Our 50 Favorite Movies of 2012

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Chances are this is the first article you’re reading at Movie Mezzanine. For that we thank you and hope you’ll come back and visit us for many years to come.

We begin by introducing ourselves with our favorite 50 movies of 2012. Understanding that any sort of listing or ranking of art is arbitrary, we note that these are our favorite movies of the year. Determining what the “best” films are would be an exercise in futility that would both kill us and bore you.

Done for both your enjoyment and our own, we asked Movie Mezzanine staff writers Sam Fragoso, Jake Cole, Tom Clift, Tina Hassannia, Danny Bowes, Kristen Sales, Peter Labuza, Corey Atad, Christopher Runyon, Natalie Zutter, Kevin Ketchum, Russell Hainline, and Andreas Stoehr to rattle off their top 25 movies of 2012.

What comes from aggregating all the selections is a diverse list of films that have been released over the past 12 months worthy of your time, money, and attention.

With that in mind, we hope you enjoy the following.

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50.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Peter Jackson draws us back into J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth with one of the most beautiful, adventurous and fully realized fantasy films since, well, The Lord of the Rings. Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage are perfectly cast as Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield, while Andy Serkis once again steals the show in his all too brief scene as Gollum. With passion in every frame – and there’s twice as many of those as normal – the only disappointment to be felt upon exiting is in knowing it’s a year until the next one. Tom Clift

49.) The Loneliest Planet: Julia Loktev’s minimalist drama is set against the sprawling hugeness of the Caucasus Mountains, yet pivots on the most infinitesimal of incidents. That those few seconds should wield such power is thanks to the gestural performances of stars Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg, as well as Loktev’s methodical, keen-eyed work behind the camera. – Andreas Stoehr

48.) Pitch Perfect: With arguably the highest line-to-laugh ratio of any film this year, the collegiate a capella competition comedy Pitch Perfect is like Glee to the tune of Mean Girls. When did I know I’d fallen in love with this musical misfit of a movie? When Anna Kendrick started freestyle rapping? When projectile vomit became a crucial plot point? No, I think it was when the self-proclaimed “best singer in Tazmania” Fat Amy (scene-stealer Rebel Wilson) started with the smack-talk. On her aca-archnemesis: “I’m gonna finish him like a cheesecake!” Yes, good. – Kristen Sales

47.) Barbara: A slow-burning film about the repressive yet seemingly bucolic air of East Germany’s countryside, Barbara is about the titular protagonist’s moral implications of wanting to escape Communism over needing to. Petzold’s masterful and deliberate script evinces the era’s repressive ambience by discreetly simmering character emotions beneath the austerity of impassive body language and innocuous conversation that brims with subtext even within its own diegetic world. – Tina Hassannia

46.) Anna Karenina: In Wright’s newest venture into the past, he uses a bold theatrical device placing the majority of the film in an old theater, putting these people on a stage much like the royalty in imperialist Russia would be constantly needing to perform for an audience. This tactic, aided by a smart script from Tom Stoppard, gives it far more forward momentum and energy than the usual period piece might provide. While the film stumbles with some usual adaptation problems and a dud of a performance from Anna’s love interest, the strong performances, witty dialogue, and visual splendor more than make up for the film’s shortcomings. – Russell Hainline

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45.) Girl Walk//All Day: It’s rare that a film changes our understanding of what cinema is and what it can be, but such is the case with Jacob Krupnick’s Girl Walk // All Day. Essentially a feature-length music video set to the Girl Talk album, “All Day,” and anchored by one of the best performances of the year in Anne Marsen’s unstoppable dancer, The Girl, what this film accomplishes is something very special. As a piece of entertainment, its exuberance is downright infectious. As a piece of art its exploration of art as a public and interactive form is revelatory. In an age of YouTube flash-mobs, Girl Walk // All Day exemplifies everything we love about public displays of expression and then takes it to another level entirely. – Corey Atad

44.) Safety Not Guaranteed: Walking the line between quirky and precious, Safety Not Guaranteed could have easily slid into precocious hipster nonsense at almost any time. That this comedy sleeper, which centers around a man falling in love with the woman he’s recruited to travel back in time with him, maintains an authenticity and gentle, good-natured humor about itself, is some kind of indie miracle. Anchored by sincere lead performances from Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass, Safety Not Guaranteed delivers on its unique concept with an even rarer quality: heart. – Sales

