS – Ridiculous plot but Whedon has just the right touch for superhero movies that don’t take themselves seriously.
33 BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – I don’t know. The racial politics of this made me squirm a bit. But it’s lyrical in the vein of Malick.
34 HUNGER GAMES, THE – Much better than I thought it would be. The only things holding it back were the source material and the frenetic editing.
35 CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE – It’s really clever and funny but kind of just thew it away in the end.
36 DARK KNIGHT RISING – We don’t need any more of these.
37 SLEEPWALK WITH ME – Birbiglia is funny. Lauren Ambrose is so good. But I’d heard so much of this material before the movie underwhelmed me.
38 FRIENDS WITH KIDS – It starts out great but ends up so conventionally I couldn’t shake the feeling it could have been much better.
39 21 JUMP STREET – Probably one of the best tv show adaptations I’ve seen in a long time.
40 MAGIC MIKE – Matthew McConaughey is gross.
41 PINA – I wish there was more of Pina Bausch’s productions and less of the weird staring head interviews.
42 FLIGHT – Denzel plays a great drunk. But I could only roll my eyes when I realized what was going to happen in the climactic scene.
43 TIM & ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE – This stuff is better suited for television but their genius still shines through.
44 COMEDY, THE – Talk about depressing. I almost don’t see the point of this movie yet I still felt like it captured some slice of real life.
45 GOD BLESS AMERICA – A bit too on the nose but funny.
46 LOOPER – I expected more from Rian Johnson. This world just didn’t make sense to me. It’s a cool concept though and I love Jeff Daniels as a crime boss.
47 HUNTER, THE – So slow for no reason. A lot of indie movie tropes here.
48 HOBBIT, THE: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – Not painful to watch but probably unnecessary.
49 TED – Mildly amusing jokes.
50 WANDERLUST – White people problems.
51 DICTATOR, THE – There were some really funny scenes in here. The parts in between were lackluster.
52 FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT, THE – White people problems.
53 THIS MUST BE THE PLACE – I could not get past Sean Penn’s make up and voice.
54 HOW MUCH DOES YOUR BUILDING WEIGH, MR. FOSTER? – Despite the beautiful shots of buildings, this movie bordered on hagiography and so I feel I learned nothing.
55 AMAZING SPIDERMAN, THE – Completely unnecessary and filmmaking by rote.
56 JOHN CARTER – The movie tried to pack too much into it. It didn’t feel epic, just busy.
57 FRONT LINE, THE – Koreans have also gotten good at making stylish action movies that have no resemblance to reality.
58 TOTAL RECALL – The CGI views of the city were awesome.
59 RAID, THE: REDEMPTION – I am a big fan of B-movie action but the gore and fighting in this got to be so repetitive.
60 WATCH, THE – So many people I like are involved in this movie but sometimes the whole is worse than the sum of its parts.
61 VIRAL FACTOR, THE – Cheesy and dumb.
62 PROMETHEUS – All the characters were irrational and unbelievable, there was no narrative logic. What was left was a kind of a cool premise.
63 SKYFALL – James Bond outruns and outfoxes an explosion by running into a side tunnel. Lots of cliches. Bardem’s haircut was perfect.
64 GREY, THE – The camera work was fun to watch. The emotional component was contrived.
65 LAWLESS – Shia Lebouf bad. Tom Hardy wasted. Jessica Chastain also wasted.
66 SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN – Flashy, stylish but hollow.
67 MAN WITH THE IRON FIST – RZA really disappointed me. I know classic kung fu movies make no sense storywise but we’ve seen too many well done wuxia movies by now.
68 RED TAILS – Lucas really screwed up his chance at making a great war movie with an all black cast. Tuskegee Airmen deserve a better movie.
69 SAFE HOUSE – Another dull rogue secret agent movie.
70 PROJECT X – Let’s party dudes. We’re douchebags.
71 BATTLESHIP – They really got some details about the navy right and a lot of details about the world and reality wrong.
72 RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION – This is the Paul Anderson that is always at the bottom of my list.
73 ONE FOR THE MONEY – Why is Katherine Heigl so bad at choosing roles. And acting?
74 THIS MEANS WAR – White people problems combined with another dull rogue secret agent movie.
75 WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING – What to expect when you’re expecting a really terrible movie.
At least you didn’t see This Means War in the theater. Seriously. -Eric