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As I note annually, I watch a lot of movies, though most are viewed on DVD (or from DVR recordings, or since August streamed from Netflix) on my television. Because I do not see that many new films in the theater, I cannot at year's end write a credible post on the best movies of 2012. After all, I have not yet seen many of the highly touted films released in late December. I will see them, of course. Eventually.
This year, I missed most of the summer blockbusters as well. For various reasons, I simply didn't watch all that many 2012 films.
In fact, many of the best films I saw this past year were older films on DVD/DVR/Netflix that I originally missed in the theaters -- or were late 2011 films I saw in the theaters during early 2012.
To make this abbreviated 2012 list, I scanned the top grossing movies of the year, as well as IMDB's most popular titles for 2012 and Movie Review Intelligence. In rank order of my preference, these were the best 2012 films I saw this year, so far as I can tell:
Moonrise Kingdom **
The Hunger Games **
I think almost any film lover would enjoy these films. The list is topped by "Moonrise Kingdom," an engaging film that my wife and I saw on a scorching hot 4th of July day. I liked "The Hunger Games" more than I did any of the Harry Potter films. Indeed, I liked it so much that I borrowed the book from my daughters and enjoyed it too. Woody Harrelson is terrific in "Rampart," but he plays a bad cop. "Arbitrage" was not as good as last year's "Margin Call," but the story serves as a powerful metaphor for the Wall Street collapse of 2008. "Skyfall" was a very good Bond film, but not a great Bond film. It almost topped the next section of the list, but I kept it here as I have not yet seen any of the end-of-year Oscar contenders.
Indeed, the rest of the 2012 films I watched aren't ranked with much care, though the films near the top of this list are better than the ones near the bottom:
21 Jump Street
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Friends with Kids
Men in Black 3
** I saw these films in the theater.
These films are entertaining, generally. If I was grading, I'd give most of them a C+ or B-. Then again, I tend to avoid films that the critics hate (thanks to Metacritic, and links on IMDB, the ratings are easy to find).
Here's the annual list of movies I intend to see in the future (hopefully in 2013): Amazing Spider-Man, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Bourne Legacy, Chronicle, Cosmopolis, Dark Knight Rises, The Dictator, Django Unchained, End of Watch, Five Year Engagement, Flight, Headhunters, Hitchcock, Hope Springs, The Impossible, Killer Joe, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Looper, The Master, Not Fade Away, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Premium Rush, Prometheus, Queen of Versailles, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone, Safety Not Guaranteed, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Savages, Searching for Sugar Man, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Sessions, Silver Linings Playbook, Sleepwalk With Me, Ted, This is Not a Film, To Rome With Love, We Need to Talk About Kevin, West of Memphis, Your Sister's Sister, and Zero Dark Thirty.
Metacritic helped me form that list.
Keep in mind that I didn't get around to seeing many 2011 movies from last year's wishlist: Another Earth, A Better Life, Certified Copy, A Dangerous Method, Go Go Tales, Higher Ground, Hugo, The Interrupters, The Iron Lady, J. Edgar, Jane Eyre, Le Havre, Like Crazy, Lovers of Hate, Mysteries of Lisbon, Myth of the American Sleepover, Of Gods and Men, Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, Point Blank, The Robber, A Separation, The Skin I Live In, Small Town Murder Songs, Terri, Tree of Life, War Horse, The Way Back, We Bought a Zoo, and Weekend.
Many of those 2011 films are on Netflix, so I'll probably get to them before winter ends.
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