My favorite films of 2012

Hollywood continues to collapse into mediocre tent pole franchises, but overall it has been a splendid year for movies.  Here were some of my favorites, noting that I count by “the year I saw them” and especially for foreign films this will not correspond so well to “the year of release”:

A Separation

Jiro Dreams of Sushi


Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (boring for most people, big screen only I suspect)

The Dictator

The Three Stooges

The Raid: Redemption (better Indonesian martial arts you will not see)

Your Sister’s Sister (Straussian)

Circo, Mexican circus movie

Take This Waltz

Beasts of the Southern Wild


Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry

Samsara (makes sense on a big screen only, I suspect)

Searching for Sugar Man

Day Night Day Night (from five years ago, but a real stunner, underrated and a wonderful study of Nudge of top of everything else)


"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is kind of a scam:

Granted, it's an interesting scam, but don't expect Jiro to ever tell you why his sushi is worth 3 Michelin stars. He's a crafty old buzzard and he's not giving anything away.

The lone sushi tip in all of the Jiro Dreams of Sushi documentary is that when Jiro started in sushi business before the War, he only massaged his octopus for 30 minutes, but now he massages his octopus for 40 or 50 minutes.

The movie isn't about sushi, Grand Wizard Sailer.

His sushi probably isn't. He probably doesn't know. My theory is that the process is incompetent and corrupt. People give stars to their cousins and people they are sleeping with and the sort of attention seekers everyone knows about who are the sort of people who probably should be in it.

Or in this case, I suspect a kind of Hipster in-joke.

I liked:

Savages - Oliver Stone

Get the Gringo - Mel Gibson

Lincoln - Spielberg/Day-Lewis

Anna Karenina - Wright/Stoppard

Robot & Frank

2016: Obama's America (very trippy) - D'Souza

The Dictator

The Avengers

Damsels in Distress -- Whit Stillman

A Separation - Iranian

Anna Karenina? Really? I thought they took one of the great Russian novels and make a worse film than Moulin Rouge. Which it reminded me of.

Keira Knightley's career has always been a little inexplicable, but she was totally out of her class. Utterly unable to bring any depth or even real emotion to the part. She was merely a whiny brat the whole film. Vronsky was a pretty boy but little more. I could not even begin to see what she saw in him. Jude Law was unexpectedly good as the wronged husband, at least for the first half, but then his character went to pieces and for the life of me I still cannot understand what his motivation was supposed to be - is he forgiving her? Is he still punishing her? What?

The British usually can be trusted to do nice frocks and sets. They couldn't even manage that. Ever since Doctor Zhivago film directors made an effort to provide Russian landscapes - and very nice they are too. Even trash like Arnold Schwartzenegger's Red Heat manages some nice Russian buildings and street scenes. This time? No. Can't be bothered.

A wasted effort. One day we will get the Anna Karennina the book deserves, probably made by actual Russians, but by then I doubt people will be able to even begin to understand the morality of her society.

Without Soviet subsidies, I can't see any Tolstoy adaptations living up to Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace.

Cloud Atlas.

I watched "Day Night Day Night" because there was an ad for it before "The Boss of it All". Hard to find (Netflix didn't seem to have it). Lots of minutiae which takes on a different significance if you know what it is leading up to (and the movie is not inclined to reveal that with any exposition early on). The director has said the movie is about "picking up the bananas". There's a tv show I won't name (but those who've seen the movie can probably guess) which has a similar climactic scene and does a better job of ramping up the tension and holding the viewer. But what comes after is very different for the movie vs show. Very different utility functions! The movie is intended to be viewed with subtitles on, so don't watch without them. Both the beginning and ending scenes have some dialogue that's hard to hear but you'll want to read.

We also enjoyed "A Separation" and "Searching for Sugar Man." "The Kid with a Bike" (French - Dardenne) is very good, too.

You really need to check out The Ambassador. A Danish documentary about a guy who posed as a fake ambassador to show blood diamond smuggling and how easy it is to purchase/obtain diplomatic credentials in politically corrupt African countries.

I second that suggestion. Jiro and The Ambassador are my two most memorable movies of 2012.

Agree completely about Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which I review here:,193961), as for The Three Stooges, ....

