My Top 10 Movies of the Year 2012

10 Movies of the Year 2012There are few traditions more established in the movie-related blogosphere (not to mention among film fans in conversation) than the annual, venerated, mocked, always-debatable “Top 10 of the Year” list. While they are as ubiquitous as New Year’s resolutions, some people actually find it difficult to name 10 new movies they liked in any given year. For any number of reasons, some find it difficult to see 10 new movies in a given year. As for me, I am usually able to easily put together a respectable list based on what I catch by way of trips to the multiplex, art house, and film festival, plus whatever I can manage at home via home video release or pre-release screeners.

An important qualifier—one that my “civilian” friends know well already from years of slogging through my annual appraisals: I’m not saying these are the 10 “best” movies released in 2012. I’ve really only seen about maybe ¼ of the movies released (which would be officially designated as eligible for awards consideration) by the time this obligation rolls around every year, so I’m more than aware I may well have missed a classic you loved or that I might rank highly.

Those who do film criticism for a living have the time and luxury to see more. I hate to miss so much, but that’s life. At any rate, I want to be certain that you note my list is comprised of my personal 10 favorites of the films I saw in 2012.

You can probably judge even from this list what kind of tastes I possess, and whether or not you’d agree with my choices if you haven’t seen a particular movie; and you can always refer back to many of my past posts here. But, as Rob Reiner said so memorably in This Is Spinal Tap—enough of my yakkin’: Let’s boogie!

Going in reverse, from the #10 spot to the #1:

10. Tie: Take This Waltz/Liberal Arts

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I think this may be the first year I felt I couldn’t choose between two movies competing for a spot in my rankings, and thus I award this tie. Both small-scale indie romantic dramedies that rely on charm and quirk, these two films provide welcome relief from all the effects-heavy behemoths Hollywood now belches out with increasing frequency. Writer/director Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz not only represents another reliably solid performance from Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn), it also contains the pleasures of a nuanced performance by funnyman Seth Rogen. While Polley’s film offers us an intimate character study from the female perspective, writer/director/star Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts takes the thirtysomething man’s point-of-view, also delivering a knowing look at the “going to college” vibe few other movies have matched.

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Also, I want to make a special mention of Elizabeth Olsen’s wonderfully authentic work in the Radnor picture. Olsen made a stunning debut in the unsettling psychodrama Martha Marcy May Marlene, and has since popped up in a few other films that received not quite as much attention. After I saw Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona, one of her earliest works, I predicted she’d go on to win the Academy Award. I made a similar observation after seeing Kate Winslet in one of her first pictures. Here, I’m going to make the same guess about Olsen. It won’t be for this movie (which got very little attention beyond its tiny release), but mark my words. With the right choices, her day at the podium will come.

9. The Paperboy

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Honestly—we live in the land of Honey Boo Boo; nobody should be begrudging me an appreciation of “trashy” material in the movies. And director Lee Daniels’ film wallows in gutter appeal to its great advantage. This is a pulpy, steamy, outrageous, and deliberately offensive Southern Gothic crime drama that boasts not only eye-poppingly outrageous performances from Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey (more on him in my next selection), but solid work from Zac Efron and a deliciously weird turn from John Cusack, maybe his finest role since Being John Malkovich. I’m an unapologetic Daniels fan; I loved both Shadowboxer and Precious: From the Novel Push by Sapphire; this is his third wonderfully subversive film.

8. Killer Joe

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If there were any justice, Matthew McConaughey would get some kind of special award for his work this year. He is putting it all on the table. Between The Paperboy and this–“Exorcist” director William Friedkin’s second adaptation of a Tracy Letts play (after the marvelously demented Bug)–McConaughey clearly has a jones to bust open his reputation as a lightweight by taking on some risky and rewarding material. Here, he plays a Texas sheriff moonlighting as a hit man, agreeing to a job he’s hired for by people who aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed. His dim-witted employers are well-played by Emile Hirsch and Thomas Haden Church; Juno Temple and Gina Gershon are also part of this brilliant ensemble, daring to shock us by baring skin or shrieking vulgarities. This is one nasty film noir with a grim sense of humor.

