Acep Hale

Esotericist

Top 20 Movies for 2012

Yes, I took my time with this one. Wanted to make sure I had the chance to watch some of the films that people loved and I hadn't yet seen. Prime example being Looper. I loved Brick, and after hearing that he'd asked the guy behind Primer to lend a hand with the theoretical side of time travel it seemed like a sure fire conclusion. (I did like Looper, but it veered it the last half, enough so it didn't make the list).

These aren't in any particular order, and some of them you'll have to hit your favorite P2P site because as usual, the studios are lagging behind, especially with some of the foreign films.

20. The Outing




Mathieu Seiler's latest is a deeply engrossing, adult fairytale. Starting with credits that look like Saul Bass worked on a mid-70's giallo it seamlessly introduces a family outing that slowly simmers with understated tension and hints of underlying traumas. After their dinner the family takes a short nap, only for the three women to awaken in a different part of the woods, injured, and with no memories of how they got there or what has happened to them. Seiler is a master a juggling multiple moods and story lines without ever lessening the suspense. To tell more would be to give away too much, but it is so worth your time.

19. Cut
So here's the set up. An acclaimed Iranian director filming a love letter to Japanese cinema, and it works so well it makes me cry. Shinji's brother, a low level debt collector, has been killed by the Yakuza for selling land to the Chinese. To make matters worse, his brother's debt is now his responsibility since his brother had taken out the loan to finance Shinji's film. He has 14 days to pay back 12 million yen. Shinji's plan is to go to the boxing club his brother used as an office every day, and let the yakuza punch him, as much as they want, each punch raising the price for being able to hit him. Afterwards, he comes home, puts a classic of cinema on the projector, and stands in the projected image, allowing this to heal his bruised and beaten body. This movie is definitely made by a crazed cinephile for other crazed cinephiles.

18. Beyond The Black Rainbow

Panos Cosmatos came literally out of nowhere to give us one of the great surprises of 2012. Last year was a bonanza for genre fans, and BtBR nailed the style and feel of what many of us cut our teeth on. An unabashed love letter to science fiction films of the mid-80's, BtBR is pitch perfect in its execution.

17. V/H/S

Another piece of evidence that 2012 was a bumper year for genre fans was Brad Miska's take on the horror anthology. Filled with some of the best directors working in truly independent horror, the story is framed by Wingward and Barret's tale of a group of degenerates hired by a film collector to break into a house and steal a valuable VHS tape. This framing allows Ti West, David Bruckner, and Glen McQuaid among others to do what they do best. Loved it and watched it one night after another.

16. Holy Motors

There's a reason everyone is talking about this film, and they're doing a much better job at it than I ever will. I'd recommend that you not read anything until you've seen the film, and then go ahead and see what others have said. It's so good. However, I did read a great comment the other day questioning whether this movie would have been as lauded if it had been released back when El Topo and Sweet Movie were kicking around. That's a great question and makes you realize how much we've lost.

15. The Pact




I didn't even want to post the trailer to this film because it gives too much away and so misrepresents the film it's crazy. A touch of backstory here. Cathleen is an absolute whore for sleep. Seriously, nothing on earth can keep her from her bed, and when she goes to bed, forget trying to get her up. She went to bed, I was going through NF streaming looking for something to watch and figured I'd give this a shot. Five minutes later I went and literally got down on my knees for her to come watch how they'd used the camera during the opening shot. Not only did she watch that, she stayed up very late to watch the entire film. Discoveries like these are what keep us watching one bad film after another, knowing that somewhere out there is a gem like this just waiting for us. Absolutely loved it.

14. Beijing Blues

Zhang Huiling is a cop in China's capital city, trying to protect its citizens from all manners of low level con artists. Setting up his video camera in a series of imaginative places he gathers evidence of their swindles before moving in to try and stop them. With my obvious interest in pick-pockets, grifters, street-prophets, counterfeiters and fortune-tellers this was like stepping through the pearly gates. However, what truly placed it into my top twenty this year was the final scene, where career criminal mastermind Gold-digger Zhang, who presents himself as a blind folk singer, declares he will pull off one last heist. The two stand on a bridge, watching their operatives work in a back and forth cat and mouse game that left me swooning. Track this one down.


