No, that’s obviously a ridiculous title. How about “My Favourite Films of 2012”? Yes, that’s better. Better than “The Films I Enjoyed the Most in 2012” which might be a different list – enjoyment not being everything. Seen any Michael Haneke films? You’ll know what I mean.
So here they are, the films I watched either at the cinema or on DVD last year. Some of them might even have got a theatrical release in 2011. I’m a bit late getting this up but it doesn’t matter – films don’t go off that quickly… Feel free to disagree and suggest your own.
Melancholia (dir: Lars Von Trier)
Lars Von Trier announces the apocalypse in Wagnerian overdrive, Kirsten Dunst takes her clothes off, Kiefer Sutherland finally starts acting well in a movie and the mindlessly petty and the awesomely important fight it out right to the end of the world. Brilliant.
Drive (dir: Nicolas Winding Refn)
Ryan Gosling as a 21st century knight errant, chewing a toothpick as he drives through a neon-lit city to an electropop soundtrack. An action movie with the action drained out and nervy existentialism in its place. Angsty, brutal, gripping.
Tuesday, After Christmas (dir: Radu Muntean)
Romania goes all 1960s French New Wave in a film that’s all about Eastern Europe embracing the ways of the West. But never mind that, watch the minutely observed love triangle, a triumphant cocktail of lust served with a twist of hysterical unrequited longing.
Carancho (dir: Pablo Trapero)
From the Argentinian Pablo Trapero, one of the best film-makers in the world right now, a jangly off-centre thriller about the murky life of an ambulance-chasing lawyer and a beautiful doctor who’s a smack addict. Wait for the ending, it’s a complete gobsmacker.
Michael (dir: Markus Schleinzer)
As nasty as it is powerful and clearly inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, a clanking, humming, aseptic chiller, about a guy who’s got a young boy locked in his cellar, which paints paedophilia as grim but also shockingly banal.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s long, long film is exceptional in every way – nothing happens for the first 40 minutes yet it’s totally gripping, a strange, starkly beautiful police procedural that is as much about Turkey’s place in the modern world as any crime, murder or investigation.
Headhunters (dir: Morten Tyldum)
A Jo Nesbo story powers along this cool, incredibly slick thriller about a high-level thief trying to nick a Rubens painting and keep his wife from straying. Incidentally, it contains the best “submersion in shit” sequence in film-making history.
Breathing aka Atmen (dir: Karl Markovics)
The corpses look like real corpses in this film about a juvenile offender who goes to work at a morgue. Pared right back, careful not to show its hand, this meticulously observed Austrian drama is unusual, powerful, wonderful.
Margin Call (dir: JC Chandor)
Best film about the financial crash to date, a big-hitting, starry drama about a Lehman-alike bank getting into trouble that gives Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore a chance to show what they’re made of. And they do.
The Raid (dir: Gareth Evans)
OK, so the baddies do tend to come for our heroes one by one but this is still surely the best martial arts movie for decades, a “SWAT team fighting their way out of a building where everyone is out to get them” plot dressed in the biff-bang-pow of Indonesia’s pencak silat discipline.
Worthy mentions: Troll Hunter, Dreams of Life, Weekend, Snowtown, Oslo August 31st, We Have a Pope, Las Acacias, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Shame, The Artist, Himizu, The Turin Horse, Moonrise Kingdom, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, Silent Souls, Undefeated
Most Overrated of 2012
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (dir: Tomas Alfredson)
315 minutes of TV turned into 127 minutes of movie. Gary Oldman is great, it looks fantastic but John Le Carré’s story has died in the transition.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (dir: David Fincher)
A remake of the Swedish original for those who can’t read subtitles. It’s a bit more widescreen – director David Fincher is no slouch, obv – but Rooney Mara is no mach for Noomi Rapace’s original Lisbeth Salander.