7. Holy Motors

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Yes, writer/director Leos Carax’ wildly unpredictable movie is a surreal tribute to the cinema and to the character actor (as another fan of the film remarked to me), but it is also something of a movie Rorschach test—fitted with a solid narrative concept but left simultaneously so loosey-goosey that viewers can read practically any meaning they would like into it. Denis Lavant (literally the “character actor” in question) delivers a spellbinding performance (in various degrees of physical disguise) as a man of unclear purposes being chauffeured around Paris, meeting appointment after unusual appointment to act out his assigned role in touching, weirdly sexual, violent, or just plain bizarre situations. Packed with stunning images and daring flourishes, it’s the arthouse rollercoaster ride of the year. There were two self-consciously arty movies this year about men riding around in limos all day; Cosmopolis is the other one. This is one of the best movies of 2012.

6. Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Hurricane Katrina rather perversely renewed film and TV producers’ interest in Louisiana (and particularly New Orleans) as a colorful backdrop for storytelling. This drama, mixing fairy tale magic and harsh realism, is one of the best products of that “new wave” of cinematic material. Showcasing what seems like an effortlessly natural performance by first-time child actor Quvenzhané Wallis (who was five years old when she auditioned) as a resourceful bayou girl known as Hushpuppy, the film wastes no time in situating the viewer in an otherworldly realm called “the Bathtub,” the community where she resides in a dilapidated house with her father (Dwight Henry, also making an impressive film debut). As a fable about life, love, and loss, it’s mesmerizing; if the film is guilty of becoming a mite heavy-handed towards the second half, I found it easy to forgive since there’s so much to admire in director/co-writer Benh Zeitlin’s adventurous style and Ben Richardson’s scrappy cinematography.

5. Bully

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Just before the release of this documentary, there was a mini-stink over its inclusion of profanity, and whether or not the film would receive a rating that would technically restrict it from the young people who would be among the audiences to most benefit from its candor. Thankfully, the MPAA saw fit to apply the PG-13 rating to (yes, a slightly adjusted version of) this eye-opening profile of bullying— of its victims, its perpetrators, and its witnesses. The movie is valuable because it requires viewers to rethink where they draw the boundaries between helicopter parenting and a “boys will be boys” indifference that allows a Lord of the Flies-style mentality of unrestricted cruelty to take root; because it’s called “Bully” and not “Bullied,” you might expect the film to include a little more insight into those who do the attacking (which would certainly be worthwhile, I suppose, in the same way that it’s helpful at some level to understand the psyche of the criminal mind), but locating the heart of the study in the point-of-view of those who suffer the abuse allows us to more accurately feel their frustration while adults surrounding them address their plight with misunderstanding or helplessness—or, worse, rejection.

4. The Master

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Joaquin Phoenix returns from his odd, self-imposed, perhaps Borat-inspired sabbatical (theoretically in pursuit of the quasi-documentary I’m Still Here) to top the cast of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s challenging religious drama. On the surface, it’s a thinly-disguised critique of Scientology, with co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman taking on the Kane-like substitute character referred to as the “Master” of the title. Phoenix becomes Hoffman’s newest pupil by chance—or destiny, depending on your beliefs—only to find that adherence to any dogma rubs him the wrong way and fails to stanch his social anxieties or sexual dysfunctions. I wrote at length about the movie here; my feeling is that Phoenix’s eccentric off-camera remarks and unusual behavior might injure the film’s awards chances. That’s too bad; the performances in the film are uniformly excellent, Anderson’s direction is as bold as ever, and The Master eclipses whatever parallels it might be making with L. Rob Hubbard’s life and work much in the same way (if not necessarily to equal impact) as Welles’ Citizen Kane reaches well beyond its observations on Hearst.

3. Skyfall

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James Bond movies have both the benefit and curse of being judged not just by how well they meet, exceed, or set the standards of contemporary action pictures, but also by the benchmarks of every other film in the series coming before and (then) after; by fidelity to the books of Ian Fleming; and finally, by special attention paid to the quality of each individual ingredient of the films that have been recognized now as de rigueur elements of 007 thrillers. How’s the actor playing Bond? How beautiful are the women? Is the spy story strong? Good stunts? Great villain? Exotic locations? Memorable title song? Enough of the “James Bond Theme” in the music score? And yes, even the trademark “gunbarrel” sequence—where it’s placed, how Bond fires the gun, what variation of the Bond theme plays during it—comes in for inspection by hardcore fans. In most if not exactly all of these aspects, the 23rd Bond picture ranks especially high. For me, the standout in Skyfall, in addition to Daniel Craig’s third hard-as-nails take on the role, is the magnificent cinematography by Roger Deakins, who is well, well past due for an Academy Award win. What I now really, really want to see in “Bond 24” is 007 having some fun. Craig’s Bond has earned it.

