The Velvet Café’s top list of 2012
There are different opinions available about this, especially among bloggers who like me live in a country that isn’t in North America or UK, which get to see most movies months before the rest of the world.
Do you want to join in the craziness around New Year when the majority put up their lists, even if it means that you haven’t seen half of the movies that get the most buzz? Or do you wait until you’ve seen them, which could take to April or May and then publish a list that nobody cares about anymore since they’re halfway into 2013?
In the end it’s a personal choice that you need to make. There’s no right or wrong way to do it if you ask me, as long as you’re consequent about it.
I’ve settled for making my list early, mainly because I don’t want to sit by the side line when everyone else is making up their list. I want to take part in the discussion. The downside is that my list contains movies that others consider belong to 2011. So be it.
My rules are the following: movies that either had their first theatrical release in Sweden or were released directly for DVD can be taken into consideration. Screenings at film festivals don’t count, since they’re so limited and out of reach for most of us, including me.
If you wonder why I haven’t included a certain movie, chances are that I haven’t seen it yet. Here are some examples of movies which I’ve seen getting a lot of love, but which will be 2013 films as far as I am concerned: The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Cloud Atlas, Lincoln, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Ruby Sparks, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly, Seven Psychopaths, Anna Karenina, The Hunt, Flight, Django Unchained, Frankenweenie, Les Miserables, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Sisters, Your Safety Guaranteed, Stories We Tell, Café de Flore, Sessions.
In the name of transparency I’ll also mention a few other movies that have been released in Sweden, but which I haven’t got around to see: Lawless, The Grey, Cosmopolis, End of Watch, The Raid: Redemption, Haywire, Ted, On the Road, Bernie, The Hunter.
And now ladies and gentlemen – bring on the list! This time, after being bugged about it repeatedly by a fellow Swedish blogger, I’ll present it starting from the bottom, saving my favourites to last.
First a few movies that didn’t make it into the actual list but which I want to give a nod:
The Amazing Spider-Man: You could argue that it was too early to do bring another version of this to the world. This doesn’t take away from it that this was very well made and provided solid entertainment.
Elena: If you think of Russia as gloomy, Elena gives you right. This is a film about gloomy people in gloomy settings, leading gloomy lives with gloomy prospects. My problem with it was that I couldn’t sympathize with the people it depictured. Still it was well crafted in a minimalist way, where even long shots in complete silence are filled with meaning and tension.
Easy Money II: The Swedish thriller Easy Money gave the director a ticket to Hollywood where he made Safe House, which was a decent thriller that made surprisingly well at the box office. The follow-up has a different director but is just as good. I hope this too can get international attention, despite the silly title.
Wuthering Heights: My dislike for Heathcliff kept me from embracing this film fully. But I can’t deny it was beautifully shot.
Holy Motors – unlike most others I didn’t fall in love with it; it was a little bit too obscure for me. But I can’t deny that some of the scenes are very memorable.
Hope Springs was surprisingly dark and funny, especially the first half, which reminded of a good episode of The Treatment.
Take this Waltz – a little forgettable, but the shower scene stayed with me.
The Hunger Games - thanks to Jennifer Lawrence. From my review: “She resembles quite a bit to the character she played in Winter’s Bone: a resilient young woman, as tough as any action hero, down-to-Earth, nurturing and love giving to some extent, but never so much that it becomes a weakness and a burden. I want her to become my big sister.”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – or “Love geriatrically” as someone called it, which is pretty much spot on. It was easily digested and had a lovely cast of the elite among British actors
War Horse - like a prolonged episode of The Little House on the Prairie, with some added war scenes. Too sentimental for most viewers, but not for me, who had grabbed a cold and was in the perfect mood for something comforting.
Hysteria - while I never got around to blog about it, it deserves to be mentioned here. I thought this little comedy about the invention of the vibrator was jolly good fun and we worth a watch when you feel like something light hearted, easily digested.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol gave me exactly the kind of spectacular ride that you expect from a big budget action movie. Action ballet at its best.
Sinister – the scariest movie of the year.
