2012 was a huge year for movies - we've had both great commercial and indie gems. It is futile to include The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers in a 'best of' list, because they don't need validation at this point, everyone loved them.
It's also silly to make a top ten list, because this year there were about 40 incredible films that ought to be watched by any self respecting film buff. Here they are:
40 - Excision
A bat guano insane high school girl is obsessed with blood. And she is looking forward to losing her virginity. That is all that you need to know about this stunning horror-drama. Not for the squeamish. Still not convinced why the film exists in this list? Watch the EXTREMELY NSFW trailer below:
39 - Sleep Tight
'REC' director Jaume Balaguero forgoes the blood and constant dread of the zombie movies for a chilling Spanish thriller about a hotel concierge who may not be as demure as he looks. Luis Tosar is excellent as a sad loner with a creepy disability, and Balaguero even manages to get the audience to sympathize with his
38 - Chronicle
Chronicle was the biggest surprise of the year as first-time director Josh Trank combined intricate handheld live-action camerawork with CGI wizardry to a groovy effect in this found footage superhero thriller.
37 - Mars et Avril
A futuristic love triangle with superb visual effects that made the tiny indie look like a big budget film. Canadian director Martin Villenueve made a great debut and showed the kind of flair with his actors the way Marc Webb did in 500 Days of Summer.
36 - Dredd
Perhaps the most overlooked film of 2012, Dredd packed wall to wall action with gorgeous special effects, a fun plot and a badass female villain. Writer Alex Garland deserves more recognition, and the film deserved a sequel, unfortunately we'll never get it thanks to its box office returns.
35 - Sinister
Scott Derrickson, who earlier made The Exorcism of Emily Rose returned to his horror roots in a big way with this creepy thriller. The 'family moving to a new haunted house' genre has been done to death but Derrickson managed to pull a fresh spin here. Standout portions include the spine tingling music that plays out in the video recordings that the hero Ethan Hawke finds.
34 - Looper
Way too many fanboy favourite things in this movie - Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon Levitt, time travel, Emily Blunt, guns, telekinesis, and more. And boy, did it deliver. It’s not an action film, but the best time travel movie since 2004’s Primer. Looper cost just $30 million to make, in a perfect world inhabited by clones of my own self, the film would gross a billion dollars.
33 - Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson successfully combined the tragic, quirky and the cute in what is probably his best film to date. Like the hilarious lightening strike scene, the film contains many, many more moments that leave a lasting impression, which only Wes Anderson could come up with.
32 - The Dictator
This year's guilty pleasures are courtesy of Sascha Baron Cohen who played a tongue-in-cheek version of Gaddafi in America. The Dictator is as funny as Borat and is a proper feature with a 'plot' instead of a mere mockumentary. Cohen makes sure he targets all kinds of audiences and offends them as much as possible, but what makes it work is that he does it without being smarmy.
31 - The Day He Arrives
A thoroughly mesmerizing Korean film about a has-been filmmaker who arrives in Seoul to meet his friend for drinks and loses himself in a strange warped Groundhog Day. Director Sang Soo Hong revisits the theme of a filmmaker with midlife crisis from his 2008 movie Night and Day. Although a big recco for movie buffs, this is a must watch for those who make movies.
30 - 21 Jump Street
Cloudy with a chance of meatballs directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller make dick jokes funny in this hysterical movie version of the hit series. It's a buddy cop comedy done right with the perfectly cast Hill and Tatum for non-stop gut busting gags; what's more, it even parodies its own genre.
29 - Sound of my Voice
Brit Marling has delivered a one-two punch with Another Earth last year and Sound of my Voice this year - both futuristic/psychological thriller indies made on a shoestring budget with humongous helpings of narrative skill. Director Zal Batmanglij proves just why he has such a cool name, thanks to the double entendre ending.
28 - Ruby Sparks
The guys who made Little Miss Sunshine outdid themselves with this film where a writer's character in his book comes to life. It's an utterly fascinating, constantly hilarious, and at times an unexpectedly dark metaphor for the complexities of a relationship and a man's urge to manipulate his girlfriend to be the way he wants her to be, rather than love her for the way she is. Whether or not the film is based on their own experiences, the mesmerizing plot is buoyed by performances from Paul Dano and his off screen writer girlfriend Zoe Kazan.
27 - Cloud Atlas
An ambitious, grand feature that more than anything, proved that an unfilmable book can indeed be filmed in the hands of some very capable people like the Wachowskis and Tykwer. It’s one of those rare Hollywood entertainers that frequently challenges the viewers’ concentration and attention levels, and delivers on the gynormous expectations.
