My Top Ten Films of 2012
(film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Somewhere about mid-October, this seemed like it was going to be a below-par year for films. Again, most of the best films had releases timed to be remembered at awards time. Some ratings have been altered from those in my original reviews to reflect my current feelings about the films.

Tom Hooper takes the now classic stage musical and makes of it a film even more spectacular, sweeping, and poignant. It covers nearly the entire emotional spectrum possible. LES MISÉRABLES is a moving film experience to be treasured. With a story about among other things class conflict this production of the play by Boublil and Schonberg is if anything timelier today than when the play was first produced. That makes this an important film as well as a very well made one. Any small failings of LES MISÉRABLES are overwhelmed by the accomplishment of what was done here that is directly on the mark. Rating: +4 (-4 to +4) or 10/10

With very interesting release timing and with considerable historical accuracy, Stephen Spielberg tells the history of the two great conflicting goals Abraham Lincoln had toward the end of the Civil War. He wanted both to free the slaves and to end the fighting. Spielberg does not simplify the issues. Much of the film is talk. He respects his audience's intelligence enough to tell the complex story and maintain a great deal of historical accuracy. The film even looks very authentic to the period. The viewer may have to work hard to catch all that is happening, but the task is worth the effort. This is a film for an intelligent audience. Rating: high +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

Set during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, ARGO tells a strange but true footnote to that history. Six United States citizens whom the Iranian revolutionary government wants arrested have escaped from the United States embassy to the protection of the house of the Canadian ambassador. Now the CIA is charged with extracting them from Iran against very high odds. One operative devises a cockeyed plan to remove them by passing them off as filmmakers scouting locations for a science fiction movie. Ben Affleck directs and stars. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

THE IMPOSSIBLE is a true account of a family celebrating the holiday in coastal Thailand that is literally torn apart by the 2004 Christmas tsunami. It is a realistic, on-the-ground look at
the experience of being caught in a Tsunami and the effort afterward of just finding loved ones. As the wave crashes the film has a guaranteed six minutes of white-knuckle fear. Juan Antonio Bayona who directed THE ORPHANAGE an exploration of supernatural horror now gives us a horror that is only too natural. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

In the years after WWII Freddie Quell, an unbalanced and misfit Navy veteran, finds and comes under the sway of an American cult led by charismatic demagogue Lancaster Dodd. Quell becomes a fanatic believer in the cult, but can never get the full approval from Dodd that he desperately seeks. Selective in its appeal, the film has a lot to say about the nature of religious belief, the

personalities of radical followers and generally the functioning of cults. Paul Thomas Anderson writes and directs a film that is cryptic and compelling. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

This is a true story that, I am told, every schoolchild has been taught in Denmark. A half-witted king with a barely consummated marriage gives over much of his power to his charismatic doctor. The doctor has liberal ideas on how the country should be run and affects sweeping and much-needed political reforms. He also has an affair with the queen. But his reforms worry the politically powerful and his efforts become a test of wills. Mads Mikkelsen, who played the villain of CASINO ROYALE, is the doctor who oversteps his role in the best of causes. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Terrence Rattigan's play comes to the screen adapted and directed by Terence Davies. Rachel Weisz plays a woman in a tepid marriage who has an affair with a WWII pilot in the RAF and it transforms her life, but at the risk of her marriage and her social position. The plot is very parallel to ANNA KARENINA, also remade this year. But this film is deeply affecting in just the way that ANNA KARENINA fails, mostly due to Ms. Weisz's acting in one of the best performances of the year. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Seven English retirees come to a retirement hotel in Jaipur, India, most unprepared for the culture differences good and bad that await them. Their five or six different intertwined storylines tell stories of past love, present love, humor, and pathos. Perhaps only one of the stories rises above cliché, but they are all told well with the total being more than the sum of the parts making for a satisfying and even touching experience. And these seven British actors would make a powerhouse cast for any film. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

A gay man fights to regain the custody of his son who is the biological child of his deceased life partner. IN THE FAMILY is a moving film that will remind viewers of the emotional tugs of a KRAMER VS. KRAMER. This is a very good 165-minute film, but it could have made a better 105-minute film. The newcomer producer, director, and star Patrick Wang starts out making one of the best films of the year. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

James Bond is after a stolen list of MI6 agents who have been placed in terrorist cells. At the same time all of MI6 is under attack from someone who has access to the inside of the organization. Bond is fighting an enemy that has his knowledge and skills. This is a strong, fast, and sexy action story that gives us something different from the Bond films than we have seen before. SKYFALL has a darker tone than we have seen in the past from the series. Sam Mendes directs a script by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper