Best of 2012 Part Two: New Movies

After spending much of the last quarter of 2011 in the zombie state that is caring for a newborn, I made a strong movie-watching comeback in 2012, not only seeing a ton of great old movies but also more than twice as many movies from the current year as I’d seen at this point last year.  Much of that is thanks to a trip to the Vancouver International Film Festival for the fourth time in the last five years.  I saw over 30 films there this year, so many that I still have eight left to review (New Year’s Resolution #1: finish last year’s reviews).

As always with end of the year lists, there is the question of dates.  For every list on this site, I use the year given by imdb.  That’s the easiest, most consistent standard for movie years throughout history and across the world.  That means that a number of films which were theatrically released in the US in 2012 count as 2011 or even 2010 films for my lists, due to prior appearances at film festivals or in other countries.  It also means that a few of my favorite 2012 films will be showing up on other folks’ end of the year lists in 2013.

So first, here are some films that won’t be appearing on my 2012 list because I consider them to have come from earlier years:

Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman, 2011)
Oki’s Movie (Hong Sangsoo, 2010)
Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2011)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Johnnie To, 2011)
The Day He Arrives (Hong Sangsoo, 2011)
The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011)
Romance Joe (Lee Kwangkuk, 2011)
Let the Bullets Fly (Jiang Wen, 2010)
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
Life Without Principle (Johnnie To, 2010)
Girl Walk // All Day (Jacob Krupnick, 2011)
I Wish I Knew (Jia Zhangke, 2010)
The Grey (Joe Carnahan, 2011)
Hahaha (Hong Sangsoo, 2010)
The Turn Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011)
Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)
The Kid with a Bike (The Dardenne Brothers, 2011)
Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, 2011)

Additionally, there are quite a few 2012 films I haven’t managed to see yet, either because they haven’t yet been released in the Seattle area, or because I just haven’t found the time to watch them. I am constantly adding newly seen films to old lists with This Week in Rankings posts, for example there are now 49 films on my 2011 list, more than twice as many as the one in the end of the year post I wrote last year.

Here are a few of the notable 2012 films I haven’t seen yet:

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
Flight (Robert Zemeckis)
Argo (Ben Affleck)
Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
Beast of the Southern Wild (Ben Zeitlin)
The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan)
Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh)
Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik)
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel)
Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh)
Haywire (Steven Soderbergh)
Barbara (Christian Petzold)
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)

And with that, here is my list for 2012, with links to reviews where appropriate:

1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
2. In Another Country (Hong Sangsoo)
3. Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
4. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. Mekong Hotel (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
6. Night Across the Street (Raul Ruiz)
7. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
8. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
9. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
10. When Night Falls (Ying Liang)
11. The Last Time I Saw Macao (João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata)
12. Walker (Tsai Ming-liang)
13. Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas)
14. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
15. Memories Look at Me (Song Fang)
16. Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
17. Thursday Till Sunday (Dominga Sotomayor)
18. Three Sisters (Wang Bing)
19. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
20. Romancing in Thin Air (Johnnie To)
21. Emperor Visits the Hell (Li Luo)
22. Looper (Rian Johnson)
23. This is 40 (Judd Apatow)
24. Vamps (Amy Heckerling)
25. Shut Up and Play the Hits (Dylan Southern & Will Lovelace)

26. Reconversão (Thom Andersen)
27. The Unlikely Girl (Wei Ling Chang)
28. The Avengers (Joss Whedon)
29. Sleepwalk With Me (Mike Birbiglia & Seth Barrish)
30. Brave (Brenda Chapman & Mark Andrews)
31. People’s Park (JP Sniadecki and Libbie Cohn)
32. Everybody in Our Family (Radu Jude)
33. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson)
34. Amour (Michael Haneke)
35. Mother (Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul)
36. In Search of Haydn (Phil Grabsky)
37. Mystery (Luo Ye)
38. The Angel’s Share (Ken Loach)
39. Cloud Atlas (The Wachowskis & Tom Tykwer)
40. Antiviral (Brandon Cronenberg)
41. Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore)
42. A Mere Life (Park Sanghun)
43. Beautiful 2012 (Various)
44. Prometheus (Ridley Scott)
45. Skyfall (Sam Mendes)
46. Moksha; the World, or I, How Does that Work? (Koo Sungzoo)
47. Game Change (Jay Roach)
48. Les Misérables (Tom Hooper)