26 - Argo
With Argo Ben Affleck effortlessly places himself in the pantheon of the best filmmakers as he exacts the best performances of the year from Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and even himself. If the airtight plotting doesn't impress you, the one liners certainly will.
25 - Skyfall
The latest Bond turned out to be a hell of a blast as director Sam Mendes handily wiped the floor with all of the previous Bond movies to date. The villainous Javier Bardem doles out a Joker-Chigurh cocktail and he's gleefully awesome in his Oscar-snagging opening monologue. And the Academy would be blind to not give Roger Deakins a trophy for his work here.
24 - Marley
Having made One day in September and Life in a Day, director Kevin Macdonald was the perfect choice for the biopic of the legendary Rastafarian. Marley is perhaps the best retelling of Bob Marley's life we'll ever see. Macdonald mixes some fascinating footage with Marley's classic hits and delivers an extremely comprehensive account that is enough to drive fans crazy in emotion.
23 - Tabu
Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes' odd and absorbing film is a sort of movie-within-a-movie with endless shots of philobabble on a haunting black and white palette. Just the sort of thing for those with a fetish for the Bela Tar Boiling Potato genre.
22 - This is Not a Film
Jafar Panahi has been put under house arrest and banned by the Iranian govt from making movies. To be shown to the rest of the world, This is not a film was smuggled out of his house hidden inside a cake. The footage contains Panahi's account of a film that he wishes to make and is a heartbreaking political statement against the dictatorial Iranian government, one that echoes last year's No one knows about Persian cats.
21 - Silver Linings Playbook
Beautiful, touching. David O Russell gloriously demonstrates his prodigious skill of directing scenes of family conflict. And the girl in the above picture makes you wish for every guy with a broken heart to find a Jennifer Lawrence to fix him and dance with.
20 - Supermen of Malegaon
In an industry ruled by the Khans and Kumars director Faiza Ahmad's docu is a fresh breath of air. Clocking in at just over an hour, Supermen of Malegaon is beguiling and often funny, moreover it avoids sentimentality and all the cliches found in most documentaries. Easily the best Indian film of this year.
19 - The Loved Ones
An absolutely bloody and shocking horror-black comedy from Australia, The Loved Ones has enough squirmy thrills to satisfy the die hardest fans of Martyrs. Robin McLeavy is great as a demented teenager who kidnaps her crush and tortures him after he refuses to go to prom with her.
18 - The We and the I
After a string of disappointments at Hollywood and mainstream, Michel Gondry makes a great return to indies with a brilliant story set entirely within a school bus on the last day of the academic year. Gondry puts you in a seat swarming with twenty high school characters, every one of which is superbly realized, each with its own individual back story. It's fun, quirky, visually riveting, with a hint of gloom - just like the old works of Gondry.
17 - Safety Not Guaranteed
Already a cult classic and an internet favourite, Safety Not Guaranteed mixes the themes found in K-Pax and Back to the Future, with its own smart dose of new age comedy. The hilarious Aubrey Plaza (from Parks and Rec) finally gets a big starring role as a reporter who discovers a classified ad that leads her to a man who believes he has invented a time machine and is looking for a partner to travel with him.
16 - Take This Waltz
Michelle Williams stars in yet another heart wrenching story of doomed marriage and the frailty of a relationship. Also starring Seth Rogen, director Sarah Polley takes us through the most devastating couple seen on screen since Blue Valentine.
15 - Cabin in the Woods
Written by Geek God Joss Whedon and Cloverfield's Drew Goddard, Cabin the the Woods is twisted, unique and endlessly fascinating to sit through. The two deliberately mix horror movie clichés with darkly absurd genre dissection and ultimately dole out a modern masterpiece.
14 - Compliance
Unsettling from start to finish, Compliance pushes your boundaries of belief and and stuns you into submission. The film is based on a real life story of a bunch of McDonalds employees who were brainwashed by a mysterious cop on a phone who ordered them to perform strange duties. A post film dissection leads one to the mindboggling Milgram Experiment.
13 - Snabba Cash
Snabba Cash is Snabba Entertainment, and a cooler Swedish version of a Pusher style mafia thriller. Starring Joel Kinnaman (the new Robocop) and a vast array of characters, the film packs enough smarts to shame recent Hollywood gangster movies. A sequel is slated to release next year.
12 - Holy Motors
Director Leos Carax returns to the screen after an absence of 12 years with a supremely indulgent, yet absolutely head spinning piece of cinema that works both a personal rant against film reviewers and a despondent look at the infirmity of a filmmaker's celebrity. The film features Denis Lavant as half a dozen characters thrust in bizarre imagery and situations all in one night, best of which is a LED-lit pseudo sex scene in a motion capture animation studio.
