1.   ZERO DARK THIRTY - Kathryn Bigelow has done it again with a wildly fascinating re-enactment of the raid on Osama Bin Laden. Jessica Chastain gives a knockout performance as the CIA operative who, literally, will not give up.


 2.   LIFE OF PI  - A gorgeous film that demands to be seen in 3-D. Breathtaking CG of a Bengal tiger who shares a lifeboat and a life-changing experience with an adolescent boy from India.


 3.   LINCOLN  - Steven Spielberg is a master. Combine him with Daniel Day-Lewis, and it's a win-win proposition. Day-Lewis is extraordinary as the 16th President of the United States, battling for the monumental 13th Amendment to the Constitution.


 4.   LES MISERABLES - Pulling off a musical that is through-sung is a major feat, and Tom Hooper is the director to do it. Assembling a terrific cast is the number one priority, and there are no disappointments here.


 5.   BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD - I continually marvel that an unknown six-year-old named Quvenzhane Wallis can change the landscape of a film with merely her presence. She is a blessing to behold as Hushpuppy, a post-Katrina survivor, existing in a dirt-poor region called the "Bathtub" with her alcoholic father.


 6.   ARGO -  Like "Zero Dark Thirty", it's extremely difficult to keep a movie suspenseful when everyone already knows the outcome. But director/star Ben Affleck manages to do just that. His cast is outstanding and the writing is crisp and concise.


 7.   THE SESSIONS  -  Unfortunately, a lot of people missed this beautiful true story of a crippled man (John Hawkes) and his desire to lose his virginity. Helen Hunt plays his sex surrogate, and, along with William H. Macy, who plays a priest, all three are superb.


 8.   AMOUR  -  A true love story about an elderly French couple coping with her illnesses and deterioration hit a nerve as I watched this. My father cared for my mother at home for many years, not with the same outcome. But this movie is a strong reminder of a bond that cannot be broken, so beautifully acted by Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, whom I first fell in love with in "A Man and a Woman" (1966).


 9.   YOUR SISTER'S SISTER  - A brilliant film by writer/director Lynn Shelton and a dynamite performance by Emily Blunt. It's another film that many people missed, but this delightful and poignant look at relationships, familial and otherwise, is SO worth the effort to find and watch.


10.  THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY  - Peter Jackson's first in his trilogy of J. R. R. Tolkien's ever-popular classic is a creative masterpiece. Though it is a tad long, it is wildly entertaining nonetheless. There is a lot to cover here, and Jackson is doing his best to get it all in.








 1.   LES MISERABLES -  a brilliant adaptation of the long-running stage musical, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, it raises the goose bumps like no other theatrical presentation of its kind, film or stage.


 2.   ARGO - There is not a wasted moment of action or dialogue in this film. "Argo" should rightfully be on Oscar's short list of Best Movies for 2012.


 3.   ZERO DARK THIRTY - Based on the real-life saga of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, director Kathryn Bigelow may be looking at her second Best Picture award in the last three years.


 4.   LIFE OF PI - At the heart of the story is the determination of one brave soul to survive against all odds, and the mutual respect that develops between man and animal.


 5.   DJANGO UNCHAINED -  If a little bit --- okay, buckets --- of spilled fake blood are not odious to you, this is a hugely entertaining movie.


 6.   SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK - The Academy Awards may be beckoning at least three members of this cast: Bradley Cooper for lead actor for a serio-comic performance that never wears out its welcome, Jennifer Lawrence for an amazing turn that belies her youth (she's only 22), and Robert DeNiro for his most complete role in years.


 7.   THE SESSIONS - Marvelous performances by John Hawkes and Helen Hunt create a comfortable atmosphere for viewers who might otherwise be offended or embarassed.


 8.   KILLER JOE - Matthew McConaughey is scary, dangerous and charming -- his best acting job ever, in a taut white-knuckler.


 9.   THE HUNGER GAMES - Wildly imaginative, yet with toned-down violence so even younger moviegoers can enjoy.


10.  FLIGHT -  "Flight" is Denzel's show all the way. His character is neither completely good nor a total bad guy. He is a combination of both which manages to win our sympathy. And come next February, don't bet against him winning an Oscar.