Top 10 Movies of 2012 (JimmyO)

Earlier this year while putting together my list for best films of the summer, I mistakenly said that this had not been a great year. In hindsight, 2012 was a pretty damn terrific one. The past twelve months have offered so many great films that it was difficult to narrow it down to ten of my favorites. Even still, I missed out on LOOPER, THE MASTER and DJANGO UNCHAINED, which may have changed my list considerably.

From politics to romance, even a musical, there was so much that made me thankful for movies this year. It would have been easier to put together a list of twenty films as opposed to ten. Other titles that were favorites of mine that didn’t quite make this list include THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, LAWLESS, WEST OF MEMPHIS, MARLEY, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, THE GREY, CABIN IN THE WOODS and END OF WATCH. Wait a minute? Even just twenty films would have been difficult to narrow down as there were quite a few others that made this a great year to go to the movies.

Of course, there were those flicks on the opposite end of the spectrum. This included the miserably bad THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY and HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET as well as the painfully unfunny “comedies” THINK LIKE A MAN and PARENTAL GUIDANCE. And if only I could forget ONE FOR THE MONEY starring Katherine Heigl… oh wait, I did forget it.

Enough of that, onward and upward, here are my favorite films of the year. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comment section. Either way, here’s looking forward to 2013!

1 - Argo

ARGO is Ben Affleck’s third and most accomplished work to date and in the end, my favorite film of the year. This politically charged thriller is smart, suspenseful and has one hell of a thrilling ending. This is just great filmmaking all around thanks to Affleck’s talent and a great script by Chris Terrio. While this is based on a true story there is certainly some who say it isn’t all that factual, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is one fantastic film.

One of Affleck’s many strengths is the talent he puts in front of the camera. Not only does he give a terrific performance himself – in a leading role no less – he knows how to pick great co-stars. The casting choice of Alan Arkin and John Goodman is superb. The same can be said for the rest of this amazing cast, including Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochran, Christopher Denham and Kerry Bishé. Affleck has become one of the best directors working today… who knew?


2 - Lincoln

Daniel Day Lewis may be the most versatile actor working today. As Abraham Lincoln, he encompasses the man on every level possible. With every gesture, every look, he brings our sixteenth president to life. Hell, if this film were simply this magnificent actor reciting some of Lincoln’s old stories for three hours it would have been watchable. Yet it also happens to tell a fascinating story about the man.

Steven Spielberg has created an exceptional film about the president’s attempt to abolish slavery and bring an end to the Civil War. It is a graceful and inspiring film that is well deserving of the praise. Aside from Lewis, Sally Field gives another wonderful performance as Mary Todd Lincoln. As I walked out of the theatre, one of the audience members mentioned how beautiful the movie was… I agree wholeheartedly. This is one of the most beautifully directed, acted and written films of the year.

3 - Zero Dark Thirty

Director Kathryn Bigelow’s morally complex feature documents the ten-year hunt for Osama bin Laden with such ferocity that you can’t help but be taken in. There is a real sense of horror as a CIA officer finds herself closing in on the al Qaeda leader held responsible for 9/11. It is a tense and sometimes chilling look at the manhunt and the lives it takes a toll on.

The film plays on an even field focusing on this story without feeling like simply propaganda. It also helps that Jessica Chastain is phenomenal as the one person who never gave up her search. The actress carries an already powerful and provocative feature. Whether or not this is all absolutely one-hundred percent true I don’t know. Either way it is a brilliantly told tale that will haunt you for days after.


4 - Skyfall

Daniel Craig is a perfect James Bond and his return to the franchise is a welcome one. SKYFALL begins with a thrilling chase that travels from rooftops to a fast moving train. And while many still feel it isn’t Bond enough for them, I enjoyed the balance of the old and the new 007. Plus, Javier Bardem once again brings an incredible bad guy to life, the only problem with that may be he is not in it enough.

One of the many impressive qualities of SKYFALL is cinematographer Roger Deakins. This film is visually stunning. The Shanghai high rise fight sequence was gorgeous as well as nearly every single set piece in the film. And in the end, Craig is a damn good Bond and I can’t wait to see where he takes this iconic character next.


5 - Les Miserables

Tom Hooper’s take on the classic Broadway musical is unique to say the least. This highly intimate portrayal of Jean Valjean and his decade long rivalry with a policeman by the name of Javert is a compelling one at that. Generally a historical piece such as this would feature its massive sets as much as the musical numbers and the actors themselves. LES MISERABLES brings the camera up close and personal with his subjects, and sometimes it is just stupendously good.