2. Argo

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I’m probably now forced to rethink my very early prediction that director/star Ben Affleck’s movie about exfiltrating Americans from Tehran after the 1979 attack on the U.S. Embassy is the lock for a Best Picture win; it may have been released too early in the year to maintain the proper momentum. However, don’t let that keep you away from this movie if you missed it in the theaters—this is old-fashioned adult drama at its very best, and you’re left wondering just how much of this stranger-than-fiction story (declassified during the presidency of Bill Clinton) is actually 100% true. The 1970s period details are immaculate but not showy or tacky; the cast, led by Affleck, performs with the kind of no-nonsense efficiency we associate with the classic films of that era. That’s excepting the colorful supporting turns by Alan Arkin and John Goodman, who rate chewing the scenery a bit more since they’re playing Hollywood bigshots. Arkin coins the hysterical recurring line in the movie I’ll probably be shouting out loud when some “less deserving” film takes the top prize.

1. Life of Pi

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I entered Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 bestseller quite skeptically; I wasn’t familiar with the book, but cynicism got just enough the best of me to prejudge that the film would turn out to be full of treacly bombast and Hallmark Card sentimentality. Was I ever wrong. Not only is Lee’s film the finest achievement in 3D filmmaking to date, the story on which it’s based (or should I say “stories”?) turns out to be the perfect movie about God for believers and agnostics alike.

Irrfan Khan plays the older version of the title character, played by Suraj Sharma for most of the film in the flashbacks that detail his harrowing, sometimes mystical journey of survival at sea with the prickly Bengal tiger named Richard Parker; Khan promises us (by way of promising the man interviewing him) that we will “believe in God” by the end of his tale. The movie didn’t get me there; no movie could. What I will say is that it gave me a beautiful reflection of my own attitude about belief, which is that we all pursue the same riddles about the existence of the divine through different avenues, and it’s the common pursuit of those mysteries that should unite us, rather than allowing variations in the stories that define those faiths—or even the lack of faith entirely—to divide us.

Honorable Mention: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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I mean, just look at that. This is one of those shot-in-Europe-to-save-money monstrosities that drinks a heaping jug of the crazy juice. I proudly admit: I loved it. Nicolas Cage, my personal thanks.

  • RON

    very wierd……………..KILLER JOE may be the worst film of the year. The only film that is even close to a top ten pick is ARGO and perhaps LIFE OF PI.

    • fbusch

      Reading the opinions of regular movie buffs gives reinforcement to my own thoughts. My view of life revolves around who I am. A man who has accepted a place in a world. While I probably could have become someone else, The need to do so was not strong enough. Instead, I settled on labor in industry, wives, (several), children, (observation and guidence of), and enjoying every sunrise. Through books and movies, I’ve led armies, traveled in space, fought and died many times and lived many lives both mundane and spectacular. All the while comfortable in my place in the world. I will shortly be 74 yrs. old, and still find that my entertainment choices fill my own needs. While not wanting to sound picky, I recently watched Beau Geste with Gary Cooper, and I’ll watch Casablanca again soon. I’ve watched Seven Samauri so often that I know everything being said without the subtitles. Sailor of the King, Miracle on 34th. street, The Day the Earth Stood Still, (the old version), Lilies of the field, even Narnia, and a bit of Harry Potter are ok. Since my memory seems to slip a bit lately, I love the film with Paul muni and a wonderful actress about chinese farmers and locusts. Most westerns, and the best cowboy and indian film ever, (Avatar). I feel that many big films today rely on special effects to carry them when the story is weak. Some of todays films are so twisted and dark that I wonder how the writers keep getting out of their straight jackets. It may seem odd to many that a simple man has such a happy positive outlook, but, there are enough others out there to portray life as unhappy and bleak.

