2012 has been a pretty good year for films, so it makes it especially difficult to try and give my annual best picks, especially since the Oscar candidates have yet to be rolled out. Nonetheless, I’ve got a long list and a short space to fill. So, without further ado, here are my favorite movies to date for 2012.


Director Richard Linklater’s tale about Bernie Tiede, a beloved small-town mortician who, out of the goodness of his heart, happens to get entangled with the wrong rich bitch widow. The result: murder, mayhem and some really funny interviews with actual Texas Carthaginians about why they just loved Bernie. It’s a true story. You can’t make this stuff up.

Moonrise Kingdom

This coming-of-age romance will charm the pants off of you and leave you prancing happily in your underwear. Sam and Suzy, two troubled adolescents, fall in love and run off together across a New England Island. Of course, the adults object because, well, that’s what adults always do with their kids. With a full dose of savage wit, this film provides a sly but heartwarming take on the carefree side of romance.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Unlike any film you’ve ever seen, director Benh Zeitlin’s debut explores life in a backwater Louisiana swamp town called the Bathtub after a Hurricane Katrina-type disaster strikes the coast. Six-year-old Hushpuppy steals the show as the feisty pint-sized girl who has to survive some hostile life lessons from her dying father and a herd of dangerous Aurochs. It’s a lot for a little girl to handle, but Hushpuppy, she da man!

Life of Pi

If you want to know what life is like for a teenage boy stranded on the ocean in a small dinghy for eight months with a full-grown Bengal tiger, now’s your chance. Director Ang Lee’s magnum opus, this is 3D as it should be used — built in as an integral part of a big epic. Lee’s film is a rich story about love, loss and the yearning for God, all while facing down a large snarling tiger.

The Cabin in the Woods

You’ve seen one slasher film, you’ve seen them all — except for this one, which has a mind-bending twist that elevates the knife-wielding genre to a whole new level. Director Drew Goddard and sci-fi whiz Joss Whedon team up to surprise you with a take on evil beyond evil, and the corporate gurus who control it.

The Master

When director Paul Thomas Anderson releases a film, you should pay close attention. If you’re confused by the subject matter, go study the history of Scientology, 1950s-style revivalism, and a whole slew of high-profile, mind-control personalities who populated the American cultural scene in the 1940s and 1950s. Anderson successfully brings his powers of keen observation to bear on this subject. He also happens to hire a high-caliber cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Great film. Tricky subject. Study hard.

The Secret World of Arrietty

A Disney release of a Japanese anime film (in English) about a small family of “borrowers” who live secretly under a house. It’s a different type of Disney film, a little more intense, a little more violent and dramatic, but beautiful to watch and so fetching you’ll start to search through your cupboards hoping for signs of your own Clock family.