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The Snubs & Surprises Of The 2014 Spirit Award Nominations

The Snubs & Surprises Of The 2014 Spirit Award Nominations

Strap in, because it’s all downhill from here. Or uphill. Either way, the road to the Dolby Theater is now officially open as Film Independent’s Spirit Awards have unveiled their nominations for this year (they call it 2014 even though it’s for 2013’s movies because they’ll hand out the hardware in March—yes, it’s a bit confusing). But it should be noted: the Spirit Awards has a budget barrier which keeps bigger movies out and obviously their mandate excludes studio pictures, so don’t consider this a definitive augur for Oscars.

Anyway, this year voters spread out the love for the most part, with almost every hot indie movie of the past twelve months getting some kind of recognition in one category or another. And while “12 Years a Slave” led the field with seven nominations, plenty more films (“Blue Jasmine,” “Short Term 12” and “Fruitvale Station“) got three nods each, with more getting a couple of nominations to take home. Still, there were some snubs and surprises to be had as well, and we’ll quickly break them down here.


Six Nominees in Best Male Lead
Consider it an indication that this year is going to be a tightly fought battle to the final five at the Oscars, the Indie Spirits wound up with six nominees in their own Best Male Lead category. Both the expected veterans (Robert Redford and Bruce Dern) and rising comers (Michael B. Jordan, Oscar Isaac, Matthew McConaughey, Chiwetel Ejiofor) all managed to get a place at a table. But we’ll see which of these guys gets bounced when the Academy weighs in (and remember, they’ll be up against folks from “American Hustle” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street” too).

Yolonda Who?
Opening in tiny limited release with barely a ripple, it seems John Sayles‘ latest “Go For Sisters” connected with the right people in the right places. The film’s supporting actress Yolonda Ross managed to scoot into contention alongside folks like Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave“), June Squibb (“Nebraska“) and Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine“). Not bad, and now it looks like we should probably track down that film.

Gaby Hoffman
Again, huh? “Crystal Fairy” was a quirky Sundance entry with Michael Cera journeying to find a magical high, and when it hit theaters, critics and audiences shrugged and that was that. But most agreed Gaby Hoffman‘s performance as the titular character was a memorable and brave turn (read: she got naked), though we’re still surprised it has stuck in the memory enough to earn a nomination. There was certainly lots of competition in the field (keeping reading) and winding up in the company of Cate Blanchett and Julie Delpy is no easy feat.

Keith Stanfield
For the past couple of months there has been a quiet, persistent campaign for this to happen and well, it looks like Keith Stanfield is having his moment. As the troubled, hip-hop loving teen in “Short Term 12” who fears moving on to life on the outside, he has a great arc in the movie and gives a splendid turn. Clearly voters were affected, and in a tough crowd, he’s broken through to take some shine in a movie that is shaping up to be an underdog contender.


Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Perhaps the biggest shocker was not one single nomination for the lyrical love story “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. The winner of two awards at Sundance created instant buzz for writer/director David Lowery (who was snapped up by moviemakers for multiple projects in the months that followed the film’s debut in Utah), but it seems his doomed story of two lovers marching toward their inevitable fate didn’t resonate. And that’s a shame as both Mara and Affleck put in some beautiful work (not to mention a great supporting turn from Ben Foster), Lowery puts himself on notice as a director, and Bradford Young declares himself one to watch with his gorgeous work behind the camera.

Prince Avalanche“/”Drinking Buddies
Two filmmakers who cut their teeth in the indie world, and who had slightly starry projects to good reviews and a receptive audience in 2013 found themselves out in the cold today: David Gordon Green and Joe Swanberg. And it’s curious that “Prince Avalanche” and “Drinking Buddies” didn’t fare better among voters. Certainly Green and Swanberg’s pictures hew right to the sort of intimate, creative, honest, truthful filmmaking the Spirit Awards are supposed to celebrate, right? And it’s not like they were lacking in star power either, with both filmmakers utilizing bigger names to help tell smaller scale tales. These are rather interesting omissions and anyone looking for fuel that these awards have sold out, they’ll be pointing to this.

Mother Of George
Speaking of which… we’re a bit surprised there wasn’t any shout outs for Andrew Donsumnu‘s “Mother Of George.” Bradford Young also shot this film, earning a trophy at Sundance for his trouble and like the other movies on this list, the picture was greeted with warm reviews and appreciation from critics. It might not have been a box office breakout, but it certainly showed careful directorial authority and two fine performances from Danai Gurira and Isaach De Bankolé. And at the very least, if the cruddy ’80s VHS aesthetic of “Computer Chess” can get a Best Cinematography nomination, Young deserved some kind of recognition for his work in either of the movies he lensed this year.

Frances Ha”
Okay, “Frances Hadid get nominated for Best Picture and Editing but … that’s it? Of any movie that evoked down and dirty, run and gun filmmaking this year, Noah Baumbach‘s film certainly brought that spirit. His lively movie only works because of the terrific turn by Greta Gerwig who anchors the movie that she also co-wrote, putting together a portrait of that moment between youth and adulthood so many face, with real insight and hilarity. That “Frances Ha” didn’t get nominated for its most impressive elements—Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director—makes us wonder if voters actually understood the movie at all.

