The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Halfway through 2012 – here is my top list

with 44 comments

I woke up a morning and realized that we’re halfway through 2012. I know – it’s crazy! How did that happen? To me the year has all but started.

So what do you make of 2012 so far? I thought 2011 was a very good year for movies; the question is – will 2012 match it? Possibly. I made my personal top list of the year so far, covering my top 20 movies. I think there are quite a few gems here and there are a couple of movies in the pipeline that I have high hopes for.

But before we start I want to get one thing out of the way:

Yes, this list includes some movies that you might think belong on a 2011 list, depending on which country you live in. I’ve decided to make my top lists from my personal perspective, following when the movies became accessible in a theatre for me. Many films don’t open inSwedenuntil several months after their theatrical release in US orUK. This was the case with several of the Oscar nominees, which didn’t arrive here until late spring.

Also keep in mind that my appreciation for a movie usually changes over time. Some films that I didn’t immediately embrace have grown; other movies that I liked at first have turned pale as time has passed. When it’s time to make the full-year-list of 2012, some of those movies may very well have changed positions, depending on my mood of the day. I’m notoriously inconsistent.

And that’s the end of the disclaimer section. Let’s move on to the list!

1. We Need to Talk about Kevin
The events in this film have been dealt with before in movies, but not from this point of view, I’d dare say. Tilda Swinton was excellent as the mother of the troubled kid Kevin. The cinematography and particularly the usage of colours are etched into my memory.


2. Take Shelter
The storm is coming. Or is it? Do the things that take place on screen really happen or are they hallucinations of a mentally ill person? Some people had doubts about the interpretation. I didn’t. But what we can agree about is that it’s a fantastic little movie, with a brilliant performance by Michael Shannon.

3. Tyrannosaur
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. From there it goes worse. But provided you can stand watching it, this is a remarkably well played and gripping piece of drama, providing at least some glimpses of hope in all the misery there is.

4.Moonrise Kingdom
After three rather depressing movies I wanted to break up this list with something more lighthearted, bringing a bit of hope and happiness into the world. I can’t think of a worthier candidate than Moonrise Kingdom.

5. Prometheus
Prometheus got a bit of a beating due to some ridiculously high set expectations after the successful marketing. It’s no Alien, but despite its flaws I enjoyed it immensely. 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.

6. The Artist
I watched The Artist several months after everyone else, so at the point where I got to it they hype and the backlash were both over with since long. It was a love letter to the world of movies, surprisingly fun and entertaining, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

7. Bullhead
This is another dark film that is tough to watch due to some very intense and violent heavy scenes, on par with Tyrannosaur. Take caution before you watch this if you’re the sensitive kind.

8. A Royal Affair
This Danish costume drama took me by surprise. It’s well acted, well designed, well plotted, high class craftsmanship in every aspect. Highly recommended unless you really can’t stand costume dramas.

9. Chronicle
Chronicle? A found footage movie about youngsters with superpowers? Are you kidding me; how can you put this over serious movies including several Oscar candidates? I can because this debut film out of nowhere charmed me completely with its fresh take on genre that I’m usually not overly excited about.

10. The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods breaking into the top 10 might have to do with that it’s one of the most recent films I watched, so I still have it fresh in memory. Regardless, I had fun watching this, and “fun” is nothing to sneer at. So I’ll bring it into my top 10 to inject yet a bit more of entertainment, giving a break to all the gloomy films I usually watch.

11-20 (Unranked, alphabetic order):

The Avengers
I could never have imagined I’d enjoy a superhero movie this much. I blame Joss Whedon.


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. 

The Descendants
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. It’s like hitchhiking. Life will take you into places you didn’t plan. You just need to learn to cope.”

Ralph Fiennes breathes new life into a less popular Shakespeare play. The original lines and the modern setting mix unexpectedly well.


Martin Scorsese lets his inner film geek out in full freedom. I can’t imagine anyone else who would have been allowed to make a film celebrating film restoration and Georges Méliès. But he could afford it and as the film lover I am I loved it.

The Kid with a Bike
This was my first encounter with the Dardenne brothers and I hope it won’t be the last.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Sometimes when I go to a theatre all I want is a quick ride with a big budget action movie offering spectacular action and decent actors. This was exactly this and it served me well.

The Muppets
There wasn’t a single kid in the theatre when I watched The Muppets, and I’m not even sure of how funny it is for a child who didn’t grow up with those puppets. I did though and I had a blast. As I said in the review: “On the outside I was a frustrated office worker with a Monday Blues. But hidden inside there was a singing and smiling muppet.”