43.) Sleepless Night: A dream-like French thriller that mostly takes in and around one location, a massive one-stop-shop for all imaginable forms of vice, presided over by a gangster who kidnaps a policeman’s son, promising to exchange the boy for a large-ish amount of cocaine the policeman stole. Any familiarity of the premise yields to the visceral immediacy of Frederic Jardin’s filmmaking, telling the tale practically first-person from the policeman’s point of view as he navigates the gangster’s immense complex. A great movie. – Danny Bowes

42.) Take This Waltz: Sarah Polley, in only two films, has cemented herself as one of the most interesting cinematic voices currently working. Where her debut feature, Away From Her, was a somber and emotionally devastating but formally conventional work, her second feature was a coming-out party for a director unafraid to take serious risks. Take This Waltz exists in a heightened plane. It depicts very real characters going through very real problems and behaving in frustratingly realistic ways, all the while set in a wildly colorful version of Toronto and using dialogue that could generously be called melodramatic. Michelle Williams delivers yet another breathtaking performance, and Seth Rogen surprises with a tender, emotional turn. But it’s Polley who emerges the true star and a key talent to watch for in the coming years. – Atad

41.) Sound of My Voice: Metaphysical, poignant, and perpetually complex, Zal Batmanglij’s directorial debut is a thoughtfully ambiguous sci-fi independent miracle that dares to challenge our own ideas on faith, religion, and doubt. Written with verve by versatile beauty Brit Marling, the film follows eager journalist Peter (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) as they join a cult to expose a leader named Maggie (Marling) who claims to be from the year 2054. Amid all the philosophical questions, awe-inducing visuals, and original screenwriting, it’s Ms. Marling who proves to be a rare auteur with a promising future. As for the film, lets just say I’m still attempting to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. – Sam Fragoso


40.) Searching for Sugar Man: Who would’ve thought the most colorful character to come out of the silver screen in 2012 would be an actual real person? Sixto Rodriquez, the subject of the wondrous Searching for Sugar Man, was a musician in Detroit who put out two short-lived albums that quickly faded in America, ostensibly ending his young musical career. Unknown to him a copy of “Cold Fact” (his debut record) made its way to South Africa in the early 70s and became a cultural sensation of the likes of The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Influential and prophetic, Rodriquez’s music – similar to the documentary – is achingly beautiful and devastatingly honest. This miraculous story is one so bizarre, improbable, and amazing that if it weren’t grounded in reality, you’d think it was a hoax. Thankfully for us the life of Sixto Rodriquez is very real, and most of all, the type of hopeful tale we could all use in our lives. – Fragoso

39.) Life of Pi: This is Ang Lee’s bread and butter: combining visceral action with thoughtful spirituality. He uses the depth that 3D can provide to add necessary emotion, something not fully mastered in live-action cinema until now. What Lee wants you to take away from the film, however, isn’t the tale itself, but rather the artfulness of the tale: the choice we make as an audience to believe in any story in life and the magical way we get swept away by it once we succumb to the storyteller’s power. This is the type of movie that should be shown in schools across America: it teaches intelligence, tolerance, and healthy curiosity. – Hainline

38.) Goodbye, First Love: In Mia Hansen-Løve’s elipses-filled Goodbye, First Love, the French director delivers a sensuously painful film that is filled with movements, gestures, and objects that build toward compositions of raw emotion about the pains of longing. The very young Lola Créton is truly a revelation—Anna Karina reborn—and Hansen- Løve matches the actress with her naturalistic yet carefully calculated frames that speak to a nostalgic romance without ever faking nostalgia. It hits to the bone. – Peter Labuza

37.) Silver Linings Playbook: With romantic-comedies actively fading into oblivion – due primarily, though not exclusively, to the treacherous, contrived, and unbearable works of Katherine Heigl and Reese Witherspoon – Silver Linings Playbook may just be the genre’s saving grace. David O. Russell’s latest thoughtful gem tells the story of a former teacher who returns home to his dysfunctional family and divorced wife after spending eight months in a mental institution. While Silver Linings skillfully blends veracious humor with deft societal observations, the film is at its most emotionally damaging when our protagonist is forced confront his past, his illness and his future. The reinvention of oneself is something many of us have or will experience in our lifetimes. That David O. Russell manages to construct such a beautiful film with characters that will hit close to home for many, is a testament to the filmmaker who wears his heart on his sleeve. Silver Linings Playbook disregards the general pessimism and cynicism permeating society, and serves as piece of cinema imbued with optimism and romanticism. – Fragoso