Inside Llewyn Davis
In a similar spirit, while their film was nominated for Best Feature, Best Actor and Best Director,  the Coen brothers missed out on directing and screenplay nominations, again—two pretty crucial parts of the film’s success. Don’t ask us how voting works, because we’re still mystified each year.

Do you think anyone got snubbed? Any movie’s you were surprised to get recognition? Let us know below.

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Stefan Alexandrescu

Who is the actress in the main photo featured in this article and from what movie is it?


Having seen "Aint Them Bodies Saints" can't say I'm surprised (maybe even relieved) didn't get nominated. Major whiff of Emperor's new clothes about the hype surrounding movie – hollow, box-ticking movie making


From what I saw this year, Frances Ha and Spring Breakers were both amazing, especially the great performances. I've always liked Greta Gerwig and Franco, but i think they really nailed it this time. I kinda feel like Linklater got snubbed for best direction because of the obvious writing nom, which is too bad because I thought he too was on top of his craft this time around. Computer Chess was the shit and should've been included in the directing category, and I think Frances Ha would've been a better pic for the Altman Award. I haven't seen every nominee but from what I have seen, I think it's been another great year for independent film.


Kevin…People refer to Gabby Hoffman's "brave turn" not because she got naked, but because of her campfire scene at the end. The parenthetical snark of your comment "(read: she got naked)" is unnecessarily dismissive of what is in my opinion (and many others) an excellent performance, brave or not.


Ben Foster is like Bale part deux.

Nothing then nothing again for scores of amazing performances.

Let's hope he too will get a well-deserved Oscar 'out of nowhere" one day.


The Motel Life was the best indie of the year! The Playlist was a huge supporter of this film. Why no love in this post?


Frances Ha was an awful remake/ripoff of a mumblecore gem "Funny Ha Ha".
The place behind the pines is a ripoff of the Dardeenne brothers
"aint em body.." is too hollywood, too t. malick, not "indie", nor any good
Coens dont need an indie award
Drinking Buddies deserves a Reality TV award, not a Spirit award. It's countless hours of improv cut into a story in post.
Prince avalanche? just because it's boring doesnt mean it's indie. nor good.
Speaking of good, i can think of 6 or 7 indie gems that should have been a part of this popularity contest, but wait – non of them are popular because they are um indies.


Is there a reason the awards (and you) have ignored SPRING BREAKERS? It qualifies, right?


Greta Gerwig was the highlight of Frances Ha, worthy of being nominated along with Blanchett, Delpy, Larson, and Woodley. I haven't seen Gaby Hoffman in Crystal Fairy, but nonetheless Gerwig's absence is a big surprise.

Also expected to see Scarlett Johansson nominated for Best Supporting Female for Don Jon.

Eli Davis

UNA NOCHE all the way for best first feature. That film is fantastic and has been totally overlooked. I caught it on VOD. It's mind-blowing and the director is super talented. Cannot believe that was his first film.


No love for The Place behind the Pines?


In such a great year for indie films, I guess it's inevitable that gems like DRINKING BUDDIES and AT ANY PRICE get snubbed. But there was definitely room for Gerwig and the Coens.


Frances Ha deserves every award available for Best Editing this year. That's part of why that movie felt so fresh to me.


I just don't see any of the movies you mentioned as true snubs. None of them are deserving.
Stop trying to make Gerwig happen.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints was like watching paint dry.
Drinking Buddies was Swanberg's stab at selling out to Hollywood and it worked. It does not need an "Indie" award.
Mother of George is gorgeous and little else.
Prince Avalanche was torturous.

Daryl Hannah

Yeah, I doubt the voters understood the complexities of Frances Ha either.


Did I see the camera operator's shadow the whole time Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson were doing the climactic fight scene near the end of Drinking Buddies?


Bradford Young is a major, idiotic snub. You nailed it. Good call.


Prince Avalanche was boring and unwatchable. No surprise it didn't get any notice. Drinking Buddies was entertaining enough, but hardly an remarkable writing, acting or directing in it.


Greta Gerwig's absence in the Best Female Lead category is inexcusable.

Dylan from Variance

Yolonda ROSS, bitches.


Mother of George was awful. A fashion spread-aesthetic that absolutely ruined the gritty, immigrant life-as-morality-tale narrative that featured two fantastic performances. If any of its principals got overlooked, blame the direction.

oogle monster

The only person who was snubbed from Aint Them Bodies Saints is Ben Foster. Rooney Mara is such a non-entity it's absurd that she is even mentioned in this convo.


Really good write-up. I'm in total agreement. And OWDL114, I'm guessing it did get a Best Picture nod, and not one for Best Directing.


I think you need to have a look at your "Inside Llewyn Davis" description…

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