Best of 2012
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
In a time of ceaseless catastrophe, perhaps no other film limned the zeitgeist with as much imagination and visual magic. Telling this strange tale of resiliency from the perspective of childhood gives it intimacy.
In the style of popular political movies of the 1970s, Argo makes the retelling of the Iran hostage crisis as enjoyable (Alan Arkin as a tinseltown producer did comic justice to the year’s best one-liners) as it is trenchant.
If only for Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of the enigmatic president during a critical juncture in the country’s war-torn history.
4. Safety Not Guaranteed
A relationship movie that’s not a chick flick, or a bromance, or a romcom, though it has all those elements—along with whip-smart dialogue, real heart, and most memorably, Aubrey Plaza as a melancholy journalist who falls for an eccentric survivalist.
5. The Deep Blue Sea
An observant and heartfelt examination of the misbegotten beginning—and destructive ending—of a passionate affair that transcends its 1940s setting.
Pixar’s challenge to DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon doesn’t match its competitor for storytelling, but this feminist fairy tale is just as impressive in its luminous animation and delightful voicing.
With Javier Bardem’s villain equaling the greatest baddies in the 007 series and an intriguing new player in Ralph Fiennes’ mysterious former field officer, this third entry in the Daniel Craig reboot continues the story arc with panache. Looking forward to part four with pleasure, Mr. Bond, with pleasure.
8. The Grey
Liam Neeson strides across the frozen tundra with a stoicism that even Jack London could admire in this gripping, contemplative, even poetic, man-against-nature tale.
9. Silver Linings Playbook
Snappy-funny romance between two devastated, dysfunctional people that treats mental-health issues with refreshing optimism.
10. Les Miserables
Gorgeous cinematography helps the epic musical in the transition to the big screen, as does surrounding the songs with material from the Hugo novel. Whatever Hugh Jackman lacks in vocal bravura he makes up for with his towering acting, and Anne Hathaway is heartbreaking in every aspect.
Worst of 2012
1. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
What is all this flaming-chain CGI crap supposed to be about? Nicolas Cage, please retire.
2. Dark Shadows
Camp is one thing, boring farce quite another. Tim Burton’s brainless and excessively art-directed take on the cult classic TV show drowned out all of its sudsy, sinister fun.
3. The Master
Torturously self-important character study of people not worth giving the time of day to, let alone giving up two and a half hours for.
4. Anna Karenina
Even a screenplay by Tom Stoppard couldn’t save director Joe Wright’s blundering reinvention of Tolstoy’s panoramic love story.
5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
CGI battles, metal-head production values, more battles, and an endless supply of orcs for the slaughter. We’re not in Middle Earth anymore.