Ang Lee’s latest film Life of Pi is a visually stunning and breathtaking experience. It is one of the few films that, in my opinion, is actually better suited for 3D than boring ol’ 2D, and is perfect to experience in the movie theater rather than Netflixing in a couple months.

Pi is so impressive because it is consistently entertaining and surprising for two or so hours, surprising for a plot that doesn’t have much action. It does follow a pretty standard Hero’s Journey format, with some pretty sad (but not tear-jerking) moments. By the end, it becomes clear that almost every scene is necessary (save the love story that goes nowhere). Plus, it borrows from Big Fish in that much of what REALLY happened is left open to interpretation, and I like to see that in big-budget movies. It is far too infrequent that we get films that generate engaging discussion among audiences, and I am happy that Life of Pi gives us that opportunity.

The film’s strongest suit, as you’ve no doubt heard, is its visual effects. The best effects, in my opinion, are always those which blur the line between what is real (physical) and what is not (CGI), and Life of Piprovides consistently jaw-dropping and convincing images that are hard to forget. The camera work is exceptional as well, with non-traditional shots and transitions. Some of the most memorable are bird’s-eye shots, overlooking the protagonist Pi and the tiger Richard Parker floating in the sea, at a perfect 90-degree angle.

As much of a visual and intellectual treat as Life of Pi is, it is hard for me to imagine Academy members and audiences regarding it as the best film (not just one of the best films) of 2012. I absolutely liked it, hands down – but in a year with emotional powerhouses like Silver Linings Playbook,Brave, and many other movies that left a stronger impression on me, it is really a far cry from Best Picture 2012.