Not Exactly the Top Movies of 2012

I’ve written before about the clinically obsessive behavior I engage in when it comes to watching movies. In addition to that, I keep a detailed running list of all films I watch in a year. For instance, here’s how 2012 turned out:

  • I watched 391 films total (yes, that’s more than one film per day).
  • 166 of those films were listed in the Megalist.
  • 67 of those films were new releases; the rest were older.
  • 337 of the total 391 films were films I’d never seen before.
  • The numbers include watching films over (i.e., I saw Avengers twice, so it counts twice). There are very few instances of this. Except for the part where I watched The Apple five times. I can’t explain that.

So, yes, I watch a terrifying amount of movies. In my defense, I don’t watch TV (I haven’t had an antenna or cable since 2009), which means that, even at a rate of more than one film per day, I still watch less media than the average American. (That, too, is terrifying.)

Anyway, at the end of the year, I do like to look back upon what I’d seen. I’ll spare you the Top 10 list format, and instead give highlights of my cinematic 2012.

Favorite New Releases – This category isn’t a “best film” list. These aren’t the best-crafted films I saw this year. These are films that, for whatever reason, leapt into my heart. These are movies I really enjoyed, beyond their craftsmanship. These are films I will likely buy and force friends to watch.

  • Antiviral: This film from the son of David Cronenberg is flawed, but it manages to fold themes of celebrity and biohorror together in ways that I found engrossing.
  • Argo: Seriously, go see Argo. It’s a solid thriller based on a bizarre true story, directed like an old school 1970’s espionage film. It’s a delight.
  • Black Out: This Dutch crime-gone-wrong tale is a hoot. It plays like an early Coen brothers flick.
  • The Final Member: This documentary somehow manages to take a sensationalistic premise (penis collecting) and turn it into an engrossing, heartful drama between three men. One of the best-crafted documentaries I’ve ever seen.
  • Holy Motors: Yeah, I know. Everyone is talking about this one. But this is a remarkably strange, delightful film. Of all the films I watched in 2012, I probably have thought about this one the most. Also, this film contains the single best scene of the year, which involves a lot of accordions.
  • Looper: I’m a sucker for big budget sci-fi that doesn’t treat me like an idiot.

Favorite Films that Were New to Me – These are all older films that I’d never seen before 2012. Once again, these are films that delighted me the most, not necessarily the “best’ films.

  • Army of Shadows (1969): I’ve recently gotten into the oeuvre of Jean-Pierre Melville, a director whose film noir talents are tremendous. Army of Shadows is his film about the French resistance movement during WWII, a film packed full of hard decisions and surprising turns.
  • The Bus 174 Trilogy: I’ll probably write a separate blog post about these. Bus 174 (2002) is an incredible Brazilian documentary about a bus hijacking incident in Rio de Janeiro. The thematic sequel, Elite Squad (2007), is a fictional drama that addresses the corruption of the police force in Rio. The third film, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010), is a Scorsese-caliber study of the political and social forces that keep the system in place. It sounds dry, but it isn’t. The documentary is jaw-dropping, and the two fiction films that follow are immensely entertaining crime dramas. (Note: I watched the final film in 2011; the other two I watched in 2012.)
  • The Cremator (1969): …which I discussed here.
  • The Exterminating Angel (1962): It took me a while to get into the filmmaking of Luis Buñuel, and this is where it clicked with me. I found this strange satire about dinner guests that can never leave to be a real gem.
  • Joe Vs. the Volcano (1990): Why didn’t anyone in 1990 slap me and make me watch this? I discussed the film in-depth here.
  • Johnny Guitar (1954): …which I wrote about here. I felt like goddamned Marco Polo when I “discovered” this one.
  • The M. Hulot Films: I was introduced to Playtime (1967) (the third of four movies) in 2011 and fell in love with its pure whimsy. During 2012 I watched M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) and Mon Oncle (1958), and was also in love. (I have yet to track down Trafic (1971).) These comedies are the definition of delight. Unencumbered by dialogue or any hint of cynicism, they are strangely universal and light. Each one is a perfect, delicate toy. I want to dress up as M. Hulot and stumble around a sci-fi convention. I suspect only Kelvin Hatle would laugh, but I’d be happy.
  • Nightmare Alley (1947): I saw this early in 2012, put it on my BNAT wish list, and was later delighted to see it on the big screen at BNAT 14. This film combines film noir with carnivals, mentalism, suspicious psychology, Tyrone Power, and Joan Blondell. So great.
  • Sound of Noise (2010): This very odd Swedish film involves a group of terrorists, who attack using only music, and the tone-deaf cop who is charged to capture them. It’s somewhere between a crime film and modern art. It’s also on Netflix Streaming, and you should just go watch it.

Favorite New-to-Me Bad Movies – I found these films to be exquisitely terrible.

  • Candy (1968): A vacant-eyed starlet blunders cluelessly around as men are “unable” to resist her charms. (Most of this sounds more like assault these days.) Involves huge-named actors (Richard Burton! Marlon Brando!) and Ringo Starr as a Mexican (!) gardener. Oh, the humanity…
  • Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (1977): A weirdly arty piece of micro-budget filmmaking that involves, you guessed it, a bed that eats people. Really.
  • Lifeforce (1985): A space vampire with apparently hypnotic breasts wanders around naked a lot. Also involves Patrick Stewart.
  • Miami Connection (1987): Once upon a time, a tae kwon do master decided he wanted to make his own action film, and this was the result. Set in Orlando (!?), the plot involves a tae kwon do rock band (!) that battles biker cocaine ninjas (!!!).
  • Road House (1989): That’s right, I’d never seen Road House before. Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliott, senseless violence, and a crapload of 1980s neon? I’m so there.
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978): I presume there was some point in history where the words, “Let’s have the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton play The Beatles in a concept film about their album!” made sense, otherwise I’d have to conclude this film was the work of a fever dream that happened after eating a 40-year-old box of breakfast cereal. Also involves George Burns.
  • “Brain Damage”: I am still unable to talk about the “secret film” from BNAT 14, but I assure you, it’s one of the most exquisitely terrible things I’ve ever seen.

The Film I Spent the Most Time Bitching About: Prometheus (2012)

The “Better than It Has Any Right to Be” Award: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

The Most Homework I Did in Anticipation for an Upcoming Film Release: I watched the entire Up Series, as preparation for the upcoming release of 56 Up (2012).

The Most Perfectly Made Film I Saw This Year: A Separation (2011), which is the sort of film they should have entire courses about in film school.


  1. Yay Candy made the list! 🙂

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