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For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations

For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations

The 29th Annual Film Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced this morning, and as per usual they came with many a surprise and quite a few full-on shockers. Check out the full list of nominations here, with our choices for the 10 most notable nominations (or lack thereof) listed below:

1. Gaby Hoffman gets a best lead female nom over Greta Gerwig and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The Spirit Awards are known for their out-of-nowhere nominees (Linda Cardellini for “Return” last year, anyone?) but that makes it no less surprising that two of the most beloved indie performances of the year — Greta Gerwig in “Frances Ha” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “Enough Said” — were shut out of the lead female category in favor of… Gaby Hoffman in “Crystal Fairy.” No disrespect to Ms. Hoffman (who is admittedly great in the film), but this is where Gerwig and Louis-Dreyfus were most likely to get their deserved due.

2. Meanwhile, best lead male expands to six nominees to accommodate its overcrowding.
The male lead category options were just as crowded, and there were no surprises in the nominees — Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oscar Isaac, Michael B. Jordan, Matthew McConaughey and Robert Redford were widely seen as the frontrunners to make it in here. Except we all expected one of them to miss out. But the Spirits opted for six nominees instead, just like they did with lead female three years ago, when five eventual nominees for the best actress Oscar — Natalie Portman, Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Williams — were joined by none other than Greta Gerwig (for “Greenberg”). It seems likely that this category will see some serious Oscar crossover as well, with Dern, Ejiofor, McConaughey and Redford all looking very good to double dip.

3. “Before Midnight” misses out on best feature, completing a triple snub for the series.
Certainly one of the most acclaimed films of 2013 indie or otherwise, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s third collaboration in the “Before” series was snubbed for best feature. At least it’s in good company… “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” didn’t make the cut either.

4. Melonie Diaz over Octavia Spencer in best supporting female.
The best hope for “Fruitvale Station” at the Oscars is a nomination for Octavia Spencer in best supporting actress, but while the film nabbed three nominations, Spencer wasn’t one of them. Instead it was her co-star Melonie Diaz that was nominated for best supporting female.

5. No James Franco for “Spring Breakers.”
Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” didn’t do so well across the board, managing only one (very deserved) nomination for Benoit Debie’s cinematography.
Most shocking about that is that it meant that James Franco’s already
classic portrayal of corn-rowed Florida gangsta wannabe Alien may very
well be shut out of awards season altogether.

6. Yolonda Ross wins this years award for most out of nowhere acting nominee.
While the aforementioned nomination for Gaby Hoffman was a surprise, it paled in comparison to the shock of Yolanda Ross’s nomination in best supporting female for John Sayles’s “Go For Sisters,” a film few have heard of. Not that were complaining. One of the nice things about the Spirits is their occasional tendency to recognize the tiniest of films over likely Oscar contenders (one would think this would have been Octavia Spencer’s spot).

7. “Kill Your Darlings,” “Don Jon” and “In a World” miss out on best first feature.
“Fruitvale Station” was an expected nominee (and likely winner) for best first feature, but beyond that it was a rather surprising category. Much discussed and generally acclaimed debut features from John Krokidas (“Kill Your Darlings”), Lake Bell (“In a World”) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Don Jon”) all missed the cut in favor of Alexandre Moors’s “Blue Caprice,” Stacie Passon’s “Concussion,” Lucy Mulloy’s “Una Noche” and Haifaa Al Mansour’s “Wadjda.” The first three aren’t particularly unexpected, but “Wadjda” — Saudi Arabia’s entry at the Academy Awards — was a surprise in that it was eligible at all (turns out its an American co-production). But nice end result here: 3 of 5 first features are directed by women.

