Because it’s never too late to waste time making lists, here are some of our writers’ favorites from 2012—and other things.

If you post your own top 10’s in the comments, we’ll be glad to form impulsive opinions and  fight over them. 


Top 10 of 2012:

1. Amour (Michael Haneke)
2. Dark Horse (Todd Solondz)
3. Bullhead (Michael R. Roskam)
4. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
5. The Master (PT Anderson)
6. The Loneliest Planet (Julia Loktev)
7. The Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russel)
8. The Kid With A Bike (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
9. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik)
10. Bernie (Richard Linklater)

Top 10 Anticipated Films of 2013:

1. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
2. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
3. Evil Dead (Fede Alvarez)
4. The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola)
5. Nymphomaniac (Lars Von Trier)
6. You’re Next (Adam Wingard)
7. Resolution (Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead)
8. Twelve Years A Slave (Steve McQueen)
9. Oldboy (Spike Lee)
10. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)

Samantha Wilson:

Top 10 of 2012:

1. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
2. Argo (Ben Affleck)
3. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
4. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
5. The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)
6. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim)
7. Sleepwalk With Me (Mike Birbiglia)
8. The Master (PT Anderson)
9. The Five-Year Engagement (Nicholas Stoller)
10. Casa de Mi Padre (Matt Piedmont)

Worst 10 of 2012:

1. Prometheus (Ridley Scott)
2. The Man with the Iron Fists (RZA)
3. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (Timur Bekmambetov)
4. The Paperboy (Lee Daniels)
5. The Lucky One (Scott Hicks)
6. Snow White and the Huntsman (Rupert Sanders)
7. The Possession (Ole Bornedal)
8. A Thousand Words (Brian Robbins)
9. American Reunion (Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg)
10. Rock of Ages (Adam Shankman) (actually the worst movie I have EVER seen)

Emily Parrish:

Top 10 Films Released In 2012 (That I Wanted To See But Didn’t):

1. Amour (Michael Haneke)
2. The Invisible War (Kirby Dick)
3. Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos)
4. The Artist is Present (Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre)
5. The Cabin In The Woods (Drew Goddard)
6. This Is Not A Film (Jafar Panahi)
7. Looper (Rian Johnson)
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
9. Side by Side (Christopher Kenneally)
10. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)

Daniel Corona:

Top 10 Movies I Saw This In 2012 (Including One I Interacted With)

1. Horse Takes it to the Limit
No movie has brought me more joy this year

2. The Comedy
Not the best movie on this list but it resonated with me.

3. The Master

4. Holy Motors
Deserving of all its praise

5. Journey
I know it’s a videogame but videogames are still moving images and this one is beautiful

6. The Unknown Skater
Stumbled across this randomly and was very pleased and surprised

7. Interview with a Cannibal
A lonely late-night viewing, follow it up with a Suehiro Maruo book.

8. Chef and Dale
Andre Callot makes great work

9. 1002 Images of the moon
A nice gesture

10. Indie Game: The Movie
Made me proud to be a game enthusiast, was even touching at times.


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I have a friend with an obsession. It’s ok, we all have one or two. But my friend’s obsession is going to be examined here slightly because he called me just after I’d finally seen Zero Dark Thirty. He asked me how it was, but told me he wasn’t going to see it. He found the film’s existence offensive. He’d read a few reviews that confirmed his view and had put his foot down. And so after a brief skirmish, in what he imagined to be a complete change of subject, he started to tell me about his latest week’s worth of pouring over digital communications, piecing together criminal networks, and liaising with local law enforcement.

My friend is an animal welfare activist. Protecting animals was a slowly discovered passion that is presently a minor obsession for him. Unlike Jessica Chastain’s composited CIA agent Maya, my friend’s obsession has nothing to do with his day job, but rather like hers it can occasionally, and strangely, fall into the category of “Who gives a fuck?”. Depending on where you’ve been in life or what pets you have at home his work risks seeming trivial at times, or at worst a distraction from larger issues. Why focus on animal abuse while millions of farm animals are being slaughtered? Why care about one life when many are at stake? There’s no overarchingly rational answer to questions like that. But of course people do care.

Zero Dark Thirty is first and foremost a detective story. But while it goes into suitably deep and murky detail about how Bin Laden was located it plays a deeper game by resting this accomplishment on the shoulders of a character about whom we learn next to nothing. Why does Maya ultimately give a fuck about Usama Bin Laden? Many of us can remember the time when the answer to this sort of question seemed obvious, but the movie’s decade long search takes us well beyond those early days. I suspect we’ve all thought back to our first reactions, to our fear and rage, and gained some perspective. But we don’t see Maya’s moment of reflection. We see the pressures and tragedies of the job reshape her desire to capture UBL into an obsession, but we aren’t shown what nurtured that desire originally or how she relates to it. This choice denies the audience an insight which many seem to crave from the movie. How does she sooth her visceral reactions to the torture she’s expected to facilitate? How does she justify it?