I wish this film didn’t need to be done. I wish everyone could be allowed to be themselves, using any kind of gender identity they wanted to without being questioned. Sadly enough we’re not there yet. And this film should be shown and talked about at school.

Cancer and humour doesn’t sound as if it mixes well. But in this film it did.

A couple of mentionings

There are several movies that didn’t make the cut this time, but which very well can end up somehwere on the top list by the end of the year. As I said initially: my ratings change from day to day. The current runner-ups are Warhorse, Elena, Wuthering Heights and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

I won’t talk much about bad movies, mostly because I’ve seen so few of them. So far this year there have only been two movies I’ve given a 1/5 star rating. Interesting enough they represent two extremes on a scale of artfulness. On one end we have Rock of Ages, which had an abundance of cheese but no soul. On the other end there’s Alps, which no doubt had higher artistic ambitions, but felt equally heartless, empty and boring.

So, which are your ups and downs so far this year? Which films are you pretty certain will remain on the list when it’s time to narrow down the top 10 of 2012?

44 Responses

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  1. #8 looks particularly interesting. 🙂 I’ll see if I can find it.


    June 29, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    • I definitely think that’s one for you. I’m not sure if it has opened in US yet. I know it’s been released in UK and Australia though, so I wouldn’t rule it out that it’s on its way.


      June 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm

  2. Three of those will be included in my list and I still need to see 4-5 of them. Pretty sure Kevin is my least favorite film on that list though 😦

    Like Sandy says, A Royal Affair looks good and got the top spot on Kermode’s midyear list so high hopes indeed.


    June 29, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    • I know we disagree on Kevin. We can’t be on the same page always, that wouldn’t make for a good discussion.

      I’m not as exctatic as Kermode about A Royal Affair, but it’s definitely in my top 10 and I recommend it to anyone who likes costume dramas.


      June 29, 2012 at 6:29 pm

  3. A very strong collection of films! I feel bad because many of these films were available to me in the US and I still haven’t sought them out. I particularly still want to see We Need to Talk About Kevin & Take Shelter. Moonrise Kingdom would definitely rank up there for my favorites so far this year as well, along with Jeff Who Lives At Home.


    June 29, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    • Jeff Who LIves at Home hasn’t coume out here yet, but I’m going to look out for it if it comes. Which you can’t be too sure of, sadly. Many indie movies go straight to DVD.


      June 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm

  4. My list would include (in no particular order):

    We Need to Talk About Kevin
    The Avengers

    Prometheus gets an honourable mention, need to see that one again.

    Still need to see Moonrise Kiingdom, Chronicle, Bernie, and Cabin in the Woods


    June 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    • I’ve seen Headhunters and loved it. It was on my 2011 list though; I think I watched it in November last year. Haywire I haven’t watched, but I know it’s available on DVD. I take that as a recommencation.


      June 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm

  5. Nice collection, I agree with most titles on your list, I just didn’t like Chronicle, much to my surprise, I’m usually a SF fan but this movie didn’t tick with me. So far, Tomboy is my favourite movie of the year, I really loved it.

    Also, two Belgian movies on your list, we rule 🙂 I can vouch for all the Dardenne movies, every single one that I’ve seen is excellent.


    June 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    • Sorry you didn’t connect with Chronicle. For some reason it worked for me. I think I haven’t seen enough found footage films to get tired of it. I thought of you as I included the Belgian films, imagining it might please you to see it. But it’s my honest view; I really loved both those films and it must have been hard to pick which one to send to the Oscars (I think they did the right choice in the end,)

      Also I’m really glad to hear that you liked Tomboy. It’s awesome and I’ve spoken repetedly about it, including raving about it in a podcast.


      June 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm

  6. I’ve seen your top seven, and three of them have made it to my best new films list over the last year. Still waiting to see A Royal Affair, but it probably won’t get a theatrical release here.

    All in all, it looks like you’ve had an extraordinary year at the cinema so far. At this point I would struggle to put together even a top ten of 2012 releases. I blame it mostly on the staggered release dates, usually I don’t get a chance to see what I consider the current year’s contenders until September or later. It also makes it impossible for two bloggers from different parts of the world to compare their lists. Ah well, there are a million worse problems to have.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    June 29, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    • It’s a pity if A Royal Affair doesn’t come up. It seems to get some sort of international release. Perhaps if it’s fairly successful in UK and Australia it might increase the interest in US.

      Putting together lists is hard indeed. To be honest the order between those movies isn’t that exact, not even in the top 10. But it’s fun to just toss them up and see how many GREAT movies that are done. The movie industry is NOT only about making remakes and sequels, even if we sometimes claim so. There are so many good alternatives.