36.) Killer Joe: Delightfully nasty adaptation of Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts’ first play revels in grime and sleaze, from the grainy, 70s grindhouse cinematography to the diabolically hilarious repeated use of Clarence Carter’s “Strokin’” on the soundtrack. William Friedkin lets fly with sex, violence, and misanthropy; it’d all be for naught without a cast that’s up for anything, with Matthew McConaughey’s terrifying embodiment of the title character the most-hailed turn, but Gina Gershon, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple, and Emile Hirsch are all excellent as well. – Bowes

21 Jump Street Top 50

35.) 21 Jump Street: Hands down the funniest straight comedy of the year. What should’ve been an awful attempt to ironically revive an old TV series for the big screen was instead a truly great film (almost) completely separate from its origins. Jonah Hill is hilarious, but the revelation here is Channing Tatum, who delivers a blistering comedic performance. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, of Clone High and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs pedigree, make an asset of their experience in animation by filling 21 Jump Street with loads of brilliant visual gags. It’s refreshing to see a comedy in the Apatow-era that actually pays as much attention to its visuals and construction as it does to letting the actors riff. Of course, it helps that the movie is genuinely hilarious from beginning to end. – Atad

34.) Beasts of the Southern Wild: Perhaps the most astonishing melding of fantasy and realism since Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, Benh Zeitlin’s debut feature half-submerges us into the imagination of a young girl while rooting its story in the very real threats of natural disasters and social modernization. Beasts of the Southern Wild does what many of the best works of fiction do: Transports us into an incredible, audacious world that we’ve never experienced before. It’s a breathtaking, big-hearted, lyrical ode to the spirit of the Bayou, and announces forthcoming actors Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry as incredible new talents to be reckoned with. Also featuring one of the best original scores of the year, Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of those rare films that deserves to be described as “magical”. – Christoper Runyon

33.) Django Unchained: Besides the geysers of blood, beyond the savage depictions of slavery, beyond Leonardo DiCaprio’s tobacco-stained teeth, Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino’s most political, profound, and ballsiest movie. Using Spaghetti Western conventions, he produced an epic metaphorical history of race in America. However, most viewers will choose to ignore the generic and political subtexts of the film, and that’s fine. Django is also a viscerally satisfying revenge flick in the grand Tarantino tradition of burn it, slash it, raze total massacre mayhem. Enjoy. – Sales

32.) Skyfall: At this point, Daniel Craig is recognizable by his silhouette, and that’s never been more clear than in the opening shot of Skyfall. I can think of no greater compliment for the actor currently playing James Bond. Everything about Skyfall, the lastest entry in the 007 franchise, is drenched in iconography, both old and new. At its weakest, the film is a case for a cinematographer-as-auteur, showcasing every stunning shot by legendary lenser Roger Deakins like it were a painting worthy of being displayed at the Louvre. At its best, the film is a thrilling, funny, and completely enthralling yarn, providing the series with its best entry since Goldfinger, and the one of most immensely satisfying films of the year. – Kevin Ketchum

31.) Bernie: Bernie contains more than its share of surprises. It enlivens dramatizations of real events in a way that makes the telling of an absurd East Texas gossip bit resemble Abbas Kiarostami’s Close Up. It genuinely laughs with, not at the real-life members of the Texan community Richard Linklater enlists to tell their own story. Finally, it offers definitive proof of Jack Black’s talent as an actor and the subtlety that runs under even his wildest gesture. He masterfully establishes the title character’s genuine warmth and innate hucksterism, setting up both the shocking crime that seems strangely conceivable and how he almost literally got away with it. But the real stars remain the people of Carthage, who channel Linklater’s vision even as they take the project out of his hands. Jake Cole

