12 Most Important
Films of 2012

By Karlanna Lewis 

2012 is a great year for movies. In fact, this year may even be five-star. This year has been so stellar for film no way can I just tell you one “can’t miss movie”—but what I can do is give you a dozen.

12 is a manageable number—that’s one movie each month. But since we are already into the fourth month, you have some catching up.

This is an important year for movies not because of the movies themselves, but because of what they do. The Artist, the first major silent film to be nominated for an Oscar in many years, swept the Academy Awards. In a historical feature, Meryl Streep championed the Best Actress category for the first time in far too long.

But more than big-box Hollywood’s forward-thinking steps back in time, the real reason 2012 is a “can’t-miss” year rests in the hands of the independent filmmakers. So, I present to you not one, but 12, movies of the year.

Stories with truth:

1. Being Flynn

Director: Paul Weitz
Producer: Michael Costigan and Andrew Miano
Screenwriter: Paul Weitz (based on Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City)
Actors: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano and Olivia Thirlby

Robert De Niro is one of the Hollywood icons of our generation. Even, you might say, he’s a silver screen darling. Being Flynn, told from the perspective of writer Jonathan Flynn’s (De Niro) teenage son Nick (Dano), is based on the real Nick Flynn’s memoir. The film unwinds Nick’s encounter with his father, a con-man and poet, in a New York City homeless shelter.
Being Flynn was released by Focus Features on 2nd March 2012 in the U.S. and 23rd March 2012 in the UK

2. Bully

Director: Lee Hirsch
Producer: Cynthia Lowen, Lee Hirsch and Cindy Waitt
Screenwriter: Cynthia Lowen

Originally titled The Bully Project, Bully is a documentary about bullying in American schools. The film follows the lives of five students in Georgia, Iowa, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma high schools whose peers harass them on a daily basis. Bully first garnered attention at the Tribeca Film Festival where it premiered in April 2011, but that attention grew exponentially surrounding the film’s MPAA rating controversy. One of the film’s goals is to raise awareness around the bullying issue, particularly with youth, but the MPAA gave the film an “R” rating, effectively restricting it from the audience who needed to see it most. After effective protesting, the rating was repealed in favor of a “PG-13” label.
The Weinstein Company released Bully on 30th March 2012 in the U.S., but the UK release date is still to be announced.

3. Sound of My Voice

Director: Zal Batmanglij
Screenwriter: Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling
Actors: Christopher Deham, Nicole Vicius and Brit Marling

Together with Another Earth, Sound of My Voice is one two features Marling wrote and acted in that premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Sound of My Voice, a psychological thriller about documentary filmmakers investigating a secret cult, is without doubt the stronger of the two. Initially the protagonists seek to expose the time-travelling and charismatic cult leader as a fraud, but they become entangled. Sound of My Voice is no longer about whether what the leader, Maggie (Marling), claims is true, but about belief.
Fox Searchlight Pictures releases the film on 27th April 2012 in the U.S., but the UK release date is yet to be confirmed.

Stories with laughter:

4. Natural Selection

Director: Robbie Pickering
Producer: Brion Hambel and Paul Jensen
Screenwriter: Robbie Pickering
Actors: Rachael Harris, Matt O’Leary

After cleaning out the Best Narrative Feature, Best Editing, Best Score and Breakthrough Performance categories at the 2011 South by Southwest Festival, Natural Selection turned some heads. Notably, the reverse coming-of-age road-trip tale, in which the protagonist coming of age is a Christian housewife, turned Roger Ebert’s head. He then showed the film at his Ebertfest where both Pickering and Harris were awarded Golden Thumbs. Don’t be fooled by the title—the film has no scientific or Darwinian connection. In this instance, the term refers to the housewife’s natural selection of her husband’s illegitimate son, and his selection of her, as they become each other’s greatest teachers.
Cinema Guild released the film on 16th March, 2012 in the U.S. While no UK release date has been announced as of yet, the film did enjoy a favorable screening at the London Film Festival in October 2011.

5. Damsels in Distress

Director: Whit Stillman
Producer: Martin Shafer and Liz Glotzer
Screenwriter: Whit Stillman
Actors: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke and Ryan Metcalf

Damsels in Distress was honored with a standing ovation when it debuted on the closing night of the Venice International Film Festival in 2011. The film tells a nostalgic story about a trio of girls at a male-dominated East Coast college. Charming and innocent without becoming naive, Damsels in Distress follows the girls’ campaign to reform their classmates. Not to give anything away, but their methods even include anti-depression tap-dancing.
Sony Pictures Classics released the film on 6th April 2012 in the U.S. The film concludes its UK run at the BFI Southbank on Thursday, 12th April, but will enjoy a wider UK release on 27th April.

Stories with love:

6. Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson
Producer: Jeremy Dawson, Scott Rudin, Wes Anderson and Steven M. Rales
Screenwriter: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Actors: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman

While Moonrise Kingdom is about the romance of a pair of children, older audience members will appreciate the colorful camera-work and full-hearted performances all the more. Moonrise Kingdom is set to debut on opening night of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Focus Features releases the film on 25th May 2012 in the U.S. and the UK

7. To Rome with Love

Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Letty Aronson and Benjamin Waisbren
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Actors: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eienberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page

Woody Allen has Europe on his mind. Following Midnight in Paris, Allen’s next feature is To Rome with Love and includes scenes spoken in Italian. Woody Allen is taking his films far from the Manhattan where he first claimed his fame. Weaving together four vignettes, To Rome with Love even features Allen himself in his first acting role in six years.
Sony Pictures Classics releases To Rome with Love on 20th April 2012 in Italy and 22nd June 22 in the U.S. No UK release date has been announced at this time.

