And thus 2012 ends, and thus studios chum the waters with Oscar-bait. Some of the recent releases have been great (Zero Dark Thirty), some weird (Holy Motors), some are for your parents (Lincoln), and some are just plain sadistic (Les Misérables). But while 2012’s been full of solid movies—The Master, Argo, Magic Mike, Looper—there are always too many that are forgotten too quickly. Here are the best of those, which—if their box office receipts are any indication—you didn’t see. But hey, it’s okay! Don’t worry! I’m not mad at you! We can fix this! It’s not too late.
8. Indie Game: The Movie
7. Robot & Frank
In the near future, grumpy old man Frank (Frank Langella) is a doddering, forgetful, former cat burglar—and he’s forced by his son (James Marsden) to get a friendly robot to help him out around the house. Frank’s daughter (Liv Tyler) is morally opposed to the robot, the local librarian (Susan Sarandon) thinks it’s cute, and Frank can’t stand the thing as it cleans his house, makes him eat healthy, and threatens to give enemas.
Steven Soderbergh’s action flick landed with a sickening thud at the box office, which is terrible because it is amazing. Former MMA fighter Gina Carano plays a black ops agent who beats the holy hell out of some entitled jerks who set her up (the entitled jerks, in no particular order: Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas).
5. Miami Connection
If you’re going to be all uptight about it, fine: Miami Connection is from 1987. But considering it wasn’t until 2012 that Drafthouse Films made it widely available, I’m putting it on here and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
Cheaply made in the ’80s by “philosopher/author/inspirational speaker” Grandmaster Y.K. Kim (who also stars), Miami Connection tells the story of Dragon Sound—Florida’s hottest synth rock band, the members of which all happen to be college students, BFFs, orphans, and black belts. When they aren’t rockin’ clubs with songs about how awesome their friendship is (“Friends”) or how much they hate ninjas (“Against the Ninja”), Dragon Sound backs up their lyrics—with their fists.
4. The Raid: Redemption
This is a kung fu flick from Indonesia. So in Indonesia, apparently? They do not mess around. The Raid makes just about every other recent action movie (except Haywire!) look amateurish and terrible. People saw The Expendables 2 instead of this—a fact that our grandchildren will study as one of our generation’s greatest missteps.
3. Safety Not Guaranteed
The romantic comedy genre has a bad reputation… for a reason. But here’s one of the exceptions that proves the rule! A Sundance-approved indie flick inspired by a YTMND.com meme (stick with me, here), Safety Not Guaranteed follows a reporter (Aubrey Plaza) who’s assigned to write about a rural kook (Mark Duplass) who claims he wants someone to go back in time with him. In the time machine he’s building. Which he swears works.
Charming, original, and affecting, this thing… man. So good! You should’ve seen it!
2. Killing Them Softly
Remember what I said about Haywire’s box office being a sickening thud? Okay, imagine that, but louder. Brad Pitt stars in this adaptation of George V. Higgins’ 1974 crime novel—but writer/director Andrew Dominik transports Higgins’ story about a bunch of crooks screwing each other over to post-Katrina New Orleans, just as the financial crisis is hitting. Intense, blunt, and the sort of funny that makes you laugh and then hate yourself for it, Killing Them Softly is a hell of a thing—and a cynical, much-needed counterpoint to the empty promises of an election year.
1. The Queen of Versailles
Speaking of the good ol’ U.S. of A., The Queen of Versailles is as great of a film about America as one could hope for—even though it’s actually about the billionaire Siegel family, who live like royalty thanks to patriarch David’s obscenely profitable timeshare empire.
David’s chipper trophy wife, Jackie, and her slew of spoiled children run around Florida being filthy rich, jaw-droppingly out of touch, and generally infuriating. (As Versailles begins, the Siegels are building an even bigger, tackier mansion than the one they already live in—the new monstrosity will be the largest private home in the entire country.) And then?………………….