2012: Top 10 Movies

From superhero flicks to art house fare, it was an excellent year

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 9, 2013

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'The Impossible.'

I don’t like the term top movies of the year. Defining them as your favorite movies is more on point, but if you’re a film critic you are not supposed to whine about how movie taste is subjective, not objective.

Since I proudly call myself “The Moviejunkie,” my list tends to be a mix of highbrow and mass entertainment fare. This was certainly a vintage year for superhero movies and my list represents that, as well as the dramas I favor, some remarkable sci-fi entries and a bunch of buff guys shaking their booty with relish.

Here then are 10 movies that entertained us, made us think or just took us on an incredible ride. They are in alphabetical order, but for the record my absolute favorites were The Avengers, Cloud Atlas, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. Hit the linked titles for the full reviews.

The Avengers
Joss Whedon unleashed a ton of unadulterated popcorn movie fun with his marvelous multi-superhero extravaganza. It’s everything you would expect from a comic book adaptation that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it delivers plenty of action along with an equal amount of superhero temper tantrums. The wisecracks back and forth are so dead-on hilarious, I imagined that Serenity captain Malcolm Reynolds was just out of the frame feeding the Avengers his best one-upmanship zingers.

Cloud Atlas
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this trippy science-fiction epic from directors Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix). Based on the novel of the same name, the film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant. The actors play multiple characters in elaborate makeup in six different story lines that travel back and forth in time. The deeper we go, the more these different threads wind together into a tale of humanity’s flaws and the search for meaning in the universe. It is a lot funnier (in a good way) than the summation suggests.

Django Unchained
Some would say being a Quentin Tarantino fan is a matter of taste, or perhaps in some minds, it’s a matter of being swayed by his utter tastelessness. Put me in Camp Tarantino every day and twice on Sunday. 
Django Unchained pays homage to the title character of the spaghetti western Django, but then goes full bore Tarantino on his ass. The bloodletting is so extreme it slides into the realm of cartoon violence, but there is a point to this display. The violence shown against the slaves is brutal without the cartoon element. We are reminded that this troubling display is a core element of our true, shameful history. Tarantino whips his version of history into frenzied exploitation unfettered by any sense of decorum, but that doesn’t mean it lacks validity. Tarantino’s blood-soaked ambiance is perfectly in tune with the more serious undercurrents in his spectacularly enjoyable film.

The Impossible
The riveting footage that shows helpless human beings slammed by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is breathtaking and so authentic, you feel the terror of the characters. A thrilling, agonizing tale about a family literally torn asunder by the raging waters, Oscar-worthy elements including great acting by Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, and newcomer Tom Holland. Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), this real life disaster film, based on true accounts, recreates the horror of that wall of water as well as the aftermath and the desperate search for loved ones.

Steven Spielberg knows how to make an epic movie infused with an intimate feel. With a screenplay by playwright Tony Kushner, the film highlights the final four months of Lincoln’s life. Surrounded by a cast full of familiar faces (David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris, Hal Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Gloria Reuben, Michael Stuhlbarg), Daniel Day-Lewis gives a performance worthy of the legendary statesman. This is the Lincoln we’ve learned about in school — gentle yet forceful when needed, brilliant as a politician and sometimes overwhelmed by the demands of family when he must focus on being the president of a nation divided. Spielberg and company have done Lincoln proud. 

Magic Mike
On the surface this is a glitzy, titillating look at the world of male strippers with hunky men shaking their booty and other body parts in the face of ladies looking for a cheap thrill. Look deeper, however, and you see it afforded Steven Soderbergh a chance to return to his roots when he rocked the festival circuit/independent film scene with sex, lies and videotape. Soderbergh’s film most closely resembles Boogie Nights in its depiction of an alternative lifestyle world in which the participants don’t understand that how they live horrifies the people beyond their inner circle.

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