Indie Spirit Nominees, Frontrunners, Disappointments, Oscar Impact: ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Nebraska,’ ‘All is Lost’ Lead the Pack

Indie Spirit Nominees, Frontrunners, Disappointments, Oscar Impact: '12 Years a Slave,' 'Nebraska,' 'All is Lost' Lead the Pack

The Independent Spirit Awards, the indie alternative to the Oscars, limits eligibility to American films produced for less than $21 million. Thus a flurry of emails went out ahead of the Indie Spirit nominations announcement Tuesday morning that various films did not meet that requirement. Thus “The Butler,” “August: Osage County,” “Out of Furnace” and “Lone Survivor” were not in the running, along with Canadian documentary “Stories We Tell.”

These nominations have a great deal of impact on the road to the Oscars as they help critics and various Academy and Guild voters to add lower-profile titles to their must-see piles. Most important: these nominations provide winning momentum to potential contenders. The ones who did not make the Indie Spirit cut have lost the chance to add that wind to their sails and will have a much harder time gaining traction. 

Coming out way ahead is Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave,” already an Oscar frontrunner, which led the field with seven nominations, including feature, director, screenplay, cinematography and three acting slots. But Searchlight (which had the most nominations of any distributor with nine) also added some heat to “Enough Said,” which landed screenplay and supporting actor nominations for Nicole Holofcener and the late James Gandolfini, respectively, who could also land Oscar nominations. But the film did not score feature, director or actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) nods. 

The Oscar strength of Paramount’s “Nebraska” is only underscored by its six Spirit nominations, for feature, director, screenplay, male lead (Bruce Dern), supporting female (June Squib) and supporting male (Will Forte)–if this movie has long enough coattails those supporting Oscar nominations could follow the other expected nods. 

Roadside Attractions (8 nominations, some shared with parent Lionsgate) had a good day as Robert Redford-starrer “All is Lost” landed four key nominations: feature, director, cinematography and male lead–but not screenplay. After all, the movie is silent. “Mud” scored two noms, for director Jeff Nichols and the Robert Altman ensemble casting award, but not feature, screenplay or supporting actor Matthew McConaughey. 

CBS Films’ “Inside LLewyn Davis” is looking good for best feature, cinematography and best actor (Oscar Isaac). But the Coen brothers did not land director or screenplay, nor did John Goodman nab a supporting actor slot. Shane Carruth’s self-released critics’ darling “Upstream Color” took slots for director and editing that might have gone to the Coens. 

Cinedigm scored three nominations for “Short Term 12”: female lead Brie Larson, supporting newcomer Keith Stanfield and editing, but did not land feature, director or script. I expected more support for the film. Breakout Larson could be a contender but Cinedigm needs to step up with a proper campaign if she’s going to get anywhere. 

Focus Features’ “Dallas Buyers Club” scored only acting nominations for male lead Matthew McConaughey and supporting male Jared Leto, which is all it is likely to get for the Oscars as well. 

Weinstein Co. landed only three nominations, for “Fruitvale Station,” which scored best first feature (Ryan Coogler), male lead (Michael B. Jordan) and supporting female (Melonie Diaz). Given the competition for the Best Actor Oscar, Jordan will have a tough time but this gives him and the film a needed boost. Diaz and Octavia Spencer are both superb in the film, but Spencer with an Oscar win behind her is the expected candidate for an Oscar nomination. Both “August: Osage County” and “The Butler” exceeded the Spirit budget cut-off. 

IFC Films followed Searchlight with a total of eight noms; “Blue is the Warmest Color”‘s best foreign film slot boosts Globes and Oscar chances for newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos. If IFC had Oscar hopes for Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” (which landed feature and editing), not scoring a screenplay or an Actress nod for Greta Gerwig is a blow. And left in the dust is one of my favorite films of 2013, David Lowery’s gorgeously wrought “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” which didn’t even score a cinematography nod. It will be up to the critics to bring it back to life. 

Sony Pictures Classics (six noms) nabbed two Female Lead nominations for Oscar frontrunner Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) and Julie Delpy (“Before Midnight”). Sally Hawkins also landed in supporting actress along with an expected Woody Allen screenplay nomination, but “Jasmine” did not make the Feature or Director cut. In this case the Academy could be more inclusive of the perennial directing and writing nominee. “Before Midnight” also scored a Screenplay nomination but did not land Feature, Best Actor or Director. That suggests that the movie’s best Oscar bet is a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. 

Newcomer A24 scored nominations for “The Spectacular Now”‘s Shailene Woodley and screenplay, but not feature, director, or Miles Teller. Those who harbored hopes that “Spring Breakers” could possibly appear on Academy radar can kill them now, as the film was cited only for cinematography. 

In the crowded documentary category, the five nominees all get a needed boost: frontrunner “20 Feet from Stardom (Weinstein’s Radius-TWC), “The Act of Killing” (Drafthouse), “After Tiller (Oscilloscope) “Gideon’s Army” (HBO Films) and”The Square”(Netflix).

Of the five international film nominees the only ones getting an Oscar boost are the official submissions from Denmark (“The Hunt,” starring Cannes best actor-winner Mads Mikkelsen), Chile (“Gloria”) and Italy (“The Great Beauty”). 

