No list can really pretend to be "the best." They are all only opinions of the person reviewing, after all. My own litmus test is to ask myself if the film is one I'd like to see a second time, and perhaps even a third. With that in mind, here are my choices for 2012—the movies I've either already seen twice, or will soon be adding to my collection. Some of them have now been mentioned in Golden Globes and in the Academy Award Nominations, but others might well be worth your effort to find and see.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild. A supremely haunting mixture of social documentary, archetypal fable, and fairy tale. This is the "art film" on my list this year, which almost nobody has seen. Still, nobody had seen The Hurt Locker the year it won best picture. It's power sneaks up on you.
2. End of Watch. Unfortunately overlooked, but this cop drama is similar to Training Day, which won the best actor award for Denzel Washington. For most geezers, this will be a great surprise. A great buddy movie.
3. Lincoln. Spielberg's blockbusters can become a little tiresome—after the ridiculously maudlin War Horse, I thought he might have finally lost his touch. But here we find Spielberg back in the vicinity of Schindler's List. I would not be disappointed if Lincoln wins best picture, even though it does include the tiresome Sally Field playing herself with a slightly exaggerated accent. Tommy Lee Jones is very good. Consumate Spielberg, and perhaps his last chance at another best picture award, as he seems more prone to War Horse films these days.
4. The Hunger Games. Not on anybody's best film list, but I thought it was remarkably clever, and in fact saw it twice. Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for Silver Linings Playbook, of course, but she is similarly good here. A guilty pleasure; I'll likely take some heat from geezers for this choice. A very good soundtrack by T-bone Burnett.
5. The Queen of Versailles. Each year there is a documentary that really grabs my attention, and this is my choice this year. The film is about a wealthy couple who finds themselves hitting the skids when the real estate market plunges in the last recession. The couple would be easy to hate, but you really find yourself sensitive to their predicament. They are not bad people, just unaware of the realities of regular folks. A very good movie.
7. Django Unchained. Audacious and shocking and wonderfully interesting. Perhaps too far out there to win anything, but one I'll be adding to my Blu-ray collection, for sure. Nobody else around quite like Tarantino. Very controversial and guaranteed to elicit lots of thought and conversation.
9. Seven Psychopaths. This will appeal to the same group as enjoyed Django Unchained, as it is gleefully violent, but in some ways it is even more interesting. Christopher Walken makes two films on my list this year. Hard to describe but highly recommended.
10. A Late Quartet. Christopher Walken's second movie on my list this year. Amazing tight character studies of four members of a world-class string quartet whose lives are deeply entwined. Also features Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
11. Zero Dark 30. This was ever so slightly disappointing, as it did not quite have the stunning power of Kathryne Bigelow's first big movie, The Hurt Locker, which was my #1 movie from the moment I saw it two years ago. But this one ranks right up with all the others nominated for best film this year. Bigelow is one talented film maker; you'll rarely see a movie paced or edited any better.
12. Skyfall. I liked this as well as any Bond movie, ever. And I'm quite familiar with them, as I've been working on the boxed Blu-Ray collection of the entire group. Maybe not best picture material, but a heck of a lot of fun for this geezer.
Best Picture Preferences: I would be pleased if Lincoln or Zero Dark 30 won, but will be over-the-top thrilled if Beasts of the Southern Wild walks away with the Best Picture award.