To Rome with Love - which by no means was one of Allen’s strongest movies. Stories that would have been perfect for five minute short films were drawn out more than what were healthy for them. Still: I had a few good laughs at some of the ideas and for the sake of my old and persisting Allen love, this movie gets a little nod from me.
25-40 (Alphabetic order)
50/50 – probably the funniest cancer movie I’ve seen.
I could never have imagined I’d enjoy a superhero movie this much. I blame Joss Whedon.
I needed a hug after watching this immensely depressing Belgian movie about some dark sides of farming that you really don’t want to know about. Be warned if you’re sensitive.
For once the animated princess didn’t have marriage as her highest priority!
People throwing up on the screen is rarely fun to watch, but seeing Kate Winslet doing it over a bunch of exclusive art catalogues was priceless.
Ralph Fiennes breathes new life into a less popular Shakespeare play. The original lines and the modern setting mix unexpectedly well.
The Dark Knight Rises
Some people found pleasure in nitpicking this film. I just went with it and enjoyed the spectacle. And this comes from someone who even doesn’t like superhero movies very much.
The Deep Blue Sea
This was such a beautiful film about love and about life choices. Melancholic with a ray of light, just the way I love it.
Martin Scorsese lets his inner film geek out in full freedom. I was enchanted, despite the 3D.
From my review: “I laughed. I laughed a lot. Actually I can’t remember last time I laughed as much in a theatre. And while it’s not a sad film by any means, I also got something dusty in my eyes as I we finally got to see the real people, whose story this film is based on. Tears – not of pity, but of joy over how much life can offer, even if you come from a situation that seems hopeless at a quick glance.”
The Kid with a Bike
A small film that dealt with big issues: love, loss, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness. I’ve seen several good child actors this year and Thomas Doret was one of those.
This was a very disturbing movie that I’m not in a hurry to see again, but I liked the dark, twisted humour for reasons that I can’t explain.
The Full Monty remains my favourite movie about male strip dancing, but I still had a lot of fun in the company with Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, who surprised me with their dancing skills.
A beautifully made film about every person’s right to be themself, using any kind of gender identity wihtout being questioned and harassed for it.
Your Sister’s Sister
Three people, one cabin in the woods, a lot of improvised conversations. It was funny and gripping and I loved it.
12-25 (Alphabetic order)
A Royal Affair
I can’t recall last time I saw such a good costume drama – well made in every detail and with wonderful performances by MadsMikkelsen and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard.
Big Boys Gone Bananas!*
This documentary about the efforts from the mighty banana industry to try to stop the previous movie Bananas was exciting like a thriller and had me cry with frustration as well as joy. It’s the kind of film that inspires you to become a better person and make a difference to the world.
Bill Cunningham New York
A loving portray of a fashion photographer in New York made me start watching the people I meet in the street in a new way.
The Cabin in the Woods
More fun than scary was this film, which I still refuse to talk about at length due to its spoiler sensitive nature. I’m not particularly knowledgeable in the horror genre, but I still enjoyed it immensely.
From my review: “There’s always something soothing about watching millionaires struggling with their lives, ending up eating comfort ice cream out of the box in front of the TV. Deep down we’re all the same – fragile, messed up and uncertain about where our journey will take us.”
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
While I’m not a fan of the 48FPS/3D experiment, I still liked The Hobbit quite a bit. The riddle guessing encounter between Bilbo and Gollum is probably my favourite scene of all in 2012.
Into the Abyss
From my review: ”Immensely sad and dark, it stayed with me for days afterwards. It made me grateful about having the life I have, on the more shallow waters, far, far from the abyss.”
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
A sweet, simple and absolutely charming little comedy about an eventful day in the life of Jeff, who lives in his mother’s basement and makes decisions following “signs”.
While probably a tad too long, this is a beautiful film from an extremely talented young filmmaker – visually and emotionally stunning.
The day after watching this I had a muppet singing inside of me. This was the film that brought me the biggest smile in 2012.
Rust and Bone
This movie was made with great care and very good acting performances by Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts.
