Staff List: The Best Films of 2012
To say that none of the 40 + films on our staff-voted list is universally beloved is putting it mildly; but then, that’s the nature of polls like these. Every year we’ve run this poll, there’s been a runaway winner; this year, the top film crossed the three-hundred-point threshold, a first here at Sound On Sight. Not since Inglourious Basterds has a film run away so clearly with the number one spot. Our top choice received unbelievable love and support from everyone, nearly doubling the amount of points of our second place pick.
Nobody will agree on each entry, but keep in mind, Sound On Sight has always been a place that bridges the gap between mainstream and independent cinema. We love foreign films but we also love genre pics and documentaries. In other words, we cover it all, or at least we try.
With more movies in limited and general release than ever before, 2012 was a ridiculously crowded year for both casual and discerning moviegoers alike. Usually we publish a list of 25 entries but this year we’ve extended it to 40. There is just far too much to choose from and we cover too much ground to limit it to any less.
2012 was the year of disappointing blockbusters yet somehow a few managed to sneak onto the list. The year’s top grossing movie only reached the twelfth spot, and one director managed to get in two movies. Ten foreign-language films made the cut, as well as five documentaries. Twenty six contributors from around the world participated, and every film listed below received at least three votes. (In the event of a tie, which only occurs when the films get the same number of votes AND points, they share the poll number. Got it?) Yes, we have a mad method on how to calculate the results, but every year our method proves to work – in the sense that it really reflects our entire staff and our year-long-coverage.
Worth noting: Since our staff is spread out across the globe, sometimes a film will appear on our list two years in a row due to having different release dates world wide. This year, that honour goes to Once Upon A Time In Anatolia.
Anyone looking for We Need To Talk About Kevin or Kill List can refer to last year’s list.
#39: The Raid: Redemption (32 points)
Written and directed by Gareth Evans
The Raid is an action thriller with unmistakable, specific influences, but one that combines them with its own unique qualities to provide a particularly potent collection of thrills. Made in Indonesia but directed by a Welshman, the simple but effective plot of Gareth Evans’ film is almost like a mix of two of its clear influences, Die Hard and Assault on Precinct 13. A derelict apartment building in the heart of Jakarta’s slums acts as a seemingly impenetrable safe house for a ruthless gangster and an array of killers and thugs. Tasked with raiding the fortress and capturing the vicious drug lord who runs it, an elite police team enters the building while under the cover of pre-dawn darkness and silence, only for an unexpected witness to reveal their presence to the criminals in charge. The members of the unit, protagonist Rama among them, suddenly find themselves stranded and easy targets on the sixth floor. With the lights cut off, all exits blocked and a hive of the city’s most deadly criminals looking to exterminate them, the team must fight their way out to survive… (read the full review)
#39 (tie): How to Survive a Plague (32 points)
Directed by David France
How to Survive a Plague is a compelling look at LGBT protesters during the AIDS crisis in the 80′s and 90′s. The story follows two coalitions, ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), whose activism and research turned AIDS from a death sentence into a liveable condition. Plague isn’t about the history of the disease, instead about the history of a movement. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists provided a template of how grassroots activism can temper societal and governmental prejudice. In challenging the pharmaceutical industry, these men and women helped discover promising new drugs, while fighting to move them from experimental trials and directly to patients in record time. First time filmmaker David France transports viewers right in the moment of the height of the crisis by using everything in his reach: interviews, broadcasts, news reports, home videos and more. When it’s over, this documentary lingers as a testament of extraordinary determination and the will to survive. How To Survive A Plague is impressionistic in its scope, extremely moving, astonishing, important and downright inspiring. No other film in 2012 left me with tears flooding down my cheeks.
#38: The Comedy (33 points)
Directed by Rick Alverson
Written by Robert Donne
Musician-turned-filmmaker Rick Alverson obliterates American indie-film propriety in The Comedy, an alternately brutal, repellent, and (yes) hilarious hyper-black satire(?) that also happens to function as the logical endpoint of the current cinematic obsession with man-children. Tim Heidecker (still, and likely forever, best known for Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job) pulls off the fairly incredible trick of bringing to life one of the most despicable antiheroes in film history, a man semingly incapable of sincerity or affection, and imbuing him with some semblance of a poisoned inner life. Ambiguous and compelling, Alverson’s film is designed to polarize and offend, but also to embed itself in your consciousness.
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