It was very hard to come up with a top ten film list for 2012. I was able to see so many interesting movies this year. I’m sure I left some really good ones off, but here are the ten that stuck with me.
10. Golden Slumbers (Le Sommeil d’or)
This charming documentary details the gems of Cambodian cinema before the Khmer Rouge took over and destroyed civil society. Director Davy Chou is the grandson of one of the great producers of the era.
Golden Slumbers trailer
9. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
This documentary captures the spirit of activist artist Ai Weiwei and it also opens a window into life in China. The film shows the bravura, humor, and brio of an artist who refuses to accept the government’s attempts to impose limits on his intellect and his sense of moral outrage.
8. Searching for Sugarman
This documentary is about a 1970s folk singer named Rodriguez who was all but forgotten in America, working odd jobs and living in poverty in Detroit, but who turns out to have been the most important singer of his generation in South Africa. This is the feel-good movie of the decade.
7. Magic Mike
Ah, the death knell of the American dream. Once upon a time a young man like Channing Tatum’s character would have dreamed of being a Top Gun or a crusading lawyer for justice. In post-George W. Bush America, he dreams of being a male stripper. Steven Soderbergh turns the infamous “male gaze” of the camera upon men…and the objectification seems symptomatic of our era.
6. 11 Flowers
This Chinese movie directed by Wang Xiaoshuai is intelligent and moving, portraying four young boys at the end of the Cultural Revolution. The film has an almost “Stand by Me” quality–recalling the exuberance of youth amidst poverty and hardship. Stand-out performances from all the actors!
11 Flowers trailer
I never expected to see a Hollywood movie celebrating an achievement of the Carter Administration. Not ever. There’s been some criticism online about the portrayal of Iranian protests. I was more surprised by the context this film actually provides for those protests–showing the flawed American foreign policy in Iran that led to the overthrow of the Shah.
4. Patience (After Sebald)
This film is magical. I don’t want to spoil the pleasure of watching this gem by describing it. It’s based on W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn.This is how a literary adaptation should be done–capture the spirit of the writing without being literal.
Patience (After Sebald) trailer
3. Wuthering Heights
Andrea Arnold has directed the definitive adaptation of the Emily Brontë novel as far as I’m concerned. The opening shot of a branch tapping at a window evokes the ghostly opening of the novel without literally filming it. Similiarly, Arnold shows us what the moors must have felt and looked like to Cathy and Heathcliff. No other film has done that for me.
2. This Is Not a Film
Iranian director Jafar Panahi has been banned from making movies by the government of Iran. So he made this “non-film” with a friend and shot parts with an iPhone. His enormous talent as a filmmaker and his love of cinema come through in the scenes where he describes the artistic choices he made in his other movies. Talk about a master class! And his scenes with the young garbage collector in his building create a character portrait as vivid as in a drama.
This Is Not a Film trailer
1. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Visually stunning. Great plot. Part detective story, part portrait of a land, this film was unforgettable.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia trailer
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