Independent Spirit Awards: 3 Must-Sees

If the recent slew of great movies at the marketplace wasn’t a big enough indication, let yesterday’s Independent Spirit Award nominations be your reminder that the 2012 awards season is officially kicking into hyper speed. With the end of the year nearly a month away, we’ve seen mostly all of the big Oscar power players, from Argo to The Master, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Flight, and more, and only 3 big December releases are left to cap off the year (Les Misérables, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained). What most people forget, however, is that the small independent films have just the same amount of momentum as the heavyweights, and the Independent Spirit Award nominations are a great way to sift through the year and figure out which small films could end up making big splashes on Oscar night. If the Spirit nominations are to be believed, than three films are leading the pack to bridge the independent film world and the Academy together; in order to save yourself the “I’ve never heard of this movie!” reaction on the morning of nominations, these three movies are must-sees (all of which are nominated for Best Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards), and, rather luckily, they are all truly inspired pieces of cinema and are three of my favorites of the year:

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1. Moonrise Kingdom (now on DVD) – Every once in awhile there comes a film that’s so visually alive, so vibrantly acted, and so vivaciously charming that you can’t help but smile thinking about it and wish that you could see it again instantly; that, my friends, is Moonrise Kingdom. As directed by Wes Anderson, Kingdom bares all of the modern auteur’s signature style – systematic camera movements, the use of primary colors, a reliance on classical music – only with more determination and more control than ever before, and by focusing on a whimsical, campfire-like story, the film forces both cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike to get lost in Anderson’s fantastical cinematography. With a dream ensemble at the top of their game (Bruce Willis, Francis McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton) and a pair of breakout performances from child actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward (their scene on the beach perfectly captures the awkward, passionate heart of adolescence), Moonrise is one of the year’s best, a film of dry humor and quiet tragedy that hits you like a wave full of artistic expression and passion. Don’t miss it! 10/10

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2. Beasts of the Southern Wild (on DVD Dec. 4th) – You don’t know the meaning of breakthrough until you behold Quvenzhané Wallis’ tour-de-force performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild; as Hushpuppy, a curious young girl living in the apocalyptic bayou of New Orleans, Wallis is flat out revelation, and from her long, wandering looks to her passion filled eyes, Wallis’ cute, pudgy face becomes a canvass of ever changing emotions throughout the film. Oh, and get ready to do a jaw-dropping double take when you realize she was only 6-years-old at the time of filming! Though its summer release might’ve been too early for it to secure a Best Picture nomination, a Best Actress nom is highly likely for this spirited young girl who captures your heart and never lets go. Kudos to director Ben Zeitlin too; in his debut feature, Zeitlin creates a frightening and beautiful cinematic poem (the dreamlike sequence where Hushpuppy tries to find her mother is a standout and one of my favorite individual moments of the year) and also lends his hands to the best original score of the year so far. 9/10

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3. Silver Linings Playbook (now playing in theaters) – If there is one movie this year that puts a big, brimming smile of complete and utter joy on my face, it’s Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell’s hilarious comedy-drama about love, life, and illness. What strikes me most about this film is how conventional it all is; honestly, this is more or less your standard romantic comedy, the one where everything that you think is going to happen ends up happening, and yet Silver Linings Playbook is so effectively directed and so brilliantly acted that it transcends conventionality to become something so much more raw, so much more vulnerable, so much more honest, and so much more special. This is a movie that hits you hard in both the funny bone and the heart, and to me it is easily this year’s Little Miss Sunshine, a small movie with some big, awkward, inspiring, and heartbreaking truths. Though Russell’s erratic direction fits like a glove given the film’s subject matter, the performances are what floor you – just wait till you see how extraordinary Bradley Cooper (screw The Hangover, this dude can really, really act), Robert DeNiro, and Jennifer Lawrence are. Lawrence, in particular, sizzles in the most hilarious, mature, and seductive of ways – she’s a wide-eyed stunner in this and I’m at the lead of the pack of those calling her the frontrunner for Best Actress; yup, she’s that damn good. 9/10

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Have you guys seen any of these three 2012 winners? Think any of them have a chance come Oscar night? Are you as much a fan of independent cinema as we are? Sound off on anything related below…

Article by Zack Sharf

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