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Top 20 Discoveries of 2012

Posted by martinteller on December 28, 2012

This is why I watch as many movies as I do. Because every now and then, you come across a new delight, something that grabs hold of you and becomes a new favorite. Not all of these 20 films have worked their way into my personal collection (most of them have) but all left a strong impression and were exceptionally rewarding and/or surprising. Note that recent releases (for example, Mysteries of Lisbon and This Is Not a Film) are not included. The idea is to highlight those gems that I could have, and should have, discovered before now.


1. Thirst for Love (Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1966)

“Constantly jolting you with cinematic surprises, a kind of quiet wildness suitable for Etsuko’s simmering emotions.”

2. Waiting for Happiness (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2002)

“This is the type of film that keeps me searching out for new avenues to explore.”

3. Xanadu (Robert Greenwald, 1980)

“The rare treat of a movie so eager to please that it actually succeeds.”

4. Sparrow (Johnnie To, 2008)

“With a light touch, To brings warmth and comedy and sweeping romantic eloquence to the tale, where every moment is a delicious surprise and every shot is some sort of cinematic magic.”

5. Elippathayam a.k.a. Rat-Trap (Adoor Gopalakrishnan, 1981)

“Certainly one of the strangest Indian films I’ve ever seen, one that is begging to be decoded but also entrancing when appreciated on a surface level.”

6. Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern, 1960)

“A fantastic, highly enjoyable and visually captivating document of the music, its performers and its audience.”

7. Un homme qui dort (Bernard Queysanne, 1974)

“I can think of few films that provide a purer depiction of depression and alienation.”

8. Noriko’s Dinner Table (Shion Sono, 2005)

“By the end, personalities have been turned upside down and inside out, and identities have flipped.”

9. Cocorico monsieur Poulet (Jean Rouch, 1974)

“Wildly unpredictable, often hilarious, loaded with charm and with just enough strangeness to keep it interesting.”

10. Salaam Cinema (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1995)

“Both harshly cynical and warmly humanist, full of wonderful little surprises and a thoughtful new angle around every corner.”

11. Routine Pleasures (Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1986)

“There’s such a wonderful humor and freedom to it.”

12. La Promesse (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 1996)

“Slowly draws you into the drama, doling out information at a pace that never leaves you feeling either overwhelmed or lost.”

13. Duck Season (Fernando Eimbcke, 2004)

“These four young actors really play wonderfully off each other, and the relationships between the characters are a joy to watch take shape.”

14. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (Guy Maddin, 2002)

“It’s often stunningly beautiful, with ultra-soft focus and blown-out lights and expressionist angles.”

15. The Threat (Felix E. Feist, 1949)

“A tight script that sports some clever business and a fine build of tension as the situation gets more and more desperate for everyone.”

16. Streetwise (Martin Bell, 1984)

“These stories are as riveting as most fictional narratives.”

17. Female on the Beach (Joseph Pevney, 1955)

“I never quite knew where it was going next.”

18. A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)

“A sterling romantic comedy, managing to achieve a rare warmth without betraying the underlying cynicism.”

19. Home of the Brave: A Film By Laurie Anderson (Laurie Anderson, 1986)

“Original and highly enjoyable, showcasing Anderson’s unique sensibility and marvelous talents.”

20. Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 1974)

“We get an astonishingly complete portrait of the man.”

Honorable mention: Lenny, The Rock-afire Explosion, Time Regained, All the King’s Men, The Staircase, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Shield for Murder, The Big Night, Be Pretty and Shut Up, Intimidation, The Idiots, They Drive by Night, Nine Lives, Blues in the Night, Hanyo, The Devil Thumbs a Ride

And the 10 worst discoveries of 2012:

1. The Blue Planet
2. The Age of the Earth
3. American Psycho
4. The Girl in Black Stockings
5. Cat-Women of the Moon
6. Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight
7. Iron Man 2
8. Far and Away
9. Out of the Fog
10. Klimt


4 Responses to “Top 20 Discoveries of 2012”

  1. I’ve been wanting to see Xanadu, Edvard Munch, and Cocorico for a while now. Cocorico more than the others though due to your past glowing review.
    And I won’t lie about giggling when I saw Iron Man 2 on your worst discoveries list. Personally, I hated both the original and the sequel. So overrated.

    • Yeah, I don’t understand the love for the Iron Man movies, but superhero movies in general aren’t my cup of tea. I did really enjoy the Avengers, including the Iron Man stuff, but that’s probably because Whedon was involved.

      I should warn you that most people hate Xanadu.

  2. Dan said

    Apparently, I need to do a lot more discovering. I haven’t seen any of these films. I will agree that Iron Man 2 is not a movie to discover, and I enjoyed the first one.

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