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We look back at some of the work on film and television reviewed in our pages in 2012, from Coriolanus and The Kid with a Bike to Girls and Downton Abbey.

Like Someone in Love

Kiarostami’s Tokyo

Ian Buruma

To say that this is the best film made by a foreigner in Japan would sell it short. It is a great movie tout court.


The Loves of Lena Dunham

Elaine Blair

For all of its emphasis on sexual and romantic experience, Girls never suggests that a smoothly pleasant sex life is something worthy of serious aspiration. The ultimate prize to be wrung from all of these baffling sexual predicaments is a deeper understanding of oneself.

Cloud Atlas

A Theory of Everything

Emily Eakin

The movie appears to owe as much to Ken Wilber’s brand of cerebral mysticism as to David Mitchell’s fiction, a circumstance that, at least with respect to box-office revenue, is likely to be a disadvantage.

Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom

Dreams on the Water

Geoffrey O’Brien

The phrase “adventure movie” was food, in childhood, for the most pleasurable kind of anticipation. The promise was of dreamlike freedom of movement through a world at once concrete and mysterious—a world shaped for unsupervised play.

Chris Marker

Lost Futures

J. Hoberman

One of Chris Marker’s favorite aphorisms is borrowed from George Steiner: “It is not the past that rules us—it is the image of the past.” At once unsentimentally au courant and fixated on that past, Marker was the Janus of world cinema. His unclassifiable documentaries treat memory as the stuff of science fiction.

Wuthering Heights

Taming Emily Brontë

Francine Prose

If Heathcliff and Cathy were filmed as Brontë wrote them, the result would be a love story without a conventional hero or a heroine. Their arrogance, willfulness, and brutality are diluted and tamed into something more familiar and acceptable to the cinema audience.

The Kid with a Bike

The In-Between World

Christine Smallwood

The Dardennes are interested in the everyday moral dramas of average people suffering and colliding and surviving within the so-called economic “system.” The result is neither dull nor dutiful, nor conventionally guilt-inducing for a comfortable art house audience—it is quite the opposite. Their films are tense high-wire acts of dramatic irony.


A Man of Principle

Stephen Greenblatt

Ralph Fiennes’s new film of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus conjures up a Balkan world of jostling murderers. The setting nominally is Rome, but a Rome imagined as a decaying Central European city, with graffiti-covered concrete buildings stretched along mean streets.

Downton Abbey

The Abbey That Jumped the Shark

James Fenton

Great television? Good fun, without a doubt. It’s a large sentimental contraption, coming at us, as the first trains came at us in the early Age of Steam, with a man in front, waving a red flag as if to say: you have been warned.


When Movies Kept Us Awake at Night

Charles Simic

It has always seemed strange to me that writers and poets of my generation say little about the influence of movies on their work, and yet our first knowledge of the world came from them. Thanks to the movies, we fought in hundreds of wars, clashed swords with Roman legions and Medieval knights, boxed in a ring, faced off with knives in dark alleys, escaped from orphanages, prisons, and chain gangs, met ghosts and visitors from outer space...