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The Best Films of 2012


Best films of 2012. Those marked with an asterisk can be seen on Netflix either as DVD (D) or streaming (S). They are in no particular order of preference.

Narrative films

1. Neighboring Sounds – Urban ennui and class conflict in a Brazilian gated high rise community (reviewed at

2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (S) – A sly policier by Nuri Bilge Ceylan in which you know the killer’s identity at the outset.  The films main charms are the stark beauty of the Turkish countryside and the small talk of the cops.

3. Oslo, August 31 (S) – 24 hours in the life of a heroin addict released from a rehab center that leaves you with the feeling that his choice to go back on smack is unavoidable given the emptiness of Swedish middle-class existence.

4. Elena (S) – A Russian oligarch challenged by his wife, a member of the working class who understands the new Russian realities. Straight out of Balzac.

5. White Tiger – A new Russian film about WWII with a Nazi ghost tank being challenged by a Red Army ghost crew. A return to the good old days of Russian cinema, a combination of a Spaghetti Western and Melville. (reviewed at

6. This is Not a Film – Iranian film director under house arrest considers his craft and his nation. (reviewed at

7. Hyde Park on the Hudson (D) – FDR knocked off his pedestal and a welcome relief from the adoration of the Lincoln cult. (reviewed at

8. Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (D) – remake of a Japanese classic about the social degradation of the Samurais and one warrior’s determination to right a terrible wrong. Reviewed at

9. Arbitrage (D) – Don’t tell Oliver Stone that I said so, but this is much better than his “Wall Street” sequel.

10. The Well-Digger’s Daughter (D) – A terribly old-fashioned movie in the PBS Masterpiece Theater or Ivory-Merchant mold but beautifully filmed and acted. The real star is the French countryside.

Best documentaries

1. Central Park Five
2. The Loving Story

If you want someone to understand something about racism in America, have them see these, not “Django Unchained”. The first is about the miscarriage of justice that took place in a racist hysteria reminiscent of the Emmett Till case; the second is about a mixed-race couple’s successful fight against miscegenation laws in Virginia. Reviewed at

3. The Law in these Parts
4. Tears of Gaza
5. Five Broken Cameras (D)

Three terrific films about Zionism and the Palestinians. The first allows the Israeli judges who wrote Nuremberg type laws to dispossess Palestinians to hang themselves on their own petard. The second is war journalism about one of Israel’s blitzkriegs. The last is a beautiful and inspiring tale of a Palestinian photographer’s struggle to document his people’s struggle despite all sorts of odds, including the broken cameras. Reviewed at and

6. Dear Mandela – The first film to take on the corruption and greed of the ANC.

7. Detropia (D) – A study of Detroit’s decline without any bland reassurances about its recovery by becoming the next Williamsburg. (reviewed at

8. Ikland – A courageous attempt to redeem the Ik, a Ugandan tribe described by anthropologist Colin Turnbull in 1972 as the “worst people in the world,” sadistic and unloving even toward their children. (reviewed a t

9. The Forgotten Space – Hardcore Marxist film about the worldwide transportation system and its awful impact on people and nature. (reviewed at

10. Robinson in Ruins – another hardcore Marxist film that takes a look at the horrible legacy of Thatcherism. This and number 9 will likely never make it to Netflix but should be mandatory viewing for everybody who cares about the future of the world. Political films at their best. (reviewed at )

Louis Proyect blogs at and is the moderator of the Marxism mailing list at

Louis Proyect blogs at and is the moderator of the Marxism mailing list. In his spare time, he reviews films for CounterPunch.

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