- The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Right from the start, this film reached for my heart and squeezed it SO hard. If I wasn’t actually crying, I felt like crying through this sweet film about a troubled high school boy who finds kindness with new, accepting friends.
- Life of Pi – One of the few films I’ve seen that is actually enhanced by 3D, this absolutely gorgeous survival tale is about a boy, a lifeboat, and a tiger. The unfilmable award-winning book about a twist of fate/faith turned out to be filmable after all. Nice job, Ang Lee!
- Argo – Base on a true story, Ben Affleck’s film is half political thriller, half Hollywood comedy. And it all works. The whole opening sequence, with protestors storming the Tehran’s American Embassy in 1979, had me so tense I was almost crying.
- Frankenweenie – Sweet, funny, and surprisingly touching, the story of a re-animated pet dog was Tim Burton’s best film since Ed Wood.
- It’s Such a Beautiful Day – Can a stick figure move you to ponder the meaning of life? Animator Don Hertzfeldt finished his years-in-the-making trilogy about a stick man named Bill who reflects on his life on his date with destiny.
- Beasts of the Southern Wild – A fierce little girl named Hushpuppy lives in the Louisiana bayou in a place called The Bathtub. Full of myths, and magic, and one big storm, this is one of the most original and fresh films I’ve seen in a long time.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Guilty pleasure, sure. But I had loads more fun watching this outrageous revisionist history version of our revered president (who apparently had a mean way with an axe) than a certain other movie that all the critics slobbered over.
- Killer Joe – Yes, let the NC-17 rating scare you. By the end of the film, everyone in an ill-advised murder plot has pretty much been beaten to a pulp, humiliated, or shot. But it made me laugh, and the twists had me right up until the final moment.
- The Hunger Games – Luckily for this highly anticipated movie, the film was just about as good as the excellent teaser trailer. Can’t wait for the next one!
- The Hunter – A hunter has been hired to kill an animal long thought to be extinct in the wilds of Tasmania. On the surface it is a thriller, but at its heart, it is a surprisingly haunting mood piece about a man (Willem Dafoe) facing his own demons and making a choice.
Best proof that fleeting pop culture fame doesn’t mean the rest of your life will suck:
Paul Williams, the ubiquitous 70s celebrity (and friend of The Muppets) who fell into drugs, disappeared, and is doing just fine now, thank you, in Paul Williams Still Alive.
Battle of the psychics:
Worst psychic: Robert DeNiro’s “creepy” Simon Silver in the straight-to-video quality Red Lights.
Best psychic: Mr. Whiskers in Frankenweenie. Mr. Whiskers could predict a major event in your life by laying a poo in the shape of your initial. It’s true!
I can admire a movie’s performances without actually enjoying the movie one bit:
Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston in the uber-depressing The Deep Blue Sea
Man-oh-man I wanted to love Prometheus… 🙁
(Speaking of… If you are running from something that is shaped like a giant wheel, take note: JUMP TO THE SIDE!)
Dolly Parton in the crowd-pleasing Joyful Noise, where she actually wore a fitted choir robe!
Proof that swinging your arms and adopting a wide stance doesn’t make you look taller:
Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher
Best chemistry in the bloated epic The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:
That moment when Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel communicates telepathically with Ian McKellen’s Gandalf. If only the rest of the movie crackled like that scene!
Jackie Earle Haley in Lincoln – I didn’t care much for the film (I thought it was a snooze fest), but I was unnerved at how Haley’s Alexander Stephens looked just like he stepped out of an 1860’s daguerreotype.
Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook – Yes, the rest of the cast was great, but I found myself distracted by this Philadephia housewife who didn’t seem to be acting at all! Who the heck was she? None other than an Australian actress who has already gotten an Oscar nomination in 2011.
Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe – Much has been made of his great year with movies like Magic Mike and Bernie, but I thought his sexy/scary work in this over-the-top, violent, bizarre tale of a murder gone wrong was fantastic.
The entire cast of Downton Abbey – I know, not technically a movie, but raise your hand if you’ve been watching this deliciously wicked and soapy PBS/BBC production. How often does it take more than two hands to name off your favorite characters of any show or movie?
Everyone else loved ’em, but they just made me shrug:
Lincoln (again: snoozefest), Moonrise Kingdom (sorry, wasn’t charmed, nor did I laugh)
Most fun to be had at the movies:
Getting to be in the same breathing space as the as-adorable-in-real-life Ewan MacGregor during a Q&A tour for the just as charming Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Almost got a photo with him, but we got shooed away by the handlers… Alas!