Pitch-perfect and wonderfully acted, this was by far the feel-good movie of 2012, full of clever dialogue and intelligent humour, expertly balanced against an exploration of heavy themes (like mental illness and domestic dysfunction) and featuring seriously award-worthy performances from Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro.
Veteran filmmaker Steven Spielberg has proved that he has no equal when it comes to orchestrating a visceral, sprawling wartime epic. With this well-wrought, well-acted slice of American history centred on the history-changing exploits of the titular 16th Prez (played to perfection by Daniel Day-Lewis), the director offered up a masterpiece with Oscar plastered all over it. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones and an overlooked Joseph Gordon-Levitt are also superb in it.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD:
Each year sees the release of a “little movie that could” (Juno, Little Miss Sunshine). In 2012, that honour fell to this fascinating, indie jewel from debutante writer-director Ben Zeitlin, and anchored by a watch-out-world breakout performance by nine-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis.
Denzel Washington is as famous for his legendary sex-symbol status as he is for being uberpicky in selecting film roles. He chose wisely in taking on the part of Whip Whitaker, a commercial airline pilot whose heroics in landing a malfunctioning aircraft saves scores of lives, including his own. It’s Washington and director Robert Zemeckis in ace form, along with writer John Gatins, who penned a brilliant script.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES:
Christopher Nolan closed the book on his superb Batman trilogy with this haunting, brutal final instalment featuring a murderer’s row of A-list stars: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman and Sir Michael Caine.
Ben Affleck deftly directed and co-starred in this edge-of-your seat dramatic thrill ride centred on a group of Americans caught in hostage situation in revolutionary Iran. In addition to Affleck, solid acting came from the likes of John Goodman and Alan Arkin.
It isn’t hard to deduce why writer-director Michael Haneke walked away with the highly coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for this gripping yet tender-hearted meditation on marriage, old age and, as the title suggests, love. The French-language drama (with English subtitles) is Austria’s entry among this year’s nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and boasts a captivating lead performance by Emmanuelle Riva.
LIFE OF PI:
Oscar winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) deftly directed this visually splendid page-to-screen adaptation of Yann Martel’s Pulitzer-winning bestseller about a shipwrecked-at-sea teenage boy (talented newcomer Suraj Sharma) and the tiger hell-bent on devouring him.
A groundbreaking A-list cast breathed full-bodied, lyrical life into this blockbuster interpretation of the legendary Broadway musical, led by ovation-worthy performances by Hugh Jackman (as convict-on-the-lam Jean Valjean) and Anne Hathaway as tragic prostitute Fantine.
ZERO DARK THIRTY:
Reteaming with writer Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow returns to the desert-storm landscape of the Middle East with this gritty hunt-for-Bin-Laden movie that offers Jessica Chastain (as a CIA analyst named Maya) a meaty, award-calibre role in which she delivers nothing short of a truly powerhouse performance.
>> RUNNERS UP: The Impossible, Premium Rush, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower