I have tried to put off making this list in an effort to see all of 2012’s best films. With the exception of the foreign film “Amour,” I have been successful. Putting aside that one missing piece, here is my top 10 for this past year.
This little film was able to go under the radar pretty well this year. Aside from Richard Gere’s Best Actor nomination at the Golden Globes, there was very little buzz surrounding “Arbitrage.” Gere plays a financial wizard attempting to sell of his aging empire before an unfortunate investment ruins him forever. This is a smart, well-acted film that avoids several cliches found in its sub-genre.
9. Zero Dark Thirty
The down side to all of these award-worthy films being released in late December is that the critics have already set the bar too high by the time normal people get to see a film. Although “Zero Dark Thirty” was hailed by many to be the film of the year, its awkward pacing and meandering script held it back from being anything more than my #9. It is a great thriller filled with several good performances (none of which gets as much attention as I would have liked). As much as I have enjoyed her past two films, I do hope Kathryn Bigelow finds new subject matter for her next film. “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” already share enough similarities.
8. The Avengers/The Dark Knight Rises
Yes, I’m a cheater. I didn’t feel comfortable making 1/5 of my list superhero movies, so I figured lumping them together couldn’t hurt. Both of these films show the new possibilities for their comic book genre. “The Avengers” showed studios that long-term projects that are faithful to their source material can also be very lucrative, while Christopher Nolan continued his experiment with his “What if superheroes existed in our world?” approach.
7. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson’s quirky tale of adolescent love is a hilarious and stylish comedy. His films may be an acquired taste for some, but when he’s on his game, it’s hard to find a more enjoyable comedy. It would have been nice to see Bruce Willis get a little more recognition than he did for this role, but a lack of accolades certainly doesn’t hurt the film.
6. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino’s western revenge tale has sparked some with outrage over its brutal violence and depiction of the pre-Civil War South. While there is a heavy dose of gore and violence in the film, I have a hard time believing the conditions were anything better than what we see here. What really made the film for me was Christoph Waltz playing Dr. King Schultz, a German bounty hunter. There are plenty of good performances throughout the film, but his character is probably my favorite from any film this year. Sadly, I think “Django Unchained” is one of Tarantino’s weaker films. The last 30 minutes are pretty flat compared to the rest of the film, so it drops to sixth on my list.
5. Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell’s romantic tale of sports fanaticism and mental illness won the hearts of the Oscar voters this month when “Silver Linings Playbook” was nominated for 8 Academy Awards. All of the actors in this film give inspired performances, even the smaller roles. It’s a film about relationships, human flaws and finding your silver lining. One of my favorites this year.
Another very well-acted film this year was the Steven Spielberg-helmed “Lincoln.” It’s already a commonly known fact that Daniel Day-Lewis is the ultimate actor. Toss in pretty much every other decent white male actor and you’ve got quite the ensemble. One thing that really helps the film is that we only see a few months of Lincoln’s life, as opposed to a long, bloated biopic that covers him birth to death. Solid direction, a great score and top-notch acting make this a good addition to 2012.
James Bond’s latest adventure is one of the best in the 50 year-long series. After being taken out on an assignment, Bond has to re-train himself to be the agent he once was. He also must deal with ex-agent and current terrorist Silva who’s stolen a list of undercover agent’s identities. The film delivers the same excitement of “Casino Royale” with a great villain and a very artistic direction.
2. Les Miserables
I went into this movie having not seen any of the other versions of Victor Hugo’s novel and came out wanting to watch them all. I love everything about this movie (yes, even Russell Crowe). Tom Hooper’s directing is a bit odd but I think the style works for this film. All of the actor’s do at least a decent job with both acting and singing (most excel at both) and the music is, of course, fantastic.
When I first saw “Argo,” I really liked it, but didn’t want to declare it my favorite film of 2012 just yet. Since then, I’ve seen pretty much everything else there is to see, and nothing feels as wholly complete as “Argo.” There are probably some films that have higher highs than this one, but from start to finish “Argo” knows what it is and excels at being that. Some people have problems with historical inaccuracies but that’s a minor detail in this film. I love how the film weaves together with stock footage of the hostage crisis and the look of the film is perfect for the time period. The only complaint I have is that I wish the characters were a little more interesting.
Also receiving votes: Cabin in the Woods, Flight, The Impossible, Looper, Seven Psychopaths, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, Brave, End of Watch, Dredd 3D, Wreck-It Ralph
So that’s it for the year of 2012. If you want to tell me how wrong my choices are or (preferably) how I’m exactly right, feel free to do so. Next up, I’m hoping to review the Russell Crowe/Mark Wahlberg film “Broken City.”