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Viewpoint: The top 10 films of 2012

2012 has been an excellent year for movies. There was a heaping helping of the excellent (“Argo,” “Lincoln” and “The Sessions”), the entertaining (“Skyfall,” “The Avengers” and “The Hunger Games”) and just enough of the hilariously bad (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” “Rock of Ages” and “A Thousand Words”) to make the year complete.

And we at The Signpost made sure to see as many as we could. Therefore, here are our picks for the 10 best movies of 2012:

(Disclaimer: No movies released after Dec. 1 are included in the top 10 list, though two are in the honorable mentions list based on the opinions of critics’ pre-screenings).

Honorable mentions: “The Hunger Games,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Avengers,” “Paranorman,” “Brave,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Les Miserables” and “The Hobbit.”

10. “Frankenweenie,” directed by Tim Burton. In some of Burton’s more recent offerings, like “Alice in Wonderland” or “Sweeney Todd,” it seems like he’s just trying to (a) keep the steampunk movement alive, and (b) keep Johnny Depp employed. Thankfully, his animated offering for this year was all the right parts of Burton, with just enough childlike flair to push this movie into the year’s top 10.

9. “Skyfall,” directed by Sam Mendes. After the second entry in the newest James Bond series (“Quantum of Solace”) fizzled out, Mendes’ “Skyfall” brought back everything that fans love about the British spy: the gadgets, the humor, the dry British-ness and a memorable villain. One scene between Daniel Craig (as Bond) and the blond-haired, sexually manic baddie Javier Bardem is the most memorable of the whole movie, and all they do is talk.

8. “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” directed by Benh Zeitlin. Directed on a shoestring budget of $1.3 million, Zeitlin’s fantasy set in a ramshackle bayou community called The Bathtub was one of the more captivating and heartfelt movies of the year. Quvenzhane Wallis, who stars as the 6-year-old protagonist Hushpuppy, is getting a lot of awards buzz, and she deserves it.

7. “The Sessions,” directed by Ben Lewin. A polio-ravaged man (John Hawkes) who is confined to an iron lung in the late 1980s wants to, well, lose his virginity, and via his therapist and priest, he contacts a professional sex surrogate (the amazing Helen Hunt), which is exactly what it sounds like. This movie definitely deserves the R-rating, but is surprisingly frank, funny and inoffensive. Hunt and Hawkes are both leading candidates for the Oscars.

6. “Silver Linings Playbook,” directed by David O. Russell. Check back in a month, and this movie might have jumped to No. 1 or 2 on this list. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence steal the show in this hilarious look at mental problems, emotional challenges, ballroom dancing and the Philadelphia Eagles.

5. “The Queen of Versailles,” directed by Lauren Greenfield. Yes, it’s a documentary. So what? It follows a billionaire couple who plan on building the largest house in the United States, right before the housing bubble crashes. Over the next two years, the audience watches in horror as they keep trying. This movie is less about mocking the ridiculously wealthy than about where real happiness comes from.

4. “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg plus Daniel Day-Lewis plus the greatest supporting cast ever plus a period piece plus everybody’s favorite president equals what is probably the consensus pick for best movie of the year. Day-Lewis will win the Oscar. If he doesn’t, then awards don’t mean anything.

3. “Moonrise Kingdom,” directed by Wes Anderson. The over-quirkiness of this film bothered some people, but Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) is like a god among the college-aged demographic, which is why this film is No. 3 on our list. One of the more childlike movies of the year.

2. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” directed by Steven Chbosky. Based on Chbosky’s own book, this is a tale of introversion, abuse, relationships, and why high school is truly the most terrifying part of life. It gets a little teen-y in a few spots, but no film in recent memory has done a better job of portraying teenagers (played by Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson) who feel like adults, but aren’t.

1. “Argo,” directed by Ben Affleck. You know what’s going to happen the whole time, and still, you can’t help from grabbing the edge of your seat with sweaty hands. This film is truly suspenseful, because it plays on the fears of real situations and real angry mobs. Affleck manages a world-class cast through a movie that never takes itself too seriously (but you should!).

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