Top 10 Movies of 2012 (Chris Bumbray)

Here we are again! Yet another year draws to a close, and overall 2012 has been an absolutely top-notch year for movies. We saw Christopher Nolan's DARK KNIGHT sage draw to a superb (if controversial) close, along with movies like THE AVENGERS and SKYFALL -- which proved that a movie can make billions and still be good...heck, maybe even great.

Before we get to the good stuff though, I feel obliged to point out that, like any year, 2012 had a few stinkers. Luckily they weren't really films anyone really cared about. Without wasting anymore time writing about them that I already have, I'd say the worst of 2012 for me included: BATTLESHIP, GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, PLAYING FOR KEEPS, THE GUILT TRIP and THE DEVIL INSIDE. Click here to check out my TOP 10 FROM 2011.

1- Django Unchained

I got a bit of grief giving DJANGO UNCHAINED a 10/10, as I've given two others this year (the next two films on this list actually). What can I say, I was lucky enough to see three films this year I completely fell in love with. To me, DJANGO UNCHAINED is Tarantino's best since PULP FICTION. While I've loved all of his movies, there's just something about DJANGO that gets me. Maybe it's the emotional heft of Foxx's performance and the very real, very ugly legacy of slavery that gives DJANGO an edge and urgency that caught me by surprise, even after devouring the screenplay a full year ago. Whatever it is, to me this is a pretty perfect film- and my top pick of 2012. All hail QT!!


2- Skyfall

In my wildest dreams, I never thought James Bond's return to the silver screen after a four year absence would have been this triumphant. Truly, SKYFALL picks up on the promise of CASINO ROYALE, and takes it to another level. Of the fifty year saga, I'd say this is the best Bond movie in over forty of those years. Director Sam Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins, composer Thomas Newman, actors Daniel Craig, Judy Dench, Javier Bardem, and (especially) writer John Logan have all proven that a Bond movie can be a whole lot more than people give it credit for. As a devotee, the 140 minutes of this outing were pure bliss.


3- The Dark Knight Rises

I know that THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has been one of the more divisive films to come out this year, with many- such as myself, adoring it- while others criticized it sharply (and their criticisms were valid- as the story does indeed have holes). But- I still loved THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, and for me, it was the perfect end to a pretty perfect series if not quite the game changer THE DARK KNIGHT was (a tall order). Still, this came pretty damn close. I can't wait to see what Christopher Nolan does next. And if he decides to return to the saga one day- well...I won't complain.


4- Argo

Ben Affleck's three-for-three in my book. Who would have thought back in the "Bennifer" days that eventually Affleck would emerge as one of the best actor/directors since Clint Eastwood. That ARGO made $100 million dollars gives me hope that maybe audiences aren't as afraid of smart films as Hollywood thinks. The "stranger than fiction" caper, and the pitch-perfect performances from Affleck and Co., make this one of the year's happiest success stories. It's two hours of pure cinematic joy.


5- Killing Them Softly

The failure of KILLING THEM SOFTLY was probably inevitable. No one will ever accuse director Andrew Dominik of being particularly commercial, but to me, this was equal to his other (amazing) Brad Pitt flop, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Dominik's a maverick, and we need more like him. KILLING THEM SOFTLY is a stunning piece of work, and one that I'm almost certain, will be hailed as some kind of masterpiece ten or twenty years from now.


6- Zero Dark Thirty

Yes, Katherine Bigelow's ZERO DARK THIRTY is as good as you've heard. In every way, this is the perfect follow-up to THE HURT LOCKER, taking a much different, much quieter look at the war on terror, with Jessica Chastain's driven, nearly-robotic CIA agent, Maya- being an interesting contrast to Jeremy Renner's loose-cannon in that earlier film. Chastain seems a shoe-in for best actress at this point, and hopefully she wins. This is one you'll likely be hearing loads and loads about in the next few months. Years from now, this will likely be considered a defining film of our era.

7- The Perks of Being a Wallflower

PERKS is a film that totally caught me off-guard. I was originally going to blow-off the TIFF screening, but luckily, that didn't happen and I ended up falling in love with what has to be the best teen film since JUNO. It's a beautiful flick, and some kind of tiny masterpiece of the high-school genre. John Hughes would be proud. Parts of this movie devastated me, and it's one of the few films I've seen recently that almost moved me to tears.


8- The Master

For sure, THE MASTER isn't a film for everyone. It's long, complex, and occasionally a struggle to get through- but give it a chance and you'll be rewarded with one of the most thematically rich films of the year. Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Joaquin Phoenix are both revelatory in Paul Thomas Anderson's expose of fraud religions (with Scientology no doubt being a huge influence). This is the kind of film you really need to see more than once to really get. Heck, I've seen it twice, and I'm still not sure I "get it", but I sure liked it.


9- Silver Linings Playbook

This is the best romantic dramedy since JERRY MAGUIRE, and the type of film someone like Cameron Crowe should be making. Amazing then that it came from David O. Russell- a director who's not really known for this kind of thing. In the end, he ended up being the perfect choice, bringing an edge and irreverence this might not have otherwise had. And Jennifer Lawrence- who knew she had it in her?


10- Rust and Bone

If you've seen director Jacques Audiard's previous film, A PROPHET, you'll understand why I was so excited to see RUST & BONE. An unconventional (to say the least) love story, it's about a hulking brute/street fighter, who falls in love with a damaged (spiritually and physically) dolphin trainer. Together, the two manage to bring each other back from the brink, making this one of the most unexpectedly life-affirming movies of the year.

Honorable Mention- Cloud Atlas

Truth be told, there were a lot of other movies that I saw this year that I liked a lot more than CLOUD ATLAS. THE AVENGERS, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, AMOUR and FLIGHT are among them. However, CLOUD ATLAS, even if it wasn't quite the triumph we hoped it would be, had enough brilliance and ambition to make it a must for some special consideration. It's also a film that will likely improve with time, and generate a cult following. I like it, but maybe one day, I'll love it.


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