My Top Ten Movies for 2012–Reviewed, Not Necessarily New

Happy New Year–the Year of the Snake in 2013!  Most of all, I want to again thank all of you for your responses and comments, and for continuing to read my blog!

With 2012 coming to an end, I wanted to take a look back at the movie reviews I wrote this year.  When I counted the reviews I have written this year (=21), I wanted to see what would be my top ten favorites.  It wasn’t easy, especially for independent films.

This list is not ranked –only my top ten for 2012, grouped by genre.


1) A Separation  (March 23 review)– An Iranian “Rashomon”, this cinematic masterpiece offers a rare view of ordinary Iranians–both affluent and struggling. Minor misunderstandings morph into a slow-motion nightmare that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path.

2) Jiro Dreams of Sushi  (April 29 review)– This documentary is much more than a movie about the perfect slab of sushi.  “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” is a hauntingly elegant meditation on work, obsession, family, and the art of perfection, chronicling Jiro’s life as both an unparalleled success in the culinary world, and a loving yet complicated father.

3) Memory of a Killer (June 18 review)– With a fresh take on the revenge drama, this nail-biter transforms the hired assassin into a kind of moral hero: an aging killer with a conscience.   With an electrifying visual, almost palpable energy, “Memory of a Killer” is a highly original, disturbing and unforgettable thriller.

4) Scottsboro (July 10 review)– The history and analysis of this case deserves to be in every history book of 20th Century US civics. The landmark trial magnified rampant racism, denial of due process, and the continued North-South animosity that existed almost 70 years after the Civil War had ended.

5) Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (September 2 review)– The home-video footage of the explosive black waves surging towards the coastline of Sendai will render you speechless.  The scale and imagery are overwhelming. This superb film reveals healing wounds and healing people, even in times of disaster.

6) Between the Folds  (August 6 review)– The intersections between origami, mathematics, and science are manifested in a magical sleight-of-hand. I promise you–if you see “Between the Folds”, you will never look at origami, the same way ever again!

7) The Garden (December 3 review)– Juggling politics, race and religion as well as the rights of property ownership in a free-market society,  “The Garden” is an investigation into a complicated case of backroom dealings, racial tensions and the question of just who represents a community.


8) Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (June 30 review)– This charming movie, while a paean to the aging baby boomers who are cinephiles,  is also   a shout-out to chasing your dreams, regardless of age.  The hopeful message: it’s never too late to make things happen.


Political and Sociological

9)  Iron Lady (January 12 review)– Meryl Streep’s award-winning performance is achingly honest in its interpretation of  Margaret Thatcher’s powerful intellect, motivations, even perhaps her unconscious.

10) Arbitrage (September 29 review) In this film we witness unrelenting evil and an underlying fear of capture, committed in the pursuit of money and glory.  No one is spared.  This is a morality tale–a tale of hell in a financial guise. Richard Gere gives a virtuoso performance as a man who has lost his way on Wall Street.

Honorable Mention in Action: 

11) Safe House  (February 21 review) Though this is first and foremost a guy’s action-packed blockbuster, there is something for the rest of us. What do people sacrifice in service to the government that others don’t know about and don’t care to know anything about?  Denzel Washington superbly plays the anti-hero in “Safe House” and retains his integrity!


“Between the Folds”–Origami as Scientific Art

Vanessa Gold, producer of the film, “Between the Folds”  (winner of the 2010 Peabody award), chronicles origami, literally, “folding paper”.  Many American children have attempted this Japanese craft in elementary school, making an origami crane or simple fish.  However, origami is much, much more and has become something of a manic hobby among a number of Silicon Valley engineers.  And, this film explains why–through filming the stories of ten origami artists/scientists, who have developed origami “technology”, in engineering, industrial design, and the biological sciences. All are unconventional and provocative thinkers. As they converge on the art of origami, these artists and scientists reinterpret the world in paper. What unfolds is much more than creating a three-dimensional form from a two-dimensional sheet of paper without scissors, tape or glue.

With each artist’s unalloyed zest and devotion to his or her craft, the heroism of the art reveals itself. At first, this viewer was awestruck by the examples of modern origami–sculptural art which, in some cases, has been lacquered or bronzed: dazzling versions of birds, dragons, and almost porcelain, Hummel-like figures of musicians and court nobles. Each unique design must be individually folded: there is no mass-production process.  The  intricacy of the diagrams–templates for the folding– is an Escher-like pattern of tessellations.  Yet each artist (or should I say, performer?) expresses himself or herself through sometimes spontaneous interpretation and variation of folds.

The intersections between origami, mathematics, and science are manifested as the paper transforms into something else.  Visually, in a magical sleight-of-hand, we see how mathematics illustrates the underlying geometry of origami and conversely, as one elementary school teacher brilliantly explains, how origami illustrates mathematics.  At the highest level of mathematical abstraction, computational origami harnesses algorithms and theory to solving origami “problems”.  Mathematics in the form of paper poetry is the end result.

As if this were not mind-blowing enough,  “Between the Folds” then sketches the application of origami to medical and pharmaceutical science.  Erik Demaine, ( a MacArthur “Genius” at MIT,  and his father have pioneered computational origami  models for  the way materials can be folded. Erich has developed principles used to design car airbags and DNA protein folding.  Who would have guessed airbags and DNA  were in any way related to origami?!

I promise you–if you see “Between the Folds”, you will never look at a piece of paper, especially origami, the same way ever again!