So am I the only one who found A Separation to be pretty boring and overhyped? Last three movies I have seen, however, have all been excellent: Argo, Skyfall and Lincoln.

I'm looking forward to the remake of Red Dawn. We here in Missouri love the thought of other countries attempting to break into the heartland.

" remake of Red Dawn". That movie looks horrible. I liked the original, but the upcoming film looks to be utterly forgettable. I think I'll just re-watch the original and maybe "Tomorrow When the War Began".

+1 for Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and The Raid: Redemption (two very different types of movies). Did NOT like Take This Waltz; it felt like a cop-out, it just left me feeling bad. Many others are 'in the queue" - thanks for this list.

I totally agree with you about Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Wonderful film.

Did you see Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with me (limited release in theaters, now on many PPV systems and Netflix).

Hilarious, cringe-inducing, and touching real-life story of Birbiglia's early days getting started in standup comedy while dealing with a serious sleepwalking problem. It's definitely in my top-5 movies of the year.

The Avengers

The Dark Knight Rises

Dredd 3D

The 3 Stooges really? Also I don't know why but I expected to see Premium Rush on the list.

A two sentence review, i.e. why Tyler might have liked the Stooge movie - (1) stooges positives - uncannily accurate depiction of how the flow of time appears to those of us who are intermittently or even just mittently stooge-like in our perceptions of time; highest grossing recent movie on boxoffice mojo for "bumbling comedies" after paul blart, mall cop; ten year project and several contributors (film editor, script doctors, casting directors) had a pynchonean eye for disturbed stereotypes, without the pynchonean pc nonsense and without the pynchonean delusional and offputting "i lived in greenwich village when it was cool" vibe, hence a well-funded version of what Harold Bloom calls the "American sublime" ; ciceronian or roman emphasis on friendship, as opposed to eros or filthy lucre, as an anchor of life; hardworking and talented performers by the dozens. (2) Stooges negatives - Larry David (playing a minor but often-on-screen character) displays a stupid anti-semitic anti-catholic schtick in full disappointing flower; movie is not set in the environs of the real Stooges' Southern California where the uncrowning of seasonal changes lends an eternally innocent air to everything, but in Georgia, where the oncoming Southern winter sets an inappropriate veneer of angst around the proceedings; the guy who plays Larry is not as potentially attractive to discerning women as the original; the scriptwriters gave the various Stooges too many lines about how they liked each other, thus upsetting the Girardian-double-triple effect the original Yiddish-speaking performers had honed to perfection; a lack of understanding on the part of the filmmakers that they are entertainers (who, as Heinlein put it, are competing for the public's beer money) and that it is not entertaining to involve animals, minority religions, and average joe and jane on the street avatars in slapstick sequences where the animals, minority religions, and joes and janes don't get, on screen, i repeat, on screen, don't get to give as good as they get.
Oscar worthy, like the original Stooge's Men in Black? (Oscar for 1932 short, I think). Why would they want one, just trying to make you laugh...

The dictator? I know you like to make eyebrow-raising comments and never explain, but this is just lame. The movie was pretty bad.

I was also shocked to see it on this list. No one I know thought this movie was better than mediocre, even people who enjoyed Bruno.

I would like to hear Tyler's take on the allegory embedded in The Three Stooges.

Nobody for Moonrise Kingdom? Really? You guys are morons.

2 of my favorites from 2012 - Bellflower and We Need to Talk About Kevin - seem to get little play from anybody. The latter got a little attention at release, but the former totally fell in the forest. I thought they were two of the more visually inventive films of recent memory.
But in general I agree with the idea that it was a great year for film junkies, and in fact believe even as Hollywood proper continues to decline, the ease of market access has continued to increase the amount of excellent independent and international offerings. Even as recently as the 90's, I couldn't have imagined a movie like Once Upon a Time in Anatolia reaching as many big screens as it did.

"Margaret?" Really?

Anna Paquin feels guilty. I get it. Must you really hit me over the head with this obvious point, continuously, for 2-1/2 hours?

I am no cinema critic, but I particularly enjoyed:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Silver Linings Playbook
Moonrise Kingdom
Robot and Frank

Didn't care for "A Separation"

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