News Column

Best Indy Movies of 2012

Jan. 3, 2013

Melinda Lavine, Grand Forks Herald

My colleague Tim Albrecht and I talk movies and TV almost every day.

We agree to disagree on some, but share the same taste in a lot of movies, so much so, that our top 10 lists were pretty similar. (Though, I would've ranked "Cabin in the Woods" and "Looper" much higher.) I'm more of an indie movie nerd than he is, so I opted to share my top five best indie films of 2012.

5. "Sleepwalk with Me"

Mike Birbiglia and the dudes at This American Life (Ira Glass co-wrote and produced it) bring us this film that largely takes Birbiglia's standup comedy act and transforms it into a feature-length film. I was a little bit too familiar with Birbiglia's routine, so this fell a little flat with me, but the acting was heart-felt, honest and solid.

4. "Moonrise Kingdom"

Wes Anderson's latest film showcases all of his trademarks: sparky dialogue, meticulous shot composition and slightly damaged characters, but in "Moonrise Kingdom," he broke the mold by writing main characters who are kids. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward did a great job of holding their own next to the likes of Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Frances McDormand. Their story is about risking everything for young love, a feeling I'm sure we can all relate to.

3. "Ruby Sparks"

Paul Dano delivers in this film written by his real-life girlfriend and co-star Zoe Kazan. This movie got me because it felt vaguely Woody Allen-ish in Dano's neurotic author with writer's block and how the plot turns fiction into reality. (No spoilers.) Kazan is a delight on screen and the chemistry she shares with Dano is palpable.

2. "Chronicle"

This blew my mind. If you're into comic books, you'll love this, as it mimics the origin story of all superheroes and villains. It's shot with a hand-held camera and "chronicles" (see what I did there) three friends who come upon a "meteor" that gives them powers they're not necessarily prepared to control. I didn't know what to expect, but the story and effects were all a breath of fresh air in a time of CGI overkill.

1. "Your Sister's Sister"

Emily Blunt. Rosemarie Dewitt. Mark Duplass: Three reasons to watch this movie. Recovering from the death of his brother, Jack (Duplass) is on a downward spiral until his friend, Iris (Blunt) sends him off to her father's cottage to get his life together. Jack surprises Iris' sister, Hannah (Dewitt), who's there to recover from a break-up. I can't tell anymore without ruining it, but this movie is a solid example of how life happens when you least expect it. Check it out.

Top 5 indies released on DVD in 2012

5. "Take Shelter"

Jessica Chastain can do no wrong, but this film's star, Michael Shannon, brings it. He plays a man who may be teetering on the edge of schizophrenia as he sacrifices his job and his marriage to build a storm shelter to satiate his ever-growing paranoia. This was expertly written, acted and shot. And, the ending makes the journey all worth the while.

4. "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

It's basically a horror movie for parents. Tilda Swinton is a force of nature as a mother who tries to cope with her vicious son, his malicious act and the consequences she faces as a result. I was glued to the screen from the get-go and constantly questioning what I would do in Swinton's character's shoes. This movie might mess with your head, but watch it if you're up for a challenge.

3. "Friends with Kids"

You probably know her as Jon Hamm's lady, but Jennifer Westfeldt has been in the writer/director game for a while. Her latest flick is a hilarious look at how modern couples try to have it all through whatever unconventional agreements possible. With great performances by Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and the guy from "Mad Men" (Hamm), it's sure to be a film that'll make you think about what it means to have happiness, love and a family -- and what you'll sacrifice to get it.

2. "Martha Marcy May Marlene"

The baby sister of the Olsen Twins, Elizabeth Olsen, makes her film debut with this cutting, intense look into the psyche of a teen who's trying to re-enter society after falling off the grid and into an abusive cult. This was one of the best films I've seen this year. Jonathan Hawkes plays creepy-strong so well, and Olsen really showcases her acting chops. See it, so we can talk about it.

1. "Take This Waltz"

This wowwed me completely. Michelle Williams dazzles (as usual) and totally delivers in this film about a happily married woman who finds she's left wanting. I related to the feeling that something's missing even though you have so much. Comedy stars Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman try their hand at drama, and their performances in this film cemented their wide range of skills. It's a solid, contemporary tale about the decisions you make and the consequences that follow. It's a wild ride.

Disclaimer: Picks that likely would've made my list had I seen them in time: "To Rome With Love," Woody Allen, and "Safety Not Guaranteed," Lynn Shelton.

Lavine is Accent Editor for the Herald.

Source: (c)2013 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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