CLOUD ATLAS (Warners – October – written and directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer): An impossibly ambitious epic that was thrilling when it worked.
RUST AND BONE (Sony Pictures Classics – November – written by Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain – directed by Jacques Audiard): Phenomenal acting by Marion Cotillard in a moving drama about losing and finding your spirit.
THE IMPOSSIBLE (Summit/Lionsgate – December – written by Sergio G. Sanchez – directed by Juan Antonio Bayona): Remarkable visuals and tremendous emotion in this recreation of the Asian tsunami.
COMPLIANCE (Magnolia – August – written and directed by Craig Zobel): One of the year’s most troubling and well-acted indies: when would you finally say “no” to a cop?
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight – May – written by Ol Parker – directed by John Madden): Classy, completely enjoyable senior soap.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight – June – written by Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar – directed by Benh Zeitlin): Visionary, if at times incomprehensible, tale of life in the bayou.
THE HUNGER GAMES (Lionsgate – March -written by Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross and Billy Ray – directed by Gary Ross): If we’re to be a culture of franchises, they should at least be as intelligent and well-constructed as this one.
LIBERAL ARTS (IFC – September – written and directed by Josh Radnor): A very enjoyable, well-written, civilized rom-com-dram.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit/Lionsgate – September – written and directed by Stephen Chbosky): Chbosky sensitively adapted his own coming-of-age novel into a lovely film.j
SKYFALL (Sony/MGM – November – written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan – directed by Sam Mendes): Bond, taken to a new level.
IF THIS WERE 2013
These films were all unveiled at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival and have theatrical distribution, but won’t be seen in theatres until 2013. All have a good chance of being on a list like this next year.
FRANCES HA (IFC – May 2013 – written by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig – directed by Noah Baumbach): Gerwig, who stars as well as co-writing, is thoroughly lovable as a young woman finally starting to grow up. Spectacular black-and-white photography.
AT ANY PRICE (Sony Pictures Classics – April 2013 – written by Ramin Bahrani and Hallie Elizabeth Newton – directed by Ramin Bahrani): Much more trenchant than Promised Land, a serious story about life in the heartland, anchored by a great Dennis Quaid performance
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Lionsgate – June 2013 – written by Mr. Shakespeare – screenplay and directed by Joss Whedon): Whedon’s modern-day dress-up version is pure fun (and also in black-and-white!). Nathan Fillion walks away with it as Dogberry.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR ACTING
Apart from the casts of the Top 10 and the films named above, these films were notable for the excellence of their performances:
AMOUR: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert
STARLET: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson
HOLY MOTORS: Denis Lavant
THE SESSIONS: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy
SMASHED: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally
THE PAPERBOY: Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey
FLIGHT: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON: Bill Murray
ARBITRAGE: Richard Gere
THE DEEP BLUE SEA: Rachel Weisz
2012 WTF AWARDS
These films may or may not have made any sense, but they certainly made an impression:
MOST ENJOYABLE ANIMATION
(Most Beautiful Animation goes to BRAVE, but it under-delivered on story)
SPECIAL RECOGNITION FROM ONE KUBRICK FAN TO SOME WHO ARE EVEN CRAZIER