My Top 10 Favorite Films of 2012

argoIt’s that time of the year again, and many of us will flock to the theaters this week to watch some of the year’s best films. Some of the year’s notable films already are available on Itunes and Netflix. I am going to trim back my “favorites” postings this year, but I can’t help but post a favorites list for one of my passions, film. I am more excited about the offerings at the theater this year than in prior years, and Americans seemed to agree with me as movie attendance increased for the first time since the Great Recession. The actors were predictable but excellent, and there were a lot of films that deserve Oscar attention. The mid-year seemed to be slow, with few films of note being released prior to August, but the fall brought some unforgettable performances and films worth a visit to the theater this holiday. Here is my list–not necessarily of “the best” films, but my personal favorites based on my estimation of their attention to excellent film making qualities such as direction, writing and character development. Other films I mention here simply inspired or moved me with their stories, messages or themes. Some, such as Les Miserables, met both criteria.

My favorite films of 2012:

Bernie

10. Bernie
The funniest film of the year, a true story, and a great performance from Jack Black about a small town Texas funeral director who murders the woman entrusted to his care. If you are from the South or Texas, this is required viewing. In docu-drama style, the interviews are with real people who knew the real Bernie, and no casting director could have been this spot-on with the performances.

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

I am biased towards any film about Louisiana culture, but this one excels. It transports us into a world that seems foreign but is within our US borders, and we are introduced to a mesmerizing character and a great new actress. A stunning debut directorial achievement, and an arousing score that Zeitlin composed. Ignore reviewers who think it’s schmaltzy. If it is, I like it.

Moonrise Kingdom

8. Moonrise Kingdom

An incredible film by Wes Anderson that is whimsical, humorous, and brilliantly acted. The cinematography has a story book quality, and the story is a simple one about the power of love.

7. The Impossible

This film about the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami is one of the most powerful presentations of natural and human disaster I’ve seen, and it’s painful to watch. But from disaster and pain comes all that is beautiful about family, life and what holds us together. Naomi Watts and Tom Holland deliver two of the most memorable performances of the year.

6. Zero Dark Thirty

This suspenseful and powerful film from Kathryn Bigelow profiles the determination of CIA agent, played masterfully by Jessica Chastain, who for a decade leads the government’s effort to hunt down OBL. The film reveals the moral complexities of the effort against terrorism without bias, and steers clear of any insinuated support for political figures to profile the real heroes in the field who worked painstakingly for a decade to bring justice for 9/11.

5. Searching for Sugar Man

A powerful and well-crafted documentary that tells the story of a man who was famous and never knew it, and then what he does when he discovers that he is. Because so few of us know of him, the film has an ironic character to it that surprises us and then challenges us in what we do when we succeed.

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This film was the most surprising one of the year. I didn’t conceive that it would be a film I would like, and I went away so moved that I was tempted to post it even higher on this list. Brilliant acting, writing and direction in a substantive film about growing up that is inspiring and beautiful. “There is a moment when you come to know that your life is not a sad story. You then feel alive.” This movie is a great reminder.

lincoln_1

3. Lincoln

While the first 45 minutes could use more character development and context, and is slow moving due tot the confusion that ensues, the last hour and a half is a beautiful and moving tribute to the president who emancipated the slaves and brought the Civil War to an end. A mesmerizing performance by Daniel Day Lewis.

2. Argo

Excellent direction from Ben Affleck, solid performances from a great cast, an intelligent script, and a suspenseful story about American heroes that deserved to be told. One of the Oscar contenders in directing, screenplay and best film for sure. And yes, Canadian heroes too.

1. Les Miserables

This stunning and beautiful film by King’s Speech director Tom Hooper features brilliant performances, live recorded music, and breathtaking cinematography that makes this musical come alive for Les Mis fans in a way that recreates the power of seeing it for the first time. We discover again that life is filled with moments of grace. See my more extensive review here. If you don’t believe that a film version can be better than than the musical itself, you have to see this one.

Honorable mention for your Netflix list: Amour, Flight, The Hunger Games, Skyfall, Wreck It Ralph, The Kid With a Bike, In the Family, The Queen of Versailles, Katy Perry: Part of Me, The Life of Pi, The Central Park Five, Koch, Ann Richards Texas, Keep the Lights On, The Sessions, Ethel, Arbitrage, The Master, How to Survive a Plague, The House I Live In, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Samsara, The Silver Linings Playbook, Sleepwalk With Me, The Avengers, Batman Returns, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Searching for Sugar Man

Not seen yet, but they are on my list: Rust and Bone, Django Unchained, A Royal Affair

My Least Favorite Five Films That I Saw in 2012

5. Prometheus

4. 2 Days in New York

3. To Rome With Love

2. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected [and one very long, disappointing] Journey

For reviews of all of the films I’ve seen this year, see my profile “Todd Bouldin” on the Facebook app Flixter.

The Movies You May Not Have Heard of But Should Definitely See:

3. The Kid With a Bike

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, this film is an extraordinary tale of a little boy who learns the lessons of childhood. The performances by Cecile de France and Thomas Doret are remarkable, the film is emotionally captivating, and it tells a tale of hope and forgiveness that is powerful and unforgettable. I loved it.

2. The House I Live In and Ann Richards Texas

Both are documentaries by my director friends Eugene Jarecki and Keith Patterson, and both are among the best documentaries I’ve seen this year. The House is a riveting and persuasive film about the devastating impact of America’s War on Drugs, and Ann Richards Texas is a funny, insightful and delightful documentary about the former Texas governor, about women in power, and the career of this woman who broke glass ceilings in a state where they are hard to break.

1. Amour

No film has captured the difficulties and pain of aging like this one. The film tenderly and with painstaking detail tells the story of an aging couple who face the realities of illness, losing physical and mental ability and the emotional experience of loss. Not a pleasant film to watch, but the director perfectly captures the colors, the sounds and the silences of aging and loss. One of the year’s remarkable films.

The Three Movies You Must See in a Theater

1. Les Miserables

2. Lincoln

3. The Life of Pi

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