Affleck may very well be my favorite working director. The guy has an amazing amount of skill behind the camera, and puts together entertaining dramas that manage an across-the-board appeal which many of his contemporaries lack. There are many film-makers who are polarizing; Affleck seems to have the opposite affect, making movies that all audience types can find something to enjoy. “Gone Baby Gone” may be the most underrated film of the last decade, and “The Town” is as solid a crime thriller that’s been made this century.With “Argo” he found the perfect balance of character and drama to tell the “so crazy it has to be true” story of American embassy employees trying to flee Iran in the middle of a hostage crisis. Affleck manages to make a movie that balances drama, tension and humor into the most entertaining film of the year. Nice job, sir.
2. “Cabin in the Woods”
This is the most twisted deconstruction of the horror genre ever made. Joss Whedon’s spectacular script became the meta movie of 2012. Sold as a scary movie, “Cabin in the Woods” befuddled a lot of people due to its very strange and cerebral take on the most overused premise: Five college kids go to a cabin in the woods and are plagued by horrific undead killers. There’s more beneath the surface as they discover the architects of their terror are remarkably human. It remains the smartest and most satisfying release of the year.
3. “Safety Not Guaranteed”
My favorite indie film is a quirky little love story about a journalism intern trying to find experiencesthe story behind a bizarre personal ad placed by a guy looking for someone to time travel with. Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”) and Mark Duplass (“The League”) are an unconventional couple in an equally uncon-ventional story. “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a fantastic respite from the big-budget sen-sory-killing films that line the multiplexes.
4. “The Dark Knight Rises”
I’ll be the first to agree that this film is far from perfect. There are plot holes and lapses in logic that are often answered with “Because he’s Batman.” Still, the final in-stallment of “The Dark Knight” trilogy from Christopher Nolan is a huge, sweeping epic that tries really hard to raise the stakes and go out with a bang.The final 45 minutes are mind blowingly awesome—the kind of big, epic storytelling that seems all but lost on Nolan’s contempo-raries. There isn’t a filmmaker working today that manages to combine the elements of story, score and cinematography with such success. I love this film, flaws and all.
Speaking of flaws, Denzel Washington turns in the most impressive performance of the year as an alcoholic airline pilot who saves a plane full of passengers but strug-gles to save himself. There’s a lot to admire about this film, but it’s Washington who car-ries this production on his shoulders as an imperfect person struggling with the truth. There’s a scene near the film’s conclusion where he sits in stunned silence, trying to decide whether to lie his way to freedom or deal with the ugly truth and accept his punish-ment. There are few actors that could pull it off with such sincerity. This is a master class in acting, and Denzel’s finest performance.
Quite possibly the most perfect James Bond film ever made, “Skyfall” manages to gives us more insight in the character of James Bond than any previous entry. The story of a sadis-tic former agent bent on revenge does a great job of stacking the deck against him. It does what every great Bond film needs to do: pro-vide exotic locations, edge-of-your-seat action, and great performances. Daniel Craig is hands-down the best Bond ever, and his supporting cast, including Javier Bardem, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes, bring a touch of A-list class to the proceedings.
7. “Life of Pi”
The year’s most beautiful film is a strong argument for the importance of the cinematic experience. This is a film that needs to be seen on a massive screen to appreciate the beauty of it all. A very small story painted on a very large canvas, “Life of Pi” is an elegant contributortale of survival at sea, with a fantastic lead performance and special effects that actually serve the story. Ang Lee is a filmmaker who continues to try different things, and his lat-est cinematic experience is a real winner.
8. “The Amazing Spider-Man”
Take a moment to collectively groan. This one may be my least popular choice, but I liked “The Amazing Spider-man” far more than “The Avengers.” While “Avengers” was the cooler of the two films, I found my-self more invested in the re-launch of the Spidey franchise. The film manages to over-come predictable plotting, thanks to strong performances from Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and, to my surprise, Denis Leary. This was a superhero film with a lot of heart and characters I actually liked.
9. “Moonrise Kingdom”
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t initially a little disappointed by “Moonrise Kingdom.” The first time I saw it, it felt like Wes Anderson was employing his usual bag of tricks and venturing nowhere new. Upon subsequent viewings, I’ve come to appreciate it more and enjoy the crazy little world and the peculiar characters that inhabit it. Bruce Willis has never been better and Edward Norton seems tailor-made for Anderson’s unique style.
10. “21 Jump Street”
The year’s funniest film and the movie that made me believe Channing Tatum was not the devil was “21 Jump Street.” Jonah Hill both produced, wrote and starred in it, and churned out a hilarious story of a high-school loser who becomes a cop and gets a chance to return to help uncover an organized drug ring. It’s a funny, often obscene, comedic romp that feels not only like a proper homage to the 1980s television series, but of the ac-tion comedies that ruled that era.