13. Killer Joe

William Friedkin, the man is a fucking legend. When your track record consists of The Exorcist, The French Connection, and To Live and Die in LA, then yeah, you've earned the legend status. Add into the equation it was the same writer he worked with on Bug, then you knew it was going to be one hell of a film. Killer Joe is a noir that stays within one family, and holy shit did these people put the fun into dysfunctional. Chris is kicked out of the house by his mother Adele who with the help of her boyfriend steals his stash of coke, leaving him $6,000 in debt to a gang of bikers. Soon everyone is conspiring to get their hands on a $50,000 life insurance policy. Gina Gershon actually redeemed herself with this role, and McConaughey, well, he just gets to play McConaughey to the tenth power. What surprised me is that this film hits the family insanity point just as hard as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Just make sure you're not eating fried chicken while watching this one.

12. Spring Breakers


This one is going to be officially released on March 22nd but already made its way around the festival circuit. At first I had no interest in this film, except did you notice James Franco? The man rarely makes a mistake, so that piqued my interest. And thank god he did because this movie is insane. The director is Harmony Korine, writer of Larry Clark's 'Kids' and how the fuck they got this film funded is way beyond me. Halfway through I had to pause the film in order to find out who had it and when it turned out to be Benoit Debie, the dp of Gasper Noe's 'Enter the Void', I was not surprised. I will definitely be going to see this on the big screen.

11. The Thieves


Goddamnit this movie is fun! Seriously, that's the beginning and the end of it right there. Solid scripting, great action pieces, and super hot actors in amazing locales. That's the long and short of it right there. I was especially enthralled because Korean film has the money to pull off some big set pieces, and they're heavily influenced in this film by all of the HK classics, so what you're watching is another country's take on an iconic style that Hollywood plundered years ago. If you love heist films, you owe it to yourself to see this one.

10. The Woman


Holy shit did Lucky McKee hit it out of the park with this one. Starring some of my favorite actors, The Woman pulled no punches and asked for no forgiveness. Polly Mcintosh is fucking amazing in this role. It stands to the film's credit that you don't have to see Offspring, an earlier obscure film by the producer, to understand where this movie is coming from. Having seen Offspring and read Ketchum's 'Off Sesason' will help, but in all finality, this is simply evil vs evil with no punches pulled. Goddamn 2012 was good for us.

9. Kill List


Ben Wheatley, the man behind Kill List, made one of my favorite movies of all time, Down Terrace. So when this trailer leaked I was excited to see it but also a little apprehensive, hoping it wouldn't disappoint. I need never have worried because Kill List is tense from beginning to end. Jay, a private contractor, is coming off a botched job in Kiev that left him injured and unsure of himself, and as a consequence, financially struggling, a point which his wife has no problems with hanging over his head. The movie starts small with that setup, but soon turns into a veritable maelstrom of personal regrets and violent reprisals. Once again, this is one of those that if you haven't seen it yet, don't bother reading a single review and go watch it now. It will not disappoint.

8. Silver Tongues



Back in the day I used to get grilled all the time by our CFO who couldn't understand why people would hack websites without wanting to extract money. He simply couldn't put his head around it, that that many people would exhaust that many hours of work without a financial gain in the end. I was reminded of this several times in watching Silver Tongues. The movie will leave questions unanswered, and probably the best part of watching it is the conversations you'll have with friends afterwards. As with Kill List above, one of the most fascinatiing things about this film is how many lenses it can be viewed through. That being said, this is an actor's film. The performances of the two leads are a once-in-a-lifetime event and they both know and revel in this knowledge. I can't wait to see what Simon Arthur brings us next.

7. The Turin Horse


Bela Tarr is the very definition of an auteur, and any release by him makes me giddy, and this is the very best film he has ever made. In 1899 Nietzsche witnessed a horse being whipped by his owner and threw his arms around the neck of the horse to stop the violence. One month later he fell insane, a state that was to last the rest of his life. The Turin Horse asks what caused the whipping, and what happened to the horse and its owner both before and after this event. The strangest part of the film is that is feels contemporary, like a period piece, and yet post-apocalyptic all at the same time. Throw in a beautiful soundtrack by Mihaly Vig and you have a film that will stay with you forever.