      Those lists are hard to compare – or rather impossible. Yet I think it’s fun to read the lists of others. I like to get a quick picture of their taste for movies. I also get ideas about what movies to watch when they finally get here. So the more the merrier! I hope more movie bloggers will make half time lists now. I know a couple who have, like for instance Mr Buckle in Australia.


      June 29, 2012 at 11:48 pm

  7. Definitely agree about Prometheus. Yes, there were numerous flaws, but I was enthralled the entire time I watched it.

    Dave Enkosky

    June 30, 2012 at 2:56 am

    • We’re in a minority I think. It’s not going to appear on many top lists. But I’m going with my experience here. i really loved watching it, and sometimes that’s what matters.


      June 30, 2012 at 9:29 am

  8. A nice list I think – I haven’t seen many 2012 releases yet, but I think the year is starting out well.

    The Artist – I liked it, but nothing more than that. Felt that there was too much “inspiration” from Singin’ in the Rain over it.

    A Royal Affair – One of my 2012 favourites already, I absolutely loved it.

    Carnage – The best comedy I’ve seen this year I think.

    Hugo – I’d have never expected to be on the Hugo side, but I really liked this much more than The Artist. Although there were some unoriginal parts too, I think it was fresher.

    50/50 – The most recent I saw of these (we have to wait for the less commercial movies in Germany too). Liked it.


    June 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    • It’s been so long since I watched Singing in the Rain, so I didn’t even reflect of it being some kind of rip-off. To me it was just fun and inspirational and well put together and a lovely tribute to silent film, Glad to see we have some shared favorites though!


      July 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm

  9. Just saw We Need To Talk About Kevin last week. And all I have to say is……my.God. Woah, was that movie intense. High quality but not sure I’ll never be able to re-gather myself to watch it again.

    And I like costume dramas. I am now on the lookout for A Royal Affair. So thank you!


    June 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    • It is tough, but also very inspirational. With its emphasis on visuals I think it uses the strenghts of the film medium as opposed to literature or theatre, showing how it can be done. An eye-lifter to me.

      I think you’ll love A Roay Affair and I hope you’ll get the opportunity to watch it. Haven’t heard anyone disliking it yet.


      July 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm

  10. Wonderful list! And I love you for your number one. It’s at the tippy top of my list right now, too. I daresay it’ll even crack my top 100 of all-time when I re-assess that list in a couple of months.

    • Thank you Melissa! I’m glad that we share the love for We Need to Talk About Kevin. And yep, it’s got top 100 potential.


      July 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm

  11. Some great movies there Jessica. Thankfully, I’ve seen most of them. As you know, I was a bit disappointed in Prometheus and I found The Muppets to be one if the most overrated film’s of recent times. I thought the live actors took too much of the focus and there wern’t enough Muppets. I should check out Bullhead an A Royal Affair though.

    Mark Walker

    June 30, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    • I know you didn’t care as much for Prometheus. I can see the flaws but I had to rate my experience watching it and I enjoyed it so much that it belongs high on this list. As of the Muppets… maybe you’re more a muppet than a man or more a man than a muppet… anyway something obviously didn’t work. I start to smile even thinking about that film. It probably was the right film at the right moment or something.

      Bullhead and A Royal Affair you should definitely check out. I can almost guarantee you’ll like both.


      July 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm

  12. Great to see We Need to Talk about kevin, Prometheus and Take Shelter on your list. From 2012 the films I enjoyed the most so far are Prometheus and The Cabin in the Woods, though I haven’t seen Brave yet and I have a feeling I will love this one. Lots of fantastic movies are coming in the second half of the year too.


    June 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    • There are definitely many interesting films incoming. I won’t see Brave until after the summer, since it’s a few months late here. Other movies I expect to compete for spots on my top list are The Dark Knight Rising, the Hobbit and possibly Woody Allen’s new movie. And Hanneke’s latest film, provided it comes up in Sweden this year, but that’s not something to take for granted, sadly.


      July 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm

  13. Some great choices here, Jessica. I really liked Kevin and both it and Take Shelter made my Top 10 of 2011. I have not seen Tyrannosaur or Bullhead, but have heard great things. So glad you enjoyed Prometheus, and I love the presence of Moonrise Kingdom. Little surprised to see Chronicle – which I liked – but you’re right, there have been plenty of top releases so far.

    Andy Buckle

    July 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

    • Thanks Andy! You really should check out Tyrannosaur and Bullhead! There have been plenty of good films this year and more on the incoming. The rumor of the death of cinema is exaggerated.


      July 1, 2012 at 7:38 pm

  14. The first three months of any year are spent catching up on the previous year and the Oscar nonsense. So it feels like 2012 is only ~3 months old, which is handy because almost nothing from the year so far, will survive the onslaught from films released in the second half of the year (Haneke, Nolan…).

