Year's 10 best films as chosen by The Canadian Press
Suraj Sharma as Pi Patel in a scene from 20th Century Fox's 'Life of Pi'
Published Friday, December 21, 2012 9:27AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 21, 2012 9:54AM EST
A twisty tale of time travel, the magical story of a boy lost at sea and the return of James Bond are among the year's Top 10 films as selected by the writers and editors of The Canadian Press.
In alphabetical order, they are:
"Amour" -- Rarely is aging and mortality seen with such unflinching, bracing honesty as in this haunting look at an elderly Parisian couple who wither before our eyes. Emmanuelle Riva is heartbreaking as the strongwilled but ailing Anne, a former piano teacher whose quick mind and hearty spirit erodes with alarming speed after a surprising diagnosis. Her husband Georges, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, does his best to maintain their daily routine but is haunted by unspoken fears and an increasing despair that simmers alongside his devotion.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" -- With its fantastical flourishes and magnificent cinematography, "Beasts" is a uniquely touching treasure. Newcomers Quvenzhane Wallis brings impressive pluck to the part of six-year-old Hushpuppy while Dwight Henry is equally amazing as her booze-swilling dad. The Benh Zeitlin-helmed drama -- which unfolds as daughter, father and other ragtag residents ride out a massive storm in a ramshackle bayou community -- serves as an unforgettable social and environmental commentary as well as an ode to the tenacity of post-Katrina New Orleans.
"Django Unchained" -- Yes, it's a little long -- Quentin Tarantino's editor clearly struggled to rein him in -- but you can understand why. Given the Oscar-contending performances by Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, and the series of compelling plots and subplots in this blaxploitation-spaghetti Western hybrid, it's a solid bet there was even more gold that hit the cutting room floor to keep the film from stretching into Peter Jackson territory. Opening Christmas Day, "Django Unchained" is another Tarantino classic buoyed by witty writing and unforgettable characters.
"Life of Pi" -- If there's one word to describe this wonderment for the eyes and soul, it has to be "epic." Director Ang Lee has boldly brought to life Saskatoon author Yann Martel's boy-tiger shipwreck tale with visually sumptuous 3D CGI that doesn't detract one bit from the spiritual story that won a Man Booker Prize.
"Looper" -- He was Christian Bale's sidekick in "The Dark Knight Rises" and worked with Steven Spielberg in "Lincoln," but it was Joseph Gordon-Levitt's lead role in this brainy and brawny sci-fi flick that showed he is a top-tier action star in the making. Set in a dystopian not-too-distant future in which criminals have discovered time travel and exploit it to carry out murders, Gordon-Levitt is an anti-hero killer with a heart of gold, tasked with taking out an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) sent from the future. One of the plot turns proved to be a little unpopular with the sci-fi crowd but "Looper" succeeds in balancing action, drama and a serpentine storyline -- no small feat considering all the big-budget popcorn flicks that consistently miss the mark.
"Silver Linings Playbook" -- With this open-hearted dramedy crowd-pleaser, David O. Russell managed to not only assemble a superstar cast -- including double Oscar winner Robert De Niro, Oscar nominees Jennifer Lawrence and Jacki Weaver and stars Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker -- but he also coaxed sensational, wholly unexpected performances from all of them. As a volatile, brittle man newly sprung from a mental institution, Cooper shows surprising depth while Lawrence is incandescent as his equally messed-up new friend. But really, everyone in "Silver" shines so brightly, it's almost impossible not to be dazzled by the result.
"Skyfall" -- Daniel Craig proves he may just be the best 007 ever (sorry Sean Connery!) in this exhilarating and gorgeously shot superspy instalment from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes. "Skyfall" shows Bond at his most beautiful -- from his tragic backstory, to the breathtaking pink-hued Scottish countryside and of course, those skinny suits that his predecessors would dare not attempt. And then there's that great Adele song.
"Stories We Tell" -- Is there anything Sarah Polley can't do? Polley's first stab at feature film directing ("Away From Her") took her all the way to the Oscars and now some say her first documentary could do the same. This former child star proves masterful with the genre, managing to infuse a deeply personal tale with tension, smarts and emotional wallop. Ostensibly, it's about Polley's discovery that the man she grew up believing was her father was not her father at all, but as the title suggests, it's the way this secret unfolds and reverberates through her family that proves most fascinating.
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" -- This natty little film about seven British retirees musing on mortality amid the colourful chaos of India was a rare summertime gift from the cinematic gods. Tom Wilkinson! Judi Dench! Maggie Smith! It's hard to imagine a more superb group of actors, all at the top of their game in this poignant tale, deftly helmed by John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love"). The only downside of "Exotic Marigold"? Leaving the theatre and lamenting that similarly smart, stylish films for adults are so few and far between.
"The Queen of Versailles" -- This wildly entertaining documentary about Westgate Resorts owners Jackie and David Siegel is really two films in one, and director Lauren Greenfield navigated the 90-degree turn in this couple's story with the steely panache of James Bond himself. The film begins as a hilarious document of one couple's misguided quest to build the largest and most expensive single-family home in the United States -- based on the French chateau -- and turns into a study of a privileged family coming unspooled in the aftermath of the economic collapse. As the Siegels' world turns, our smirking schadenfreude gives way to an unlikely degree of empathy -- particularly for their plucky matriarch, who tries in vain to keep the family's moods up while their stock falls.
Honourable mentions: "The Dark Knight Rises"; "Frankenweenie"; "Jeff, Who Lives at Home"; "Les Miserables"; "Rust & Bone."
-- Compiled by Canadian Press reporters Victoria Ahearn, Andrea Baillie, Michael Oliveira, Nick Patch and Cassandra Szklarski