Movies of the Year : 2012

The guidelines:

  • Any movie viewed in the year 2010 that I haven’t seen before qualifies for the list.
  • I balance artistic merit with a swinging good time.
  • In order of importance I rank artistic brilliance, “re-view-ability”, and then “a swinging good time”.
  • I do twelve top movies. Consider it cinema calendrics.
  • I never agree with my rankings three months down the road, but this list is at least a first impression ranking.


1. The Master (2012) Paul Thomas Anderson

The Master is in a class all by itself. Rich, rewarding, complex, and a delight to watch. PT Anderson is our most talented director. The story follows Freddie, an aimless ex-soldier, who latches onto a cult leader and tries to learn how to re-enter society.


2. “The Separation of Nader from Simin” aka A Separation (2011) Asghar Farhadi

At first this film seems very small and focused, but as the tale continues it grows, expanding on its theme, reaching a number of issues as it spirals out of control for the principle characters. Heartbreaking.


3. “Ivan’s Childhood” (1962) Andrei Tarkovsky

It’s difficult to do a war movie that can give a full view of life, while also robbing war of its glory. Tarkovsky is able to do that and more.

Knife in the water 3

4. “Knife in the Water” (1962) Roman Polanski

Knife in the Water is wound about as tight as possible. It is the ultimate bottle episode with three characters on a boat: a husband, a wife, and a hitchhiker with a knife.


5. “I Wish” (2011) Hirokazu Koreeda

Hirokazu Koreeda has rapidly become one of my favorite filmmakers filling the hole left by the death of Edward Yang. “I Wish” is a sort of parent-trap except in the place of saccharine tripe he provide transcendent glory.


6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Tomas Alfredson

I admit that my appreciation of TTSS is foremost technical. Rigorously put together and subtle. I appreciate a genre movie that subverts its tropes; in this case a Spy movie which is in desperate need of reinvention. Gary Oldman should’ve won all of the Oscars for his work. The reward for paying attention to the slightest of elements will be rewarded.


7.  Broadcast News (1987) James L. Brooks

My crush on Holly Hunter was totally justified (again) in this parody come true movie on the “news”. Loads of fun. I wrote more about BN here.


8. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Wes Anderson

While I’m not the biggest Wes Anderson fan I enjoyed his juvy take on Pierrot le Fou. His unique aesthetics, penchant for wonky characters and his relentless cinematic symmetry makes for an enjoyable romp.


9. Take Shelter (2011) Jeff Nichols

Psychological horror is an under utilized, but powerful arm of films that doesn’t seem to be used much today. Take Shelter is a terrifying entry of a man who may or may not be losing his mind.


10.  Certified Copy (2010) Abbas Kiarostami

This movie isn’t going to set the world on fire, but I was impressed at how it pulled its viewers in and made an intellectual conversation on love and identity so personal.


11. Meek’s Cutoff (2010) Kelly Reichardt

Meek’s Cutoff is a terse drama about a trek across the Oregon Tail gone sideways. True Grit by way of Days of Heaven.


12. The Grey (2011) Joe Carnahan

I prefer my nihilism in a bleak Alaskan wasteland. A No Country For Old Men with wolves.

Other Notables:

Career Girls, Naked, Another Year : Mike Leigh is good for your soul. Lawrence of Arabia is in my top 3 of films prominently featuring sand; second only to Woman in the Dunes (above Casa de Areia. House of Sand and Fog didn’t feature enough sand). Fanny & Alexander, the five hour version was resplendent and wonderful and is bound to ascend in my estimation upon further review. Margin Call was really smart and compelling. Robert Zemeckis is a guilty pleasure of mine and his films Contact and Flight were flawed but well worth your eyes. Of the cartoons I watched this year Drive and Attack the Block were easy fun. Hot Rod and Damsels in Distress were silly and worthwhile. And for the nerds John Carter and The Avengers were sugary exciting sweetness.


3 thoughts on “Movies of the Year : 2012

  1. Certified Copy was one reason I fell for my fiancé. While not previously into art house (and not knowing I was familiar with Kiarostami) we went on her own suggestion and she loved every frame while also catching every visual nuance. So Kiarostami is not only a great film maker, but the perfect litmus test for a budding relationship!

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