Full list of Indie Spirit Award nominations are below:

BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer, Executive
Producers are not awarded)

12 Years a Slave PRODUCERS: Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas,
Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Brad Pitt, Bill Pohlad

All Is Lost PRODUCERS: Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb

Frances Ha PRODUCERS: Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Rodrigo
Teixeira, Lila Yacoub

Inside Llewyn Davis PRODUCERS: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott

Nebraska PRODUCERS: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa



Shane Carruth Upstream Color

J.C. Chandor All Is Lost

Steve McQueen 12 Years a Slave

Jeff Nichols Mud

Alexander Payne Nebraska



Woody Allen Blue Jasmine

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater Before

Nicole Holofcener Enough Said

Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber The Spectacular Now

John Ridley 12 Years a Slave


BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and

Blue Caprice DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Alexandre Moors PRODUCERS:
Kim Jackson, Brian O’Carroll, Isen Robbins, Will Rowbotham, Ron Simons, Aimee
Schoof, Stephen Tedeschi

Concussion DIRECTOR: Stacie Passon PRODUCER: Rose Troche

Fruitvale Station DIRECTOR: Ryan Coogler PRODUCERS: Nina
Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker

Pérez Aguila, Maite Artieda, Daniel Mulloy, Yunior Santiago

Wadjda DIRECTOR: Haifaa Al Mansour PRODUCERS: Gerhard
Meixner, Roman Paul



Lake Bell In A World

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Don Jon

Bob Nelson Nebraska

Jill Soloway Afternoon Delight

Michael Starrbury The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete


JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for
under $500,000.  Award given to the
writer, director, and producer. 
Executive Producers are not awarded.

Computer Chess WRITER/DIRECTOR: Andrew Bujalski PRODUCERS:
Houston King & Alex Lipschultz

Crystal Fairy WRITER/DIRECTOR: Sebastiàn Silva PRODUCERS:
Juan de Dios Larraín & Pablo Larraín

Museum Hours WRITER/DIRECTOR: Jem Cohen PRODUCERS: Paolo
Calamita & Gabriele Kranzelbinder

Jonathan Duffy, James M. Johnston, Eric Steele, Kelly Williams

This is Martin Bonner WRITER/DIRECTOR: Chad Hartigan PRODUCER:
Cherie Saulter



Cate Blanchett Blue Jasmine

Julie Delpy Before Midnight

Gaby Hoffmann Crystal Fairy

Brie Larson Short Term 12

Shailene Woodley The Spectacular Now



Bruce Dern Nebraska

Chiwetel Ejiofor 12 Years a Slave

Oscar Isaac Inside Llewyn Davis

Michael B. Jordan Fruitvale Station

Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club

Robert Redford All Is Lost




Melonie Diaz Fruitvale Station

Sally Hawkins Blue Jasmine

Lupita Nyong’o 12 Years a Slave

Yolonda Ross Go For Sisters

June Squibb Nebraska



Michael Fassbender 12 Years a Slave

Will Forte Nebraska

James Gandolfini Enough Said

Jared Leto Dallas Buyers Club

Keith Stanfield Short Term 12

Sean Bobbitt
12 Years a Slave
Benoit Debie
Spring Breakers
Bruno Delbonnel
Inside Llewyn Davis
Frank G. DeMarco
All Is Lost
Matthias Grunsky
Computer Chess

Shane Carruth & David Lowery
Upstream Color
Jem Cohen & Marc Vives
Museum Hours
Jennifer Lame
Frances Ha
Cindy Lee
Una Noche
Nat Sanders
Short Term 12

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)
20 Feet From Stardom
PRODUCERS: Gil Friesen & Caitrin Rogers
After Tiller
DIRECTORS/PRODUCERS: Martha Shane & Lana Wilson
Gideon’s Army
PRODUCER: Julie Goldman
The Act of Killing
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Joshua Oppenheimer
PRODUCERS: Joram Ten Brink, Christine Cynn, Anne Köhncke, Signe Byrge Sørensen,
Michael Uwemedimo
The Square
DIRECTOR: Jehane Noujaim
PRODUCER: Karim Amer
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)
A Touch of Sin
DIRECTOR: Jia Zhang-Ke
Blue is the Warmest Color
DIRECTOR: Abdellatif Kechiche
DIRECTOR: Sebastián Lelio
The Great Beauty
DIRECTOR: Paolo Sorrentino
The Hunt
DIRECTOR: Thomas Vinterberg
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – (Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
Director: Jeff Nichols
Casting Director: Francine Maisler
Ensemble Cast:  Joe Don Baker, Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, Tye Sheridan, Paul Sparks, Bonnie Sturdivant, Reese Witherspoon
17th ANNUAL PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD – The 17th annual Producers Award, sponsored by Piaget, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality, independent films.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.
Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston
Jacob Jaffke
Andrea Roa
Frederick Thornton

20th ANNUAL SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 20th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. 
My Sister’s Quinceañera
DIRECTOR: Aaron Douglas Johnston
DIRECTOR: Shaka King
The Foxy Merkins
DIRECTOR: Madeline Olnek

19th ANNUAL STELLA ARTOIS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 19th annual Truer Than Fiction Award, sponsored by Stella Artois, is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Kalyanee Mam
A River Changes Course
Jason Osder
Let the Fire Burn
Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez

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Salty Bill

Again, what's so "indie" about these films?


I'm guessing it's a mild surprise that Ain't Them Bodies Saints got no traction here at all.

And for the past several years, it seems like when these nominations are unveiled, there's always a discussion about the budget limit and whether many of the films qualify as "independent". I can see both arguments. It seems odd to have a Woody Allen or a Coens Bros. or a Payne film (all extremely established filmmakers) competing in this arena regardless of where the money came from or how much they cost. And with 12 Years a Slave, the budget seems too high, but Steve McQueen does seem like the embodiment of the maverick, independent spirit, even with Brad Pitt backing him. It's a gnarled situation.

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