January 3, 2013

Best pictures of 2012: Not just motion. Emotion.

The best movies of the year – and what a year it was – have the power to move us and stay with us.

By ROGER MOORE McClatchy-Tribune News Service

They're called "moving pictures" for a reason.

(QuvenzhaneÃÅ Wallis)
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Quvenzhane Wallis is a force of nature in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Benh Zeitlin’s great new Southern Gothic novella of a film set in the post-Katrina bayou.

Courtesy photos

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Samuel Joslin, Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast (foreground), Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts in “The Impossible.”

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Moving pictures are the ones that endure, that stick in our memory after the credits fade.

"State of the art" changes and visceral "popcorn" entertainments entertain -- until they're over.

But a movie that touches, that's one worthy of being called one of the best pictures of the year.

This year, which didn't end 12-21-12, had advances in technology and technical exercises that advanced the art form. Genre films improved on their genres, popcorn pictures sold a lot of popcorn.

Movies that transcended digital IMAX 3D 48 frames per second image reproduction? Rare.

Here are the best films of 2012 -- my picks.

• "The Impossible" -- Naomi Watts, as a perhaps mortally injured mom, hanging on to protect and teach one or two more life lessons to her son in the chaotic days after the horrific 2004 tsunami, gives the year's most touching performance in a film that recreates that disaster and how one vacationing family, and poor local people who have lost everything, survive. It restores your faith in humanity, but if you're too cool for tears -- go play a video game.

• "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" -- Funny, dark, and wise, here's a film about a slacker (Jason Segel) who finds meaning and purpose to his years-long obsession with M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" over the course of one fateful, hilarious day. Ed Helms is the brother who no longer lives at home, Susan Sarandon is the mom realizing what a disappointment both her maladjusted sons are. Jason Segel, if this is your future, run run run from "How I Met Your Mother."

• "Zero Dark Thirty" -- Riveting, painful to watch at times, controversial in its treatment of torture, this is heroic in its celebration of the dogged intelligence work that, in the end, brought justice down on Osama bin Laden. There are touching moments, mostly in a montage of 9-11 phone messages in the opening credits. Performances are secondary in this, another painstakingly detailed military movie from the "Hurt Locker" team of Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow. A movie you want to or need to see twice? No.

• "Beasts of the Southern Wild" -- A minor miracle, here's the best argument for "regional" filmmaking ever -- a vivid, post-Katrina bayou setting where unforgettable, impoverished characters battling the rising tide of climate change and history. Benh Zeitlin's film is a great new Southern Gothic novella, magical realism made for the screen and starring that pint-sized force of nature, Quvenzhane Wallis.

• "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" -- Not high school as it really was, but high school as it should have been. Sympathetic friends, including a wonderful Emma Watson, help a morose freshman cope with a new school and the dark secret in his past by talking about the dark secrets in their pasts. Do kids still dress up and go see "Rocky Horror"? Maybe not, but they should.

• "Les Miserables" -- You can know the book and know the play and still be surprised and moved by this epic tale of misery, poverty, unjust "justice," compassion and redemption. Anne Hathaway, as the tragic prostitute Fantine, has been moving us to tears for a year, thanks to the trailers. In the film, she will all over again, as will Samantha Barks, Hugh Jackman and little Daniel Huddlestone. A lovely film that will have you whispering thanks that they didn't screw it up.

• "The Dark Knight Rises" -- "The Avengers" was more fun, but "The Dark Knight" has gravitas, weight, timely themes and genuine lump-in-your-throat moments. The darkness is what the fanboys insist on, the hope comes courtesy of Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, who give heart and political relevance to a franchise taking its final bow.

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Film Title: Les MisÈrables
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Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables.”


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