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A bumper year, but a silent black & white film is my No1

In a year when Irish cinemagoers were witness to action sequences set in Wynn's Hotel and the Shelbourne (Haywire) and a daft Miley Cyrus vehicle made a bizarre reference to French colonial practices in Algeria (So Undercover) there was plenty of excellent, more normal fare in the cinemas.

The decent summer blockbusters saw the Batman franchise come to an end with the overlong The Dark Knight Rises while Avengers Assemble also could have been trimmed somewhat but had a sense of humour at the heart of it.

Domestically, Lennie Abrahamson's What Richard Did stood head and shoulders above the competition with its depiction of life among the moneyed rugby school elite of South Co Dublin and marking out Jack Reynor as a star in the making. So, despite the considerable claims of (deep breath!) Ted, Headhunters, Young Adult, The Five-Year Engagement, Elena, Ruby Sparks, Life of Pi, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Sightseers, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Michael, Skyfall, Killing Them Softly, The Cabin in the Woods and Silver Linings Playbook, here is my Top 10.

1. The Artist

Released into Irish cinemas on January 6, this stunning evocation of the early days of cinema maintained its hold on my affections for the rest of the year.

A love letter to the silver screen, its story of how an icon of the silent era (Jean Dujardin) found it difficult to make the transition to sound was a pure joy from start to finish, with the fact that it was mainly silent and in black and white never feeling like a gimmick. Oh, and what a performance from Uggy the dog too.

2. Amour

Austrian director Michael Haneke isn't noted for his emotional dramas but this story of an elderly married couple having to cope with the wife's mental and physical deterioration was easily the most moving of the year.

3. The Descendents

Alexander Payne's first film since Sideways saw George Clooney give the finest performance of his career as a Hawaiian lawyer whose wife is in a terminal coma when he discovers that she'd been having an affair. The trip to confront her lover sees him bond with his two young daughters in a movie that simply oozes class.

4. The Raid

If you told me that the most exhilarating action movie in years would come from Indonesia and be directed by a young Welshman I'd have said you were mad, but this has the most visceral and stunningly choreographed fight sequences of the decade.

5. Argo

Ben Affleck's third outing as a director saw him hit his hat-trick with a wonderfully old school thriller based on the rescue of six American embassy staff from Tehran in the wake of the Ayatollah Khomeini's takeover.

6. Looper

"All this time travel crap fries your brain like an egg," observes Jeff Daniels' character at one point and he's not wrong. The deftest sci-fi movie in many a year with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman who disposes of criminals sent back from the future.

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Benh Zeitlin's directorial debut is a stunningly realised fantasy set in what is clearly meant to be Louisiana prior to destruction by Hurricane Katrina. The story is seen through the eyes of a young girl played with astonishing intensity by eight-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (left).

8. The Muppets

For unbridled enjoyment in 2012 it was hard to top the return of the Muppets to the screen. Pure joy.

9. Rust and Bone

The great Marion Cotillard delivers in an unlikely love story in which a trainer of killer whales (Cotillard) loses her legs in a tragic accident and forms a bond with a drifter.

10. The Hunt

Thomas Vinterberg made his finest film for a decade with this drama in which Mads Mikkelsen plays a teacher in rural Denmark who's falsely accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour by a pupil.

>We can't allow the worst of the year to escape out attention. There was certainly some crud, with Jonah Hill weighing in with The Sitter and The Watch, Sacha Baron Cohen coming a cropper in The Dictator and A Few Best Men sounding the death knell for the wedding comedy. Irish disaster Charlie Casanova deserves a mention, but it's Adam Sandler who finishes bottom of the pile, delivering two unforgiveably bad movies in Jack and Jill and That's My Boy. Adam Sandler, may you gurn and burn in Hell.


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