BY RICK MAUCH
1. The Life of Pi - Director Ang Lee’s story of a boy lost at sea on a lifeboat with a bengal tiger is much more than a tale of survival. It is a story of faith, filmed beautiful with one of the sharpest and most brilliant scripts in years. Many directors turned away from the challenge of making this movie, but Lee stepped up and earned one of the film’s 11 Oscar nods.
2. Argo - Ben Affleck won a Golden Globe (and should have been nominated for an Oscar) for his telling of the 1980 rescue of American hostages from the Iranian embassy. Wonderfully suspenseful.
3. Lincoln - Director Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece about the 16th president and his fight to abolish slavery is epic, featuring a slew of great performances topped by Daniel Day Lewis in the title role, a part sure to earn him his third Oscar (one of a dozen for which the movie is nominated).
4. Zero Dark Thirty - Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) has actually created an even better movie this time about the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. While she was snubbed for some insane reason, Jessica Chastain was nominated for her brilliance in the lead role, and the movie is up for several more.
5. Django Unchained - Jamie Foxx stars in the title role, and Christoph Waltz received an Oscar nod in a supporting role in perhaps the best directing job yet by Quentin Tarantino (despite no Oscar nod), a story about a freed slave who becomes a bounty hunter to find his lost wife.
6. Les Miserables - The music is incredible, featuring the wonderful voices of Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway (both nominated for Oscars). This story of redemption is one that I enjoyed perhaps most of all on this list.
7. Silver Linings Playbook - The first movie in three decades to have an Oscar nominee in each of the four acting categories is both funny and touching.
8. Skyfall - Not the best James Bond movie, but pretty darned close. And Javier Bardem is great as one of the most memorable villains in years.
9. Moonlight Kingdom - Released early in the year, director Wes Anderson’s tale of young love was largely forgotten by the Oscar folks, but one of the year’s best nonetheless.
10. The Dark Knight Rises - Sure, a step down from 2008′s The Dark Knight, which was perhaps the best movie of the last decade (despite, you guessed it, being snubbed by Oscar). It wraps up director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy nicely.
1. A Thousand Words
2. The Lucky One
3. Total Recall
4. Playing For Keeps
5. Red Dawn