Thursday, February 21, 2013

THE BEST (AND WORST) OF 2012

What follows is a list of my favorite films this year.  I have included runners-up and honorable mentions because any of these films could have moved higher or lower on my list depending on my mood.  All the movies I have listed are worthwhile, and I would feel comfortable recommending them.  I have also listed my least favorite films this year.  I cannot in good conscious recommend them, but by all means see them if you’re so inclined.  Just remember, you have been warned.

THE BEST OF 2012
(in alphabetical order)
AMOUR  Michael Haneke’s rigorous drama boasts the year’s best performances (from Emanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant) and the most harrowing yet compassionate portrait of the indignities of aging you are likely to see anywhere.
ANNA KARENINA  Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard reimagine Tolstoy’s beloved novel of 19th century Russian society as a comparison of urban artifice versus rural realism in this breathtaking mix of brazen theatricality and cinematic bravura.
ARGO  Director Ben Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio take a little known episode from the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and fashion a terrific blend of suspense and humor as the CIA joins forces with Hollywood to rescue embassy employees.
BERNIE  Richard Linklater’s folksy dark comedy asks the tricky question “How should we feel when someone we like does something terrible to someone we hate?”  Jack Black is a revelation, and Shirley MacLaine is pitch perfect.
DJANGO UNCHAINED  Quentin Tarantino’s bold, bloody revenge fantasy challenges our feelings about movie violence by alternating between grim realism and cartoonish carnage.  Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio give career-best performances.
LINCOLN  Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner craft a rambunctious and touching film about the messy business of politics, while Daniel Day-Lewis continues to amaze, as does Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.
LOOPER  Rian Johnson’s existential science-fiction picture starts out as a time travel thriller but soon deepens into a more contemplative (but still exciting) exploration of the seemingly endless circle of violence and revenge.
MOONRISE KINGDOM  Wes Anderson’s oddball comedy of two 12-year-olds who meet, fall in love, and run off into the wilds of a remote island to the consternation of the melancholy adults is his most charming, warm-hearted film to date.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK  David O. Russell transforms what appears to be a dysfunctional family drama into an unconventional romantic comedy with all the trimmings.  Jennifer Lawrence is spectacular.
ZERO DARK THIRTY  Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal recount the Osama bin Laden manhunt with white-knuckle urgency but leave the hard moral questions for the audience to ponder on their own – as they should.
Runners-Up of 2012
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
THE DEEP BLUE SEA
SKYFALL
WEST OF MEMPHIS
Honorable Mentions: THE AVENGERS; FAREWELL, MY QUEEN (LES ADIEUX A LA REINE); FRANKENWEENIE; THE GREY; HAYWIRE; KILL LIST; LIFE OF PI; PREMIUM RUSH
THE WORST of 2012
(in alphabetical order)
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER  The premise is ludicrous, and it goes downhill from there.
LES MIS√ČRABLES  Director Tom Hooper kills the movie musical and takes some fine actors down with it.
PROMETHEUS  Director Ridley Scott forgets everything that made the original ALIEN great and buries the franchise in hokum.
THE RAVEN  This movie is so bad, if Edgar Allan Poe weren’t already dead, he’d kill himself.

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