ScreenAnarchy's Best of 2012: Hidden Gems
In 2012, the ScreenAnarchy family has grown even more global. With a line-up of contributors that stretches right around the planet, we've had the means to see a huge proportion of the new films that have emerged in the past 12 months from some of the world's most far-flung regions - and we want to tell you all about them! Whether they be the ones we love, the ones we hate, or all those that fall somewhere in between, we want to share.
So enjoy ScreenAnarchy's Best Hidden Gems from 2012!
Todd Brown - Founder and editor
Dredd 3D (dir. Pete Travis)
Assuming I need to confine my answer to something that most people actually had a chance to see then I have to go with Dredd. I'm not 100% sure why it didn't click, the decision to remain truthful to the comics and keep the helmet on throughout probably didn't help in the marketing, nor did the stench of the Stallone version. There's a fighting chance the distributor grossly overestimated the built-in audience as well, and didn't market strongly enough to people who didn't already know the title. But this is just a solid, entertaining, super violent action flick. The press was good, everybody I know who saw it liked it, and yet it dropped like a stone in cinemas. It deserved better.
Ryland Aldrich - Festivals Editor
Breakfast With Curtis (dir. Laura Colella)
My favorite yet-to-be-distributed film of 2012 is Laura Colella's charming little tale, Breakfast With Curtis. From my review: "With a loose structure that allows you time to just enjoy yourself, Colella has captured her own Never Never Land that is sure to make you want to pay a visit...Robert McKee be damned, the lack of clear plot velocity does nothing to diminish the loads of enjoyment to be had in this film viewing experience."
Kwenton Bellette - Contributing Writer
Lethal Hostage (dir. Er Cheng)
As a huge supporter of the new wave of genre cinema emerging from China's smaller provinces, I was blown away by the crime, mystery, drama hybrid that was Lethal Hostage. A relatively low-budget affair shot mostly on the China-Burma border, the film made the most of its location and extraordinary premise, coupled with a striking and original plot that plays out in a wholly unexpected manner. I was fortunate to receive a screener from the distributor but sadly it only played at a few local cinemas in China. With the burgeoning economy and better Government initiatives funding the arts, it is an exciting time to keep an eye on China and its new voices influenced by Hollywood. 2013 should be a great year for this movement, let's just hope it gets more exposure.
Joshua Chaplinsky - Contributing Writer
The Comedy (dir. Rick Alverson)
Allow me to quote myself quoting myself (What can I say? I respect my opinion):
"Rick Alverson's not-comedy, The Comedy, is currently one of my favorite films of the year. It haunts me. It is, and I quote myself, 'hilarious, transgressive, brilliant, and most people will find it unwatchable.' But that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a shot."
It's a shame that as of writing, this pitch-black gem has only grossed $37,850 at the box office. Hopefully a billion people watched it on demand.
Pierce Conran - Contributing Writer
Cut (dir. Amir Naderi)
If you have an affinity for Classic and World Cinema, Cut was made for you, though unfortunately it failed to make it onto many people's radars. A Japanese film from Iranian director Amir Naderi, it is a brutal and passionate love letter to Cinema. I saw it in March shortly after I'd seen The Artist and Hugo, two highly-acclaimed works also celebrating the medium. Though I enjoyed those films, at times I felt that they were merely very competent homages to some of Hazanavicius and Scorsese's respective influences. Naderi's film burrowed much deeper as it explored our inexorable bond with the silver screen. Searing, ferocious and gritty, Cut achieved a rare sort of transcendence through its metaphorical journey, recounting Naderi's disillusionment with the modern film industry. Though many found it violent and pretentious, for me, Cut was a cathartic paean to a lifelong passion.
Brian Clark - European Editor
The Outing (dri. Mathieu Seiler)
Director Mathieu Seiler's weird and compelling horror/fairy-tale The Outing, which I saw in Paris at L'Etrange Festival, is easily the best film I've seen this year that nobody is talking about.
When trying to pique people's interest with one of those reductive, reference-laden pitches, I usually sputter something like: Imagine if Alfred Hitchcock directed a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and asked Giallo-savants Goblin to score it. But that pitch is reductive, and it doesn't even take into account the unique balance Seiler manages between child-like wonder and near-relentless subtle tension. While Seller uses familiar elements like a family lost in the woods and "the big bad wolf," the simultaneously playful and sinister mood he creates is completely unique and absorbing.
During the Q&A, someone asked Seiler where they could see his other films. The director shrugged and said, "I don't know. Call me. None of them get distribution." Somebody please up their game and fix this.
Peter Gutiérrez - Contributing Writer
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (dir. John Hyams)
Could it be that I've been writing about the genre for too long, to the point where I've lost all perspective? If that's what you feel after hearing me claim that Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was the best horror movie I saw all year, I won't disagree with you. I will, however, take on those who contend that there was a more thoughtful, serious-minded, yet utterly nihilistic U.S. release in 2012.
Without really offering the prospect of anything redemptive, John Hyams' film provides a nightmarish deconstruction of every laughably macho violent action movie ever made. Indeed, for all its chaos and detachment, there's a warm beating heart that wants to show us the coldness of the genre when it lies to us by trying to come across as noble and/or sentimental. Contrast this uncompromisingly brutal and honest approach with that of The Expendables 2, which strategically featured the death of a young cast member in its villain-intro scene. We're supposed to care deeply about this, despite the fact that, um, the name of the franchise is "The Expendables," and countless young "bad guys" are also slaughtered.