No character in Maya’s story gives a moral condemnation of torture. However the movie’s visual depiction of torture is a conscientious choice. It places the history we didn’t see (The CIA’s black site torture program) within the all too familiar visual context of the past decade’s history of war. We know the wars have not been fought perfectly. I doubt many would even argue they’ve been fought well. Showing the torture program as a collection of scrounged plastic pitchers and athletic mats, rented cargo ships, and cells cobbled from 2x4s and barbed wire, marks it as a product of the same hasty desperate stumblings that produced those wars. Whatever anyone in the movie might think of torture we see it strongly depicted as a flawed tool.

Once this visual context is established the movie quickly makes clear that not only is it uninterested in dwelling on morality or on Maya’s backstory, but it’s not interested in dwelling on anything except the process of gathering and synthesizing the information used to capture UBL. In the course of this it suggests the CIA might have been able to locate him years earlier, perhaps without torture, and it portrays Maya’s singular drive and confidence as crucial to discovering and destroying his final hiding place. It casts its questions in relief. Why was any of it done? Why give a fuck? The notion that the county and its bureaucracy might have moved on to some extent is presented clearly and unremarkably as Maya’s obstacle.

To quote Bruce Sterling: “We can program robots and digital devices to generate images and spew images at our eyeballs. We can’t legitimately ask them to tell us how to react to that”. Sterling was talking about computer derived aesthetics, but while watching Maya and her colleagues pour over petabytes of algorithmically gathered terrorist chatter, recordings of drone feeds and interrogations, and documents from around the globe, I couldn’t help but think it applied. In the midst of the deluge of information summoned up by the war on terror Maya finds it increasingly difficult to swim back to the source, and increasingly difficult to justify to why she needs to do so.

What keeps Maya on her trail is not justice for her country, or even vengeance for the voices heard in the opening’s black-screened audio-montage of first responders and victims (which, since Fahrenheit 9/11, seems to be emerging as the traditional device for representing the day). What ultimately motivates her is vengeance for the colleagues she lost during the search, and the certainty that her lead is the crucial piece to the mystery. But Maya can’t be seen as a superhuman protagonist whose certainty flows from total mastery of the case. It’s another younger agent who discovers the identity of the courier that leads to UBL. Maya’s is a less than rational certainty, intertwined with the obsession we watch developing but can’t ever fully see.

Zero Dark Thirty is part of a growing tradition of modern work using the investigation of murder to explore obsession (David Fincher’s Zodiac is a key example, as is Alan Moore’s graphic novel “From Hell”). That this theme has such resonance in our ever increasingly info-dense society isn’t surprising. Mysteries may seem more solvable now, but as they move into the past and leave behind exponentially larger wakes of information to be tracked and indexed and reviewed the risk for any obsession with a mystery to become dangerously all consuming increases. We can all relate now.

The answers we find for ourselves about Maya’s motivations probably won’t be of much use in any political sparing matches, but anything that gives us insight into how we approach our own obsessions is worth caring about.

-Chris Dobbins

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It’s the mark of the New New Hollywood that a film can feel at once plodding and rushed. The Silver Linings Playbook is one such curious failure, where the screenwriter seems to suffer from an abundance of trade-skill and an aching, anemic shortfall of things to say.

Adapting a novel is here given the cinematic equivalent of: the Sparknotes treatment, and the result is as riveting as that brand suggests.

Good performances and inoffensive direction cannot save a movie from such a screenplay, which finds intriguing characters shouting at one another and overcoming their odd-ball differences over quirky dinner-fare in perfunctory scene after perfunctory scene. However well these scenes play to satisfying prods, nods, quips and quibbles, they play to them mechanically. Jennifer Lawrence: radiant. Bradley Cooper: better than he’s ever been.

There’s more to say, but I don’t know what. It’s not a pastiche, but it has been done before. Whatever the dubious merits of the phrase “feel-good film,” people who think they’ll love this film probably will. In advertising, the axiom is that nothing kills a bad product quicker than good marketing. Here, that could not seem less true. The advertising (over years and years) seems to have created a product that loads of people love to “feel good” about.

A snoozefest of the Oscar variety, Silver Linings is enough to chase one away from the Cineplex and back to Netflix.

-Max Berwald

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Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 9.39.54 PM

1. Get invited to a dinner party your friends are hosting. Text the hosts asking if they would like you to pick up a film at Le Video for later. When one of them texts back Samurai Cop understand that this is not a joke. You may think that it is, but it’s not. They want you to go into Le Video and ask the cashier for Samurai Cop. They want you to embark on an adventure.

