Movies of the Year 2012

Overall a pretty good year in film that turned into a very good year from about October onwards, hell even most of the major studio releases were good quality.

I deliberately avoided a few potential contenders this year for a variety of reasons: Moonrise Kingdom (boring / self indulgent / predictable Anderson); Rust & Bone (too disturbing); Nostalgia for the Light (communist propaganda), though I may buckle and catch up on them in years to come. In spite of the ommissions, here is the top ten:

Martha Marcie May Marlene
Martha Marcie May Marlene
Two years ago Marlene disappeared from her family and just as suddenly returns to live with her sister. The truth is she has been living on as part of a cult and only recently mustered the courage to flee.

What particularly distinguishes this picture is the lyrical, effortless way the action moves between present day and Marlene’s days on the compound. The two time frames blend together perfectly to create a sort of dream like reality where the audience is not totally sure where Marlene’s mind or sympathies are at any point in the story.

Killing Them Softly
Killing Them Softly
Another picture that was so beautifully put together it was a joy to watch for the editing alone. Adapted from a 1974 novel and updated to reflect the events of the 2008 financial crisis this suffers ever so slightly from its heavily underlined political message but that’s more than counterbalanced by the movie’s pace and outstanding performances from Gandolfini, Mendelsohn, McNairy, Pitt et al.

Headhunters
Headhunters
The unsympathetic Roger Brown is living somewhat beyond his means: convinced his wife is out of his league and must be forever pampered he supplements his already generous legitimate salary with illicit art heists. He is just managing to keep all the plates spinning when the dashing Clas enters the scene with designs not only on his wife but also Roger’s life.

The first cinematic adaptation of a Jo Nesbø work this rattles along at a tremendous pace as it gradually reveals the admirable doggedness at Roger’s core as he fights for his very survival.


The Imposter
The Imposter
“Missing three or four years I guarantee one thing: there will be a change. If there is a change there will be doubt. If there is doubt then I got a chance.”

If a non documentary film maker pitched the idea of a French adult of Algerian descent passing himself off as a blonde, blue-eyed Texan teen they’d be laughed off the lot. However truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction and this rather remarkable story is told perfectly through a mix of re-enactment and to-camera interviews with everyone involved.

Argo
Argo
As if pitching the plot of The Imposter was not ridiculous enough, pitching a fake sci fi movie set in revolutionary Iran to the CIA as cover for an exfiltration of American hostages may be even more bizarre, certainly it’s more brazen. Director Ben Affleck employs the same kineticism evident in his two previous pictures and even proves himself a dab hand at comedy as the film expertly rotates between the real make believe of Hollywood and the fake make believe of the Ayatollah’s Tehran.

Looper
Looper
One of those films executed so assuredly that, like Groundhog Day and Twelve Monkeys, you don’t even realise it’s dealing with time travel. Besides one or two plot holes (Bruce’s wife’s death?) this handles the relativity theories expertly including one terrifying scene where torture inflicted on a young man echoes immediately on his thirty year older self.

Sightseers
Sightseers
Tourism in Britain suffers massively from the enormous cultural pull of its capital so it’s rather nice to see a picture like Sightseers which serves as a love letter to Yorkshire and the Midlands. Two young lovers in a bucolic setting, what could go wrong?

Well, if one of them has a continental size chip on his shoulder and the other develops a jones for killing then quite a lot.

Searching for Sugar Man
Searching for Sugar Man
Singer/songwriter Rodriguez recorded two albums in the early 70s. They went nowhere so he went back to the day job as a builder. Meanwhile a solitary LP of his debut made it to South Africa, was bootlegged thousands of times & later pressed by three record companies making him, in that territory at least, “Bigger than Elvis “.

This film documents the efforts of a small clique of fans determined to connect him with his fate after two decades of obscurity. Magnificent.

Ted
Ted
On the face of it Ted is no more than your average goofy bromance. In his late 30s and in a loving relationship with his dream girl John can’t quite break free from a childhood attachment to his teddy bear. It’s the fact that the bear talks, drinks, smokes weed and has a penchant for hookers that elevates this film. Throw in Seth MacFarlane’s mile-a-minute 80s cultural references, a bizarre kidnap subplot and Flash Gordon‘s Sam Jones and you have the funniest release of the year.

The Master
The Master
The first half of this film meanders as much as its protagonist as it follows the listless Freddie Quell, who boozes and fights his way toward some semi imagined purpose in his life. He thinks he may have found it when he crosses paths with new age guru Lancaster Dodd – the Master of the title and a sort of mash-up of Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard and Mormon founder Joseph Smith – and from there the film firms up too. Quell grows into his role as right hand man, principal case study & violent enforcer hoping he can ultimately rid himself of all inner demons.

Just missed out

Avengers Assemble
Berberian Sound Studio
The Cabin in the Woods
Coriolanus
Cosmopolis
Rampart
Shadow Dancer
Tabloid


Not nearly as good as they should have been

Marley
Prometheus


Recently Discovered in the Archives
Good year for British archive gems, thanks in part to the BFI’s excellent Dark Ealing season.

  • The Conformist
  • 13 Assassins
  • TT: Closer to the Edge
  • Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol
  • Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
  • Same Time Next Year
  • Night of the Demon
  • Manhunter
  • Another Year
  • Cage of Gold
  • Sammy Going South
  • Nowhere to Go
  • Kill list
  • Richard Attenborough Wartime Triple Bill