Filmbalaya’s top 15 Films of 2012

mask2012 in film was all over the place.  Films we wanted to love left us heartbroken and films we wanted nothing to do with ended up holding a spot in our hearts.  I hate to say it was a disappointing year for film, but that seems to be the word that keeps popping into our heads.  There were bright spots though – Paul Thomas Anderson made another masterpiece, foreign directors continued to challenge Hollywood style and content, and William Friedkin (The Exorcist) exploded back onto the radar. With the amazing slate of films lined up for 2013 we may eventually look back at 2012 as the calm before the storm, but as we take shelter inside our boats and sail into that storm, these are the films we’re bringing with us.

The list is presented in alphabetical order.


6432_alps-640Giorgos Lanthimos, director of Oscar nominated Dogtooth, is back with another amazingly unique feature in Alps. The film follows a group of impersonators that rent themselves out to replace recently deceased members of a family. This obviously leads to many dark, emotional, uncomfortable and yet humorous situations. From its style to its writing Alps is fresh.  It ignores convention and delivers a thoughtful entertaining viewing experience. Anyone that loves film should see Alps, so long as they can stomach some uncomfortable violence and sexuality.

Beyond the Hills

BeyondTheHillsWhat director Cristian Mungiu has accomplished in his follow-up to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is nothing short of extraordinary.  Those who enjoy watching films made by real filmmakers need to be on the lookout for everything that Mungiu does from here on in.The story of two friends (ex-lovers?) trying to reconnect from their shared tough upbringing isn’t just plot fodder existing for the sake of good drama.  Nor are the many long takes, exceptional framing, lighting, and terrifying undertones.  Who says slow burning dramas can’t be exhilarating?


120816_Movies_CosmopolisStill.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeOf all the films on this list perhaps this one warrants the most rewatches.  Cronenberg’s latest touches on a range of topics and should appeal to anyone hungry for original visual aesthetics and/or intellectual tangents spanning various plains of thought.  Leave it to David Cronenberg to engage even the most cerebral of filmgoers with what on the outskirts appears to be a seemingly simple plot of  an independently wealthy 28-year-old traveling in his high-tech mobile office from point A to point B while in route to get a haircut.

Holy Motors

holy-motors-01I can’t reveal too much, if anything at all, as far as plot is concerned in Leos Carax‘s latest film other than to say that watching it unfold without any prior knowledge of what you’re getting yourself into will make the experience just that much more enjoyable.  My advice – for what its worth – avoid all media prior to seeing this (with the exception of this website, of course) and simply submit your senses to Carax’s highly imaginative love letter to all things cinema, enjoy the visceral tour de force, and never look back.


the-intouchables_592x299Intouchables is easily the years funniest film and probably its most heart warming narrative film as well. In it we see the true story of a wealthy quadriplegic who hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker. Given the plot it would seem inevitable that the film would slip into a corny melodrama but the film seems to avoid all the unnecessary clichés and what ensues is both heartwarming and laugh out loud hilarious. The film is rated R for language (just the basic 4 letter words) and drug use (pot) which in my opinion is a crime as not only is this film the biggest crowd-pleaser of 2012 but also a film that could and should be seen by the whole family. I officially re-rate the film PG-13!

Killer Joe

killer-joeSome directors get old and lose their edge, William Friedkin‘s edge is intact. Almost 40 years after his smash hit The Exorcist, Friedkin is still making films that are raw, bloody, and thrilling. Killer Joe is the most recent of those films. In the movie Matthew McConaughey plays a hitman hired by a trailer trash family to kill the estranged mother for their inheritance. They’re soon in way ever their head which leads to a lot of violence, laughs, and an unforgettably inappropriate family dinner with a bucket of fried chicken.

 The Master

the_master_paul_thomas_anderson-seaIn his newest film since There Will Be BloodPaul Thomas Anderson takes us through an intricately, but sparsely, woven tapestry documenting the life of a World War II veteran who suffers from rather acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a leader of a cult with enormous resemblance to L. Ron Hubbard, with much focus on the relationship of the two. This is a film destined to be a classic, and which will undoubtedly require multiple viewings to fully feel this film, for lack of a better phrase. For it’s a film to be felt more than intellectualized.