  • Blair Kramer

    Hi George…
    As you may have determined by now, I have very little patience for pretense. Ergo, My interest in the so-called “art house” film is basically non existent! I guess I just don’t care about a stranger’s drug induced statement on the human condition! After all is said and done, it doesn’t matter one whit what he may think about the world, God, and the universe! Much like everyone else, I had formulated a philosophy of my own. Therefore, I have no desire to observe weeping clowns in an empty field! Movies are entertainment! That’s what they’re supposed to be! And that’s what I want them to be! If I want to be confused I can simply watch an episode of “Lost!” Yes. I know. Of course you’re right. You can’t really expand your understanding of the world if you don’t expose youself to a myriad of philosophies. But it’s been my observation that, when it comes to delving into the human condition, movies just don’t cut it! The mind is always distracted by the imagery. I prefer to READ the philosophic views of other people. BOOKS provide a much better vehicle for thoughts and opinions. They give you the opportunity to ponder. A movie restricts such activity. As the saying goes, reading is fundamental! You can learn a great deal from a book!
    Now, I know that absolutely nobody is likely to agree with me, but your description of the film called HOLY MOTORS was the cause of my tirade! I don’t know if the film is any good. I haven’t seen it. YOU call it one of the best films of the year, George! OK.! Fine! But frankly, your description makes it sound more than a little crazy! As such, absolutely nothing about your description instills any dsire to see it. To be sure, It sounds very much like a film to avoid! But I have seen GHOST RIDER, SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE and it’s a whole different story! No meaning! No importance! No thought! No statement! Just flat out, bald faced, crash bang, burning skull, comic book action! It’s just fun! It’s not a good film, but I don’t care. At least it isn’t boring! All you have to do is sit and watch. Drink it all in! Watch the comic book hero kick butt! Now THAT’S a MOVIE! And what more could you want from a movie…?
    Weeping clowns in an empty field…?! PUH-LEASE!!!
    As always George, I remain your decidedly opinionated servant,
    Blair.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      “Weeping clowns in an empty field” makes me laugh. I think you may have named the one thing that does NOT happen in “Holy Motors.” :)

  • Guest

    writer seen all year. This is the REAL top 10 movies this year!!! Excision, Hotel Transylvania, the dark knight returns, Prometheus, The Loved Ones, Bedevilled , The Cabin in the Woods, John Dies at the End, Chronicle, How to Train Your Dragon…

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.gamestrodamos Chris Gamestrodamos

    Obviously these are the only movies this Writer seen all year. This is the REAL top 10 movies this year!!! Excision, Hotel Transylvania, the dark knight returns, Prometheus, The Loved Ones, Bedevilled , The Cabin in the Woods, John Dies at the End, Chronicle, How to Train Your Dragon…

  • Wayne P.

    Interesting list, George, but you got my attention with your last entry for #1. Not all movies that have to do with religious types of faith and its practice (or not) are bad and some, in fact, are quite good. In that vein also, you chose another one at #4…thats 20% of your picks having to do with the same generally serious subject matter (and #2 comes darn close with its Islamic backdrop). I love nothing better than any movie that gets one thinking and disagree with Blairs comment below where he said basically that thoughtful ponderings of such complex topics are best left to the written word and not the world of film. What better way to visualize a thought than to see a variation of it in action? And, far from distracting…I would venture the actual exercise of contemplating it can spin off into whole new idea realms…and thats what all of the entertainment Art forms are about to me: extracting the abstract from fact and supposing an alternate reality from even fiction! Science is for breaking down specific information to come to a measurable conclusion or at least a theory you can quantify, but the arts are for the imagination…a much more contemplative process and I applaud you for how you go about your business here and deem the reviews very reliable, especially since I havent yet seen any of the pictures ;).

    I leave you with a final thought considering your agnostic bent where you commented regarding the “Life of Pi” that: ‘The movie didn’t get me there; no movie could’. Regarding believing ABOUT God, youre already there…its believing IN God thats still lacking. Whether its believing He does exist or doesnt, you just dont know and that it cant be known decisively. The key to determining which of the competing theories is actually correct may just be left more to science than faith…ergo, that is, which viewpoint has the most evidence in support of it. Of course, thats why I strictly have to come down on the side of Christianity. Because the Bible can be absolutely verified by its myriad historical, archaeological, and prophetical proofs, by way of comparison to the other views. Naturally, faith also has a component of belief to it that cant always be easily documented; which is why I love the line from “A MIracle on 34th Street”: ‘Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to’.
    Unfortunately, I havent done the research on your top pick to know if its based on a true story but I know one of my more recent favorite religious movies is: “Faith Like Potatoes” a 2006 South African film, which has a very believeable story about one familys faith journey. Just like in political or philosophical matters, I encourage all “independent thinkers” to take it under advisement and I highly recommend watching that one, in addition to these above! All the best, W

