As Christopher Nolan wrapped up his Gotham City trilogy with “The Dark Knight Rises,” Peter Jackson kicked off another Middle-Earth trilogy in “The Hobbit.” Steven Spielberg returned to the 19th century of “Amistad” on “Lincoln,” Kathryn Bigelow re-upped for Mideast duty in “Zero Dark Thirty” and Quentin Tarantino took on yet another grindhouse genre with “Django Unchained.”
After “Flirting With Disaster,” David O. Russell upped the stakes in family chaos for “Silver Linings Playbook.” Ben Affleck marshaled a band of brothers to extract not money (basely) as in “The Town,” but people (nobly) in “Argo.” Michael Haneke’s merciless lens switched from human cruelty to nature’s cruelty in “Amour,” just as Robert Zemeckis left motion capture to probe addiction’s capture in “Flight” and the Wachowskis pressed Tom Tykwer into another metaphysical “Matrix” to help map their “Cloud Atlas.”
A few hardy mariners ventured into uncharted seas: Ang Lee wrangled a kid, tiger and 3-D camera into the lifeboat of “Life of Pi.” Tom Hooper navigated Parisian sewers (in song!) for “Les Miserables.” Paul Thomas Anderson captained the good ship Cult Hero on “The Master.” J.A. Bayona rode the tsunami waves of “The Impossible.” And on a leaky bayou raft, Benh Zeitlin battled “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Theater maven Sam Mendes dove into the icy waters surrounding “Skyfall,” while kidlit author Stephen Chbosky kept a firm hand on the tiller of his “Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Back on dry land, Ben Lewin pushed a stretcher around San Francisco for “The Sessions,” while Dustin Hoffman roamed a retirement home’s hills and halls on “Quartet” and Joe Wright placed Moscow in a mezzanine for “Anna Karenina.”
After a somewhat becalmed start, 2012 surely ended with an armada of memorable voyages.