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Movies I saw in 2012

Something of an annual tradition by now, where Jim tells you what movies he first saw in 2012 that he enjoyed:

Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962, Agnès Varda). Sparkling and wonderful, reminds you what an amazing thing the French new wave was.

Lincoln (2012, Steven Spielberg). Beautifully played (especially by Day-Lewis) and a careful and true depiction of the times, with which I have a great emotional connection, since I am descended from at least four Civil War veterans.

Quartet (2012, Dustin Hoffman). We found this story of retired opera singers in an assisted living facility really charming. Great performances by Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly.

Dodes’ka-den (1970, Akira Kurosawa). The title means “clickety-clack” in Japanese. In a Japanese shantytown, a developmentally disabled young man pretends to run a trolley through the neighborhood. It’s really a great pleasure, and unlike any other Kurosawa film you've seen.

Bullhead (2011, Michael R. Roskam). Occasionally funny, but often quite emotionally wrenching.

Yojimbo (1961, Akira Kurosawa), Sanjuro (1962, Akira Kurosawa). These are the two movies, starring Toshiro Mifune, from which the later Clint Eastwood “man with no name” spaghetti westerns were concocted. A good deal of fun.  Kurosawa is never happier than when he has a wind machine off camera stirring the dust up on set.

Red Beard (1965, Akira Kurosawa). Mifune again, in another key, as a compassionate doctor in Japan in the years before widespread Western contact. It could happily be shown along with his earlier doctor movie Drunken Angel.

Throne of Blood (1957, Akira Kurosawa). Worth it for the archery scenes alone. This film transposes the story of Macbeth to the Japanese samurai civil wars, with Mifune as Macbeth.

Vanya on 42nd Street (1994, Louis Malle and Andre Gregory). A staged reading of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in a decaying Broadway theatre, with Julianne Moore at her most radiant.

Quai des Orfèvres (1947, Henri-Georges Clouzot). A great police procedural in classic style, set backstage in post-war Paris.

The Skin I Live In (2011, Pedro Almodóvar). It’s hard for me to come to terms with this movie. It deals with a subject that makes me cringe, but it is impossible to argue that it isn’t well plotted and beautifully filmed.

The Dinner Game (1998, Francis Veber). The funniest movie I’ve seen in a long time.

And of course movies about food…

The cooking movies called L’invention de cuisine, mostly directed by Paul Lacoste. They feature the (mostly) French chefs Pierre Gagnaire, Michel Troisgros, Michel Guerard, Pascal Barbot, Alain Passard, Michel Bras, Gerald Passedat, Olivier Roellinger, Nadia Santini. The food looks great, there are good ideas you can use, and the cooks come across as individual personages, some amiable and some not so.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011, David Gelb). Another documentary, in which an elderly man continues to run the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo, with the help of his two sons.