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Wayne, much thanks for the commentary! Though I’ll have to politely refute your distinction between “about” and “in” (assuming I’m still the best judge of what my beliefs are and aren’t). And actually, the count there is a little higher than 20%, in that both “Beasts…” and “Holy Motors” could be said to have–in their own ways–spiritual concerns of one kind or another.

      If you haven’t seen it, you might be interested in a thoughtful little movie called “Higher Ground” from 2011; its star Vera Farmiga (a terrific actress) also directed.

      • Wayne P.

        Point well taken there, George. I perhaps didnt focus on your last remark about the quest for the existence of the Divine being a unifying factor regarding the human condition instead of always seeming to be an exercise in division. Interesting how the two words…Divine and division share the same root spelling! Also, there may be more of a distinction with a difference between believing in God and believing ON God, which is only when one professes true faith in a singular, hopefully verifiably beneficial, Diety. But, not to split hairs, its more important to know that the object of ones faith is helpfully worthy of such belief than it is simply that one has faith, which could be in something harmful to that persons eternal soul…thanks for your part in the stimulating discussion on such weighty matters as they are truly the most important to all of us in the end..:)

  • Masterofoneinchpunch

    While I have seen 60 films from 2012 (using the date of worldwide DVD/BD release or theater release whichever comes first; I did see over 500 films last year), I still have a lot to go including much from your list as well as others. So for an official 2012 list I’m giving myself two months to catch up on many people’s top 10 lists before I do an official list for my site. Yes, I’m going to even see the second Ghost Rider.

    I’m glad I got to see both Life of Pi and Argo recently. Life of Pi especially looks quite good on the big screen. I’ll have more comments on Best Actor, Actress later (unless you make a post for these).

    My top 10 films with quick comments (so far as I expect a few of these to change in the next few months; these are ordered alphabetically.) NOTE: I do have full length reviews on a few of them.

    Argo (2012: Ben Affleck): Roger Ebert’s favorite film of the year. The pacing is perfect.
    The Avengers (2012: Joss Whedon): yes it made a lot of money and yes I really enjoyed this populist fare.
    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012: John Madden): Great ensemble cast. I expect a few AA nominations for this one.
    The Grey (2012: Joe Carnahan): This has been my most controversial pick when mentioning this film on movie sites and in person. It brings such a dichotomy worthy of Harry Powell’s knuckles. But this combination of existentialist nihilism mixed with a worthy performance from Liam Neeson made it one of my favorites of the year.
    Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011: David Gelb): I have this fascination with monomania. Jiro is a fascinating real-life figure whose desire or compulsion to create the best sushi into a gastronomical art form drives his life. Hey most of us don’t have to live with him.
    Life of Pi (2012: Ang Lee): While this is still in the theater go see it (those who have not).
    Moonrise Kingdom (2012: Wes Anderson): Wonderful coming-of-age tale mixed with excellent supporting performances from Bruce Willis and Ed Norton.
    Prometheus (2012: Ridley Scott): This loses a little bit on the small screen, but in the theater I was completely awed with the world. Now if the script had been a little tighter …
    Searching for Sugar Man (2012: Milik Bendjelloul): Last year was a great documentary year or else I was just paying more attention.
    Silver Linings Playbook (2012: David O. Russell): I love flawed characters. One of my favorite “romantic comedies” in years. Though I’m not so sure it is good to identify with the lead character. I think I’ll go take a jog now.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      MOIIP, thanks for stopping by! 500 movies — wow, well done!

      Just some fast reax to your picks — “Argo,” yes, wasn’t it great? I’m still holding out hope for the BP win; I loved “The Grey,” too, and disagree with those who disapprove of the ending. The story the movie wanted to tell IS over by the time the screen cuts to black; whether Neeson lives or dies is incidental to the journey he takes from start to finish. We definitely part company on “Prometheus” and “SLP.” And generally, I really like both Scott & Russell.

      Hadn’t seen Marigold, Jiro, Moonrise, or Sugar Man.

