I love all kinds of movies, in every genre, as long as they are finely acted, well done and hit some sort of chord with me. That said, true life, suspenseful covert operations, intense dramas, a delicate subject matter, magical fantasy adventures, charming comedy dramas, and harrowing stories of survival, make up what you will find in my eclectic list of best films for 2012.
l. Argo - It wasn't a fluke. In his third time in the director's chair, Ben Affleck cements the fact he has made his mark as one of Hollywoods finest directors with Argo, based on a true covert CIA operation. Affleck also stars in this exciting and tense, white knuckle political thriller as a CIA exfiltration expert who comes up with the best “bad idea” right out of Hollywood (no kidding) to rescue 6 Americans who found refuge at the home of the Canadian ambassador during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis in which 52 Americans were held captive.
2. Zero Dark Thirty - Director Kathryn Bigelow follows up her Oscar winning military thriller The Hurt Locker with this gripping film that recounts the ten year mission of a female CIA agent (the continually fabulous Jessica Chastain) determined to find and kill Al Queda terrorist leader, Osama Ben Laden.
3. The Sessions - Beautiful, Oscar calibre performances by John Hawkes and Helen Hunt anchor this sensitive, poignant story about a 38-year-old polio stricken man, who,as a virgin, decides to hires a sex surrogate so that he can experience the joys of sexual relations with a woman.
4. Life of Pi - Extraordinary special effects and spectacular cinematography enhance this astounding story of survival, perseverance, discovery and faith from director Ang Lee based on Yann Martel's best selling novel. It centers on a shipwrecked East Indian teen (a magnificent acting debut by newcomer, Suraj Sharma) whose fight for survival aboard a lifeboat that he is forced to share with a 450 lb. Bengal tiger evolves into an awakening of spiritual significance.
5. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - A superb ensemble cast of veteran British actors including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson, star in this charming and well acted comedy drama about a group of retirees from the U.K. who decide to move to India where they take up residence in a broken down hotel and experience some unexpected adventures and connections.
6. The Master - Joaquin Phoenix turns in an explosive, masterful performance opposite an equally strong Philip Seymour Hoffman in this powerful drama about a deranged WW 11 Navy veteran's power play relationship with a charismatic cult leader reportedly based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
7. Silver Linings Playbook - An effective, touching, romantic comedy drama about two messed up people who join forces for their own selfish reasons and eventually fall in love features multi faceted, stellar performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild - New York filmmaker Benh Zeitlin makes one of the most impressive directorial debuts in years with his film that is a window into an unfamiliar world of the Louisiana bayou, most people never knew existed. The story follows the trials and tribulations of a six year old girl (a remarkable performance by the very young Quvenzhané Wallis) as seen through her eyes and imagination, when a Katrina-like storm hits the island community of Bathtub off the Louisiana coast, and she is forced to fend for herself.
9. Rise of the Guardians - Dreamwork's animation wizards deliver a visually dazzling and magical, fantasy adventure with a wonderful message for people of all ages to enjoy. An excellent all star cast lend their voices to figures from mythological childhood figures such as Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Jack Frost (Chris Pine) and the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), each with extraordinary abilities, that are sent by the Man in the Moon to protect the children of the earth from the evil Pitch (aka The Boogyman -voiced by Jude Law).
10. The Impossible - Naomi Watts gives what can only be described as an emotional and physically demanding, gut wrenching performance in this incredible, harrowing, true story of one family's survival and quest to find each other after being separated by the devastating tsumani that ravaged Thailand in 2004.
Tying for an additional 11th spot on my list of 2012's best films are:
Django Unchained - Writer/director and master storyteller, Quentin Tarantino pays homage to 70's blaxpoitation and spaghetti westerns in yet another well crafted, gritty tale of revenge and redemption. This one stars Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz and has Tarantino's signature stamp of clever dialogue, humor, and over the top, blood drenched violence woven throughout.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Director Peter Jackson broke new ground by creating an immersive new movie going experience like nothing ever. Instead of the normal 24 frames per second, Jackson shot 'The Hobbit' in super high definition format and at 48 frames per second, which along with 3D effects, brings the level of screen image clarity and realism to new heights. Like each one of the previous Lord of the Rings installments that takes place in the fictional, fantasy land of Middle Earth, the film adaptation of The Hobbit,based on JRR Tolkien's novel that was published 17 years before LOTR, is a beautifully crafted visual masterpiece with an engaging, action filled story.