Argo Top 50

30.) Argo: Ben Affleck is experiencing the single-greatest comeback in modern film history. Once upon a time, he was an actor endlessly mocked for his wooden performances and terrible career choices. Now? He’s become one of the most respected directors in the field, batting a thousand after three bona-fide hits. His latest film, Argo, may be the best case yet for his talent as a filmmaker. While the film may be light on big ideas, it’s a political thriller so assured in every frame that one can’t help but admire how it lives or dies on Affleck’s abilities as a director. A true ensemble cast and a masterclass in editing, Argo serves as an endlessly entertaining reminder of the power of cooperation in an age of increasingly divisive politics. – Ketchum

29.) The Kid With A Bike: The Dardenne Brothers’ realist fable hinges on a single fact: Cyril loves his father, who doesn’t love him back. That’s all they need to break our hearts, shooting very simply and adorning the drama with only a few snatches of Beethoven. “It’s a hard world for little things,” said Lillian Gish in The Night of the Hunter, and The Kid with a Bike stands as the ultimate proof. – Stoehr

28.) The Day He Arrives: The Day He Arrives ends where it begins, albeit moving in the opposite direction. That about sums up how Hong Sang-soo uses repetitions to arrive at markedly different outcomes, not merely within his films but across an entire corpus. Like a number of movies made in this, the supposed last year of cinema (if you believe the tedious onslaught of half-argued essays), The Day He Arrives finds narrative momentum and thematic focus in blatantly cinematic techniques, and the director protagonist who walked away from film soon finds that it will not let him go so easily, warping the world itself to get him back on the right track. It’s also one of the year’s funniest. – Cole

Avengers Top 50

27.) The Avengers: Joss Whedon has given us such memorable original characters that it was a delight to witness him imbue familiar superheroes with the same blend of zippy wit and staggering angst. What could have been a bloated blockbuster was instead a sleek, hilarious adventure and easily the best superhero movie of 2012. – Natalie Zutter

26.) The Color Wheel: Alex Ross Perry trades the blotchy, shallow-focus digital photography of so much American independent film for deep-focus, 16mm black-and-white. Yet The Color Wheel is no work of backward-looking nostalgia for film but the announcement of a bold new voice in filmmaking. The best modernization of the screwball comedy since Peter Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed, Ross Perry’s sophomore feature zigzags forward on the ricocheting barbs of two warring siblings (Ross Perry and co-writer Caren Altman) whose mutual loathing masks a protective instinct for the other against even harsher foes. Its climactic twist is both the most perversely funny punchline and the most inexplicably touching payoff of the year, and it turns a great film into something close to a masterpiece. Cole

25.) Oslo, August 31st: Following an addict during his day-long furlough from rehab, this Norwegian character study shifts its emphasis as a “drug movie” away from the act of shooting up and onto the messy aftermath. The story is bleak, with a gut punch of an ending, but the filmmaking is vital and resonant enough to compensate. – Stoehr

Tabu Top 50

24.) Tabu: This year’s love letter to the cinema as we knew it–black and white celluloid–is a sumptuous two-part tale of illicit love set mostly in the black-and-white nostalgic haze of memories in the dry heat of Africa. Yet Tabu neither condemns or indulges the act of nostalgia for lost love, youth and cinema. Instead, the film induces the mixed emotions of saudade, a Portuguese word that describes the phenomenon of nostalgic yearning. – Hassannia

23.) ParaNorman: A tale of tolerance and acceptance and zombies, ParaNorman was one of the most delightful and engaging films of the year. So, why didn’t you see it? Rendered in gorgeously textured stop-motion animation by the makers of Coraline, ParaNorman is scary and funny, heartfelt and smart, and one of the best films of 2012. Now will you see it? – Sales

22.) Amour: Michael Haneke has always made bleak films, but Amour may be the first effort of his to combine his cold, calculated direction with warm, devastating emotion. Amour may be a pitiless dollop of the hard truths of both love and deterioration, but the pill is made relatively digestible thanks to two of the most heart-wrenching performances of the year in Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, and an incredible, perceptive script that never wallows in either misery or sentimentality, in spite of material that can easily succumb to melodrama. Even though it takes place almost entirely in one apartment room, it’s hard not to be fully invested and absorbed in the final, heart-breaking moments of the couple at the center. Amour is thoughtful, bleak, powerful, and miserable in the best possible way. – Runyon