The storm is coming. For real or just in Michael Shannon’s head? There are different opinions on this. But I loved how Take Shelter used images to let us into a person’s mind on an emotional, intuitive level.
A man beats his own dog until it dies. Then he cries over losing his best friend – the dog. This is the start of Tyrannosaur and it’s almost unbearable to watch, but still a remarkably well played and gripping drama that also provides at least a glimpse of hope.
Two people who talk in an apartment during a weekend, like a mix between Queer as Folks and Before Sunrise. My heart melted.
1-10 (with a little bit of cheating, I hope you don’t notice)
10. The Artist
It was a love letter to the world of movies, surprisingly fun and entertaining, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
I thought Bond was due for retirement a long time ago. Skyfall proved me wrong. It offered excitement and entertainment as expected, but also new perspectives on Bond and M. Particularly I loved how it dealt with Bond’s middle age crisis.
You would think that people with superpowers as well as found footage were worn out concepts, but Chronicle managed to make something fresh and fun out of both. Spectacular compared to the budget. I wanted to become a filmmaker myself after watching this.
I got to explore strange new worlds, I saw truly alien aliens, I watched big things blow up in a big way and I gave my imagination a good tickle. That’s all I the sci-fi geek inside me asks for.
From my review: “ I was taken aback at how thrilling Argo turned out to be, considering it was a story where the outcome was clear before the start. When my 18 year old complained afterwards about how her stomach hurt after all the tension during the two hours, I knew exactly where she came from. This was by far the most white-knuckle movie experience I’ve had this year, which I think is a sign that the people who put it together clearly know their craft.”
Mind bending science fiction movies set in an alternative universe or the near future is my favourite genre. Looper didn’t disappoint me. Out of all films from 2012, this is the one that I most of all would like to re-watch and see if I can figure out all the timeline twists the second time around.
5. Searching for Sugar Man
Has the maker of Searching for Sugar Man improved the story about the forgotten artist Rodriguez a little bit to make it a better film? Maybe. Does it matter for how good a film this is? No. Searching for Sugar Man left me with some good songs humming in my head and with a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach and a sense that anything is possible and you never know what direction your life eventually will take. Not a bad thing.
4. Life of Pi
This movie is among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It makes you think about questions about the nature of stories, about faith and about life and death, without going preachy. It leaves you with a room to think and breathe and form your own beliefs or non-beliefs. It made 2012 end with a bang.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
Some movies will grow in your memory. I loved this film because it was beautiful, had a thoroughly enjoyable score and because it was goodhearted and ended on a positive note. This makes it stick out in my usually rather gloomy film diet and I’d be happy to see it again whenever I need some refreshment.
Once again Michael Haneke has made a film about things we’d rather not think about. This is probably how many of us will end our days. We’ll either “loose it” as our bodies stops functioning or – which is worse – watch someone close to us go through this without being able to help. But our denial doesn’t make this go away. It’s as if the director gently takes our hand as we make this walk into darkness, showing us what lifelong love means. It made me cry, but ultimately I think it’s more uplifting than depressing.
1. We Need to Talk about Kevin
It would be an understatement to say that Kevin is a troubled boy. But this film isn’t primarily about Kevin; it’s about his mother. It’s a dark story, told in many colors that makes you think about the nature of love and the source of evil. Can lack of love make someone evil? Is it possible to forgive someone who has taken away everything from you? If this person is all you have left, do you even have a choice? I saw this film in the beginning of 2012 and it’s still resonating inside me, especially in the light of several events in US during last year. I wish this film wasn’t as relevant as it is.
My international 2012 list
Finally: here is another version of my top 10 list, where I’ve removed the films that are considered 2011 releases in most countries. Remember that I still miss out on films such as The Master, Zero Dark Thirty and Beasts of the Southern Wild, since they haven’t open where I live (and I don’t do illegal downloads).
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. Life of Pi
4. Searching for Sugarman
10. The Cabin in the Woods
Well, that was it. It’s been a fantastic year for movies, hasn’t it?