2. When you enter Le Video check your text to make sure the film is actually called Samurai Cop and not Karate Cop for if you ask for Karate Cop, you will feel like a fool and walk out of the store filled with a shame that you will carry with you for many years to come.

3. When you do ask for Samurai Cop, the first cashier will pause to think if they have it, while the second one will quickly say in a whisper: “Upstairs. Action.” You know then that he has seen this movie more than once, and probably more than twice.

4. When you slip the DVD out from its hiding place, marvel at its cover. It’s a hand-drawn cop holding a bloody samurai sword in one hand, and an even bloodier head in the other. Think to yourself, “I think this is good. I think we’ve chosen right.” Then notice the wedding ring on his finger. Samurai Cop is taken. But that’s okay, he wasn’t your type anyway.

5. Pay for the movie. Don’t shop lift! Le Video needs your help. Get a little sad when you realize you have to renew your account and it costs an extra five dollars. Feel poor. Remember to go back to that one Indian place you saw that had a help wanted sign. Look up some other Indian dishes besides naan and tikka masala when you get home. You want to seem qualified.

6. Decide you will make garlic bread for the dinner because people like garlic bread and garlic bread is easy. Get all the ingredients. Bread. Garlic. Butter. Parmesan. Parsley? No, that’s too much. You’re poor, remember? Realize you’ve never made garlic bread before and you and your boyfriend are already roasting the garlic wrong. Decide it doesn’t matter. It will probably be better this way. High-five and feel confident.

7. Show up to your friends house with brownish chunky garlic bread and at least two bottles of wine. Don’t worry, there will be at least one more bottle there.

8. Have a delicious meal with friends and talk expectations. What is a samurai cop? A cop who fights with a sword. Is he Japanese? No. Can he speak Japanese? It says he does on the back of the case. Decide that you should all just wait to watch it. Start talking about how to fry tofu. Apologize to the one guy you didn’t realize was vegan because all you brought was delicious buttery garlic bread. That’s okay. More for you.

9. Drink more. Watch one of your friends play Hotline Miami. Putter in the kitchen. Repeat.

10. Fill your glass. Insert disk. You are now ready to begin.

11. Try to watch the intro with Joe Bob Briggs. Laugh at the beginning because it’s so strange. Then realize it’s too strange and that Joe Bob is actually pretty boring. Skip to the actual film.

12. Realize very quickly that this movie may be one of the worst films you will ever see. Be grateful you just drank a lot of wine.

13. Watch the samurai cop preform only bad karate. Feel better about almost calling the film Karate Cop earlier at Le Video.

14. Realize that Samurai Cop has a black sidekick that the DVD case calls “puckish.” Laugh at this on an off throughout the film.

15. Feel slightly shocked at how sexual the movie is, then grow weary. It is more than once that a dopey-eyed girl will ask Samurai Cop, awkwardly biting her lip, “Would you like to fuck me?” Roll your eyes. Make a joke. If no one laughs make it again: they may not have heard. If after a second time no one laughs just know that it wasn’t funny. Spend the next couple scenes in shame.

16. Laugh at how ridiculous Samurai Cop looks. Extremely tan. Long hair. Small head. Thick neck. Kind of a neanderthal Tarzan. Wonder why he can’t pronounce anything in Japanese and why women are attracted to him. Shrug. Sometimes there are no answers.

17. Keep making jokes until people do laugh. Feel good. You’re so funny! You and your friends are now a regular comedy team. Zings comin’ left and right. Reward yourself with more garlic bread.

18. Get to the part with actual sword fighting. ‘FINALLY’ someone will say. Chuckle. Realize the two men fighting have probably never held a sword. Laugh. They look like children. Then feel a little sad. They look like children. Be glad when they quickly ditch the swords. It was a little too painful to watch.

19. Watch the credits role knowing that a lot wasn’t really resolved. And wait! Samurai Cop isn’t married! And he never cut off a head! Grumble about the deceitful cover.

20. Go to special features. Look at stills. Snicker. Tire. Go to commentary with Robert Z’Dar. See that he’s extremely overweight and sad. Get depressed QUICKLY. Realize you’re about to graduate.Think of the future. See yourself in a button up t-shirt with skulls and flames on it and balding head and small pony-tail. Get depressed. Look around at friends. See them happy and talking. Realize that you all are different from Robert Z’Dar and Samurai Cop. Feel hope. Know that you have a future. Feel relief and also joy for being in a room with such wonderful people. Celebrate with some garlic bread.

21. Return the DVD to Le Video the day that it’s due. Not because you wanted to watch it again, but because you like to live on the edge. Slip it silently into the DVD slot. Wonder where it’s off to next. Wonder where all the people who worked on it are today. Promise yourself you will write something better. Promise yourself you will finish that draft. Promise yourself you will get a job and start saving for your own feature.

22. Enter the store and rent something else. Feel happy that for some reason you’ve never been able to enter a video store without renting something. Embark on another adventure.