Anatolia Top 50

21.) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: Perhaps the most existential police procedural of our time, Anatolia features characters who are less preoccupied with the messy details of a murder than with their own respective crises, many of them spiritual. Ceylan’s sixth film is a lugubrious affair that imbues a sardonic Turkish humour within the film’s many mundane conversations that all-the-while hint at poignant philosophical questions. – Hassannia

20.) Haywire: Vivre Se Vie: The Action Film, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire breathes life into the revenge genre by working against dramatic reveals and kinetic, impossible to follow action sequences. Instead, the film gives us details through cinematic delights: a tilted shot in a red-drenched palette, an abstract jazzy score, and the sound of a gunshot ringing out with booming thunder. Working like a jazz improviser, Soderbergh’s Haywire manages to be both his most accessible hit and experimental work simultaneously, topped with the best newcomer to film: the impossibly percept Gina Carano. – Labuza

19.) Damsels In Distress: Whit Stillman’s much-anticipated return to the cinema in 15 years was a delightful triumph. His style –pitching affable characters into situations that gently mock their bourgeois existence — provided a breath of fresh air among 2012 comedies. His trademark wit and fascination with social grace is as appropriate for Damsels’ Gen-Y university gals (led by the inimitable Greta Gerwig) as it was for the UHBs back in the ‘80s. If anything, Stillman’s more relevant today than he was in 20 years ago — the hashtag #firstworldproblems didn’t exist back then. – Hassannia

Magic Mike Top 50

18.) Magic Mike: The fact that the Magic Mike trailers were set to audaciously gyrating, nearly-naked male strippers to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” warned us early on that Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum’s bizarre passion project was striving for sexy yet earnest. The biggest surprise is how well it worked. Magic Mike turned on its audiences physically, sure, but emotionally, too. – Zutter

17.) It’s Such a Beautiful Day: It’s Such A Beautiful Day will have you laughing through tears while pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Written, directed, photographed and narrated by cult animator Don Hertzfeldt, this sixty-two minute film –consisting of three shorts released over six years – tells the story of a terminally ill stick figure named Bill as he struggles to deal with his rapidly approaching death. Created through a combination of primitive doodlings and beautiful experimental photography, the film is hysterical, profound and emotionally devastating, usually all at once. A one man masterpiece of the very highest order. – Clift

16.) The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Not since Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous has a film explored the confounding depths of adolescence with as much whimsy and beauty like author/filmmaker Stephen Chbosky’s occasionally heartbreaking, occasionally heartwarming, yet always honest depiction of high school and all the emotional baggage that comes with it. At the core of this movie is a friendless freshmen introvert who is beginning the next four years of his life, like most of us do, terrified and insecure. It’s through the guidance of two upperclass men that our protagonist grows and blossoms. For a film that should be contrived and trite, Chbosky creates anything but. By the end the collective loveliness found in The Perks of Being a Wallflower are, well, infinite. – Fragoso

Our Top 15

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15.) Seven Psychopaths

This type of meta filmmaking, in which the film discusses its own creation, sometimes get unfairly labeled as “too intellectual” or “cold.” I don’t find Martin McDonagh’s writing cold in the slightest; it’s profane, shocking, but soulful. Seven Psychopaths is less conventional than his feature debut, In Bruges, but the farther it goes off the rails, the more I found myself in a psychotic state of bliss. The standout is Sam Rockwell, who gives the best performance of his career, absolutely dominating the screen, with a snakelike smile, a propensity for fabrication, and a strong taste for violence in films and real life. He’s McDonagh’s id personified, and it’s glorious to behold… but McDonagh’s words are the film’s true star. He makes profanity poetry, he makes violence a thing of beauty. We’re watching a gifted writer expose himself and bare his personal failings and insecurities. Which is wildly entertaining. – Hainline

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14.) Zero Dark Thirty

The CIA’s decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden, dramatized in procedural form, joining Zodiac and All The President’s Men as some of the genre’s finest. Jessica Chastain becomes a cinematic icon before our very eyes, made so both by her outstanding performance and Kathryn Bigelow’s rigorous, exacting direction; the recent critical acclaim for Bigelow as a director and the greater retroactive attention her filmography is now receiving will hopefully lead to her being considered one off the great American directors. As she should be. – Bowes

