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Top 10 films of 2012 | Kenneth Turan

Ten-best lists are, among other things, educated guesses about what will last, a sanctioned way of taking a stab at recognizing work that will endure despite the inevitable changes in cinematic taste and style. Of all the films that fit that criteria in 2012, and there are several, the one I am surest about is the one I’m making my top film: Michael Haneke’s “Amour.”

“Amour,” the devastating winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes as well as the top four European film awards, uses shattering performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva to show what happens to a long and harmonious marriage when the wife suffers a series of debilitating strokes. No film moved me more or made me think harder about the vicissitudes of the human experience. You can’t ask for more than that.

The rest of my list, expanded when necessary, is listed in alphabetical order: (Sony Pictures Classics / AP)
A breakneck tale, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, detailing how a crack CIA agent rescued six Americans from the jaws of the Iranian Revolution with a little help from the good folks of Hollywood. (Claire Folger / Warner Bros.)
‘The Dark Knight Rises’
A disturbing experience we live through as much as a film we watch, this dazzling conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is more than an exceptional superhero movie, it is masterful work across the board. (Ron Phillips / Warner Bros.)
Steven Spielberg turns on a dime and delivers his most restrained, interior film and Daniel Day-Lewis surpasses even himself and allows us to see a celebrated figure in ways we hadn’t anticipated. (David James / DreamWorks / 20th Century Fox)
‘Silver Linings Playbook’
A David O. Russell movie that, like protagonists Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, won’t fit into any box. Dramatic, emotional, wickedly funny, it has the gift of going its own way. (JoJo Whilden / The Weinstein Co.)
Sundance dramas
Ordinarily it’s only the great documentaries like “The Invisible War,” “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” and “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” that captivate me in Park City, but this year a trio of independent features by emerging directors -- “Middle of Nowhere,” “Robot & Frank,” pictured here, and “Safety Not Guaranteed” -- gave me hope for the future. (Samuel Goldwyn Films / Sony Pictures)
‘Zero Dark Thirty’
Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, the team behind “The Hurt Locker,” do it again with an assist from the unstoppable Jessica Chastain as a woman with Osama bin Laden in her sights. (Jonathan Olley / Columbia Pictures)
‘The Deep Blue Sea’
If I had room for another film on this list, it would be Terence Davies’ sadly ignored “The Deep Blue Sea,” a film as fiercely committed to passion as its heroine, beautifully played by Rachel Weisz.  (Liam Daniel / Music Box Films)