      I don’t plan on doing any more 2012 appraisals here so feel free to add your Actor/Actress thoughts whenever you’re ready. I did previously argue on MFF (before I saw “Lincoln”) that DD-Lewis should probably just be handed his third Oscar right now (though I suppose John Hawkes is emerging as the dark horse of the race).

  • Blair Kramer

    One more thing, George,
    I must say that I stopped caring about critics’ top 10 best or worst lists a long time ago. Since film criticism is a purely subjective excercise anyway, the notion that anyone can actually concoct a reliable list of the 10 best films is, to MY mind, plainly silly. If I say THE AVENGERS is the best film of the year, who’s to say that it isn’t… Roger Ebert? And after Ebert writes a glowing review for a disgusting exploitation film that nobody knew HE wrote (something he actually DID!), do WE have any reason to pay attention to his opinions? Nope. After all is said and done, the 10 best films are always the 10 films that YOU liked best.
    There’s a wonderful 1966 Peter Sellers comedy that absolutely skewers pretentious, self important films and film directors. It’s called AFTER THE FOX and it looks at the notion that absolutely anyone can supposedly examine the “human condition” in the movies… Including an Italian criminal who wants to smuggle stolen gold bullion out of Europe! His ruse inviolves the hiring of an over-the-hill American movie star to appear in an incomprehensible film that HE is apparently directing! Even though nobody involved in the project has any idea what kind of film he’s supposedly making, including Victor Mature, they don’t question the proceedings! And throughout the faux production Sellers constantly tells everyone that they should”…see the symbolic significance of it…!” It’s priceles! It also, to MY mind anyway, says it all about deliberately self important films!
    Bottom line… When it comes to a choice between sitting through BLOW-UP and BATMAN BEGINS, I’ll take the bat every time!
    I remain your obedient servant,
    Blair

    • Blair Kramer

      By the way…
      My argument regarding the subjectivity of top 10 lists includes all the supposed “best of” lists that I wrote for this blog! I love writing such film evaluation every bit as much as any critic and/or movie geek, but I don’t have any more illusions about MY lists than I do about any other list! I engage in such evaluations because I simply enjoy writing them. But Blair’s top 10 or 20 Daffy Duck cartoons really amount to little more than a list of my PERSONAL FAVORITE Daffy Duck cartoons! I DO believe that they’re genuinely great cartoons, but who’s to say which cartoons are the best?! So, go ahead and read the two articles that I wrote about the 20 best Daffy Duck cartoons. I believe they’re fun articles to read. But you may well disagree with me as to which Daffy cartoons are truly the best. And well you should. After all: What do I know (what does Ebert know? What does Corliss know? What does… Oh well… YOU get the idea!)?!

  • James Ceallachain

    ‘Take This Waltz’ and ‘Killer Joe’ are on my list as well. ‘Argo’ seems too much like war propaganda. The truth of the matter is: The US has screwed with Iran much more than Iran has screwed with the US. And the US (and Israel) have always been a lot more aggressive and war-like than Iran.

  • DollyT

    My top 10 only means something to my personal taste. I never read the critics reviews but do read those average joes who have viewed the movies. They are more relisble. Can’t remember all that I have seen this past year but did like Lincoln, Flight (minus the first 30-30 opening minutes that only served to get it an R rating) It could have gained more viewers without it, and last of all Les Miserable for which when the movie ended the viewers applauded. To bad that it was released so late in the year.

  • TheShortestWay

    The best movie released in 2012 which I have seen is เยส ออร์ โนว์ 2 : รัก/ไม่รัก อย่ากั๊กเลย [Yes or No 2: Come Back to Me] from Thailand with Sucharat Manaying, Supanart Jittaleela, Apittha Kalay-udom and Permpreda Sakulsiripong.

