This may be late in awards season but I was finally able to put my top ten list together. A week ago I showed my honorable mentions, films that I loved but did not make this list. The following movies demonstrated the risks, and variety that directors demonstrated in these ten masterpieces.
10 "Les Miserables" by Tom Hooper
Messy, erratic, and over the top are a few words to describe this lush adaptation of the musical Les Miserables. Tom Hooper directs the film with his usual visual style and his awkward angles that add a level of decadence and grittiness necessary to tell this dramatic story. Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valijean with gravitas while Anne Hathaway plays the tragic role of Fantuine with tenderness and dramatic weight. The rest of the cast lead by the charismatic Helena Boham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are terrific. The singing may be at times questionable but overall it gets the job done and sometimes adds to the text which is so masterfully written.
9 "Compliance" by Craig Zobel
Compliance is by far one of the most controversial films of the year. While many people have yet to see Craig Zobel's second film, Compliance is an edgy work that can prove to be hard to watch and making audiences uncomfortable and impatient. The film about a prank caller who convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee is frightening and yet a bit unbelievable. Zobel brings visual imagery that shows the harshness and the grotesque nature in society. Yet he never exploits the subject matter. Led by an impeccable Ann Dowd, Compliance is a film that should not be missed by anyone.
8 "The Sessions" by Ben Lewin
The feel good movie of the year was The Sessions. Ben Lewin adds tenderness, comedy and tragedy to Mark O'Brien's memoir. The Sessions is about a man in search of losing his virginity who contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest. John Hawkes transforms himself with each movement defining his character and it is by far one of the best male performances of the year. Helen Hunt brings pathos to her role as Cheryl as she shows her conflict for her feelings for Mark O'Brien. While Lewin's film is not visually striking, it is a film about intimacy and the emotional weight of the characters and there goals.
Lyrical and absorbing are some of the words to describe this philosophical piece. The film tells the story A young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor a fearsome Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. Ang Lee's latest film captures some of the most beautiful images of the year with an intoxicating score by Mychael Danna. It also boasts from impressive visual effects and impeccable production design. However the most outstanding part of the film is the depth in the story that will leave audiences shocked and heartbroken. Additionally Suraj Sharma's performance is career making.
6 "Silver Linings Playbook" by David O. Russell
David O. Russell always speaks of how he wants to make his films raw and emotional. In Silver Linings Playbook, Russell does exactly that with the overplayed romantic comedy. He subverts the conventions of the genre with two unlikely people falling in love. Pat Solitano played brilliantly by Bradley Cooper is a mentally ill man who falls in love with Tiffany a depressed women who is trying to overcome the death of her husband. Russell's story is nothing new and audiences know where it will end. What is so refreshing is his actor's performances, the freedom of his camera, the nuance of his mis en scene, and most importantly the reality of the circumstances. Unlike most romantic comedies which contain superficiality, these characters are broken and through their relationship they find healing. Jennifer Lawrence easily demonstrates why she is becoming Hollywood's top young star while Cooper shows that he can get away from the Hollywood stereotype. Robert De Niro returns to his prime of acting and Jacki Weaver is Pat's tender mother.
5 "Moonrise Kingdom" by Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson's latest film is a fantastical love story that is both quirky and filled with a lot of heart. Moonrise Kingdom boasts from the Best Cast of the year and impressive script by the director and Roman Coppola. The film tells the story of a pair of young lovers who flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them. The final storm sequence is one of the most riveting, funny and thrilling moments in film this year.
4 "Argo" by Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck's third film is by far his best to date. It is a tense ride that will leave audiences applauding and cheering by the end. Chris Terrio's script seamlessly blends drama and comedy and Affleck is able to build solid characters with a cast of new comers and all stars. Alexasandre Desplat's score is beautifully packed with diverse colors and Rodrigo Pieto's gritty cinematography helps to build the tension. Without a doubt Argo is by far the best thrill ride of the year.
3"Amour" by Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke's Palm D'Or winner is a visually beautiful film that may feel distant to many but captures the reality of two old souls facing the last days of their lives. Led by spectacular turns by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, Amour is a devastating and a cathartic film that leaves audiences thinking and asking if something like it could ever happen.
2 "The Master" by Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is edgy and unconventional The film is messy in structure but tense and will leave audiences wondering what they ended up seeing. Anderson asks many question but does not answer many. The result is a film that is unforgettable and one I was unable to stop thinking about. The performances are also unforgettable with Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivering tour de force turns. Their processing scene is one of the best acted scenes of the year and one that will leave audiences blown away. Amy Adams gives her best turn to date in a Lady Macbeth type role. Jack Fisk and Milhai Malaimare offer some of the best visuals of the year while John Greenwood gives an eerie and off putting score. Anderson once again delivers one of the most provocative films this year.
1 "Zero Dark Thirty" by Kathryn Bigelow
Controversial, stunning, inmate and a tour de force are some words to describe, the best film this year. Kathryn Bigelow brings a ten year manhunt to a tense two and a half hour film that never takes sides. Bigelow's is unrelenting showing the death of various CIA agents as well as provocative torture scenes. But what is most captivating is the last climactic infiltration of the compound where Bin Laden is hiding. It is easily the most exhilarating and suspenseful action sequence of the year with the use of excellent sound effects, slow editing, and Greg Fraiser's dark cinematography. Jessica Chastain's triumphant lead role is also one of the best performances of the year and she leads an incredible cast that also includes Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke and Jennifer Ehle. Zero Dark Thirty is by far the film that will be remembered in years to come and one that will be talked about in years to come.
To check out last years top ten click here.