The 10 best movies of 2012
No. 1: Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino's potent blend of blaxploitation and spaghetti western is provocative, laugh-out-loud funny and full of fire. The director reminds us that slavery is outrageous -- an outrage -- not least for the way it was ensconced in a notion of aristocratic gentility.
No. 2: The Master - Joaquin Phoenix, right, cements his reputation as a top actor in Paul Thomas Anderson's cryptic drama about a World War II veteran looking for spiritual nourishment with a cult guru.
No. 3: Zero Dark Thirty - Don't let the controversy over torture scenes put you off: Kathryn Bigelow's gripping, lean and anguished account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden is designed to stir soul-searching. Jessica Chastain has won raves as a CIA agent who leads the search.
No. 4: Silver Linings Playbook - David O. Russell is the perfect director to undercut the schmaltzy bromides without selling short his characters in this screwball romance about the bipolar product (Bradley Cooper) of your typical American dysfunctional family.
No. 5: Beasts of the Southern Wild - Like "Life of Pi," "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is another magical-realist fable, this time on an indie budget.
No. 6: Life of Pi - Maybe the best use of 3-D yet, Ang Lee's visually intoxicating treatment of Yann Martel's prize-winning novel about a boy (Suraj Sharma) lost at sea with only a tiger for company is an exquisite poetic fable that also bares ferocious teeth.
No. 7: Killing Them Softly - Audiences haven't warmed to this nonthrilling crime movie with Brad Pitt, adapted from George V. Higgins' novel "Cogan's Trade" and updated to New Orleans during the 2008 economic meltdown.
No. 8: Bernie - A "small" movie that deserved a wider audience, Richard Linklater found something funny, sad, eccentric and timely in the true story about a mortician (Jack Black) who befriends but bumps off the richest and most spiteful woman (Shirley MacLaine) in a small Texas town, then proceeds to give away her money to bail out the local economy.
No. 9: Skyfall - Agent 007 turned 50 with rare panache: Directed by Sam Mendes, "Skyfall" is a contender for one of the top Bonds ever.
No. 10: Frankenweenie, The Cabin in the Woods - "The Cabin in the Woods" was the most fiendishly ingenious -- a horror movie that was truly out of the box. As for "Frankenweenie," pictured, this 3-D black-and-white tribute to classic Universal monster movies showed yet again that Tim Burton is most himself in animated film.
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