And finally, here’s a list that follows the more general critical year-end list standard, which includes some 2011 movies, for comparison’s sake:

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. Damsels in Distress
3. In Another Country
4. Oki’s Movie
5. Like Someone in Love
6. Margaret
7. The Master
8. The Deep Blue Sea
9.  Mekong Hotel
10. Night Across The Street
11. Lincoln
12. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
13. The Day He Arrives
14. Holy Motors
15. Tabu
16. Romance Joe
17. Let the Bullets Fly
18. When Night Falls
19. The Last Time I Saw Macao
20. Life Without Principle
21. Girl Walk // All Day
22. The Cabin in the Woods
23. Walker
24. Something in the Air
25. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

26. Django Unchained
27. I Wish I Knew
28. Memories Look at Me
29. Neighboring Sounds
30. The Grey
31. Hahaha
32. Thursday Till Sunday
33. Three Sisters
34. Cosmopolis
35. Romancing in Thin Air
36. The Turin Horse
37. Emperor Visits the Hell
38. Looper
39. This is 40
40. Vamps
41. Bernie
42. The Kid with a Bike
43. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (Tsui Hark)
44. Shut Up and Play the Hits
45. A Fish (Park Hongmin)
46. Reconversão
47. The Unlikely Girl
48. Take This Waltz
49. The Avengers
50. East Meets West (Jeffrey Lau)

51. Sleepwalk with Me
52. Brave
53. People’s Park
54. Headshot (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang)
55. Everybody in Our Family
56. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
57. Amour
58. Mother
59. In Search of Haydn
60. Mystery
61. The Angel’s Share
62. Cloud Atlas
63. 10+10 (Various)
64. Antiviral
65. Wreck-It Ralph
66. A Mere Life
67. Beautiful 2012
68. Prometheus
69. Skyfall
70. Moksha; the World, or I, How Does that Work?
71. Game Change
72. Les Misérables

7 thoughts on “Best of 2012 Part Two: New Movies

  1. You certainly list a lot of the films from this year I look forward to catching up with: LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, MEKONG HOTEL, TABU, LINCOLN, HOLY MOTORS.

    I've got to say, I'm really surprised by your more conventional 2012 list. I found DAMSELS distressingly uneven after two viewings. I'm willing to give MOONRISE another shot, but still surprised that it would be your #1.I continue to remain baffled by people's love for THE DEEP BLUE SEA, a love affair I find pretty to watch but empty, hollow and uninteresting overall.


  2. No movies made me happier in 2012 than Moonrise Kingdom and Damsels in Distress (and In Another Country). “The joy of making cinema” and all that. That's why they're at the top of the list.

    I liked The Deep Blue Sea the first time though, loved it the second time. I suspect it's the kind of movie Wong Kar-wai would make if he were English.


  3. As usual, a far more comprehensive and therefore interesting list than mine. I was surprised by what a populist I've become, my top three films were all released by Disney!

    I will overlook your egregious choice for number one (we are no longer friends), and get down to brass tacks: what's your take on Django Unchained? I am certainly in the incredibly small minority that thinks it's QT's weakest film, my love of Death Proof proof of my unconventional opinions. I had a talk with Colin yesterday about it and he disagrees completely. He thinks Django is Tarantino's best because it is more substantive, less cartoonish and overly stylish. I liked the movie quite a bit but there were a number of things that just didn't click. For one, the dialogue didn't tickle me like in every other Tarantino film. In a way, by choosing to be less stylish (while remaining incredibly verbose) his dialogue rang less true, it felt more labored. Even a period piece like Basterds allowed him to soliloquize on movies like King Kong. Here he is handicapped. Secondly, this is the first time his soundtrack choices were less than impeccable. There were plenty of good tunes but a lot of them sounded like B-sides to his other great selections. And there was far too much of it. It was overstuffed with songs. Lastly, and this is the biggest problem, the movie is too long. It doesn't warrant its length, there is need for this story to be drawn out, especially when bits like the Klan argument and the Tarantino cameo don't need to be in there at all. And it's all deflation after the epic shoot-out. I understand why the story had to continue beyond that but it just didn't come together.