8. Coens snubbed in best director and best screenplay.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” indeed got a nomination for best feature, the Coen Brothers first nomination here since winning for “Fargo” nearly 20 years ago. But the brothers themselves didn’t get any love: They were shut out of both best director and best screenplay. Though it seems likely the Oscars will make up for that…

9. “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” doesn’t get a single nomination.
A film the Oscars aren’t likely to recognize that could have really benefited from some love here was David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” But the film — which won raves at Sundance before finding a rather underwhelming (at least financially) release this past August — didn’t get a single nomination. One would have at least expected Ben Foster’s great supporting turn to get some love, but this wasn’t the case. At least Lowery’s other two 2013 projects — “Pit Stop” (which he co-wrote) and “Upstream Color” (which he co-edited) — ended up getting him nominations for first screenplay and editing, respectively.

10. The Weinsteins’ Spirit Award reign is over!
After winning the best feature prize at the Spirits two years in a row for films that many felt were should not even have been eligible — 2012’s “The Artist” and 2013’s “Silver Linings Playbook” — the Weinsteins did not even receive a nomination in that category, and only found 3 overall (all of them for “Fruitvale Station”). Though notably its three big contenders this year — “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “August: Osage County” and “Philomena” — were all rightly ineligible for budgetary or country of origin reasons (though there was a time when we thought the same would end up being true of “The Artist” and “Silver Linings”).

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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Steven Ball

Will Nicolas Winding Refn ever get some recognition? I thought ONLY GOD FORGIVES was brilliant & I thought Kristin Scott Thomas was great in the role of Chrystal


So surprised by the lack of nominations for Ain't Them Bodies Saints and Kill Your Darlings which are still two of the best I have seen this year. Not even a cinematography nomination for Saints and first screenplay for Darlings.


Very surprised that "Don Jon" and "In a World" missed out on Best First Feature. I would've expected them nominated alongside "Blue Caprice," "Una Noche," and "Wadjda."

Also surprised "Frances Ha" got nominated for Best Feature over "Before Midnight" and "Blue Jasmine."


FIND nominations are often driven by identity politics and the organization's nominating committees go well out of their way to create balanced categories across racial lines. FIND has been very strong in offering recognition to performers of color, although not as great as being inclusive on gender in the filmmaking categories. Each year, I see their lists and think it is a positive and a negative- positive, because people who deserve recognition get some, and negative, because it sometimes comes at the expense of others whose work I personally prefer. But so what? This is all incredibly subjective and committee-driven and seems to express FIND's values, so to think it is a bellwether or indication of anything beyond its own subjectivity is silly.


I am a 50 year member of SAG. Crystal Fairy, was un watchable period.

bob hawk

The Golden Globes — because they split up into dramatic and comedy/musical categories — might offer the only opportunity for some of the omissions mentioned here to get a nod, although every once in a while the National Board of Review or one of the urban critics circles will recognize a wild card. Whatever . . . the Indie Spirit Awards have been eccentric, erratic and sometimes unfathomable from year one. What's really lame is nominating six in a category for five, which shows a lack of rigor and an inability to bite the bullet on the part of the nominators. I've been on juries where we were given strict orders: no ties allowed. And with all the egregious omissions this year, if six are allowed, why not seven, or eight? Oy!


I don't get how Greta Gerwig can make the cut alongside 5 of the eventual Oscar nominees one year and now miss out while the film she's the title character in gets nominated for Best Feature.

Francois B

So excited for Gaby Hoffman! Crystal Fairy (Crystal Hairy!) is one of the most memorable film i saw this year, and her character is truly unforgettable… Sebastián Silva creates incredible characters for women, The Maid was also fantastic…

greg w. locke

Blue Caprice is so fantastic. I think Isaiah Washington should've gotten a Best Actor nom. Crowded categories this year, for sure.


To be fair, Gerwig and Louise-Dreyfus could not have both been shut out in favor of Gaby Hoffman. Mathematically, only one of them could. You're going to have to add another spoiler to the equation.


WTF! James didn't get a nom? What's wrong with the board? It was the most talked about male role of the whole year!


"Kill Your Darlings," "Don Jon" and "In a World" miss out on best first feature. – no surprise here. They are all weak compared to the other works.
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" doesn't get a single nomination. – The producers are up for the producing award.

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