The rules for this list were: No foreign films. No documentaries. No films intended for wide release, although if they broke wide later on, they were eligible. In general, if a movie was eligible for an Independent Spirit Award, it was considered for this list.
Moonrise Kingdom – Deservedly nominated for five Independent Spirit awards, Wes Anderson’s masterpiece engrosses the audience in the main story while developing fascinating adult characters whose lives are centered on the two young characters that are central to the film. Bruce Willis gives one of the best performances of his career.
Silver Linings Playbook – Another film that garnered five Independent Spirit award nominations, this movie features tour de force acting from leads Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, as well as the usual excellent performance the great Robert De Niro always delivers.
Middle of Nowhere – Garnered four Independent Spirit award nominations and like the other two, a candidate for Best 10 Films of 2012 overall. Writer/director Ava DeVarney wove a gritty, complex tale about love, struggle, and choices. Emayatzy Corinealdi is deserving of Best Actress consideration for her performance.
Killer Joe – This Southern Gothic very dark comedy grabs your attention from the first frame and refuses to let go until the end credits are rolling. Tracy Letts adapted his own stage play and William Friedkin turned that adaptation into brilliance on the big screen, aided by wonderful cinematography by Caleb Deschanel. Matthew McConaghey, Juno Temple and Thomas Haden Church give very strong performances.
Robot & Frank – A futuristic tale from director Jake Schreier and writer Christopher D. Ford about an older man living alone whose son buys him a robot to take care of him. The story of the man and the robot is poignant and thought-provoking. Frank Langella is wonderful in the lead role.
Bernie – Based on a true story, this dark comedy from writer/director Richard Linklater contains a strong performance from Matthew McConaughey as a prosecutor and the best work Jack Black has done in a long time as a funeral home worker.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – An amazing film with an astonishing performance by a six year girl in the lead role. Quvenzhané Wallis may be a newcomer but she ruled the screen. Writer/director Behn Zeitlin has created a wonderful first feature film.
Friends With Kids – Writer/director/star Jennifer Westfeldt gives us a complex romantic comedy about the complexities of close, platonic relationships between men and women. It makes you laugh, choke up and most definitely will make you glad you are in love, or if you aren’t, will make you want to be in love.
Hello, I Must Be Going – Todd Louiso directed a fascinating film study of a woman whose life appears to be over in her eyes and the path of discovery that leads her to conclude she was wrong in thinking that. Melanie Lynskey is terrific in the lead role.
Any Day Now – Rufus Fine wrote and directed this excellent look back at discrimination against gays in child custody issues in the late 1970s (which remains a problem for some to this date). He captures the era perfectly, right down to the reel-to-reel tape deck and Smith-Corona typewriter. Alan Cumming is extraordinary as the man who wants nothing more than to love another man while parenting the Down’s Syndrome child of a neighbor who won’t care for him.