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A very good year for movies

Paul Peterson

It’s another year and another excuse for a highlight reel column. What better way to wrap up 2012 than with a list of the 10 best films I saw last year.

I’m not going to rate them in terms of 1 to 10 These are just the best films of 2012 and any one of them is a great watch. Some are clearly better than others though. Unlike most critics, I include commercial successes on my list, not just unheard of indie darlings.
For example:
The Avengers was a good film. Lots of fun and it’s always impressive when something is heralded for a long time and they execute it and it works. Balancing that many stars and egos and story lines and still finding a way to make it interesting is no small accomplishment. I think there’s also something to be said for the popularity of one of the biggest films of the year.
In that category, The Dark Knight Rises was great. That rare combination of a thoughtful film that does blockbuster business. It’s not that there haven’t been a lot of tortured superhero movies,  because there have, but this Nola-directed trilogy took it to new places and gave us compelling good and bad guys, and even a few in the middle.
I still find Christian Bale’s whispering Batman irritating but overall, pretty good.
The Life of Pi This is a stunning film. 3D is meant for this. I admire a clever  film and the way this was turned into a movie is admirable. A great book doesn’t always transfer onto the silver screen but in this case, it’s a whole lot of creativity. This movie appeals to a broad demographic and even if you’re not caught up in the film’s spiritual messages, it’s still a pretty great movie.
Skyfall – Wow, did they ever get this right. I’m totally sold on this James Bond and the gritty, dark side of the character plays well with the story line. In this year’s model he has to clear Judy Dench’s character and her interplay with him is wonderful. She actually ordered the kill shot that supposedly took him out but hey, no hard feelings.
I am still loyal to Sean Connery as the best Bond ever, but Daniel Craig is setting himself apart in a whole different category.
The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence makes this movie hers despite the malevolent presence of a very creepy looking Donald Sutherland. She seems so young and naive and who would have guessed that archery would be such an important skill set in the future but its rare that a much beloved book or series of books gets made into a really good film but this is one of them.
She also appears in the critics’ darling Silver Linings Playbook with Bradlet Cooper who is using his Hangover fame to make some really interesting movies. This is definitely one of them. He plays a man who gets out of a psychiatric hospital who tries to reconcile with his parents and ex wife. We get a sense of the fragility of this plan when he meets Lawrence, a woman with some issues of her own and a rather unusual request from him. It’s a very good film, bordering on great, with a great payoff and a stupid title.  See it if you get a chance. It’s going to get some Oscar buzz for best picture.
Searching For Sugarman is one of those indie favorites that I actually agree with. I always try to include at least one documentary on my year end list because it’s my favorite genre if you will and this real life search for an artist who made a remarkable album and then just apparently fell off the face of the earth captured my fancy. I think it’s been through its 35mm run and is now out on DVD but maybe not quite yet. It’s worth a look if you get a chance.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower – Small and quirky and extremely well written this is a film that thougful high school students should be compelled to see if for no other reason than they need a top up on hope. Emma Watson is becoming one of the best actresses of this decade and she makes the movie great.
Best Exotic Margiold Hotel – What can I tell you? I’m a sucker for over the hill Brits who find themselves in unusual circumstances. It’s all the usual suspects and this time they find themselves in India looking for an opportunity to escape British rule and taxation. When the hotel isn’t quite the luxury suite they were expecting, their reactions and coping strategies make for a lovely and sweet film.
I always work an extra pick into these columns so why disappoint now.
Sneaking in is Moonrise Kingdom but I’m going to throw in Rock of Ages as well. Moonrise Kingdom is everything Wes Anderson has promised to do in his previous films and more. It’s the ethereal story of two kids who have a grown up adventure and it never plays down to the young audience. It’s really quite inspired filmmaking and I thought this was one of the better movies this year.
No one saw it and it’s out on DVD now but well worth a rent. Finally the 11th best film of the year Rock of Ages. Little Tommy Cruise sings with the best of them and does his own take on the lizard king. I guess I like musicals even if they go nowhere and have no story line. The music is fun and makes for great background when you rent it. I didn’t quite buy the love story between Alex Baldwin and Russell Brand but that’s ok as long as they’re happy.
Here’s to 2013. If we get half as good a list next year I’ll be marginally pleased.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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