-Madeline Mahrer


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“I’m 34 years old. I have nothing. I can’t start from scratch, don’t you understand?” – Anders, Oslo, August 31st. 

Oslo, August 31st; Jeff, Who Lives at Home; The Comedy; Dark Horse; The Silver Linings Playbook

Cinema from a few different corners seems to be riding a wave of aging ennui. A couple of the year’s most extreme protagonists have trouble growing up.

Oslo follows a 34 year-old recovering drug addict who feels like he’s already missed his shot at normalcy, or better, or worse, or something.

Dark Horse follows a moronic, lazy man-child as he grapples with first love. (Sorry, that’s the best I can do.)

The Comedy follows Tim Heidecker’s pathologically insincere uber-hipster as he… lives, barely.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a fantasy revolving around a pothead who lives with his mom.

The Silver Linings Playbook follows a mentally ill man’s struggle to save his marriage after serving time at an institution. He could also be 34.

All these characters are male protagonists, at least two are mentally ill, three live with their parents, all five have unstable housing situations, all are tasked– to some degree, and perhaps least of all in The Comedy– with growing-up.

The trend is also notable then for its considerable genre straddling. We’ve got a kinda austere, philosophical meditation, two hardcore cringe comedies, a fantasy/rom-com, and a plain rom-com. I don’t know what this means, or what it’s about, but keep your eyes peeled. Also leave your thoughts for explanations, theories, or further candidates in the comments.

-Max Berwald


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The debate becomes: at what point do you become the object you’re satirizing? At what point are you supplying the culture with the thing you hoped to skewer? Is Spring Breakers supposed to be a skewering at all? Is the joke so meta that it only works when the artist’s career is scrutinized as a whole? Hopefully not. Hopefully we’ll be able to see criticism unfolding on the screen. Hopefully Spring Breakers will be to pop-reality-TV-superficial-inanity what Funny Games was to commercial-cinematic-sadism: an interrogation, and an exploration, in one cunning swipe.

For now, our only hope for blistering self-awareness comes from a cultish chant, branding the product as we encounter it for the first time. For now all we have is the whispering of two words over and over through the trailer’s climax: spring break spring break spring break.

-Max Berwald


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Why is it always so good when a Disney girl goes bad? Spring Breakers has not only notable High School Musical dropout Vanessa Hudgens in its cast, but resident bubblegum princess and Beiber-ex Selena Gomez as well. Shit’s about to get dark, ya’ll.

The fact that MTV got exclusive rights to premiering this trailer rings some alarm bells. MTV-backed movies tend to be about two things: white teen boys seeing tits for the first time, and jagerbombs. Having Harmony Korine behind the wheel makes things a little better. It’s unclear what Spring Breakers is actually about. Is this a party girl romper about making bad choices and having a little too much fun with James Franco? A dark psychological thriller about the lengths party girls will go to in order to hang out with James Franco? IS THIS ANOTHER ONE OF JAMES FRANCO’S ART PROJECTS?

While we’re on the topic, it’s completely hilarious that the MTV write-up accompanying the trailer advises us to “keep your eyes peeled for an almost unrecognizable James Franco as cornrow-wearing devious rapper/ drug dealer Alien.” Of course that’s James Franco…he looks exactly like he always does.

From what I understand, the movie centers on four bored co-eds who decide a good old-fashioned MTV spring break is just what they need. Driven by their boredom and greed, they go on a robbery spree in order to raise the funds to get down to Florida(?) (Cancun?). They take their partying a little too hard, and get in over their heads. Enter Franco, the aforementioned drug dealer named Alien. He preys on their insecurities and naievete, luring them into what looks like either A. crime ring B. bling ring C. prostitution ring. It doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that James Franco is wearing a grill, is continuing to be the worst, and the Disney machine just keeps on churning. Hudgens is no stranger to post-Disney controversy. At this point, she is best known for a string of forgettable roles and a now-public nude photo meant to be for Zac Efron’s eyes. Ostensibly, she is no longer a member of the House of Mouse and can pick any role she damn well chooses. Gomez is different. She is still Disney property, at least in the reruns. Children still have Wizards of Waverly Place t-shirts. She broke up with everyone’s teen dream like last week. And here she is, waving an AK in a push-up bra. Why push for more “adult” roles? It’s simple. Nobody wants to be confined to daytime TV forever. Think about Hilary Duff. Lizzie McGuire effectively severed her ties with Disney forever by having a threesome on Gossip Girl. Homegirl is doing just fine.

Is Spring Breakers the vehicle to take these ladies away from Toontown and into more respectable roles? Not too clear on this one. But I will be seeing it in order to hear Franco say “ya’ll want to die tonight” in real time. I have my priorities, you have yours.

-Samantha Wilson

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