It is always challenging to narrow down a list of best films especially in a year full of so many good ones. What I try to accomplish with my list is to point out films that might have been overlooked because they just didn’t have the marketing budgets of bigger Hollywood fare. I will always praise independent films. Clicking on the movie title will take you to my review of each film.
1. Silver Linings Playbook directed by David O. Russell. The romantic comedy is the most difficult genre to get right. This quirky film about two wounded souls (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) nails it. The characters are endearing, the dialogue is witty, and it has a great supporting cast led by Robert De Niro giving one of his best performances in years.
2. Moonrise Kingdom directed by Wes Anderson. This talented director has a style all his own. What makes it work is the cute preteen romance. The two breakout performances come from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. It makes you reminisce about your awkward youth and your first love. It is funny because the kids are more mature than the adults in the story.
3. Cloud Atlas directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski. Possibly the most misunderstood film of the year. It was the most daring and ambitious film of 2012. It is six separate narratives with many layers and will be appreciated as a masterwork over time. Remember, Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was panned by critics when first released in theatres.
4. Holy Motors directed by Leos Carax. This film blew me away. It is a crazy and surreal journey. The main character rides around in a white stretch limo that is a mobile dressing room where he transforms himself into a troll, a bag lady, a motion-capture avatar and an old man on his deathbed. It pays homage to classic cinema and the new frontier of digital filmmaking. It’s a masterpiece.
5. Looper directed by Rian Johnson. This was my favorite action film. It is a time travel movie with meaning. If you strip away the sci-fi special effects, the heart of the story is about Joseph Gordon-Levitt dealing with the choices he makes in life when he confronts his older self in the form of Bruce Willis. Possibly the most imaginative story of the year.
6. The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson. Audiences didn’t know what to make of this film that deals with Scientology. It’s worth checking out just for the outstanding performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams. The story meanders just like the main character. The protagonist is an abusive alcoholic. Freddy Quill is not a likable guy; however Phoenix's performance is haunting.
7. Starlet by Sean Baker. This director’s debut film is sublime and shot in the gritty, sun-drenched area of LA called ‘The Valley.’ Dree Hemingway gives an honest performance as a lost youth trying to find meaning in her life through an unlikely friendship with an old woman. This film has some shocking plot twists and I can’t get it out of my mind.
8. Ruby Sparks directed by Jonathan Dayton. This romantic drama is about a novelist Paul Dano who has severe writer’s block. He finds romance by creating a character named Ruby Sparks played brilliantly by Zoe Kazan who also wrote the script. Her grandfather is legendary director Elia Kazan. The Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Zoe Kazan has a promising career ahead of her.
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower directed by Stephen Chbosky. This is the best teen film in years. What makes it so good is that it deals with teens in a mature fashion. Chbosky also wrote the bestselling novel about a high school freshman trying to fit in. The standout performances come from Ezra Miller and Emma Watson.
10. Take This Waltz directed by Sarah Polley. This film deals with infidelity. It’s not a pretty topic but actress-turned-director Sarah Polley takes exciting risks. I enjoyed her fresh take on falling out of love. She is probably the most promising director to watch. Michelle Williams gives another stellar performance.
There you have it. I left out some big-budget films like 'Les Miserables' because I want to showcase the underdogs. Two other films I liked but didn’t have room for were ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ (best documentary) and Killing Them Softly (best mob film). Don’t forget to subscribe to my movie blog to catch the latest releases.