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13.) This Is Not A Film

Jafar Panahi and Motjaba Mirtahmasb’s (not-)film would be a Very Important Movie even if the contents of that thumb drive smuggled out of Iran in a cake were mediocre. Happily, they were assembled by one of the world’s great filmmakers, whose one-man rendition of the movie he will never get to make grows ever more cinematic. Indeed, what Panahi and Mirtahmasb film here starts to resemble some of the clips Panahi plays of his previous features, and the mixture of fact and fiction he used to make those great movies repeats itself as real people wander into Panahi’s judicially limited sphere and become characters in their own right. Film or no, this is a work of protest in which the protest is its demonstration that artists will make art no matter what is taken from them. – Cole

TDKR Top 50

12.) The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan brings his epic Batman trilogy full circle with The Dark Knight Rises, in which the caped crusader sees his beloved Gotham turned into a full blown war zone at the hands of Tom Hardy’s villainous Bane. Rich in theme, breathtaking in spectacle and bold in ambition, while some irksome plot-holes keep it from reaching the same heights as the last entry in the series, The Dark Knight Rises never the less remains a fitting and ultimately powerful conclusion to one of the greatest cinematic trilogies of all time. – Clift

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11.) Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a miracle of a movie; the fact that it even exists is something to behold. Never would I have expected a talented filmmaker, let alone group of filmmakers in this case, to confront material this ambitious and sprawling, and never would I have expected it to work 100%. And yet, that’s exactly what Cloud Atlas does. The Wachowski siblings’ and Tom Tykwer’s gorgeous magnum opus about the inherent flaws and triumphs of humankind is an explosion of filmmaking and editing that, in its attempt to capture the collective essence of every genre, emotion, medium of art, and time period imaginable, ends up transcending the stories’ inherently chaotic, intertwining structure; resulting in something that is singular, daring, and unlike anything else ever made. A brilliant epic that is as thematically engaging as it is spiritually triumphant. – Runyon

The Grey Top 50

10.) The Grey

I have a distinct memory of when I saw Joe Carnahan’s latest film. It was opening night, at the Alamo Drafthouse, on a cold January evening. I had heard some things about what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for what I would see. Nothing could prepare me for the emotions I would feel for the rest of the year. Since seeing The Grey, every film I’ve seen this year has been held to the standard of that film, and nothing has come close. From Masanobu Takayanagi’s stunning cinematography, to Carnahan’s inspired & visceral direction, to Liam Neeson’s strikingly personal and emotionally raw lead performance, everything about the film just hit the right chords at the right time for me. A true achievement, The Grey is the kind of film that hasn’t stopped haunting me for days, telling a story with the kind of power only cinema can tap into, and thus solidifying it as the best film of 2012. – Ketchum

Deep Blue Sea Top 50

9.) The Deep Blue Sea

Flickering from one bittersweet memory to another over the course of a torrid affair, this adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play is a cocktail of passion, period setting, and dry, bitchy humor. Rachel Weisz in particular is overwhelming as a woman who tragically pours all her love into the wrong man. – Stoehr

The Turin Horse Top 50

8.) The Turin Horse

There is a brutal truth in the work of Béla Tarr, coming at you in 24 frames per second (no digital here!), and one most rapturously created in his now final film, The Turin Horse. This deeply disturbing work borderlines on parody of art cinema, mainly because Tarr is a relentless filmmaker that never compromises in his portraiture of survival in an apocalyptic doom. Made up of 30 breathtaking long takes, The Turin Horse is the most polished of Tarr’s films in terms of reaching a new height of minimalism, where everything to know about life comes in the small details the filmmaker slowly reveals. – Labuza

Cosmopolis Top 50

7.) Cosmopolis

In the year of “Big Data” and Nate Silver, the best film to speak to today’s world is the completely artificial one of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, a work as radical as anything he’s made since Videodrome. Edited and shot with razor-sharp skill, Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel might seem like the film the Occupy Wall Street movement has been waiting for, but it’s more of an attack on our constant investment in the signs, symbols and patterns of digital life today. The most unsettling thing in Cronenberg’s vision of the future is realizing that not everything can fit neatly into models. – Labuza

