Best Films of 2012

I only saw 32 new movies in 2012, and while plenty were good, none of them particularly blew my mind. With a few exceptions, I steered clear of big budget studio fare and stuck mostly to documentaries and unassuming indies. There were several critical darlings of different shapes and sizes that probably would have made my year-end list if I had gotten around to seeing them, but I didn’t. From what I did see, I couldn’t come up with 10 that were worthy of a Top Ten list, so I settled on this Top Seven.

Since this is my first full year of keeping a comprehensive film diary, it’s interesting to see how the ratings I gave films when I first saw them didn’t necessarily correspond to their order (or inclusion) on this list. It’s making me think more about how time factors into assessing the merits of a film. There are movies I saw months ago that I would rate higher or lower now based on my memory of them, which speaks to both the faultiness of memory and the necessity of reflection before judgement.

  1. The Cabin in the Woods

    A postmodern love letter to horror movies. Although its premise is ultimately a bit too crazy for its own good, its dissection of the genre is more sophisticated and entertaining than that of its precursor, the Scream franchise.

  2. The Queen of Versailles

    This documentary walks an impressive line between schadenfreude and empathy as a billionaire family gets hit hard by the recession in the midst of constructing the largest single family residence in America.

  3. Michael

    A spare, unflinching, masterfully suspenseful drama whose main character, a kidnapper/pedophile, competes with his prey for the audience’s sympathy.

  4. The Innkeepers

    A good, old-fashioned ghost story with a fantastic lead and just the right amount of delightfully maddening ambiguity.

  5. Indie Game: The Movie

    A surprisingly affecting look at the sleepless and stressful lives of the makers of high profile, independently-produced video games, and how they express themselves through their work.

  6. The Imposter

    The most unbelievable true story of the year, expertly juxtaposing seemingly fictional dramatizations against all-too-real talking head interviews.

  7. Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters

    An excellent profile of one of the greatest and most distinctive photographers of our time, and a fascinating exploration of the process behind his striking images.

This piece originally appeared on Letterboxd.
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