Honorable Mentions: Chronicle, Killing Them Softly, Jeff Who Lives at Home
10. Argo — Ben Afleck’s thriller illustrates how stoicism and determination can heal a world frenzied by terrorism and celebrity. With a careful grasp on tempo and atmosphere, this swift film carries us through danger with unforgettable finesse.
9. Seven Psychopaths — Martin McDonagh’s sophomore feature film mutates our expectations when it comes to the gangster genre. He surprises us with conflicted yet sympathetic characters and stories-within-stories such that we care for these seemingly immoral people.
8. Skyfall — Although the latest Bond movie has several plot flaws, its personal turmoils make for a compellingly intimate espionage tale. Roger Deakins provides some of this year’s most memorable cinematography, and Sam Mendes proves that he is as talented at shooting action as he is at unfolding drama.
7. Looper — Rian Johnson blends together the sleekness of Science Fiction and French New Wave with the ruggedness of Westerns to create an appropriate experience that fits perfectly with his story’s sense of duality. His theme of how violence cycles from one generation to the next works as a wonderful symbol for the literal loop Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character deals with.
6. Holy Motors — This movie is a whimsical oddity that explores art within the nooks and crannies of this Earth. By inventing truly bizarre and random vignettes around Paris, director Leos Carax shows us how cinema can occur with makeup, imagination, and the willingness to unhinge oneself from reality.
5. The Cabin in the Woods — Not only do Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard deconstruct the realm of horror, they completely obliterate the ecosystem with their genre-bending film. Their shrewd commentary on how we as moviegoers revel in seeing people get killed serves as a way for some insane reflection on the current state of cinema.
4. ParaNorman — The meticulous passion that went into making this 3D stop-motion film shows that a juxtaposition of future technology and past techniques can create a charming experience. Similarly, it contrasts a child’s mentality with an adult’s, poetically highlighting issues we face no matter how old we are.
3. Indie Game: The Movie — It’s difficult for me to ignore this documentary when it captures material that I deal with every day of my life. Seeing independent video game developers risk their financial lives to produce something they wholeheartedly believe in is an inspiration not just for software engineers, but for anyone who’s dedicated to creating something from scratch.
2. The Imposter — Documentaries and unreliable narrators don’t usually cross paths. However, an allegiance between these typically estranged concepts created one of this year’s most probing, enigmatic theatrical experiences. Director Bart Layton toys with our perception as he documents the true story of Frederic Bourdin, an infamous criminal who impersonates a 16-year-old Texan teen.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild — We are often frustrated with things that ultimately define us as individuals. Our families always find ways to annoy us; our hometowns typically dissolve into memories we wish to banish; our former loved ones haunt us with pain we shared in the past. The characters in this film adhere to these ideas, but they find a way to embrace their roots – blemishes and all. This film has an unconditional love that cannot be torn by death or disaster, and oddly enough, that is why it’s my favorite film of the year.