Holy Motors. One of the most batshit crazy films I saw all year by provocative French director Leos Carax with a wild performance by Denis Lavant, making outlandish costumed transformations in the back of a limo driven by the still beautiful star of Eyes Without A Face -- Édith Scob. This reminded me why I love movies.
As 2012 nears its end I'm still pissed off that I haven't seen Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, which I know I'm going to love. But that said, there still was enough love to go around. Here are my personal choices for the year's 10 best films:
The Imposter. Hands down the best documentary (by Bart Layton) I saw all year, about a fascinating loon -- Frédéric Bourdin -- who impersonated a missing Texas boy. Unforgettable.
The Master. Truly strange film about a cult leader (a brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his damaged acolyte (a twitchy, mannered, but wonderful Joaquin Phoenix). This damn movie haunted me for weeks afterwards.
Keep The Lights On. Director Ira Sachs's devastating account of a doomed love affair between a film director (Thure Lindhardt) and a troubled, drug-addled, boyfriend (Zachary Booth). I can't recall a more warts-and-all memory piece.
Beloved. Another ambitious, utterly unconventional film from one of my favorite directors, Christoph Honoré, starring Catherine Deneuve and real-life daughter Chiara Mastroianni in a saga spanning 40 years of love, lust, loss, AIDS and even 9/11 -- sometimes even in song.
The Deep Blue Sea. Director Terence Davies's exquisite cinematic rendering of Terrence Rattigan's play, with a staggering best-of-the-year performance by Rachel Weisz as a married woman who has a reckless affair with an air force pilot (Tom Hiddleson). Heartbreaking as it was beautiful.
Cloud Atlas. Fuck the critics who sniped at this wildly inspired collaboration between Lana & Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. This 3-hour head trip left me dazzled and moved.
The Cabin In The Woods. Director Drew Goddard's meta-horror film mixed elements of favorite chillers with a H. P. Lovecraft-like modern spin that left me laughing and screaming.
God Bless America. I just adore the sensibilities of gifted director Bobcat Goldthwait's anarchistic rant against popular culture as the wonderfully droll Joel Murray and his peppy young accomplice (Tara Lynne Barr) gun down assholes that tick them off.
The Raid: Redemption. Director Gareth Evans's thrilling action film about a SWAT team who fight their way up to the top floor of a building filled with vicious criminals. Your jaw dropped as your pulse raced. I haven't been this wildly entertained in a long time.
Now, 10 Of The Worst:
The Amazing Spider-Man. Trust me, there was absolutely nothing amazing about it.
Total Recall. I've already forgotten I saw it.
The Avengers. I had high hopes for this but the movie was big, exhausting and dull.
Cosmopolis. I have to admit this is a first: the only movie by the great David Cronenberg that I was bored stiff by.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The trailer looked like fun, but the minute the movie began a sinking feeling set in. And I don't mean in my neck. I kept praying for Abe to head to Ford's Theater.
Silent House. A lame remake of a rather unnerving film that gives the appearance of being shot in one continuous take. Edit.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. God forgive me -- the only reason I went to see this kid-friendly 3D headache-inducing nightmare was to look at Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, whom I find irresistibly likable.
Lincoln. So sanctimonious and self-satisfied it made me want to throw out all my pennies. Four snores and seven years ago...
The Raven. Nevermore...
Les Misérables. No, I haven't seen it yet but the trailer makes me want to thrust hot pokers in my eyes.