They Turn Us On, Dammit! Movieline Critic Alison Willmore's Top 10 Overlooked Gems of 2012

Sparkle3This December is heavy with major movies — Zero Dark ThirtyThis is 40The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyDjango Unchained and Les Misérables — that are literally (use the bathroom first) and metaphorically big. As they dominate the year-end conversation, it seems like a good moment to to call out some films that may not earn many mentions at award shows and top ten lists, but nevertheless charmed, entertained or impressed me throughout the year.

Top 10 Overlooked Films 20121. Indie Game: The Movie

This fascinating documentary about the relatively new world of independently made video games follows the maker of an established hit, a team preparing to debut their work and a guy who's been toiling for years on something that's still not finished. It's a look at the ambitious far reaches of a medium that's been dominated by the equivalent of blockbusters for most of its existence, and at what it means to strive for something personal and artistically inclined in a world just learning to appreciate those qualities.

Top 10 Overlooked Films 20122. Keep the Lights On

Ira Sachs' film about the ups and downs of a decade-long romance is based on his own relationship, and has the sting of the personal in the way it tracks how the needy Eric (Thure Lindhardt) and the drug-addicted Paul (Zachary Booth) support, hurt and enable each other. It's a painfully honest look at how we can keep returning to the things we know are bad for us, and what it takes to finally pull away.

Top 10 Overlooked Films 20123. Sparkle

Yes, it comes with the baggage of featuring an unhappy, exhausted-looking Whitney Houston in her last role and serving as the acting debut of American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. But Sparkle is an interesting, complex consideration of African American womanhood and what it means to be good and to be a success. And Carmen Ejogo, as the troubled and talented oldest sister, is an outstanding find — she's magnetic even as she's embraces destruction.

Top 10 Overlooked Films 20124. Sound of Noise

A heist movie in which the goal is not to steal but to make music: This Swedish comedy is built around four outrageous and inventive movements in a piece performed a group of anarchist artists who unlawfully invade a hospital room, a bank, a plaza and a power plant to make themselves heard . It's weird in the very best way.

Top 10 Overlooked Films 20125. King Kelly

Shot on iPhones and consumer-grade cameras posing as them, this film about a camgirl and her adventures on July 4th is a damning portrait of self-documentation as narcissism, and worse, as a way of using the Internet to justify your behavior and your appeal. Between her online following and her fawning best friend, Kelly (Louisa Krause) has surrounded herself with people who tell her how great she is. She blocks out anyone who disagrees, although it becomes apparent that she's as much at the mercy of pandering to her "fans" as she is empowered by their adoration.

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  • Dr. Khraish says:

    "Keep the Lights On" should be retitled "Keep the Lights Off." I can't believe it is #2 on this list. It's probably the most hyped movie in recent history. The script, acting, cinematography, and directing is just weak, unimpressive, and leaves one extremely bored!

  • Tim J. says:

    I would certainly put "Color Me Obsessed, a film about The Replacements" on the list, as it not only turned the genre on its ear, it was also the best music documentary in years. It was a film about how music becomes a part of you, and can even save your life. No other film in recent memory has so defined passion.

  • Rickey says:

    Thanks so much for sharing these! I was just complaining to one of my coworkers at DISH that all the movies coming out are remakes and not original. Seems like I just didn’t look hard enough. I’m adding them all to my Blockbuster @Home queue that I have with DISH so I can see what original movies are like. I’m just glad that I won’t have to look hard or far to find them!

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