    It's still a good film and I am interested to see it again but it was the first time I walked out of a Tarantino film not buzzing with excitement.


  4. I'm still thinking about it, but I was initially underwhelmed, at least by Tarantino standards. I thought the slavery stuff was really disturbing, which is fine – it should be, but clashed jarringly with the cartoonish violence of the rest of the film. That kind of thing worked really well in Death Proof and IB which are both critiques of violent cinema in a lot of ways, but those movies are about movies in a way that Django really isn't. The problem, I think, is that Tarantino, for once, doesn't really understand the genre he's working in. It's not a Western, and it's not blaxploitation. I don't really know what it is.

    I think the Klan sequence is pretty bad. For one thing, it was done better in O Brother, for another, 1858 is about a decade too early for the KKK.

    I feel like I'm just not looking at it in the right way, though. That I expected it to be one thing and it turned out to be something else. I don't know. Maybe my perception is unduly colored by his idiotic comments about John Ford. That really made me angry.


  5. Yeah, that John Ford thing was certainly silly. What do you think is dumber, his statements about Ford or Spike Lee's statements about him?

    I agree with you on his muddled presentation of a genre. He's done the spaghetti western stuff so much better in his other films and this one felt strangely tentative and uncertain.

    I actually like how unflinching he is with the slave violence. It serves as a real indictment of the atrocities and puts a lot of the subsequent retribution, even if it is cartoonish, in good context. Also, he really gave a large overview to the types of trauma slaves endured, not just whippings but the Mandingo fighting and being locked in the hot box. Just brutal, painful, sickening stuff. To have all that on gruesome display in a Hollywood blockbuster released on Christmas Day is some sort of triumph.

    For my money, the best scene in the movie is when Django is inflicting the pain upon the Brittle brothers that they inflicted earlier upon him. It hit me hard emotionally and I think may be one of the best things Tarantino has ever done. The other flashbacks in the film didn't work nearly as well, Schultz's reminiscence of the man being ripped apart by dogs interspersed with the Beethoven was all a bit too much.

    I think that the KKK thing is rooted in some sort of fact. I've read that they were a group that was a prototype for what the Klan eventually became. That doesn't mean squat, however, when it completely kills the pace of the movie. Why, oh why did he show the first two seconds of the raid and then cut back to them arguing about the hoods for like, five minutes?


  6. I don't know, they're both really stupid. On the one hand, Lee's talking about a movie he hasn't seen. On the other, Tarantino has presumably seen a bunch of John Ford movies (there are even a couple Fordian shots in Django) and I think you'd have to be really dumb to see a bunch of John Ford movies and conclude he's a white supremacist who likes to seen “Indians mowed down like zombies.”

    Some movies, I think, are like black holes. I think the evils of slavery are a kind of vortex that the movie is crushed by. Tarantino skirts around it for awhile, playing with (Spaghetti) Western tropes, KKK satire, typical Tarantinian cleverness but with DiCaprio's entrance everything is upended, the gravitational pull of the atrocity sucks the narrative in and breaks it apart. The moment Schultz kills Candie is the singularity, the point at which meaning dissolves in a bloody, righteous fury. After that, the normal rules of physics no longer apply and the last 20 minutes or so are truly weird: Django's escape from castration, Tarantino's cameo, Broomhilda's rescue, the destruction of the plantation manor. He even makes a horse dance!

    Interesting too is the positioning of Samuel L. Jackson as the film's true villain. I can understand the argument, but isn't the Uncle Tom as much the victim of slavery as any other slave? Seems backward to me to direct more fury at the betrayer, the collaborator, than the real enemy. But it's a very real, very human impulse. Who's the more famous figure in American history: Benedict Arnold or Cornwallis?


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