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The Best Films of 2012

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If there was an overriding theme in 2012 throughout cinema, it was the search for one's purpose. The drive and desire to feel like their lives mattered drove the best flicks of the past year from CIA agents to parents in impossible circumstances to teenagers all too aware of what matters. 2012 was a glorious one for the movies. It was slow moving for the first half of the year, but in the final quarter, there were an onslaught of brilliant files I am still catching up on (I haven't seen End of Watch, The Sessions, West of Memphis, Anna Karenina or Cloud Atlas. What you will find below are the films that moved me, educated me and opened my eyes. The world of cinema is our greatest art form and even through bad years where bloated budgets rule the box office, there are always films made for everyone and of the few hundred I saw last year, here are sixty worth your time.

Number One: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a perfect film. From its understated direction to the pitch-perfect soundtrack to the three lead performances, it gives more than a view of the landscape in the 1990's, but hits at the core of being young and confused. You do not have to be sixteen to appreciate this film. Taking place over 1991-1992 in a suburban Pittsburgh high school, the director Stephen Chbosky adapted the film from his own book. Because of this, he knows these kids, he has lived with them and never does he take them down unwarranted and unnecessary avenues. The teen leads played by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson (best known from Harry Potter), and Ezra Miller are revelatory. I did not want this film to end. I have rarely in my life seen a film has come together is magnificently and poetically as this. What differentiates Chobsky's film from many other teen films is that he embodies the spirit of John Hughes rather than plagiarizing it. He walks to the beat of his own drummer, but few films are as gripping and powerful as this one.

Number Two: Moonrise Kingdom
Moonrise Kingdom may come across as a simple film about two pre-teens who runaway from home to be together, but director Wes Anderson is anything but simple. Utilizing his gifts of deft dialogue and quirkiness, he has created a film that will make your grin ear-to-ear. This is a wondrous love story that everyone can take something away from. Bruce Willis is masterful in his role as a single loner who searches for a missing scout, but it is the charm of the characters and their situations that will win you over. It captures innocence and wonder like nothing else did in 2102. Above all else, it shows that every problem has a solution even if it is not the one we imagine.

Number Three: The Impossible
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor take you into the heart of a parent's worse nightmare. Thinking your children are dead, but without proof, you continue your search. The tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean is chilling and horrific but the aftermath will redeem your faith in this world. Simple acts of kindness will remind you we are part of a larger story and plan that does not involve number crunching. Not to be a quote whore but The Impossible is truly a triumph of the human spirit.

Number Four: Searching For Sugar Man
Sixto Rodriguez was bigger than Elvis and no one in South Africa knew anything about the man. This story is at the core of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. The film unfolds in a superlative cinematic glory and despite knowing how it ended, I found myself in the theater sitting on the edge of my seat as I waited in anticipation for each scene. Just when I thought a mystery was solved, something new would emerge. Families were created, lives were changed, and through it all Sixto Rodriguez comes across as simply a man with an inherent and devastating talent that went largely unrecognized by the majority of the world…until now.

Number Five: Argo
Ben Affleck has turned into a rather incredible director pushing all the right buttons creating a film that should speak to a smaller audience than it did. Ben Affleck created a tension-filled film with peaks and valleys unforeseen and even though I knew how the story ended, I was on the edge of my seat the entire film that is a sign of a great director. This is top tier filmmaking.

Number Six: Lincoln
Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is a resolute portrait of a man during last for months of his life where his decisions made America what it is today. Spielberg masterfully weaves Lincoln's struggles into a cohesive film, but it is Daniel Day Lewis who makes this more than a made for television movie with fancy beards. He embodies the very being of the most recognizable American President, which is no small feat. Without him, this would have been a good film, but with him in the lead, it is a great one.

Number Seven: Rust and Bone
Rust and Bone is a French-Belgian film directed by Jacques Audiard, starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts. I went in expecting one film and came out seeing four others. Containing dramatic plot twists, excellent use of music and shocking direction, Rust and Bone will stay with you long after you have seen it. I do not dare tell you about the plot because you need to see this film unfold. Marion Cotillard did not just deserve an Oscar nomination- she deserved the statue as well.

Number Eight: Looper
When Rian Johnson made Brick six years ago, I knew it was simply his first of several great films, but his futuristic time travel crime noir is transcendent, spiritual, sexy, stylish and works on every level imaginable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis give magnificent performances that will keep you guessing until the last scene.

