November 27, 2012 at 06:41 PM EST

Runaway kids and a guy with a runaway temper led the Independent Spirit Award nominations with Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook collecting five bids each, including best picture.

Their rivals in the best picture race are Bernie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Keep the Lights On.

With big-screen behemoths like Lincoln, Argo, and Les Miserables dominating Oscar talk, Film Independent’s awards  — chosen by filmmakers, actors, critics, and festival programers — cast the spotlight on some smaller films that are nonetheless worthy of consideration this award season.

It’s a welcome boost for Silver Linings, which is already being talked about as a Best Picture player at the Oscars, but it is a critical success for Moonrise, which has many admirers but came out so long ago that any reminder for Academy voters is a necessary one.

Moonrise‘s other nominations were for director Wes Anderson, who shared a screenplay nod with Roman Coppola, cinematographer Robert Yeoman, and supporting actor Bruce Willis, who played the lonesome police captain leading the search for the two pint-sized runaways. The film also picked up best feature at last night’s independent-minded Gotham Awards.

Silver Linings, meanwhile, also picked up director and screenplay mentions for David O. Russell, as well as male and female leads for Bradley Cooper, as a bi-polar man looking for love, and Jennifer Lawrence as the erratic, sex-addict widow he falls for.

A notable snub was The Sessions, which earned lead nominations for stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, but nothing for picture, director, or screenplay.

Nominees with four each included the Sundance favorites Beasts of the Southern Wild, about a little girl facing the end of the world; Keep the Lights On, a tragic love story about a man who falls for an addict; and Middle of Nowhere, the story of a woman who falls in love with another man while her husband is in prison.

One surprise individual with multiple mentions was Matthew McConaughey, who had a lead actor nomination for the brutal Killer Joe, and a supporting actor nod for his charismatic stripper boss in Magic Mike. Since the latter is a role that has a bit of Oscar buzz around it, this could help build some momentum for him.

The unfortunate thing is, the Oscars tend to overlook these smaller movies. Not always, mind you, but often. While the production of these lower-budget films may be scrappier and less glossy than their studio rivals, awards like the Indie Spirits help focus a bit more attention on them.

Last year, Demián Bichir got a mention for the immigrant story A Better Life, and later the Screen Actors Guild Awards decided to nominate him. From there, Academy voters realized: this is a movie we need to see — and on Feb. 26 last year, there Bichir was among the Best Actor contenders.

Here’s hoping voters find some awards-worthy work among these nominees.

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