Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 12, 2013

Best films of 2012

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 2:44 pm

Those that can be seen on Netflix are marked with a D for DVD or an S for streaming. They are in no particular order of preference. I did a guest appearance on Prairie Miller’s arts show on WBAI about my picks and the film scene of 2012 in general that can be heard in the second half of this.

Narrative films

1. Neighboring Sounds – Urban ennui and class conflict in a Brazilian gated high rise community (reviewed at https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/neighboring-sounds/)

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 Norwegian 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. (review at https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/elena/)

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  https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/the-900-days/)

6. This is not a film – Iranian film director under house arrest considers his craft and his nation. (reviewed at https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/three-films-of-note-3/)

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 https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/hyde-park-on-the-hudson/)

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 https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/hari-kiri-death-of-a-samurai/

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 https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/the-central-park-five-the-loving-story/.

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 https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/5-broken-cameras-un-me/, https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/tears-of-gaza-in-my-mothers-arms/ and https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/5-broken-cameras-un-me/ respectively.

6. Dear Mandela – The first film to take on the corruption and greed of the ANC (reviewed at https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/dear-mandela/).

7. Detropia (D) – A study of Detroit’s decline without any bland reassurances about its recovery by becoming the next Williamsburg. (reviewed at https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/detropia/).

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 at https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/ikland/)

9. The Forgotten Space – Hardcore Marxist film about the worldwide transportation system and its awful impact on people and nature. (reviewed at https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/the-forgotten-space/)

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 https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/lula-son-of-brazil-the-robinson-trilogy/ )


  1. This is great, Louis. I saw and very much liked Elena, Arbirtrage, White Tiger and The Loving Story (and I appreciate your taste).

    Comment by Burghardt — January 12, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

  2. I consider your list must – seeing. Thanks.

    Comment by Michael — January 13, 2013 @ 4:19 am

  3. Louis, have you heard about Aaron Swartz’s suicide? You just mentioned him the other day.

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2013 @ 4:39 am

  4. About number 10, Patrick Keiller’s “Robinson in Ruins” has been issued as a DVD by the British Film Institute. So have his two earlier documentaries, “London” and “Robinson in Space.”

    Comment by Peter Byrne — January 13, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

  5. I just finished watching Oslo August 31st a few hours ago. I did not really care for the film. The film did have its good points. For example the dialog was very beleivable. I just do not find a middle class life in Norway or any other country empty. Does that mean that there is a problem with me rather than the film? I myself do not have much sympathy for middle class drug attics or alchohaulics. OK I understand that since I do not find drugs tempting I am not really in a position to pass judgement on people who are. I just prefer to save my sympathy for people who have really been shit on by others or by fate.

    Comment by Corporal Coran Qurtis, OSB — January 14, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

  6. Thanks for the film suggestions. I came here via CounterPunch to see if you actually meant “Swedish” as regards the Oslo film. The thought had occurred to me that Sweden was depicted as being miserable enough that a person could get dragged down by it the next country over! I’m relieved to see this appears not to be true…

    Comment by quizmasterchris — January 15, 2013 @ 7:35 am

  7. Sweden was the product of a rush job for CP. My choices, however, were arrived at over a long period of deliberation.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 15, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

  8. In no way good enough for a “top” list; but have you seen the Pruitt-Igoe Myth: story of public housing project in St Louis, Missouri: it has some very intereting interviews with ex-residents; and some shocking material about segregation in that city. Worth watching.

    Comment by Harsanyi_Janos — January 16, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

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