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Andrew O’Hehir’s 10 Best Movies of 2012

Maybe film culture isn't dying just yet: The year in movies brought richness and breadth — and controversy!

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Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): Leslye Headland’s debut film Bachelorette” is like the smarter, meaner big sister to “Bridesmaids.” The irresistible bayou fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild,” with its even more irresistible pint-size heroine, was the year’s indie-film surprise. A bittersweet love story (not for kids!) with spectacular painterly backdrops and a score by Cuban jazz legend Bebo Valdés, Chico & Rita” was both the music film and animated film of the year. Christopher Nolan brought his Batman trilogy to a crashing conclusion with the huge and bitter allegory of The Dark Knight Rises.” Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are magnificent in David Ayer’s End of Watch,” a classic L.A. cop drama. Ira Sachs’ autobiographical love story Keep the Lights On” broke new ground for gay-oriented romance, and was probably the best American indie drama of the year. Matthew Akers’ documentary Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present” doesn’t just explore the work of one of the world’s most important contemporary artists, but also why her unusual performance works should count as art, and why we make art (or anything else) in the first place. Wes Anderson’s daffy, affectionate 1960s summer romance Moonrise Kingdom” is part fairy tale and part rueful, adult reckoning. David Chase’s first venture into cinema, “ Not Fade Away,” is both a fable about the power of mid-‘60s rock ‘n’ roll and something much deeper and stranger than that. Forbidding Hungarian master Béla Tarr bid farewell to cinema with The Turin Horse,” a visionary work of apocalyptic despair.

 

Andrew O'Hehir is a senior writer for Salon.