For an industry that keeps wailing that it’s the end of film as we know it, the sheer amount of movies that got released on 2012 is quite astonishing. The good news is that 2012 was a vintage year for great films. There were not many surprises among the usual Hollywood tentpole monstrosities, but there are many undiscovered jewels to be found in smaller American and foreign films. Big, in this case, is not better. Here is a list of five great small movies that got buried by the blockbuster franchises, as well five of the best movies that are yet to come on 2013.
The Best Movies You Never Saw in 2012
Richard Linklater’s darkly funny hybrid of documentary and fiction features Jack Black in a bighearted performance as Bernie Tiede, a flamboyant closeted mortician who befriended a mean old widow (Shirley McLaine), and then murdered her. Was he in it for her money? The citizens of Carthage, Texas steal the show as they try to figure it out.
2. The Bay.
This cheapie in the vein of the Paranormal Activity franchise is about a terrifying environmental epidemic caused by none other than chicken shit. In the skilled hands of Barry Levinson, it has better than usual acting, stylistic flair, and plenty of dark humor. It will also give you the creeps.
3. Robot and Frank.
This refreshingly unpredictable comedy stars Frank Langella as an ornery former thief with memory loss. His grown children get him a robot, suavely voiced by Peter Saarsgard, to help him manage. Frank bristles, then learns to use the robot for his own mischief. Langella is spectacular, as always.
Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) makes brilliant high-concept movies with a fraction of the expense and bombast of say, Christopher Nolan. Alps is about a group of literal minded souls that decide to become substitutes for dead people. Bizarre and enigmatic, ultimately Alps explores how we deal with loss.
Based on the true stories of the Paris Police Child Protection Services Unit, this rich ensemble piece by actress/director Maïwen is harrowing but not devoid of humor. Its tough love and startling frankness would never get past the heroic-puritanical sensibilities of Hollywood.
The Best Movies You Still Have Time For in 2013
Michael Haneke’s tough as nails, heartbreaking, and extraordinarily crafted movie, stars the miraculous Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as an elderly couple at the end of their lives. A perfectly balanced masterpiece, it deserves every award in the book.
2. Beyond the Hills.
Two young female lovers go their separate ways after they are released from a Romanian orphanage. Alina (Cristina Flutur) comes back from Germany and finds her beloved Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) has joined a convent. Alina fights with all her might to get Voichita back, but she is up against ignorance, supersition and abuse of power. With devastating performances by the two lead actresses, winners of the acting prize at Cannes.
3. Caesar Must Die.
The Taviani Brothers return with a magnificent hybrid documentary that chronicles the staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at one of the toughest maximum security prisons in Italy, with the prisoners as the cast. Real-life mobsters, murderers and drug dealers find their acting chops and poignantly marvel at how this guy Shakespeare knows everything about their lives.
4. Frances Ha.
Frances Ha is Noah Baumbach’s sweetest movie to date, starring his muse (and cowriter) Greta Gerwig as a ditzy bohemian who clumsily tries to find her way in life. A lovely black and white homage to the movies of the French New Wave, the film is held aloft by Gerwig’s easy charm.
5. The Gatekeepers.
This series of unprecedented interviews with five former heads of the Israeli Secret Security Services, the Shin Bet, The Gatekeepers is required viewing for anyone who wishes the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would come to an end. These tough guys pull no punches, and if they say that peace is attainable through negotiation, it’s time to listen.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Yehudit started writing film reviews for La Jornada Semanal in 1986 and has written about film for Mexican newspapers and magazines like Reforma, El Financiero, Dia Siete, and others. She currently lives in New York City. She has been ranting and raving about film in her blog I’ve Had It With Hollywood since 2005.