  • john farley

    Very good list. Just 2 random thoughts. First, Matthew McConaughey should have been nominated for any one of his FOUR fantastic roles this year. He is terrific in “Magic Mike” and he steals Richard Linkletter’s wonderful “Bernie”, from a terrific Jack Black, (who plays the title character). Also, every “Top 10″ list is a personal one, but I was surprised to see you leave off all of the following: “Lincoln”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Bernie”, “Moonrise Kingdom”, “Marvels: The Avengers”, and the epic “Dark Knight Rises”. I believe that Christopher Nolan has made three masterpieces in the past five years, (“The Dark Knight”, “Inception”, and “Dark Knight Rises). Surely he deserves some love not only from Academy members and voters but also from you!!???
    Good knowledge and some real good thought on the 2012 movies. Agreed wholeheartedly with your choice of “Skyfall”. James Bond and Batman have both been “re-booted” and brought into a 21st Century, post 9/11 world.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Thanks — I’ll have to catch up with those other MM films, which I’ve not yet seen. As to the omissions you mention — “Lincoln” I enjoyed mostly for DD-Lewis, who remains one of the most staggeringly talented actors of the modern era; I wasn’t a fan of Spielberg’s attempt at what I guess you’d call “subtlety,” or directing against his preference for a more vigorous camera/cutting style. I think it’s too alien to him. I did like the rest of the cast, too. SLP I can’t say I bought into, despite my Philly home base and otherwise being a big David O. Russell fan. ZD30 I’m actually catching up with tonight at last; missed Bernie, Moonrise. Enjoyed both “Avengers” and TDKR while I was watching them (Avengers especially; the spirit & banter reminded me a little of a good Star Trek movie, the way they tried to balance a large ensemble) — but I will say TDKR has really faded for me w/time. In the case of the Nolan Batfilms I enjoyed them all and think the second is his best. Like you mention, these Top 10s are always so completely subjective, but the impulse to participate in them is nigh-irresistible for many a cinephile.

  • http://twitter.com/lizscissom Elizabeth Scissom

    Best movie of the year was Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn part 2, it most definitely was not Life of Pi.

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  • Cara

    I believe that within ten years, Lincoln will be in AFI’s 100 greatest American movies, and it will climb up that list as time goes by. Respectfully, long after most of your best list have become obscure (and I admit some of them I consider excellent), Lincoln will be watched and appreciated for the great movie it is. The film is relevant yet timeless and a powerful statement regarding America’s past during a pivotal point in its history. The performances are indelible. The skill and precision of Spielberg’s directing close to perfection.

    These are the years when it is fashionable to discredit Spielberg’s greatness or to say that his best years are behind him. Most iconic directors suffer similar fates. Hitchcock went out of favor during portions of his lifetime, but now almost every movie he made is considered a masterpiece.

    I think the same will occur with Steven Spielberg.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Respectfully in return–of course, I didn’t make any of my choices in some kind of attempt to predict or ape the kind of film that would earn a place on the AFI list; I think I spelled out my criteria pretty clearly at the outset. As for whether or not any, most, or all of my picks might fade into obscurity, I’m perfectly comfortable with that idea. Some of the best discoveries you can make of movies from the distant past are the ones that have wrongfully fallen into obscurity due to the fickle, limited, short-sighted tastes of the great unwashed. (Or the critical elite, for that matter)
      And likewise, to embellish that point–just as you say, Spielberg’s “Lincoln” might well rise in estimation in the years to come. For me, the film was all about DDL’s amazing performance; I know Spielberg was trying to direct out of his comfort zone, so to speak, employing much more subtlety in camera movement & cutting & so on–for my taste, his films are usually better off when he sticks to his default style. (“Munich” I thought was a terrific marriage of his more artistic impulses to his popcorn muscles)
      The arguments over Spielberg’s artistry have been going on for decades; the Hitch comparison is a good one in that, like the ongoing debates over whether or not there’s much more to Hitchcock’s films than an agreed-upon flawless execution of technique, that same discussion will go on about Spielberg likely forever. No matter what anybody ever says, though, “Jaws” will probably remain at or near the very top of my personal Top 10 of all time.

      • Cara

        You’re right. Using lists is not the way to assess a great movie. I gnash my teeth whenever I peruse AFI’s 100 or the NYT’s 1000 because neither contains a movie I, perhaps foolishly, consider among the best American cinema has to offer: The Court Jester.

        I also agree that there are many great movies that sink into oblivion, and we as movie fans are lucky when they are rediscovered.

        Having said that, I will stick to my guns. The substance of Lincoln is vastly important to American history and the current American psyche. It will continue to be a unique and brilliantly realized portrait of a time pivotal to our past, our present and our future. As such, it will remain an essential film that will be watched for its content and message.

        I think that’s a pretty good way to define a great film.