6. The Invisible War

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There are documentaries that go on to make a huge and powerful difference in society, Harlan County USA and Thin Blue Line immediately spring to mind, and I hope The Invisible War will as well. Focusing on rape within the US Armed Forces, this is an extremely hard documentary to watch. Not because of the act itself as such - horrific and terrible as it is - but more so because it rapidly becomes apparent that there is an institutionalized response of trying to sweep it under the rug, and indeed, protect serial rapists within the military. Sound like a harsh claim? Watch this film. Seriously, it will fuck you up, it will make you cry and will make you want to punch the world but it truly needs to be seen.

5. A Cat In Paris


My god I love French animation. They're quite content to ignore Japanese and American trends and move along in their own damn fashion. A Cat in Paris is unapolegetically European in style and tone, a touch too dark to make parent's comfortable with an endearing message and cuddly characters. In this I applaud them, because we all know that today's over-protective environment with four year olds being wheeled around in all-terrain strollers and protected from imaginary food allergies will never, ever grow up to be indivualized adults, hence all the more reliant upon buying products to fill that ever present hole in the middle of their psyche. However, the story here? A little dark, a little violent, and willing to impart that same mythology that fairy tales used to trade in so readily. Sheer perfection.

4. Amour


Haneke nails it once again. From its opening shot to the final close, Amour is a tightly controlled, deliberately paced meditation on love, life, and dying. The plot is simple, Anne and Georges, both in their eighties, after watching one of her student's recitals, are home and settled into their daily routine when Anne has a minor stroke. After returning from a hospital visit that is as embarassing and useless as it is aggravating - let's face it, this is the norm rather than the exception these days - Anne forces Georges to promise they will never go there again.

This simple, starkly realistic premise sets up one of the most devastatingly horrible movies ever made. In all true senses of the word, this is an uncompromisingly bleak horror film, yet one that will never be labeled as such. Throw into this mix their fifty-something daughter Eva who has her own baggage to deal with and this may be one of the most painfully honest films ever made.

3. Goon


One of my favorite movies of all time is Slapshot, so when I saw this on Netflix with that guy from the American Pie movies, of course I snubbed it immediately and vowed never to watch that steaming pile of shit. Until one night, whacked out of my mind on hash, Vicodin, a half rack of beer and trying to find something to watch with Boo, we decided to give it a shot knowing we could stop it at any time. I didn't realize that not only was this a fucking hilarious movie - a great hockey comedy no less - but a Jewish hockey movie! The only thing better than seeing someone in the crowd with a cardboard sign that says, "Doug Glatt is Hebrew for Fuck You!" is the star player Xavier LaPhlegm constantly screaming "Tabernac!". (Okay, so maybe you had to grow up close to Montreal for this to be as funny as it was to us.) Goon hits all the right spots and I can't wait to double bill it with Slapshot.

2. The Raid


The first time I saw Ong Bak I remember going, "How the hell are they going to top that? You can't. People will die." And then they did Chocolate, to which I had the same response. And then the first clips of The Raid started appearing online. This movie is insane, filled from beginning to end with the most amazing stunts ever put down on celluloid. It's only made more surreal knowing that it was all done live, no stunt doubles. To watch this film is to marvel at what the human body is capable of.

1. Berberian Sound Studio


Until this film I never remembered the name Toby Jones, instead just going, "Oh, he's that guy that was in ....". After BSS, I'll never forget his name. It's that much of a defining role. Toby plays a quiet sound engineer who specializes in nature documentaries. Through a polite comedy of errors he's hired to work on an Italian giallo called Equestrian Vortex. Soon though, everything starts to go bad in a very Lynchian manner. In fact, part of the fun is decoding not only the varying stratas of the film, but identifying all the knowing nods to cult directors. BSS is a film that works on several levels and amply rewards multiple viewings.













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