Kamera Obscura

Kameron McBride writes ndrew Mishler writes Kamera Obscura for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the paper or The Daily.

After kind of a lackluster 2011, we marked a return of quality major American films in 2012. These were my favorites, they’re ranked but the top six were almost interchangeable for me.

1. “Argo”
Plain and simple this was the best pure film of the year. No other movie provided as tight of a plot or good of pace as “Argo.” With this story of U.S. embassy hostages being snuck out of Iran via a fake movie production, Ben Affleck has cemented his status as one of the better major directors working today.

2. “The Master”

Paul Thomas Anderson is undoubtedly the most interesting major American director working today and “The Master” continues his remarkable run. “The Master” explores an amalgam for Scientology through its creator, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) a man who threatens the entire movement. “The Master” is maybe the most thought provoking movie of the year, for better or worse. Whether or not you like it, “The Master” will be sure to move you some way.

3. “Lincoln”

This is now my favorite of Steven Spielberg’s films. I think “Lincoln” pulls off a good amount of complexity and gets a sublime performance from Daniel Day–Lewis as the 16th president. The film takes place toward the end of the Civil War, as Abraham Lincoln moves to end the war as quickly as possible while also trying to pass the 13th Amendment. This requires him to try and persuade members of Congress across political party lines. The modern–day allegory is obvious but the real strengths of the film are the great performances and a terrific script by Pulitzer winner Tony Kushner.

4. “The Dark Knight Rises”

“The Dark Knight Rises” takes place eight years after “The Dark Knight” and deals with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) trying to cope with the new peace created after the death of Harvey Dent. However, that peace is in jeopardy  from the greatest threat Batman has faced: a hulking mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy).

“The Dark Knight Rises” brought everything full circle in a fun and interesting way. I thought it was well–paced, well–acted and overall gave the trilogy the epic ending it deserved.

5. “Looper”

“Looper” takes us to a future where specialized assassins kill people sent back to them from the future by mob bosses. One of these “Loopers” named Joe (Joseph Gordon–Levitt) runs into problems when his future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back but escapes. Rian Johnson penned a wonderful script for “Looper” and combined it with a lot of cool visuals to create a mind–bending piece of sci–fi.

6. “Moonrise Kingdom”

“Moonrise Kingdom” the story of a young boy scout named Sam (Jared Gilman) who runs away with his young love Suzy (Kara Hawood). They try to escape on the countryside as their parents and other adults chase them. This movie wonderfully explored the mystique and loss of innocence in childhood. The cast includes Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton.  

7. “Bernie”

This thought-provoking movie displayed just how good Jack Black can be when given the right role. He stars as a beloved mortician who turns a community upside down when he murders a wealthy widow (Shirley Maclaine). It’s interesting to see how the town reacts to one of its most prominent members commits murder.

8. “Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Most movies about high school are stupid, clichéd and pretty annoying. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” however, actually kind of reminded me of high school. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” gives high school a nostalgic but still mature look. It’s well–casted and has great pacing to the story.

9. “Arbitrage”

Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a corrupt businessman unfaithful to his marriage and tries to cover up murdering his mistress. And yet, despite these things, “Arbitrage” makes us feel tension as he’s being investigated for the murder. This is the brilliance of Nicholas Jeracki’s film: that we can be behind such a villainous person as he tries to escape.

10. “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Bizarre and beautiful, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” explores an area known as “The Bathtub,” which is a ravaged area south of Louisiana. Here we meet Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her dad Wink (Dwight Henry) who are each trying to survive despite a coming storm. This film is unconventional but does a really good job of painting a world that is easy to get lost in.

Films to Look for in 2013:

“Iron Man 3” (May 3)– The next in the saga of Robert Downey Jr.’s superhero. Chirpmeter–3.5/5

“The Great Gatsby” (May 10)– Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, another film version of the book everyone read in high school. Chirpmeter–3.5/5

“Star Trek: Into Darkness” (May 17t)– The eagerly awaited follow–up to J.J. Abram’s 2009 blockbuster. Chirpmeter–4/5

“World War Z” (June 21)– Based on the popular book, zombies begin to swarm the world. Chirpmeter–4/5

“Elysium” (Aug. 9)– Neill Blomkamp’s follow up to “District 9.” Chirpmeter–4/5

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Dec. 13)– The next in the trilogy of Hobbit films. Chirpmeter–4/5

“Anchorman! The Legend Continues” (Dec. 20)– The sequel almost 10 years in the making. Chirpmeter–3/5

“Knight of Cups” (2013)– One of three films by Terrence Malick coming out in 2013, this one is about a musician dealing with the pitfalls of success. Chirpmeter–4/5


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