BEST OF THE BEST: 2012 a “splendid” year for movie buffs
In most years, I find it tough to come up with enough great films for a top-ten list. Not so 2012. I could easily have picked a baker’s dozen from this splendid year; but here are a few of my faves:
- “Life of Pi” One of the most visually stunning films ever made, ranking with such gorgeous pics as “Blade Runner,” “Koyaanisqatsi” and “Night of the Hunter”; yet it’s also a thrilling adventure that examines both story-telling and religious truth. Though I don’t agree with its ultimate message, Ang Lee’s latest is simply a masterpiece.
- “The Dark Knight Rises” Christopher Nolan concludes his beloved Batman trilogy in magnficent fashion, with a rich, complex and thrilling plot, marvelous performances from Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway -- and a series of rousingly crowd-pleasing resolutions.
- “Looper” This was truly Gordon-Levitt’s year (he also made “Lincoln” and “Premium Rush”); here, through a dazzling time-travel storyline, he gets to play Bruce Willis, who also stars in this tale that starts out as blazingly intricate sci-fi and slowly becomes an ode to love and sacrifice. Co-starring Emily Blunt.
- “Les Miserables” Dazzling new version of the stage musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel features Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Samantha Barks -- the latter nearly stealing the film as Eponine. Gripping story, stellar visuals and beautiful songs beautifully sung.
- “Moonrise Kingdom” I’m inclined to agree with critics who named this the best film yet from writer-director Wes Anderson (“Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox”); photographed with painterly color and composition, it stars Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Bill Murray in a seaside tale of two young misfits finding unlikely love as a terrifying storm threatens their island. Absolutely enchanting.
- “Flight” At first, this live-action drama from animation master Robert Zemeckis (“Polar Express,” “Christmas Carol,” “Forrest Gump”) appears to be yet another air-disaster tale; but it’s actually about alcoholism -- and one of the best films ever made on that subject. Spectacular performances from Denzel Washington as a pilot who flies under the influence and Kelly Reilly as the young woman urging him to face his addiction.
- “Silent House” Few others liked this haunted-house tale starring the preternaturally gifted Elizabeth Olsen -- but it scared the living crap out of me; and on top of that, it’s shot in one take -- 88 minutes with no apparent cuts!
- “Skyfall” Now the top-grosser in the 50-year-old James Bond franchise, Sam Mendes’ thriller is both action-packed and meditative, with strong work from Judi Dench and gorgeous photography by Roger Deakins.
- “Lincoln” Daniel-Day Lewis is poised to become the first man ever to snag a third Best Actor Oscar for his uncanny performance as the 16th president in this beautifully filmed saga from director Steven Spielberg. With a host of fine supporting actors, particularly Tommy Lee Jones as abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens and Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife.
- “The Words” While it’s not as good as “Argo” or “The Hunger Games” (both of which really belong on this list), I’m slipping “The Words” in here because it undeservedly sank without a trace after most critics trashed it. The tale of a struggling author achieving success with someone else’s manuscript, it features no less than four different framework stories-- all playing off one another in various ways. With Bradley Cooper and Dennis Quaid.
On these annual lists, I often leave the 10th spot open for films I still haven’t seen (mostly because they didn’t open here).
This year, I needed all 10 slots; but I may eventually have to add “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Silver Linings Playbook” or “The Impossible” -- the latter of which looks like a dark-horse contender for the Best Picture Oscar.