By Vincent Abbatecola
A new year has just begun, but we can still look back on some of the best films of last year. There was a cavalcade of highly memorable films, from booming superhero adventures to unique comedies to hard-hitting dramas. While there is so much to choose from as to what’s the best, the list is limited, unfortunately. Honorable mentions belong to the found-footage film “Chronicle,” the lighthearted indie “Safety Not Guaranteed,” the brutal police drama “End of Watch,” and the sci-fi mind-bender “Looper.”
But, there are only five movies that can make list, and each of them has contributed to a very entertaining year at the movies. All of them demand several viewings, and will have the audience engaged in conversations right after. These are some of the definite films to remember from 2012.
1) “Argo” - Ben Affleck’s film about the escape of six American hostages during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis is one of the most tense thrillers to come out in recent memory, and Affleck is one of the best directors working today, having displayed consistently great filmmaking after only three movies. He delivers scenes of unbearable suspense with funny and heroic characters. A viewer shouldn’t be turned off by the fact that politics play a part in the film; it’s not all about the reasons behind the crisis. It’s about the dangerous voyage that a brave group of people made through Iran to get back home.
2) “Flight ” - Robert Zemeckis could not have made a better and more memorable return to live-action filmmaking than with his latest drama. The story about airline captain William Whitiker (Denzel Washington), who makes a daring emergency landing, only later to be under scrutiny because of his BAC while flying the plane, is a deeply analytical study of Washington’s character as he tries to kick his alcohol addiction. Despite this being a character-driven drama, Zemeckis brings some of his flair for visuals for the harrowing landing sequence. With an emotional performance from Washington, as well as a breakout performance from Kelly Reilly as an ex-junkie who tries to help Whitiker get his life together, Zemeckis has given audiences a stimulating character study.
3) “Moonrise Kingdom” - Wes Anderson is a quirky storyteller, and that is what allows him to bring some highly original material to the screen. In his latest film, he focuses on two preteens (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who begin a relationship, against their parents’ wishes. It’s a tale about the complexities of growing up and of making mistakes and learning from them. Anderson’s off-beat characters and distinctive brand of comedy creates a film that is gleefully relatable to anyone who has experienced the joy of that first childhood crush.
4) “Life of Pi” - One would think that making a film out of Yann Martel’s novel would be a challenge, considering how the greater part of the story involves the title character stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. However, in one of the best filmmaking achievements of the year, Ang Lee has made a visual marvel of an adventure story that’s mythic, poignant and enchanting. A superb performance from newcomer Suraj Sharma as Pi, strikingly beautiful special effects, and a commendable use of 3D makes “Life of Pi” a powerful testament to the strength of a human’s will to survive.
5) “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Like “Life of Pi,” this film is a survival story and has a performance from a young and talented newcomer, Quvenzhane Wallis. The narrative follows young Hushpuppy who tries to save her father (Dwight Henry) from his deteriorating health after a storm ruins their southern Louisiana bayou community. This being the first feature from director Benh Zeitlin, he employs magical realism that gorgeously blends elements of Hushpuppy’s imagination with the reality of the devastation around her. Hushpuppy may be the bravest child character in 2012 cinema, and her unwavering courage puts this film on a majestic canvas