Number Nine: This Is 40
No one gives Judd Apatow enough credit for his bravery. His films may be a tad too long, but they speak in deeply personal terms. How many filmmakers are willing to show their warts and all on a screen for over 2 hours? I laughed, I cried, I shook my head and I was horrified, but that is what you get when you sign up for a family. This is 40 and Funny People will be live on and many years from now, I believe they'll be looked upon with a much greater appreciation, they're full of humor, but they also unearth difficult life scenarios.


Number Ten: Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is a freaky gore fest flavored with spin-your-head dialogue Tarantino is known for. Despite the controversy surrounding the film, the acting, story and film are a wild, educational and enthralling ride. How many other working directors will have their films studies fifty years from now? Not many, but Tarantino will for sure be one of them.

Number Eleven: Zero Dark Thirty
This is a dark ride- a very dark ride. Fascinating and gripping from the first to last scene, Jessica Chastain gives an off-kilter performance that pulls you in, makes you feel as if you are a part of this world and the obsession takes eventually leads us to a man everyone assumed was dead.

Number Twelve: The Dark Knight Rises
The finale to Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy may not have ascended to the heights of the first two, but it is still mighty fine entertainment that left me with as many questions as answers. Even in the world of comic books, Nolan left me with a desire to go back and look for clues I missed the first time around.

Number Thirteen: Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook is a film that cannot be underestimated. It's script is imperfect and forces the audience to take some giant leaps of a faith however, the performances are so mesmerizing and believable they pull you in. Both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence make the audience fall in love with them, which is no small feat.

Number Fourteen: Seven Psychopaths
Watching Christopher Walken in Seven Psychopaths is joyous in the same manner when your favorite athlete wins the game with a score in overtime. He owns this role and Sam Rockwell is off his rocker here, but he perfectly balances Colin Farrell's writer who is struggling with hi next script. This script is hilarious and the onscreen execution is spot-on.

Number Fifteen: Skyfall
James Bond has never looked better thanks to Roger Deakins cinematography. It builds tension masterfully and despite some fantastic action sequences, it never overshadows the story.

Number Sixteen: Goon
Goon is the film you did not see or hear about, but should have. Seann William Scott is a better actor than anyone will ever give him credit for. He is downright brilliant here, as an enforcer of a minor league hockey team and it gets better and funnier on every viewing. Written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, this film is a lost gem of a comedy you must seek out.

Number Seventeen: The Secret World of Arrietty
The Secret World of Arrietty is another masterpiece from Studio Ghibli. The amazing story taken from The Borrowers is fun for all ages and is a tale to behold.

Number Eighteen: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
This is a simple film with an even simpler story and yet it is told with great weight behind it. Emily Blunt is a wonder to behold (as she is in The Five Year Engagement as well) and her chemistry with Ewan McGregor is undeniable in a story that transcends standard romantic flair.

Number Nineteen: The Intouchables
Two strangers come together under unique circumstances and find a way to become friends. That being said, I loved these characters, their conversations and the story that unfolds that is filled with a lot of heart and humor. François Cluzet is especially good in his lead role for reasons I do not want to ruin here.

Number Twenty: Olso, August 31
This is a film I did not know about until Roger Ebert put it on his year-end list. When I saw it, I was stunned. We walk into the world of a recovering addict where over one day, we see his life unfold. Life is lived, loved and lost. This is triumphant yet heart wrenching filmmaking.

Number Twenty-One through Thirty:
Life of Pi; Hyde Park on the Hudson; Magic Mike; The Five Year Engagement; The Avengers; Ted; Arbitrage; Wreck It Ralph; Brave; Amour

Number Thirty-One through Fifty:
Not Fade Away; American Reunion; The Master; Bernie; A Cabin in the Woods; Ruby Sparks; Beasts of the Southern Wild; Flight; 21 Jump Street; Little White Lies; The Grey; The Hunger Games; Project X; Hitchcock; Frankenweenie; Premium Rush; Savages; Queen of Versailles; Marley; The Imposter

Number Fifty-One Through Sixty:
Seeking a Friend For the End of the World; The Hobbit; Les Misérables; The Bourne Legacy; The Amazing Spider-Man; Paradise Lost 3; Paranorman; Trouble With the Curve; Taken 2; Footnote

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter

The Best Films of 2012

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