Bear in mind that this is a musical through and through and hardly a single line of dialogue is spoken, every emotion and every thought is put into song, which for the most part is not a bad thing. Sure Russell Crowe’s voice isn’t suited to this style of music, but Hugh Jackman knows his way around a Broadway musical which elevates their bitter rivalry. Yet it is the superb work of Anne Hathaway that brings this feature film to a whole new level. She is absolutely perfect. Sometimes this is nearly much too personal but I applaud its daring and inventive approach.


6 - Silver Linings Playbook

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is an exquisitely written story which manages to balance comedy and drama so remarkably well. From the perfect combination of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to the fantastic work from both Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver, this is one of the most impressive ensemble casts of the year.

PLAYBOOK’s sympathetic look at a bipolar man trying to readjust to the world around him is sometimes painful, yet always involving. We are all a little crazy on the inside, yet the severity of his issues is not treated with kid gloves, there are times when Cooper is downright detestable. Honest, heartbreaking and hilarious, this is simply a brilliantly done film that I plan to revisit soon.

7 - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is one of the biggest surprises of the year. Logan Lerman is fantastic as a loner who discovers a motley crew circle of friends. The lovely Emma Watson - who is doing very well for herself after HARRY POTTER – and the eccentric Ezra Miller play his pals who open the young man’s world up to all sorts of things… including David Bowie’s classic tune “Heroes.”

Writer/director Stephen Chbosky based the screenplay on his own novel creating a perfect blend of pop culture and character. The music is inspired and even when the story gets a little too sappy, the wonderful performances and snappy dialogue bring it quickly back to life. PERKS is a sweetly heartfelt telling of a young man growing up in a crazy mixed up world with good friends by his side.

8 - The Avengers

Joss Whedon’s gathering of all things Marvel was probably the most fun I’ve had all summer. It was incredibly entertaining to witness Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Captain America and Hawkeye together battling Loki’s army. Whedon wrote a script with great dialogue and a ton of energy. For many, this was the film that Marvel fans were hoping for.

With all the big summer blockbusters, THE AVENGERS was far and above the most enjoyable. The last act was especially exciting, with a massive battle that would decide the fate of the world these avenging superheroes protect. Clearly Joss Whedon cared about these heroes and thankfully he had the talent to bring them all together and make it work. Extra points for the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/ The Hulk as he and even his CGI counterpart almost entirely stole the show.


9 - Bernie

BERNIE is wickedly funny. Sometimes so much that you feel a little guilty for some of the laughs it contains. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, it is the “true life” tale of one of the most surprisingly well liked murderers in Texas. This dark comedy is one of the most satisfying films of the year and one of the most underrated. It is one of those movies that get better upon repeat viewings.

Jack Black is sensational as Bernie, the effeminate stranger that romances the grumpy old maid played by the legendary Shirley MacLaine. Black gives what is easily his best performance to date as the real life criminal, so much so that I hope he continues to take chances like this. BERNIE also features another terrific character for Matthew McConaughey who had a pretty damn impressive year with this, KILLER JOE, MAGIC MIKE and THE PAPERBOY. Yet as a fan of Linklater, this is easily one of his finest and of course, funniest films.


10 - Sound of Noise

If you are looking for something completely fanciful and off the wall, take a listen to the SOUND OF NOISE. This quirky mystery is about a tone-deaf policeman named Amadeus investigating a group of percussionist creating havoc in hospitals, on the streets and outside of concert halls. There is so much to love in this nifty little comic caper.

This Swedish charmer stars a very likable Bengt Nillsson as the police officer and the strikingly attractive Sanna Persson as the woman he is tracking. The drumming here is fantastic as are the clever ways the musicians find to play their music. Sometimes it makes little to no sense, yet you can’t help finding yourself tapping your feet to a different drummer.

Honorable Mention - ParaNorman

In a year filled with an assortment of great animated films, I hold a special place in my heart for PARANORMAN. The story of a misfit looking for his place in the world is cheerfully macabre with nods to Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and even John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN… how could I resist.

It is a shame that PARANORMAN didn’t find the audience it should have. For me, it was much smarter and more heartfelt than say, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA. With a terrific cast including Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher MIntz-Plasse, Leslie Mann and Casey Affleck, this dare to be different tale is one that I will return to next Halloween, and on and on.


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