The Scene picks its favorite films of 2012, from cash cow blockbusters to critically-acclaimed indies.
In the surprising second act of his career, Ben Affleck (“The Town”) has reinvented himself as a talented director. “Argo,” Affleck’s third feature film, is a stunningly suspenseful piece that marries a straight-laced historical film with a humorously biting commentary on the movie industry.
Based on a previously confidential mission during the Iranian hostage crisis, “Argo” reveals the larger-than-life circumstances that were involved in extraction of six American diplomatic workers out of Iran. Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, the CIA operative who led the joint CIA-Canadian initiative to rescue the six employees of the U.S. Embassy who were taking refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home. In a plan so ridiculous it might work, Mendez and the six employees pose as a film crew making a cheesy sci-fi movie called “Argo.”
With its excellent writing and talented cast of Hollywood favorites like Alan Arkin (“The Muppets”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and John Goodman (“Flight”), “Argo” is a near-masterpiece in direction, turns an odd premise into a wholly enjoyable movie.
“The Dark Knight Rises”
2012 may not have been my favorite year for film, but Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” definitely stood out among the rest. Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart), the film opens with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hiding in his family mansion, far removed from fighting crime.
At first, I must admit, I was a little wary about the film. With such a beautifully chilling performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker for the second Batman installment, I was unsure how this film’s villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), would compare. But Hardy’s performance left me pleasantly surprised. And looking at Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway for two hours was just another bonus.
With every film he makes, Wes Anderson leaves a now-familiar and indelible trace. Such was the case with his latest film, the colorful, nostalgic “Moonrise Kingdom.”
The plot was as Andersonian as ever: wise-beyond-their-years pre-teens, Sam and Suzy, fall in love and run away from society, finding solace for one night in a picturesque lakeside camp.
The sumptuous visuals, costumes and meticulous
cinematography of this film were enough to make it memorable, but its acting performances amped up its hilariously beautiful human element.
The children all speak like jaded adults, while the actual adults are beyond immature, amusingly played by Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Jason Schwartzman, along with Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”), Edward Norton (“Stone”) and Bruce Willis (“Looper”). This film will be considered one of Anderson’s best for years to come.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” isn’t simply an aesthetically stunning and emotionally raw coming-of-age fantasy, but also one of the most compelling love stories of the year. The film tells the story of Hushpuppy, a 6-year-old girl (masterfully played by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis) growing up with her father in the Bathtub, a vibrant bayou community straight out of a warped natural history museum.
While technically set in the Southern Delta, the movie never establishes a firm setting in space or time, incorporating fantastical elements to build an isolated fantasy community in which the Bathtub battles against not only cruel forces of nature and prehistoric creatures, but most ruinously the influences of the outside world.
Led by the tiny powerhouse that is Wallis, the film’s cast of unknowns weave a rich story of adversity, tragedy and redemption, as seen through the eyes of one of the year’s most resilient heroines. “Beasts” isn’t a romance in the conventional sense, but the film’s story of a young girl grappling to save her father and her beloved Bathtub community is as poignant story of love and loss as any I’ve seen on screen.
“Shut Up and Play the Hits”