Best films and performances of 2012
It was an election year in which two films about American presidents — the most beloved Republican (Honest Abe in Lincoln) and most beloved Democrat (philandering FDR in Hyde Park on the Hudson )– played theaters. And a year in which two geopolitical thrillers about real-life CIA agents going head to head with Islamist revolutionaries will likely go head-to-head at the Oscars (Argo and Zero Dark Thirty). Three of these films are on my top-ten list.
Top Ten (ranked)
1) Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s nailbiting procedural of CIA analyst “Maya,” the woman (Jessica Chastain) who orchestrated the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden.
2) Argo, Ben Affleck’s tense thriller about Tony Mendez (Affleck), the CIA “exfiltrator” who spirited six U.S. State Department employees out of Iran during the hostage crisis in 1980.
3) Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s bristling character study of the ground-level campaign conducted by the 16th president (Daniel Day-Lewis) to secure the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.
4) Amour, Michael Haneke’s unsparing account of dignified octogenarians (Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant) facing the indignities of aging.
5) Middle of Nowhere, Ava DuVernay’s involving nocturne tracks a health-care worker (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who breaks out of her emotional lockdown during her husband’s incarceration.
6) The Sessions, Ben Lewin’s tender look at how a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) helps a severely disabled poet (John Hawkes) achieve emotional intimacy.
7) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky’s moving adaptation of his novel about high-school outsiders (Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson) who support each other through trying times.
8) Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Allison Klayman’s sympathetic portrait of the Chinese dissident artist, his work and his political tangles in his homeland.
9) Sister, Ursula Meier’s startling drama of an underclass family, seasonal employees at a posh Swiss ski resort.
10) Flight, Robert Zemeckis’ unflinching study of an airline pilot (Denzel Washington) capable of mastering mechanical malfunctions but not always his personal demons.
Lead actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), John Hawkes (The Sessions), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Denzel Washington (Flight).
Supporting actor: Alan Arkin (Argo), Jude Law (Anna Karenina), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike), David Oyelowo (Middle of Nowhere).
Lead actress: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour).
Supporting actress: Amy Adams (The Master), Judi Dench (Skyfall), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Kelly Reilly (Flight).
Your favorite films and performances of 2012?