Moonrise Kingdom

moonrise-kingdom-5066596b17eb5Yes, it’s loaded Wes Andersonisms; long tracking shots of diorama set designs, quirky characters dryly spitting one-liners, at least one slow motion walking shot, and of course, a lead character with daddy issues.  But at the heart of this story, and overshadowing all the distinctive traits of this auteur there’s an exceptional story of puppy love, one that captures that first true crush of someone’s life more accurately than anything I have ever seen in cinemas before.  That alone is reason enough for it to be on this Best Of list.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

AnatoliaNuri Bilge Ceylan is truly a director to watch out for.  His second film, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, is remarkable. It follows the procession of police and associated acts as they bring a criminal around the underdeveloped but ancient region of Anatolia in Turkey. Yet this definitely is not your grandmother’s fast action criminal investigation show. Most of the time takes place in the waits between spots as they go from place to place searching for it. In this time, we are able to watch the characters interact, creating a fascinating atmospheric tension which is not immediate, but not remote either. The film is enormously sympathetic to humanity in all of its flaws and limits, and quietly investigates several aspects of it. The act of killing, power structures, denial, lost love, friendship, working relationships, normal people doing their jobs… I cannot suggest seeing this film more.

Oslo, August 31

oslo3The film follows Anders, a recovering drug addict, as he leaves his treatment facility to visit some friends and attend a job interview.  Director Joachim Trier perfectly orchestrates Anders’ day as he drifts in and out of temptation. The film feels almost to real, especially in a time when many drug films (Requiem for a Dream, Spun) take a distorted and “cool” MTV like approach to showing addiction.  As you can imagine it isn’t the happiest film ever, especially if you have ever been close to someone with a drug addiction, but it’s so well done that it easily ranks among the best films of 2012.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Emma Watson2Lets face it, judging from the poster art, cast, and trailers, there would be no reason whatsoever for anyone older than say 19 to want to check out this movie.  Those of you who had the good fortune of ignoring this ill marketed movie, good for you.  I would feel comfortable calling this movie this generation’s Breakfast Club were it not for the fact that John Hughes‘ “classic” is such a bad movie.  That’s right, I said it!  The Perks of Being a Wallflower succeeds by tackling adolescent angst with a sincerity rarely seen in movies nowadays, yet alone those aimed at the teenager demographic.  What of this years’ best?  Definitely.


Reality_h_partbEat my dust, Truman Show!  Watching this adult cautionary fable/commentary on the pursuit of one’s 15 minutes of fame has never been so satisfying.  If comedic films were to be looked at as drinks, Matteo Garrone‘s follow-up to his moody gangster film Gomorrah would be considered a freshly squeezed medley of only the heartiest of fruits.  No added manipulated Hollywood preservatives and flavorings here.  Indeed, the best part about this film is that it exists as a comedy, yet has none of the usual comedic tropes that most of the Judd Apatow comedic fans are so used to nowadays.

The Target

mishen-1The Target is far from a perfect film but the world it takes you to is magnificent. The movie is set in 2020 Russia where a group of wealthy friends travel to an abandon station called “The Target” that is rumored to have the ability to stop aging. As their lives start changing around them the group soon finds out that there are other side effects besides eternal youth. The film flashes us back to the socially relevant  and brilliant sci-fi films of the 70s while maintaining a style all of its own. The Target is a must see of modern sci-fi.


Twixt_03No offense, Tim Burton, but take notes.  If Francis Ford Coppola’s digitally photographed and fresh take on the gothic horror genre is a blueprint of things to come then I have a newly restored faith in the future of digital filmmaking.  Really, what other reason does one need to have this movie on this list?

Wild Bill

Charlie Creed-Miles and Sammy Williams in Wild BillI try to avoid all films that are described as “moving” or “touching” because I find those words usually end up meaning “corny”. Wild bill is an exception to that rule. The story of a father being released from prison after eight years and reconnecting with his two abandoned sons is a great un-romanticized look at the importance of family.


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Categories: Best Of Lists, Features

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