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Favourite flicks of a non-critic

Date: December 31 2012


They may or may not have been 'critically acclaimed' at their premieres this year, but neither of those things really matters to movie maven Mark Juddery

It's New Year's Eve, which presumably won't come as a surprise to most of you. Once again, it's time for me to list some of my favourite movies of the past year. Not the ''best'' movies, because while I still write about movies, I'm no longer strictly a reviewer.

Reviewers everywhere, of course, have been naming their best films of 2012.

I often wonder about the sincerity of these lists, as they name Beasts of the Southern Wild or the latest masterwork of Nigerian cinema from the great director Pablo Emascaopaolio (who doesn't even exist), when you can't help thinking they would rather watch the Scary Ghost Elevator Prank on YouTube.

I feel no obligation to agree with critics. Instead, before it's too late (like tomorrow), here are my favourite films from 2012. Some of them haven't even premiered in Australia yet. Others you might already know. In my own humble opinion, they were all better than The Hunger Games.

THE SAPPHIRES: I'd like to say I include this for the fresh way it tackles the stolen generations and Aussie racism, or the way it portrays the concept of joy within the torment of the Vietnam War, but no, I just like the songs (I've decided I love Jessica Mauboy, if that's OK), the funny bits and the whole ''underdogs making good'' story. I understand it had a 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes. That's just ridiculous, but it's still the kind of feel-good story that deserves a reception just like it.

A FEW BEST MEN: When I was a critic, I was sometimes so much at odds with the other critics that I thought they were part of a special critics' society in which they all knew something I didn't. This wedding farce was written by Dean Craig, the writer of the British movie Death at a Funeral, which was very similar (except that, as the name suggests, the occasion was different). Critics adored that film. This Anglo-Australian movie, however, fizzled at the box office and was despised by critics. Me? I laughed myself sick. Unexpected, because it was directed by Stephan Elliott, and I might be the only person who didn't love The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, his most famous movie. A Few Best Men has decent slapstick, clever bad taste, even Olivia Newton-John as the bride's coke-sniffing mother. Yet it was so poorly received that Quickflix didn't even include it in its top 10 Australian films of 2012. As you probably can't name 10 Australian films of 2012, that's terribly unfair.

CAROLINE AND JACKIE: I need one place for a mind-tripping film. Adam Christian Clark's directing style is like Robert Altman meets Wes Craven. This psychological drama about two sisters (splendidly played by Marguerite Moreau and Bitsie Tulloch), at least one of whom is nuts, is intriguing and unsettling, which is probably why it hasn't been released yet. (I saw it at the Tribeca Film Festival.) Worth watching, eventually.

THE AVENGERS: Yeah, this one. It was cool. Not much more to say except for an answer to the question: ''Who was the most awesome Avenger?'' Answer: Easy, it was the Black Widow. The boys either had incredible superpowers or amazing weapons. The Black Widow just had a pair of guns that, from what I recall, she never even used. But she was just as effective.

THE ZEN OF BENNETT: A classy documentary, brilliantly filmed by cinematographer Dion Beebe, explores the world of crooner Tony Bennett as he records his Duets II album with everyone from John Mayer to (most poignantly) Amy Winehouse, just weeks before her passing. As smooth as its subject.

EDDIE: THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL: I caught this Danish-Canadian horror-comedy-drama at the Tribeca Film Festival. All I can say is that it lives up to its title (it's seriously weird). Fun, though.

CLOUD ATLAS: Though it doesn't come to Australia until February, people are already talking about this movie, co-directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer. Perhaps not a masterpiece, this set of interconnected stories (all nicely done, without being outstanding) is worth watching to try to figure out what it all means, and to spot the big-name cast in their multiple roles. If nothing else, it deserves an Oscar for make-up.

CAPITAL: The latest from Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing) delves into the world of finance, where people are just as ruthless as the terrorists and assassins of his earlier films. At age 79, he's still got it.

ARGO: I saw this at the Toronto International Film Festival and thought, ''This is going to win the Oscar for best film.'' Happily, it's still impossible to say if I was right because there are so many impressive candidates. But if they somehow don't nominate Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, I'll put my money on this one.

THE MUPPETS: A movie that just had to be made. It was necessary for the future of the world. Besides, it had Amy Adams at her most adorable. I like Adams being feisty (The Fighter) and scary (The Master), but when she's adorable, another war ends. (Maybe. I'll have to check.)

■ Talk to me on mail@markjuddery.com, or tweet to me at @markjuddery.

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