    Only Rampart, for Woody Harrelson’s central performance, is a stand-out so far. I’d expect my other loves; Chronicle and The Avengers to be swept away in 2012 part 2.

    Alan Boulton

    July 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    • Yes, I think quite a few films on this list may be swept away in the second half of the year. It’s also a bit tough for the earliest releases to survive on the top since time passes. When it’s time to make the top list for 2012 the films I have freshest in my memory will no doubt have an advantage.


      July 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm

  15. Wow is it really halfway to 2013? When did that happen.

    You have a great set of films there Jessica. Some I would definitely put in mine, some I wouldn’t.

    I think I would still have The Raid very high up in mine, along with Killer Joe. Kid with a bike was amazing too!

    I will have to think a bit harder for the rest.

    • The Raid and Killer Joe are two movies I haven’t watched. To be honest I dread The Raid a bit. There was a split among film critics where Kermode loved it and Ebert hated it. I’m a bit of a squishy so I’m not sure if I’m really up for it. We’ll see if I get the chance to see it. It hasn’t come up here so far.


      July 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

  16. It’s funny you should say there wasn’t a single kid in the theatre when you saw The Muppets because I’m pretty sure there weren’t any when I saw it either. Just a cinema packed full of people who grew up with The Muppets enjoying every last second.

    I can’t believe we’re halfway through 2012. Year is flying by!


    July 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    • I know! My theatre wasn’t packed though; but I attribute that to that they showed it at an hour, 1PM, usually aimed at families. Going on a “child” movie on your own at that hour feels odd. But we were a few who overcame the awkwardness and did it. Sadly The Muppets wasn’t marketed at all in Sweden and disappeared quickly from the theatres. I think they didn’t understand the potential audience among grownups.


      July 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

  17. Great list, We Need to Talk about Kevin is a good choice for number 1 .

    I saw Alps. I had problems with the film too, but I think there is more to it than meets the eye, which I elaborate on in my monthly round-up.

    My top film of 2012 so far is the UK documentary Dreams Of A Life (2011) Café de Flore (2011) is another new film I would recommend(about a 40-year-old havng a midlife crisis) . Both films I feel will remain on my list for the rest of the year.


    July 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    • Thanks!

      Dreams of a Life, that’s the one about the woman who died in an apartment to be found years after? I’ve so wanted to see it, but it hasn’t come up here. I also hope to see Café de Flore, but sadly no signs of it. Oh well, there’s always DVD eventually…


      July 2, 2012 at 11:49 pm

  18. Great post! I’m sorry to say that aside from Hugo, I haven’t seen any of these films yet.


    July 3, 2012 at 1:38 am

  19. Great list, Jessica! 🙂 I haven’t seen many 2012 films yet, and I don’t think that any of those I’ve seen will stay in my eventual end-of-year list. Maybe The Hunger Games.


    July 3, 2012 at 7:24 am

    • Thanks Fernando! The Hunger Games fell just outside of this list. It’s possible that it will get a honoroable mention or something like that when it’s time to summarize the full year.


      July 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

  20. Many films i haven´t seen yet that seems very interesting: Tyrannosaur, Bullhead and Take shelter. So far 2012 has been a very good year 🙂


    July 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

    • I think Tyrannosaur is out on DVD and the others hopefully will follow later this year. For all those three movies I can thank our little independent arthouse cinema in my city. I’m very fortunate.


      July 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

  21. Nice list! I agree with the vast majority of your selections, especially Take Shelter, Cabin in the Woods and Moonrise Kingdom. Still need to see Bullhead, which I really want to after reading your great piece on it.


    July 3, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    • Thanks Eric! I’m super happy if I can inspire you to see Bullhead. It’s worth it!


      July 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  22. “Some films that I didn’t immediately embrace have grown; other movies that I liked at first have turned pale as time has passed.” I feel that way too! It also depends on the mood when I watch it.

    Nice selections here! When I saw your description of Tyrannosaur I knew I probably can’t handle it. I do love Peter Mullan but that just sounds so horrid and depressing.

    I want to see A Royal Affair, I love a good costume drama! Glad to see Chronicle on here, that was quite a pleasant surprise for me as well. I know I REALLY need to see We Need to Talk about Kevin and Moonrise Kingdom!


    July 3, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    • Tyrannosaur is horrid, but eventually not as depressing as you might think of. There is some hope. I think. Maybe. 🙂

      You really need to see A Royal Affiar, We Need to Talk about Kevin and Moonrise Kingdom. I’m pretty certain you’ll love them.


      July 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm

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