Cabin in the Woods Top 50

6.) The Cabin in the Woods

Writer-director Drew Goddard and writer-producer Joss Whedon slash the slasher genre with this ingenious horror-comedy that dives head first into waters where Scream only dipped its toe. The only movie of 2012 that retroactively makes hundreds of other movies better (try watching Friday the 13th Part IV while imagining Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford pulling all the strings), it’s also got third act made up of the purest, grizzliest fun imaginable.- Clift

Moonrise Kingdom Top 50

5.) Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s films all follow a general arc—the establishment and gradual dissolution of cloistered dollhouse worlds of privilege—and Moonrise Kingdom is not different. The execution of that arc, however, feels like a radical departure. Grainy 16mm film disrupts the pristine compositions, the rough image a subtle reminder that the outdoors so carefully ordered by Khaki Scouts can never be fully tamed. Likewise, the orphan Sam can step outside Anderson’s shelters for never truly belonging to them. The rebellion of the world (and of the freewheeling, Truffaut-esque youth) against Anderson’s own perfectionism supplies an energy unseen in Anderson’s other work, and the results may be his best yet. – Cole

Lincoln Top 50

4.) Lincoln

By humanizing America’s greatest President, and by examining a narrow set of his accomplishments with such fine detail, director Steven Spielberg infuses the myth with the man, thus raising our estimation, not only of Abraham Lincoln himself, but of the extraordinary things human beings are capable of even in as imperfect a world as this one. All of this is compounded by Daniel Day Lewis’ remarkable performance. With hardly a twitch in his expression, Day Lewis conveys just as much as he has in any of his biggest roles in the past, and probably a whole lot more. It’s very likely that Lincoln will go down as a Hollywood film for the ages. In a way it already feels timeless. As a history lesson it brings fresh eyes to a story often told only in broad strokes. As a piece of political commentary it feels endlessly applicable. Most of all, though, Lincoln is myth-making of the highest order. – Atad

Looper 2 Top 50

3.) Looper

Rian Johnson’s endlessly captivating and ingeniously thought-provoking third feature film is something of a futuristic masterwork that evolves with each subsequent viewing. What at first appears to be merely a visually spellbinding atypical Sci-fi film quickly unravels into a deeply human one. Moreover, this is the sort of intelligently crafted filmmaking that not only makes you feel, but think. With Looper, Johnson audaciously tackles the cyclical nature of violence, and the philosophy that where we derive from influences who we are and what we ultimately become. – Fragoso

The Master Top 50

2.) The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson has given us a love story that would make Freud absolutely giddy in his seat. Freddie Quell, the beast of sexual frustration, who we see early drinking himself into impotence… not with liquor, but via liquids he drains from phallic torpedos. Lancaster Dodd, free of the burdens of honesty, basking in the illusion of control, promising Freddie at sea a rich and plentiful tomorrow… and immediately bringing him to the desert. The women of The Cause, who maintain a tightly-gripped (pun intended) control over their men behind the scenes… we watch Lancaster give himself over to his wife’s bidding, while Freddie rebukes the under the-table advances of Lancaster’s daughter. Freddie and Lancaster are drawn to one another, as we are drawn to Anderson’s overwhelming abundance of imagery and symbolism. – Hainline

Holy Motors Top 50

1.) Holy Motors

Leos Carax’s first feature in 13 years is, basically, the entire medium of cinema in one movie. It’s funny, thrilling, sad, grotesque, even daring at points to risk being boring (if it sounds like a paradox to say that that is one of the movie’s great assets, well, that’s why Holy Motors is such a magnificent, baffling masterpiece). Denis Lavant’s tour-de-force performance in the lead anchors what’s at once an exercise in genre deconstruction, meditation on what it truly means to be an actor (on stage, on film, in life), and an elegy for the inevitably doomed human body. It’s also lots and lots of fun. – Bowes

Thank you for reading this exhaustive list. Be sure to drop us a line below with some of your favorites of 2012. If so inclined you can check out all thirteen individual ballots from each staff member here.

