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Click here to read part one of my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2012, in which I listed numbers 15-11.  Now, onward!

10. Looper In this smart, original sci-fi flick written and directed by Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe.  Joe is a Looper, someone paid to kill guys the mob from thirty-years in the future send back in time to get whacked, long before the law might be looking for their bodies or any evidence of the crime.  One day, the guy sent back in time for Joe to kill turns out to be Joe himself, now played by Bruce Willis.  Old Joe gets away from Young Joe, and things spiral out of control from there.  Bruce Willis hasn’t been this much fun to watch in an action movie in years, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is terrific as well.  I loved watching these two play off of one another.  Emily Blunt (making her second appearance on my Best of 2012 list, as she also starred in The Five-Year Engagement) and Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels are all fun in supporting roles.  This is a twisty sci-fi tale that is mind-bending without ever losing sight of the character drama at the heart of the story. (Click here for my original review.)

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Though not the masterpiece that the three original Lord of the Rings films were, this first of Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is still a ferociously entertaining fantasy adventure.  At nearly three hours in length, this film is stuffed to the gills with extraordinary sights and thrills, with characters and with circumstance.  Martin Freeman is wonderful as Bilbo Baggins (inheriting the role from Ian Holm who played Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and who actually reprises his role as “Old Bilbo” in one of this film’s many prologues), a great every-man anchor to the story.  He’s great, and I also loved seeing lots more of Ian McKellan, who reprises his role as Gandalf and is magnificent as ever as the gruff, temperamental wizard.  The film is filled with many great new characters (all of the Dwarves) as well as the welcome return of many familiar faces from the original trilogy (Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and of course Andy Serkis as Gollum).  The “riddles in the dark” scene with Gollum alone makes this film worth seeing, but there are so many other wonderful moments, from the long opening scene in Bag End with all of the dwarves (highlighted by Richard Armitage as Thorin and the other Dwarves singing the somber “Misty Mountains” song) to the encounter with the Trolls, to the battling mountains, to the crazy fight with the Goblins beneath the Misty Mountains, to the meeting of the White Council, to the Eagles, to that last tantalizing glimpse of Smaug.  I don’t know why anyone would complain about spending three hours back in this world.  Bring on part two.  (Click here for my original review.)

8. Lincoln Avoiding the familiar beats of a life-spanning historical biopic, Steven Spielberg’s magnificent film instead chooses to focus on just a few months in the life of Abraham Lincoln: his efforts to pass the thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery in America.  Tony Kushner’s glorious script is filled to overflowing with golden dialogue and memorable monologues, bringing to life the time-period and the deeply complicated process of the mechanics of government.  This is The West Wing for the 19th century, fiercely entertaining without being dumbed down.  But the whole endeavor is carried, seemingly effortlessly, by Daniel Day Lewis’ remarkable performance as Abraham Lincoln.  This is the most astounding performance in Daniel Day Lewis’ long career of astounding performances, as he completely transforms himself into an embodiment of the 16th President.  I can’t recall that I’ve ever seen anything like it.  He is completely captivating as the president we all wish we always had: flawed and human but also intelligent, honest, compassionate, and persuasive.  If not for the unfortunate and unnecessary schmaltzy epilogue tacked onto the end of the film, I’d probably have listed this film even higher on my list.  But even with that dumb final few minutes, this is still a spectacular movie and another fine feather in Mr. Spielberg’s large cinematic cap.  (Click here for my original review.)

7. Moonrise Kingdom I adore all of the films of Wes Anderson, but Moonrise Kingdom (directed by Wes Anderson and co-written by Mr. Anderson and Roman Coppola) is without a doubt one of his very best.  This sweet, tender film follows the friendship-maybe-love between two young kids, Sam and Suzy.  The two decide to run away from home together, leading the adults in their lives to go into quite a tizzy.  Said adults are played by Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis (making his second appearance on my Best of 2012 list!), and Edward Norton.  All four adults are absolutely spectacular, each creating a fascinating character all their own.  Mr. Willis and Mr. Norton are particularly revelatory, as both play against type to portray very gentle, innocent men.  The two kids (played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) are also wonderful, with the two young actors turning in very sweet, affecting performances.  I was enormously captivated by this gentle, quirky film, brought to life by Mr. Anderson’s visionary hand.  (Click here for my original review.)

6. Argo Ben Affleck’s film about the Iranian hostage crisis, and the six U.S. diplomats secretly sheltered by the Canadian ambassador and then rescued by the CIA, is a magnificent accomplishment.  Mr. Affleck has always been a great performer (even though he has appeared in many bad movies), but he has proven (with Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and now this) to be a spectacular director.  Argo is tense and thrilling, an effective recreation of those tense days in 1979, but it is also riotously funny when dealing with the Hollywood shenanigans of “exfiltration” expert Tony Mendez (Affleck)’s plan to disguise the six diplomats as a film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film.  It’s a rare film that can so effortlessly juggle comedy and drama, but Mr. Affleck and his team make it look so easy.  Alan Arkin and John Goodman absolutely kill as the two Hollywood players who help make the fake-film happen, and they and Mr. Affleck are backed up by a terrific array of supporting players, including Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver, Philip Baker Hall, Richard Kind, and all six terrific actors who portray the hostages themselves.  I can’t believe how good this film is.  (Click here for my original review.)

Click here to complete my Top 15 Movies of 2012 list with numbers five through one!

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