With the recent announcement of the Gotham Award nominations, it only seems appropriate for this week’s column to take on the granddaddy of independent film awards: Film Independent’s Spirit Awards. With nominations to be announced November 27, the awards promise to (as always) be a surprising and at times unexpected representation of the year in American independent film.
One thing that can be expected: This year’s event promises to be much less Oscar friendly than last year’s Spirits, which was dominated by Oscar crossover thanks to "The Artist." The year before was similar situation, when four of the Spirits' best feature nominees also got Oscar nods for best picture (Oscar winner "The King's Speech" wasn't eligible in that category, but won the Spirits' foreign film award).
It should make this year quite refreshing by comparison, since it gives opportunity to honor many deserving indies a little too outside the mainstream for Academy tastes. So let’s break it down with respect to some of the Spirits’ major categories to see where things might be headed. When considering what is seemingly left out, keep in mind the awards’ eligibility rules.
For example, both "The Master" and "Silver Linings Playbook" have budgets that exceed $20 million, placing them outside the awards’ limitations. "Magic Mike" was released by a studio, despite only costing $7 million to make. Meanwhile, "Amour," "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Ginger and Rosa," "Holy Motors," "Rust and Bone," "Seven Psychopaths" and "Take This Waltz" are not American productions, thus excluding them from all categories except “foreign film,” where one would suspect a lot of them will pop up.
There’s also the tricky thing of films that haven’t been theatrically released showing up, thanks to their festival screenings. “Frances Ha” would be a film to watch out for if that ends up being the case in their regard (with Greta Gerwig a surefire best actress nominee, one would think). So that all said, here’s some best guesses.
Prediction: Bernie, Middle of Nowhere, Moonrise Kingdom, The Sessions, Your Sister's Sister
Spoilers: Arbitrage, Compliance, Damsels in Distress, End of Watch, Hitchcock, Keep The Lights On, The Loneliest Planet, Smashed
Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" may or may not be competing in the remarkably packed best first feature category instead (the awards have an inconsistent history with this), which would make way for Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" to be the arguable favorite (and Anderson film has never even been nominated in this category before, let alone won).
"Kingdom" comes with main competition from "Hitchcock," Ben Lewin's "The Sessions," Richard Linklater's "Bernie," Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere," Lynn Shelton's "Your Sister's Sister," Craig Zobel's "Compliance" and Whit Stilman's "Damsels in Distress." It could truly be any combination of these. And while "Kingdom" has a (very) outside shot at a best picture Oscar nomination, this could very well be only the second time in 10 years that no Spirit Award nominee in this category crossed over.