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  • http://twitter.com/buckle22 Andrew Buckle

    You guys are awesome. HOLY MOTORS and THE MASTER #1 and #2. Certainly the two best films I have seen to hit screens in 2012. Only SHAME (a very early 2012 release in Australia) split them for me. Can’t argue with THE GREY rounding out the Top 10 either.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      SHAME was excellent. Glad I finally caught up with that film. As for HOLY MOTORS … I’m still not sold on Carax’s latest effort. Clearly my counterparts think otherwise. Thanks for reading and commenting Andy!

      • James

        I really don’t think “Shame” is proper viewing material for a growing Clovis boy.

        • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

          Sorry James. It’s too late. Everyone gets corrupted sometimes.

  • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

    Nothing made me happier to see Fragoso reevaluate Looper. Great list. Look forward to the new site a lot.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      It’s a good thing I gave the film another chance. And the fact that Johnson supposedly read both of my reviews for LOOPER is even more gratifying. Glad you’re excited Andrew.

  • James Ewing

    Quite the list. Glad you made it 50 to encompass some films I felt haven’t got enough mention this year such as Bernie, The Hobbit, The Kid With a Bike and Oslo.

    Amazed to see The Grey, The Turin Horse and Cabin in the Woods in the top 10. They’re spectacular films.

    Lincoln is solid and The Master is another one of the year’s best.

    Still hoping to see Holy Motors soon.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      Glad you enjoyed the list James.

      As for ‘Holy Motors’ … I get home Saturday. You still interested in it?

      • James Ewing

        Very interested in watching it.

        • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

          Alright. I’ll do my best.

  • http://twitter.com/Mr_Sheldrake Danny Reid

    Cloud Atlas was aces, glad to see it ranked so high. I hope 2013 is as good of a year!

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      I hope so too.

      Did you ever make your year-ends list Danny?

      • http://twitter.com/Mr_Sheldrake Danny Reid

        Getting there. Just got two more movies to watch. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Crump/41400797 Andrew Crump

    The Kid With a Bike is clearly something special– otherwise Criterion probably wouldn’t be waiting to release it as a part of their collection. Nice mention.

    50’s a huge number. Not sure I can really agree on order or even some of the inclusions, but I absolutely love that films like The Grey made it here. I can’t at all disagree with Holy Motors as the number one pick, though it’s the sort of movie nobody can fully understand after a single viewing. I’m on #3 and I still love it despite still finding it enigmatic.

    Ballsy to include Haywire over The Raid, though they’re both really goddamn good action movies. And I can’t dislike any list that puts four of my most favoritest movies of the year in the top ten slot.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      As I asked Danny below, have your put out your annual list yet?

      ‘Haywire’ was a film many mentioned on their individual ballots. In fact, I’m not sure ‘The Raid” made any of the thirteen lists. Strange to think that 2012 may just be Soderbegh’s best year in cinema yet.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Crump/41400797 Andrew Crump

        We’re doing our annual wrap-up week at GST, so yeah– but our lists aren’t straightforward top tens, which is fun in its own way. I may slap a more traditional top ten on ACVF, though I have more or less shut down operation over there.

        Haywire and The Raid both stack up well against one another as action films and they probably represent the two best action movies 2012 had to offer. It’s just surprising to see the former appear over the latter when so many other lists take the reverse tact. It’s a good surprise, since as much as I preferred the action in The Raid, I liked Haywire more as a complete film.

        • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

          I’d say ‘Jack Reacher’ is right there in terms of “best action films of 2012.” I had a great time with Cruise and company.

  • http://twitter.com/twscritic The Warning Sign

    Wow. This list is all over the place (in a good way). I’m happy to see films like Oslo, August 31st, Take This Waltz and Bernie get mentions, and that The Master is so high overall.

    Looking forward to seeing what else you guys have up your sleeves this year. It seems you’re off to a good start!

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      I think this list speaks volumes in terms of the diversity to be found from our staff.

      Personally, I couldn’t stand ‘Take This Waltz’ — but as you can tell, many disagree with my stance on the film.

  • http://twitter.com/FlixChatter FlixChatter

    Firstly, great new site Sam, congrats! WOW, this is quite a massive list. Must be tough to get everyone to agree on the ranking. Very curious to see Holy Motors now.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      Thank you Ruth!
      I did all the ranking — merely applied a rubric, aggregated all the individual lists, and presto.

      Looking forward to your reaction on ‘Holy Motors.’

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