War Horse (dir: Steven Spielberg)
Snore Horse. Or, if you like, Black Beauty remade with a huge budget. It’s about the First World War but is rather coy about death. John Williams does the bombastic soundtrack, Steven Spielberg does the same directorially.
Coriolanus (dir: Ralph Fiennes)
Shakespeare always gets a free pass because he’s so effing good. Here Ralph Fiennes sets the whole thing in Bosnia to prove the play about power and responsibility is “relevant”, “approachable” etc. Methinks he doth protest too much.
J Edgar (dir: Clint Eastwood)
“I could care less”. “Fashion forward”. The anachronisms in the script betray the slapdash, unconsidered way that Clint Eastwood made his biopic about the creator of the FBI. Not bad, just botched.
The Woman in Black (dir: James Watkins)
A bit of Hammer, a bit of J horror, a bit of Spanish gothic, plus Daniel Radcliffe as a young lawyer being monstered in a spooky old house. Great sets, fabulous locations, no shudders.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (dir: John Madden)
Ugh, grimly British, utterly horrible comedy about oldies going to India and having a fine old time. Watch the cast – Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton – squeeze laughs from a script without any.
The Dark Knight Rises (dir: Christopher Nolan)
Best film of the massively overhyped series. Christian Bale and his ridiculous growl of a voice are in it mercifully little.
The Bourne Legacy (dir: Tony Gilroy)
Jeremy Renner takes over from Matt Damon and Tony Gilroy takes over from director Paul Greengrass in an attempt to keep the franchise alive. But this superspy is not amnesiac and he isn’t called Bourne. Epic fail.
Perfect Sense (dir: David Mackenzie)
I think I’m the only person who liked this very odd sci-fi movie (kind of), about a global phenomenon robbing humans of their senses one by one as Ewan McGregor and Eva Green fall for each other. Different, at least.
Black Pond (dir: Will Sharpe)
Dead weird, dead funny debut by two guys called Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe, a mumblecore-meets-Svankmajer whodunit starring the extremely lugubrious Chris Langham.
Tiny Furniture (dir: Lena Dunham)
Lena Dunham (of TV’s Girls) has made a comedy about the sheer awfulness of the super-entitled, seen through the eyes of a fattish, frumpish daughter of an uber-successful family.
Young Adult (dir: Jason Reitman)
Charlize Theron as the superbitch trying to break up her old boyfriend’s relationship with his considerably less hot new girlfriend just because she can. The script is by Diablo Cody, of Juno renown, and Theron spits it out like it’s sulphuric acid.
The Innkeepers (dir: Ti West)
Great, low-key haunted-house story with clear visual references to The Shining, featuring proper natural performances and no tricksy lighting stuff. Pacey, well written, fresh.
The Housemaid (dir: Im Sang-soo)
Yay, a bit of South Korean gothic about a pretty young girl who goes to work in the house of some rich people and soon finds herself in all manner of trouble.
Margaret (dir: Kenneth Lonergan)
Kenneth Lonergan’s gigantic stately epic allegorically about 9/11 is a bit of a mess – so long in the making that it lost its relevance – but it’s still worth seeing. Anna Paquin has never been so good.
Rampart (dir: Oren Moverman)
After goofing off for years, Woody Harrelson reminds us he can act, playing a Dirty Harry cop in a world of risk assesment and bereavement counselling. No, it does not work out well for him.
21 Jump Street (dir: Phil Lord, Chris Miller)
Unexpectedly hugely funny comedy about two useless undercover cops – Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill – being hilariously useless. Ice Cube gets the best lines in a film full of them. The end credits alone are better than most comedies.
Wild Bill (dir: Dexter Fletcher)
Dexter Fletcher’s makes his directorial debut in safe territory – the East End geezer flick – but does something really great with his subject matter, producing an Unforgiven-style story about a guy fresh out of prison (all hail Charlie Creed-Miles, back after being gone for so long) trying to do the right thing by his family and not do something mental that will put him back inside.
© Steve Morrissey 2013