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12 best films of 2012

3. FLIGHT Denzel Washington brims with rock-and-roll energy

3. FLIGHT
Denzel Washington brims with rock-and-roll energy as a pilot with a drinking problem, and he's so much fun that you never want the party to end. When it does, you'll realize there's more to this slick entertainment than meets the eye.
Read the review.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Filmmakers worked darned hard to hold our attention in 2012. It was a year of big ambitions and new ideas. Many directors challenged themselves, and us, by filming books that seemed unfilmable, and many tended to go epic. Here are the top 12 movies of the year. -- RAFER GUZMAN, rafer.guzman@newsday.com

12. RUBY SPARKS Potential powerhouse Zoe Kazan (granddaughter
Photo Credit: Handout

12. RUBY SPARKS
Potential powerhouse Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of the great filmmaker Elia) wrote and stars in this story of a novelist (Paul Dano) who invents a fantasy girl -- but this time we get the fantasy's viewpoint. Kazan is a charmer, and so is this deceptively lighthearted romance.
Read the review.

11. THE IMPOSTER Bart Layton's documentary about a
Photo Credit: AP

11. THE IMPOSTER
Bart Layton's documentary about a con artist who impersonates missing children is such a ripping good detective story that you'll almost swear it's fiction. Steel yourself for an ending that will knock you sideways.
Read the review.

10. ARGO Director Ben Affleck is three for
Photo Credit: Claire Folger

10. ARGO
Director Ben Affleck is three for three ("The Town," "Gone Baby Gone") with his latest, a wildly implausible (but true) story about Americans who flee revolutionary Iran by posing as a film crew. It's part thriller, part Hollywood satire, and totally entertaining.
Read the review.

9. ANNA KARENINA Joe Wright's adaptation of Tolstoy
Photo Credit: Focus Features

9. ANNA KARENINA
Joe Wright's adaptation of Tolstoy -- by way of Tom Stoppard -- is a terrific blend of art-house symbolism (elaborate staging, fourth-wall-breaking) and Hollywood costume drama. Keira Knightley is radiant, though it's a shockingly dowdy Jude Law who impresses most as her cuckolded hubby.
Read the review.

8. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK David O. Russell's romantic
Photo Credit: Jojo Whilden

8. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
David O. Russell's romantic crowd-pleaser benefits from surprisingly strong acting (Bradley Cooper -- who knew?), but gets by mostly on sheer heart. When people ask me what to see, this is the one I recommend.
Read the review.

7. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS This elaborate
Photo Credit: AP

7. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
This elaborate spoof from director Drew Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon is basically an extended joke aimed at horror-movie geeks, but it's still one of the freshest and funniest movies I saw all year.
Read the review.

6. MAGIC MIKE Director Steven Soderbergh mines Channing
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

6. MAGIC MIKE
Director Steven Soderbergh mines Channing Tatum's stripper past for material and comes up with solid gold. It's funny, sexy and completely authentic, a "Saturday Night Fever" for the new millennium.
Read the review.

5. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD This drama
Photo Credit: Handout

5. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
This drama about dirt-poor Southerners surviving a Katrina-like storm isn't a grinding downer but a shot of pure joy. The film's first-time actors, grade-schooler Quvenzhané Wallis and baker Dwight Henry, are absolute magic.
Read the review.

4. ZERO DARK THIRTY Kathryn Bigelow's gripping dramatization
Photo Credit: Tribeca Film

4. ZERO DARK THIRTY
Kathryn Bigelow's gripping dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden -- including brutal scenes of torture -- seems destined to become the popular version of events. It's also rankling both the right and the left, which is reason alone to see it.
Read the review.

3. FLIGHT Denzel Washington brims with rock-and-roll energy
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

3. FLIGHT
Denzel Washington brims with rock-and-roll energy as a pilot with a drinking problem, and he's so much fun that you never want the party to end. When it does, you'll realize there's more to this slick entertainment than meets the eye.
Read the review.

2. THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES This documentary focuses
Photo Credit: AP

2. THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES
This documentary focuses on a billionaire timeshare mogul humbled by the events of 2008, for which he -- and perhaps many of us -- can share the blame. Many films have tried to explain how the financial collapse happened; this movie shows why.
Read the review.

1. THE MASTER Paul Thomas Anderson's Scientology-inspired story
Photo Credit: AP

1. THE MASTER
Paul Thomas Anderson's Scientology-inspired story of a dubious shepherd (Phil Seymour Hoffman) and a lost sheep (Joaquin Phoenix) isn't an indictment of any church but an attempt to understand the religious impulse. It's beautiful, funny, compassionate and ultimately forgiving.
Read the review.

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