11 - Polisse
The French film Polisse is the feel bad movie of the year and contains no redemption or hope. Director Maiwenn emerges as the Kathryn Bigelow of France after stepping out of the shadow of her ex husband Luc Besson and delivering an unsettling story of a Child Protection Unit. The powerhouse acting ensemble is so good that at some moments you forget that these are actors.
10 - A Monster in Paris
The feel good film of the year is a French cartoon that contains some of the most exquisite animation ever put on screen. Director Bibo Bergeron crafts a smart, funny, quirky comedy that gets better and better as it plays and even contains a couple of fun song and dance numbers.
9 - Sleepless Night
Starring Tomer Sisley, this french action thriller is set almost entirely inside a nightclub. The single location with flickering lights and pulsating music of the discotheque makes for a very claustrophobic atmosphere, and combined with wall to wall action it simply becomes an insanely gripping watch.
8 - Sleepwalk With Me
Comedian Mike Birbiglia makes a fabulous debut as a writer-director-star and doles out the best usage of irony in a motion picture this year. The film features a struggling standup comedian whose only way to get gigs is by poking fun at the festering relationship with his loving girlfriend.
7 - Cafe de Flore
Cafe de Flore mixes dreams, reality, time, space, happiness, loss, incredible visuals and Sigur Rós song 'Svefn-g-Englar' to magnificent effect whilst shifting between two interlinked stories set 50 years apart. The 6-minute sequence featuring the aforementioned song is so captivating you won't believe it until you see it.
6 - Beyond the Black Rainbow
This year's WTF Genre Champion is director Panos Costamos dark, brilliantly trippy, crazy as hell pastiche of THX 1138, Scanners, Eraserhead, Blue Sunshine, Russia and Kubrick. Beyond the Black Rainbow stars Eva Allen as a patient in a strange institution interrogated by an even weirder doctor, and it eventually turns into a horror movie. If the imagery in this film is anything to go by, we can expect some very imaginative films in the future from Cosmatos.
5 - Pieta
Kim Ki Duk offers a brutal, thoroughly humorless and devastating story from the black hole of exploding misery that is his South Korean mind in the story of a 30-year-old loan shark who comes across a woman who claims to be his long lost mother. Not only does the film make you writhe in your seat in distress but also leaves you almost entirely bereft of optimism.
4 - The Imposter
The best thriller of the year is not a big budget Bourne or Bond, but surprisingly, this small documentary. The Imposter chronicles the shocking real life story of a 23 year old French man who impersonated a 15 year old boy from Texas and fooled the police, the immigration authorities and even the Texan family. Instead of being a mere docu drama, the film unfolds like a whodunit, and nothing can prepare you for the bizarre final twenty minutes.
3 - The Raid Redemption
A 100 minutes of non stop cyclonic mayhem, The Raid: Redemption is not one of the better action films of the past few years, it is one of the best action movies ever made. Indonesian star Iko Uwais using his bare hands slices, dices, stabs, jackhammers through scores and scores of ruffians with the ease of a ballet dancer, and director Gareth Evans' camera lingers around for long, uncut shots.
2 - The Hunt (Jagten)
The other side of last year's Michael, Thomas Vinterberg directs Mads Mikkelsen in the best acting performance of the year as a small Danish town's nursery school teacher who is suddenly accused of being a pedophile. Vinterberg superbly captures the paranoia and fear that can spread like a virus in even the most harmless society, and Mikkelsen is just terrific in his complicated role. Qualifies as the best feature film of the year, but is #2 on this list only because of the film below.
1 - Indie Game The Movie.
You've heard of indie films and their struggle, but have you heard of indie video games? Indie Game The Movie is a beguiling spotlight on the people who refuse to join the big companies or submit to the commercial consumers. Directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky chronicle the lives of three sets of indie game developers who give up everything to create smart, innovative games at a hundredth of the budget of mainstream franchises. It is a story that has never been told before, the research level is extraordinary, and its big achievement is that it appeals to people who don't even play video games. And that makes it, the best goddamn movie of the year.
Honorable Mentions: End of watch, Flight, Something in the Air, God Bless America, Killing them Softly, Ship of Theseus.
Note: The Master, Zero Dark Thirty and Django haven't made it to this list because they sadly haven't released here yet.
Note: The Master, Zero Dark Thirty and Django haven't made it to this list because they sadly haven't released here yet.