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Best of 2012 and thoughts about Oscar

February 21, 2013

Oscar night is nearly upon us. Many awards have already been handed out and there’s just enough time for a few more before the big night. In case you were wondering, my vote doesn’t have much sway with the Academy. Nevertheless, this will not stop my own awards season prognostication and two-cents-giving.

2012 was a great year at the movies. The prestige films exceeded expectation almost across the board and even the blockbuster crop was inspiring.  Below is my list of Honorable Mentions and the all-important Top 10.

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Past this sentence, you will not see mentions of Lincoln, Le Miserables or The Hobbit. Were they enjoyable? Certainly. Overrated and/or overblown? Definitely. Ye be warned.

For the sake of transparency, among the movies I have not yet seen; Amour, Magic Mike, The Master, Seven Psychopaths, and Wreck-It Ralph are the most notable.

Honorable Mention

These are the films part of me wished I could squeeze into my Top 10, but alas, could not. Alphabetically, of course:

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– The Avengers

– Beasts of the Southern Wild

– Cabin in the Woods

– The Dark Knight Rises

– Dredd

– Flight

– ParaNorman

– Zero Dark Thirty

Our Planet Burke’s Top 10 of 2012

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10. Looper

As an excellent addition to everyone’s favorite genre, Looper had to be on this list. Willis and Gordon-Levitt are great together sharing screen time as differently-aged versions of the same character. Looper is a blunderbuss shot of originality and an excellent film.

9. Cloud Atlas

It’s unfortunate that this latest Wachowski endeavor didn’t command more attention. It’s an incredibly ambitious and challenging movie that accomplishes its lofty goal of demonstrating the powerful yet invisible unifying forces of the universe. Bravo.

8. Argo

Argo has won an impressive run of pre-Oscar awards, which could prove prophetic come Oscar night. I may not quite see it as Best Picture material, but it’s a top-notch film nonetheless and a worthy addition to Ben Affleck’s mighty impressive body of work as a director.

7. Django Unchained

Tarantino is one of the greats working today. He has never disappointed me, and Django managed to live up to my massive expectations. This is the most thematically challenging film of the provocateur’s career and it is among his best. See it for the performances and typically idiosyncratic screenplay.

6. Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Rusell’s follow-up to The Fighter is a crowd-pleasing romantic comedy. Movies categorized as such are not supposed to be this good. What could easily have been a puff piece is elevated above its conventions to true Best Picture contender status.

5. Moonrise Kingdom

An unfortunate snub for a Best Picture nomination, Moonrise Kingdom is the feather atop Wes Anderson’s many-colored cap. It lands right up there with Rushmore as Anderson’s best work and the same could be said about the performance of Bruce Willis. The young actors in the lead roles steal the show.

4. Prometheus

The latest entry in one of my favorite franchises; Ridley Scott’s Prometheus takes the “Best in Sci-fi” crown of 2012. For reasons I’ve already covered in detail here, ­Prometheus is a thrilling feast for the senses but for the intellect as well. It challenges viewers by asking more questions than it answers, therein avoiding a sin that so many other late-franchise entries succumb to.

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3. Life of Pi

Life of Pi is my pick for the Best Picture statuette. I don’t know if it will beat out apparent favorites Argo and Lincoln, but it should. It is brilliant in every way. It accomplishes the rare feat of being both a technically innovative production and thematically powerful. Of the nominated films, Life of Pi is the best.

2. Skyfall

The latest entry in another one of my favorite franchises is a complete deconstruction of 007’s 50-year cinematic history. It seems to question the very necessity of the formula that has been responsible for the success of the long-running franchise. Skyfall is also one of the very best James Bond films made to date.

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1. The Grey

This was the first film I saw in 2012 and somehow I can’t shake the feeling that it was also the best. Yes, this is the movie that appeared to be about Liam Neeson fighting wolves with his bare hands. Any silliness suggested in the trailers was absent in the film. What was left was a first-rate production featuring gripping action, an intense existential angle and a powerful performance by Neeson. It was a completely unexpected revelation and my favorite of the year.

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