But I digress. Underseen because it's the latest installment in a long-running series and also because it features two stars from the aforementioned brain-dead Expendables flick (and therefore is easy to dismiss as a second-rate version of a big budget actioner), USDOR was not discovered by the horror fans who would have loved it. Just consider its labyrinthine climactic sequence, with Dolph Lundgren as a cheerful zombie, and Jean-Claude Van Damme as a chilling Colonel Kurtz-like character. (Little known fact: Scott Adkins plays the same character in Zero Dark Thirty. No, I'm kidding, but watch both films that way and they become more interesting than they already are.)
Jason Gorber - Contributing Writer
Under African Skies (dir. Joe Berlinger)
Under African Skies (our review) - Not really low-budget, but it's a music doc, and few people tend to go for that sort of thing, thinking it light entertainment. It's an astonishingly good piece by Joe Beringer, for the first time really looking at the South African cultural boycott in such a nuanced way. One of my Top Ten films of the year, and deserving of being sought out on Blu-ray.
Kurt Halfyard - Contributing Writer
Gangs of Wasseypur (dir. Anurag Kashyap)
With its epic 6.5 hour running time, Anurag Kashyap's generation-spanning gangster film, Gangs of Wasseypur was always going to have a rough time getting any sort of cinema release on North American shores, even if broken into two 3-hour+ halves. Curiously, it was one of the few new-release films I saw in 2012 on celluloid, which evokes a certain nostalgia for other classics of epic crime families - America's The Godfather Trilogy, Italy's 1900, Germany's Heimat and Hong Kong's Election. The perfect nexus of history, craft, thematic heft and balls-to-the-wall entertainment, it is why Cinema was invented in the first place. In short, the film is a gift to film lovers. Sadly, we're still waiting for a DVD release with better subtitles, or a smart and daring repertory cinema to start playing this and give it the cult following it deserves.
J Hurtado - Contributing Writer
Eega, plain and simple. It got about 47 screens in the US and none of them had subtitles. Very recently I was tweeting up a storm (@zombeaner) and admitted that my proudest moment in terms of film advocacy was the success of Eega among ScreenAnarchy readers. Some of you guys took my word for it and sought out the film on the big screen without subs, some of you waited for my home video review to take the safer route. I don't care how you saw it, I'm proud to say that every single report I've heard from a reader has been incredibly positive. Heck, we even helped the film get its French premiere at the L'Etrange Festival! This is what ScreenAnarchy is for, and I thank you for trusting me.
*Runner-up: Gangs of Wasseypur (let's get this thing on some screens, people!)
James Marsh - Asian Editor
Frant Gwo and Li Yang's Lee's Adventure is a genre-hopping time travel romance from China about which I knew absolutely nothing until stumbling across it at PiFan earlier this year. At that moment I made it my mission to bring the film to Fantastic Fest, where I was delighted to see it garner an encouragingly positive reaction. Jaycee Chan stars as a compulsive gamer suffering from a temporal displacement disorder, who vows to travel back in time and save his true love (Fiona Wang) after she is killed in a car accident. Blending animation with live action, slapstick comedy with unabashed romance, the result is a fantastically entertaining sci-fi effort, the likes of which seems to emerge from China all-too-rarely.
Ben Umstead - East Coast Editor
Goodbye First Love (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)
While perhaps not entirely hidden as it did garner good notices when it was released last spring in the States, Mia Hansen-Løve's third feature seems to be largely forgotten now at year's end. I'm here to turn the spotlight back on. In what is hands down one of the most beautiful performances I've seen in a long time, Lola Creton plays Camille, a bright-eyed youth steadfast in her notions of true love. But please don't think that Camille's story is a sappy one, overwrought with melodrama. It isn't.
Hansen-Løve is one of the most nuanced, gentle and understated directors working today, and what she achieves here is nothing short of miraculous. With a fine co-creator in Creton, she beautifully captures that moment when one moves from adolescence into young adulthood, in all its joy and heartache. Her trust and belief in the then 16-year old Creton to play Camille across an 8-year period (15-22) allows for this magic to arise almost effortlessly. This rare occurrence is what makes the film so quietly profound. Contemplative Cinema at its very best, Goodbye First Love is currently available Stateside on Netflix Watch Instantly.
Ard Vijn - Contributing Writer
Game of Werewolves
At the Imagine Festival in Amsterdam I caught a screening of Lobos de Arga, distributed in most English-speaking territories as Game of Werewolves (while the UK Blu-ray release has the awful title Attack of the Werewolves). Much fun was had by all at that screening. This is just a tremendously entertaining film, from the beginning, which owes a debt to The Wicker Man, to the end, which borrows copiously from Night of the Living Dead. Watching its core group of bickering non-friends is very funny indeed, and the film contains the best finger-cutting scene that I know of. The film gets major bonus points for doing the werewolf effects old-school-style with suits, prosthetics and make-up
The fact that Lobos de Arga is in Spanish is probably the biggest reason why it hasn't been picked up as a major release in US cinemas. But don't let that deter you from seeking it out, especially if you're a fan of werewolves, because there is a right royal shitload of them in this film.