1. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
City of God meets The Wire in this fast-paced political action-thriller set in Rio de Janeiro. An exciting and devastating look at corrupt systems of law enforcement, politics and media, this was the highest-grossing film of all time in Brazil (even out-grossing Avatar).
2. Sound of My Voice
This film had me reeling for days. Brit Marling is Fox Searchlight’s darling child and master of the low-budget, high-concept science-fiction subgenre.
Tomboy is a simple, honest and heartfelt coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old girl trying to fit into a new neighborhood. Solid dramatic performances from the preteen stars of the film strengthen the sparse script, perfectly capturing the uncertainty of childhood.
This ambitious work of art is not without problems, but nevertheless comes across as one of the most beautiful films of the year. The sci-fi epic was filmed on a budget of only $500,000, yet it convincingly depicts everything from full-on Civil War battle to life on the space station.
5. Take this Waltz
Sarah Polley’s refreshingly intimate and painfully real love story is carried by the always-exceptional Michelle Williams and supported by pitch-perfect dramatic performances from comedians Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman.
6. End of Watch
Outstanding performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are the heart of this episodic look at the daily life of a pair of LA cops as they become entangled with a Mexican drug cartel.
The 16-year-old in me loves this unexpectedly fun and thoughtful teen action flick that, despite positive reviews, never managed to connect with its target audience.
8. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley have unlikely chemistry, as we are afforded a rare glimpse at average people living out their final days in the face of annihilation in this bittersweet black comedy that fell into that limbo-land between art house and mainstream cinema.
9. It’s Such a Beautiful Day
Don Hertzfeldt compiled his three most recent short projects into this feature-length, hand-animated drama photographed entirely on 35 mm film. It’s a weirdly profound and touching story about an awkward and often very relatable stick-figure man, stricken with some kind of terminal illness.
10. Kill List
Kill List is the most disturbing film I programmed in 2012, so it’s not surprising that more than a few audience members walked out. Writer-director Ben Wheatley pulls a bait-and-switch, letting you think you’re watching a genre film about a hit man with marital problems before throwing you headlong into a pit of unimaginably depraved horror.
Top 10 Movies of 2012 – Molly Templeton’s Top 10
Top 10 Movies of 2012 – Rick Levin’s Top 10