Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reactions to the Independent Spirit Award nominations

Years ago on Cheers, in its hysterical penultimate season, Woody and his fiance Kelly have a crisis when they realize they have religious differences: he's a Lutheran from the Missouri Synod division, while she is a Lutheran from the Evangelical division. I bring this up as a preface to explain that there's a rift in the independent film community, which led to a splintering of the Independent Spirit Awards from the Gotham Independent Awards--I'm sure if you asked members of either faction why they divorced, neither would give you a clear explanation, or could articulate how their organization's mission differs from the other, except for what city it's based in.

Gotham weighed in earlier awarding The Hurt Locker a massive two (2) awards (note that the Gothams aren't particularly meaningful, so I didn't actually post reactions). While the Independent Spirits nominated The Hurt Locker for, um, none. This year. You see, somehow THL was nominated last year. For Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It's touted this year as a strong contender for the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director, but last year, among independent film... not so much. Confused? Join the club.

Among the movies that did get nominations today, Precious and The Last Station are the 2 big stories. Precious secured nominations for Gabourey Sidibe (Lead Actress) and Mo'Nique (Supporting Actress), useful in helping position them for a strong Oscar run. It also secured nominations for Best Feature, Best Director and Best First Screenplay, all of which will help in its run at Guild awards and in the Oscar hunt.

The Last Station gets a solid start to its run as well, also picking up 5 nominations including Helen Mirren (Best Actress) and Christopher Plummer (Supporting Actor). It's been moved up in its release cycle to compete in this awards seasons, which means the studio clearly thinks they've got something (Clint Eastwood's Invictus and the Jeff Bridges movie Crazy Heart have also been moved up to compete this season). In addition to the 2 acting nominations, the movie received nominations as Best Feature, Best Director and Best Screenplay. It's something of a biopic about Tolstoy's last year, and yet Plummer, playing Tolstoy, is a supporting actor?! Confusing. But Mirren is picking up steam, including some accolade from the Palm Springs Film Festival (last year they feted Sean Penn).

Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) and Colin Firth (A Single Man) both earn nominations for Best Actor and are early favorites to compete come Oscar time. Firth is long overdue for a first nomination, and Bridges, with 4 nominations, isn't "overdue" as much as he's due for another. They're both favorites of mine, so this could be a good year, acting-wise.

The Messenger, the new movie with Woody Harrelson (hey, I mentioned him earlier in the Cheers reference), earned nominations for Best First Feature, Best Screenplay, Harrelson (Supporting Actor), and Samantha Morton (Supporting Actress). Morton is absolutely someone to watch for this Oscar race--she's been nominated twice before, and clearly a talent.

I'm hopeful Joseph Gordon-Levitt can work his way toward a Golden Globe nomination for (500) Days of Summer, but I don't see that movie amounting to much post Globes, except perhaps an Original Screenplay nomination.

The last movie that caught my attention is the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man. It wasn't nominated for Best Feature. It wasn't nominated for any actors. It wasn't nominated for its screenplay. The brothers were nominated as Best Director, and the genius Roger Deakins was nominated for Best Cinematography (talk about overdue), but otherwise just an award (the Robert Altman Award) for the ensemble and the casting director. Maybe I'm being too dismissive of this as more honorary than competitive (this went to I'm Not There 2 years ago, and Synecdoche, New York last year, so I'm going to say it's not super impactful on an Oscar campaign). So while it's still playing, I'm not going to knock myself out trying to see this one.

The full list of nominees is here.

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