MAYAN APOCALYPSE NOW: While other outlets mark December by listing their favorite films of the year that's ending, The Perpetual Three-Dot Column prefers to list the best movies of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and so on, heading back until I reach a year for which I can't assemble a good list. This will be the 20th time that I've done this, so some of the lists to come may feel faintly familiar. But don't worry: I have some new things to say about even the years I've done before.
When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 2012, it gave its Best Picture award to Argo, which manages to be both a spy thriller and a backstage Hollywood comedy. It's an entertaining movie, and I had fun watching it. But I like these better:
1. Moonrise Kingdom
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Anderson and Roman Coppola
"I can't offer you a legally binding union. It won't hold up in the state, the county, or frankly any courtroom in the world, due to your age, lack of a license, and failure to get parental consent. But the ritual does carry a very important moral weight..."
2. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
Directed by John Hyams
Written by Hyams, Doug Magnuson, and Jon Greenlagh
It's an action movie released straight to VOD. It's the sixth entry in a franchise where even the first film was kind of ridiculous. It's got Jean-Claude Van Damme in it. And it's a Lynchian masterpiece. Yes, I'm serious.
3. The Act of Killing
Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, and Anonymous
"Actually, the people you tortured felt far worse, because you knew it's only a film."
4. Room 237
Directed by Rodney Ascher
You've heard of outsider art? This is about outsider criticism.
5. Django Unchained
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
Among its other virtues, this film features the best known use of Jim Croce on a motion picture soundtrack.
6. Seven Psychopaths
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh
The closest any Tarantino imitation has come to being as good as a Tarantino film.
Directed by Christian Petzold
Written by Petzold and Harun Farocki
If the Stasi Movie is a genre now—and at this point I think it is—then this is one of the best specimens.
8. Deceptive Practice
Directed by Molly Bernstein
Ricky Jay tells tales of nearly forgotten magicians—from dusty books, from vaudeville, from Coney Island, from the early days of TV—who shaped his art and taught him his craft. Just completely fucking delightful.
9. Frances Ha
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig
2012 was also the year Girls debuted, and there are more than a few similarities between that show and this film. But the film is definitely better.
Written by Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell, Sean Gray, Tony Roche, William James Smith, Roger Drew, Ian Martin, and Jesse Armstrong
Directed by Iannucci, Tristram Shapeero, and Christopher Morris
An antidote to The West Wing.
11. The Imposter (Bart Layton)
12. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
13. Get the Gringo (Adrian Grünberg)
14. Sightseers (Ben Wheatley)
15. Byun, Objet Trouvé (Marie Losier)
16. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
17. Feral (Daniel Sousa)
18. A Scandal in Belgravia (Paul McGuigan)
19. John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli)
20. Bestiaire (Denis Côté)
Finally, a shoutout to Chris Sandon and Martin Thoburn's Exquisite Motion Corpse, which almost made it into the honorable mentions—I just wasn't sure whether it qualified. Usually I don't have trouble treating pieces of video art as experimental movies, but this one is interactive enough that I'm inclined to think of it as an experimental video game instead. And I haven't convinced myself to start putting video games on these lists. Not yet, anyway. Check back in another 10 years.
Of the films of 2012 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Wolf Children.
posted by Jesse 2:53 PM
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