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December 26, 2012

Slate: The 10 best movies of 2012

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

"The Queen of Versailles."

Lauren Greenfield's documentary follows a crazy-rich time-share mogul and his alternately appealing and appalling wife through the early days of the recession, as the house they were building in Florida — which was to have been the largest in the United States — goes from status symbol to albatross in the space of less than a year. The Queen of Versailles starts out as a portrait of two eccentric billionaires and their gaudy dream castle, then opens onto a critique of the predatory real-estate economy and culture of blind consumerism that made both their success and failure possible.

"Silver Linings Playbook."

I can enumerate its flaws on one hand — there's the contrived subplot about bookmaking, Bradley Cooper's textureless performance, and a storyline that is sometimes disturbingly close to a celebration of love as shared mental illness — while my other hand just keeps pressing PLAY again on the DVD player. David O. Russell's movie is a little rough around the edges, but it bursts with energy, rhythm and life. Like Cooper's amateur ballroom-dancing duet with the delectable Jennifer Lawrence in the movie's climactic dance-contest scene, "Silver Linings Playbook" is proudly, almost triumphantly imperfect.

"Take This Waltz."

Child-star-turned-actress-turned-director Sarah Polley's second film proved that her first one, the prodigious "Away From Her," wasn't a fluke — Polley is the real thing, capable of coaxing alchemical moments out of actors and (especially in a virtuosic 360-degree shot late in the film) wielding the camera like an angel. Not everyone was convinced by this miniaturist portrait of a love triangle among Toronto twentysomethings, but the image of Michelle Williams, dizzy with new-hatched desire, swaying in a carnival ride to the strains of "Video Killed the Radio Star" is one of the indelible memories of my movie year.

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