The 2012 New Years List of Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen…But Should.


A wonderful little gem.  Enchanting, beguiling and often moving, it’s the story of a man and his new wife returning to his family in rural North Carolina.  Off-beat and strange in all the right ways, this one always does what a good movie should do: it makes you feel a question.

The Best Years of Our Lives

In an eerie reminder that there really is nothing new under the sun, this beautiful movie chronicling the return of servicemen from WWII is remarkably relevant today.  Following three servicemen as they attempt to reclaim the lives they left behind, this movie never ceases to startle with the force of its emotional frankness.  If it’s occasionally sentimental, it earns every tear-jerking moment with its surprising and powerful honesty.  This is old Hollywood at its best.

Higher Ground (2011)

For anyone who’s ever struggled to reconcile their faith with the baffling and seemingly capricious difficulties of life, this movie will give you lots to think about.  Vera Farmiga’s compassionate and honest meditation on living with faith and doubt is the kind of rare and poignant reflection we don’t see much on film.


This Sporting Life

In the wake of WWII, a raft of “kitchen sink films” chronicled the hardships and despair of lower-class life in Britain.  This star-crossed romance between a rugby player and his landlady is no stiff-upper-lip snoozer. Pulsing through Lindsay Anderson’s bleak and beautiful melodrama is an intimate acquaintance with desperation, longing, and heartbreak.

The Lookout

The fact that so few people actually saw this thrilling heist-movie-with-a-heart-of-gold makes me fear that American audiences really do deserve the slop they usually get.  This one is a cut above: bank robberies, guns, double-crossings and an emotional core that will actually make you feel something!  This movie’s got it all.


Jacque Tati was one of France’s great cinema artists and Playtime is widely regarded as his masterpiece.  Shot on 72mm film and meant to be enjoyed on an enormous screen, Tati’s intricately composed visuals marry precise comic choreography and immaculate production design.  Don’t bother looking for a story.  Allow yourself to be immersed in the imagination and virtuosity of Tati’s elaborately constructed satire on modern living.

The Fireman’s Ball

Milos Forman’s early masterpiece – a stinging satire of life under communism in Czechoslovakia – barely escaped banishment by the censors.  If you like the ‘mockumentaries’ of Christopher Guest, you might just enjoy this one.  Subversive political critiques notwithstanding, this story could easily have been set in Blaine, Missouri.  (Czech with English subtitles)

Judy Berlin

This was the great Madeline Kahn’s final film performance.  As much an exercise in mood and tone as anything else, if you absolutely must have resolution at the end of a movie, you might want to avoid this one.  Part of its considerable charm is the winsome way it raises lots of questions – and leaves them largely unanswered.

Il Generale Delle Rovere

If they re-made this movie today, it would star George Clooney and be chock full of melodramatic close-ups.  What is striking about this film, set in Italy during WWII, is its self-restraint.  Rossellini allows the emotional impact of the narrative’s moral power to speak for itself.  (Italian with English subtitles)

Let the Right One In

What do you mean Swedes don’t make awesome vampire movies?  (Swedish with English subtitles)

A Face in the Crowd

Though over fifty years old, this movie feels stunningly fresh and prescient today.  The cautionary tale of an ah-shucks good ‘ole boy who ascends to national media prominence (while forfeiting his soul), feels like a biographical expose of just about anyone regularly appearing on Fox News.  This is Andy Griffith as you’ve never seen him before.

Night and the City

London has never looked so bleak in this luscious black and white noir from Jules Dassin.  Bursting with deliciously corrupt characters and over-the-top performances, this fast-paced descent into London’s seedy underworld is unabashedly entertaining.  Doom has never been so much fun.


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