I admit to using the word "conservative" loosely -- we are talking about Hollywood, after all. It here refers to those films that are at least respectful of the American experience and generally supportive of faith, family, and/or country. A film can score as much as 50 on the quality scale and 50 on the conservative scale, the latter graded on a Hollywood curve. The two values are equally weighted. Although it may not seem obvious, 2012 was a better year than most.
10. Dark Knight Rises 75
In the third of Christopher Nolan's trilogy, Batman comes out of retirement to battle "Bane," the kind of action hero only an Occupy Wall Streeter could love. In full OWS mode, Bane schemes to overthrow the ruling class and blow up Gotham City until thwarted by one-per center Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman. Indeed, not even Scrooge McDuck had a butler. Q 35, C 40.
9. Hitchcock 77
This underappreciated film chronicles Alfred Hitchcock's ordeal as he attempts to make Psycho, a movie that would have made no conservative's list when released 50-plus years ago. What commends this film is its surprisingly sensitive portrayal of the Hitchcocks' marriage. I say "surprisingly" because marriage is a subject with which few in Hollywood have any lasting experience. Q 40, C 37.
8. Anna Karenina 78
The new movie version of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina might be a bit stagy for some tastes, but any movie that -- a) stars Keira Knightley and b) allows Leo Tolstoy's contempt for liberalism to play itself out on screen -- is surely worth watching. In the novel of the same name, Anna's feckless brother adopts a liberal attitude in the same spirit he smokes cigars, says Tolstoy archly,"for the slight fog it diffused in his brain." Not much has changed. Q 38, C 40.
7. Argo 80
The film's lamentable prologue, which blames America for Khomeini's rise, is filtered through the slight fog in director Ben Affleck's brain as is the epilogue, which is voiced by Jimmy Carter. In between is a stirring account of a clever CIA plan to liberate several Americans from Iran's revolutionary hell. Canadians have not looked this good since Sergeant Preston took his pension. Speaking of fog, one CNN reviewer faulted Affleck for casting himself and not an Hispanic in the lead role of an Hispanic CIA officer. This reviewer praised the more ethnically sensitive Johnny Depp for turning down the role of Pancho Villa, unaware, I suspect, that Depp's next role is as Tonto in the Lone Ranger. Q 44, C 36.
6. Flight 82
Says one knowing reviewer, "this film makes perfect sense as the latest installment of an acting career birthed in Pentecostal spirit." A previous installment was Washington's intriguing Book of Eli. In Flight, his character, an airline pilot charged with flying drunk, chooses not to escape punishment through a legalism -- my audience was rooting for him to do just that -- but chooses instead to face his own failings and seek redemption. In that the film shows the temptations our pilot hero faces, one of whom in her full frontal glory, it is not necessarily for the kiddies. Q 40, C 42.
5. Act of Valor 84
This film about global anti-terrorism stars a group of real life Navy SEALs. OK, given the skill sets involved, the acting is not about to win anyone an Oscar, but the combat sequences may be the best ever put on film. The movie reflects the SEAL's values, which includes, in this movie, their respect for wives and children. Warning: your Code Pink date may never talk to you again. Q 36, C 48.
4. Zero Dark Thirty 86
Our Democratic friends rarely tire of boasting that that their guy took out Osama bin Laden, but this film presents them with something of a conundrum. Through "enhanced interrogation," several scenes of which the audience is treated to, the CIA developed the intel that led them to Osama. With some accuracy, a Salon reviewer called the film "a celebration of George W. Bush's most destructive policies." Yet the "torture" scenes are love-ins compared to, say, Tarantino's in Reservoir Dogs. No one gets injured, and if the terrorist doesn't know it, the audience does.
Despite the early rumors, this movie does not at all glorify President Obama. He appears only once, and then on a TV screen assuring a 60 Minutes interviewer that America never indulges in torture. The CIA agents watch and say nothing, but the look on their faces says, "Yea, sure, whatever." They are used to being betrayed. As one operative observes, "You don't want to be the last one holding the dog collar when the oversight committee comes." Q 44, C 42.
Republicans haven't looked this good on celluloid since, well, forever. The movie focuses almost exclusively on their struggle to overcome Democratic resistance and pass the 13th Amendment -- with all the skullduggery such fights entail. To its credit, the movie does explore the liberties Lincoln took with the Constitution during wartime, but my purist friends make a mistake in thinking the Constitution favored the South's position. To deny a class of people liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and, on occasion, life itself and to still expect the protection of the Constitution is to rather miss the point of our founding documents. Q 46, C 42.
End of Watch 90
Although in and out of the theaters much too quickly, the boldly incorrect End of Watch may well be the best cop movie since The French Connection. The two patrolmen protagonists are brave, capable, and in love with their wives. You don't see that very often in the movies, any of that. More unusual still, they deal with the kind of bad guys real cops see in the mean streets of LA, not the sleazy businessmen and Serbian thugs Hollywood favors. Q 46, C 44.
Les Miserables 92
As Christian Today notes, "It's not often that we go to the cinema and are confronted with the message of God's grace." But that message drives the plot of this unabashedly Christ-centered movie. Hollywood used to make movies along these lines all the time, but not even in its golden age did they make one this smart, visually sumptuous, and musically rich. Bring your Kleenex. Q 47, C 45.