Stories in other languages:

8. We Have a Pope (Habemus Papam)

Director: Nanni Moretti
Producer: Nanni Moretti and Domenico Procacci
Screenwriter: Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo and Federica Pontremoli
Actors: Michel Piccoli and Nanni Moretti

“Habemus Papam” is the Latin phrase shouted to announce a new pope. In the Italian comedy, director Moretti co-stars as the psychologist called in to help the pope beat his panic. After We Have a Pope’s success at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Moretti was added to this year’s jury. More mainstream than expected for a film about Roman Catholic popes, the only point of debate related to the fine film is its ending surprise.
Sundance Selects releases the film on 6th April 2012 in the U.S. The film showed in December 2011 for a limited UK release, and returns for a second UK release on 23rd April 2012.

9. Goodbye First Love (Un Amour de Jeunesse)

Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Screenwriter: Mia Hansen-Løve
Actors: Lola Créton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Hávard Brekke

The anticipated German-French follow-up to young director Hansen-Løve’s well-received The Father of My Children premiered in competition at the 2011 Locarno Film Festival. Goodbye First Love, is, as can be surmised, a love story, but it is more than that. Each scene is a slice of the summer you never wanted to end or that winter that couldn’t end soon enough.
Goodbye First Love is about loss, moving on, returning and finding yourself somewhere in the middle. Sundance Selects releases Goodbye First Love on 20th April 2012 in the U.S. and 4th May in the UK.

10. Monsieur Lazhar

Director: Philippe Falardeau
Producer: Luc Déry and Kim McCraw
Screenwriter: Phillipe Falardeau
Actors: Mohamed Feliag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron and Danielle Proulx

Monsieur Lazhar is the second consecutive film from Quebec nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Lazhar, whose teacher-writer wife was the target of a criminal arson attack, is now a refugee in Montreal, where he applies for a teaching post at an elementary school. Unlike other films focusing on the teacher-student relationship, Monsieur Lazhar reaches below the superficial classroom dynamics. The real learning in this French-language film is not of Moliere or Balzac, required readings for Lazhar’s class, but of humanity.
Music Box Films releases Monsieur Lazhar on 13th April 2012 in the U.S. and 4th May in the UK.

11. This Is Not a Film (In Film Nist)

Director: Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
Producer: Jafar Panahi
Actors: Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

As one YouTube comment explained, This Is Not A Film is not a film, rather “it’s his [Panahi’s] life.” Filmed away from the watchful eyes of the Iranian government, This Is Not a Film is a Persian-language documentary tracing Panahi’s life under house arrest. As of now, the Iranian government holds a prison sentence against Panahi banning him from filmmaking for 20 years. Despite roadblocks, the film was smuggled to Cannes in 2011 on a USB drive hidden within a cake.
Kanibal Films Distribution released the film on 29th February 2012 in the U.S. and 30th March in the UK.

12. In Darkness (W Ciemnosci)

Director: Agnieszka Holland
Screenwriter: David F. Shamoon (based on In the Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall)
Actors: Robert Więckiewicz

Renowned Polish director Agnieszka Holland, best known for her contributions to Polish cinema such as Europa Europa (1991), takes a 2012 forward back-step with the WWII film, In Darkness. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards, In Darkness was first shown at the Polish Film Festival in America in 2011. In Darkness, based on the true story of a Polish sewer worker in Lwów who hid Jews during the Nazi Germany era, is a complex merging of business and compassion.
Sony Pictures Classics released the film on 10th February 2012 in the U.S., 17th February in Canada and 16th March in the UK.

Fade Out:

If you also speak Persian, Italian, French and Polish you won’t be missing anything from this year’s essential films. If you don’t, excuse the subtitles—the images’ gravitas speaks for itself.

As if 12 movies isn’t enough, you can look forward to a second dose of De Niro in The Silver Linings Playbook at the year’s end. Or you might enjoy the British film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a place where things aren’t what the guests expect, but that might not be a bad thing either.

So go forth and watch, and give a toast to these fine directors. Any predictions for 2013?

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About The Author

Karlanna Lewis Karlanna Lewis, whose dreams include becoming a bird, completed her honors B.A. in Russian and Creative Writing at Florida State University in spring 2011, with an honors thesis in poetry and minor in computer science.

At Florida State Ms. Lewis was selected as an Outstanding Senior Scholar. As a graduate student at Florida State Ms. Lewis was a 2011-12 Rhodes Scholar Finalist.

She has also presented a research project on Russian literature and dance at various conferences. Ms. Lewis is a published writer and galleried artist, and in August 2011 she published her first book, Cante de Gitanas con Nombres de Luz / Songs of the Gypsies with Names of Light.

A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Ms. Lewis is a principal dancer for the Pas de Vie Ballet and has led an honors service project teaching dance to local schoolchildren. Ms. Lewis has worked multiple jobs as a cashier, teacher, and journalist her entire collegiate career and volunteered as a DJ and the continuity director for the V89 radio station.

Now as an intern at Raindance Film Festival in London, Ms. Lewis is writing articles about film, assisting with Web building projects and translating the Web site into Russian. When she leaves Raindance at the end of April she will spend a month in France as a writer-in-residence at Camac Art Centre.

In the future she plans to pursue her M.F.A. in creative writing and to eventually become a university professor. Serving as an art director for a production team is her ideal film job. Passionate about the arts and the environment, in 2011 she founded the non-profit Dancearth, an arts for social change initiative celebrating movement and the earth in which we move.

Check out her website: karlannalewis.com

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12 Most Important Films of 2012