Goodbye 2012, hello 2013. But before we turn the page and look to the future, it's important to reflect on the past year of cinema. 2012 will forever stand out as a fantastic year for movies. To put it into context, most of my honorable mention picks would have landed in the top ten of any year between 2009 - 2011. This cinematic year has been, simply stated, unforgettable. Therefore, if you come across any movies on my list that you're unfamiliar with, I urge you to give them an honest effort. To kick off my countdown to the year's finest films, here are my five honorable mention selections that just missed out on the top ten: Safety Not Guaranteed, Ruby Sparks, Looper, Flight and Cloud Atlas. Now, for my top ten films of 2012 ...
#10 Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino's highly anticipated Django Unchained landed in a dead lock on my ratings with a little indie comedy called Safety Not Guaranteed (definitely worth seeing). Seeing that Tarantino's latest effort is his most entertaining film to date and one of the funnest movie experiences of the year, I had to give the tiebreaker to Django Unchained. Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio give superb performances that manage to join forces with Tarantino's fine script and a mood-setting score. The result is a cinematic conquest.
#9 The Dark Knight Rises
When Christopher Nolan's conclusion to his Batman trilogy hit theatres in July, the mega-hit surprisingly met my lofty expectations. But after Fall and Winter seasons packed with top-notch films, I was shocked to see The Dark Knight Rises stumble down the list. Despite the movie's sloppy decline in realism, I still felt that The Dark Knight Rises had all the makings of a worthy finale. It's sad to see Nolan's Batman universe come to an end, but at least he went out strong.
While many critics were divided on John Hillcoat's Lawless and even some calling it a run-of-the-mill gangster movie, I found the prohibition era tale to far surpass such a disrespectful label. Containing all the necessary ingredients of a legendary gangster film, Lawless goes above and beyond with its comedic undertone and witty screenplay. Based on a historical novel penned by the grandson of Shia LaBeouf's character, Lawless has all the makings of an upper echelon film.
#7 Silver Linings Playbook
Leaving the Toronto International Film Festival as the Best Picture favorite back in September, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook has since fallen into the background of the Best Picture race. Downright hilarious, Silver Linings Playbook surpasses the typical comedy with its charming script and brilliantly acted romance between two lovable crazies played by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
#6 Seven Psychopaths
Sometimes, the best movies are the ones you least expect to enjoy. Being somewhat reserved about seeing Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths, the collection of actors gave me a tiny sense of hope. However, Seven Psychopaths shockingly sets the bar as 2012's funniest feature. Sam Rockwell steals the show, but that isn't any slight to the hysterical performances also offered by Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Colin Farrell.
#5 Perfect Sense
When you begin seeing 100 new releases every calendar year, there's always going to be an independent film that simply blows your mind. It's crazy to think that I first saw David Mackenzie's Perfect Sense at the Philadelphia Film Festival in October, 2011. Since the remarkably original apocalyptic romance never found its way to theatres until the turn of the year, therefore, I had to make room for Perfect Sense on my 2012 list. Reeling in a laughable box office totaling under $1 million dollars, Perfect Sense is an amazing love story that's gone virtually unseen.
#4 The Sessions
Having first seen The Sessions at this year's Philadelphia Film Festival, I was completely blown away. Intimate, sentimental and laugh out loud funny, The Sessions succeeds on a multitude of levels. John Hawkes stars as a polio-stricken 38 year old who wishes to experience sex for the first time, before his "clock runs out". Containing a pair of sure-fire Oscar Nominations for supporting actress Helen Hunt and its leading star, Ben Lewin's The Sessions is a wonderfully uplifting movie experience.
#3 Zero Dark Thirty
This year was more difficult than ever to sift through. Each of my top three films are perfect 4-star examples of exquisite filmmaking. Landing in my third spot is Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. Exhilarating to the core and perfectly well rounded, Zero Dark Thirty has all the makings of a Best Picture winner (and that's what I see happening at this year's Oscars). Jessica Chastain gives a knockout performance as a passionate young CIA Analyst determined to locate the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. With Zero Dark Thirty you'll be mesmerized, captivated and enthralled by the manhunt.
#2 The Impossible
While finishing up my top ten films of 2012, I noticed that each of my top four movies are based on a true story. Perhaps that's what makes J.A. Bayona's The Impossible such an amazing feature. Following a family on a winter vacation to Thailand for the Christmas holiday in 2004, we watch as a tsunami tears apart the entire region of Southeast Asia. Desperate to survive and find each other in the wake of unprecedented devastation, one family's journey becomes the unbelievable foundation for The Impossible.
Rounding out my top ten films of the year is Ben Affleck's Argo. Mixing together strong elements of comedy, drama and suspense, Argo makes for an entertaining and wild ride. Following the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, Affleck brings us the remarkable covert story about the rescue mission of six U.S. diplomats. Experiencing Argo is like riding a roller coaster of emotions all the way to an intense finale. Alan Arkin and John Goodman deliver the valuable comic relief and the result is 2012's finest feature.