As excited as I am for Dark Knight Rises it's worth noting that as much as I enjoy Christopher Nolan's take on the Caped Crusader he never comes close to the top of my list of the year's favorites. So with that in mind here are 12 films that are not Dark Knight - and not The Hobbit, The Avengers, Spiderman or James Bond for that matter - that stand a better chance of topping my list of 2012's best.
12. Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down"
Reason to get excited: It's a Wes Anderson film which should be enough for most people to determine their level of interest right there. Personally, I'm always excited for one of his films. His detractors never seem to notice the generous helpings of heart and soul under that signature style.
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "A screenwriter gets caught up in his pal's dog-knapping plot" Sold!
Reason to get excited: This is Director/Screenwriter Martin McDonagh's first film after his ingenious endlessly rewatchable debut, In Bruges. The cast includes Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Gabourey Sidibe, Woody Harrelson, and Tom Fucking Waits, aka, The Coolest Man Alive. Who is not going to go see this?
10. Grandmasters - Kar Wai Wong
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee."
Reason to get excited: It's art house God Wong Kar Wai doing martial arts making it a must for film lovers. Plus Crouching Tiger's Zhang Ziyi is on hand.
9. Only God Forgives - Nicolas Winding Refn
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match."
Reason to get excited: It's Drive director Refn reuniting for a second go-round with Ryan Gosling. Good enough, right? Plus, look at that plot synopsis. Don't tell me you're not curious.
8. Cogan's Trade - Andrew Dominik
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game."
Reason to get excited: Brad Pitt has been on an incredible run of quality films over the past few years and here he reunites with the director of The Assassination of Jesse James. Unfortunately, Jesse James's genius cinematographer Roger Deakins is not back on board but they did nab Bright Star's Greig Fraser to shoot the flick.
7. Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner."
Reason to get excited: A Tarantino film is an event. Everyone has to see it and weigh in. Plus, I think Leonardo DiCaprio really needs to cut loose and if anything can make that happen it's playing a Tarantino villain.
6. This is 40 - Judd Apatow
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie a few years after the events of Knocked Up"
Reason to get excited: The idea and influence of Judd Apatow's success has overshadowed his actual films, which, if you recall, are usually pretty damn good. (Hey - I liked Funny People) Bonus: Albert Brooks as Paul Rudd's father. If that's not enough for you I don't know what else to say.
5. Amour - Michael Haneke
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "A retired couple deals with aftermath of the wife suffering from a debilitating stroke."
Reason to get excited: After recent undeniable masterpieces like The White Ribbon and Cache Michael Haneke films have become essential viewing.
4. Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "The lone survivor of a space mission to repair the Hubble telescope desperately tries to return to Earth and reunite with her daughter."
Reason to get excited: After six years it's Cuaron's first major film since 2006's Children of Men. That is enough for me to ignore the presence of Sandra Bullock right at the film's center. Hopefully Cuaron can make me forget her recent output and remind me why I liked her so much when I first saw her driving Keanu Reeves around.
3. Nebraska - Alexander Payne
3. Nebraska - Alexander Payne
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million dollar Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes prize."
Reason to get excited: After waiting seven years after Sideways for a new Payne film, The Descendants didn't really do it for me, but luckily he's not making us wait another seven. My mild disappointment over Descendants has done nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for the director of Election.
2. Untitled Osama Bin Laden Project - Kathryn Bigelow
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "An account on the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the battled on his compound that resulted in his death."
Reason to get excited: Bigelow's first feature since her Oscar-winning work on The Hurt Locker is already stirring controversy (mostly among cry-baby Republicans but still). If anyone can do this story justice it's her.
1. The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson
IMDB Plot Synopsis: "A 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as "the Master" whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man."
Reason to get excited: Paul Thomas Anderson has a new film. I repeat, Paul Thomas Anderson has a new film. Also Johnny Greenwood is back doing the score again after his jaw-dropping work on There Will Be Blood. If that's enough for you, I'm afraid we have nothing more to say to each other.