Lee Daniels' "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" and Michael Hoffman's "The Last Station" topped the 2010 Film Independent Spirit Award nominations, each nabbing five nods including best feature. The pair were joined in that category by Marc Webb's "(500) Days of Summer," Cherien Dabis's "Amreeka," and Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre," and led a list of nominations that was at times entirely expected, and at others quite perplexing. While "Precious"'s nods were expected - we all saw coming for a mile away - there were many a surprise in this year's list. So, in an early edition of this week's For Your Consideration column, I present the ten things that surprised me the most.
1. "The Last Station""s dominance
This UK-German-Russia co-production was completely off my radar as I assumed its foreign origins made it ineligible. But then I remembered that director Michael Hoffman is American born, which is a loop hole in that rule (sorry Lone Scherfig, Duncan Jones and Armando Iannucci). Still, I didn't expect the Spirits to go so ga-ga over the film, especially over films that seemed a much better fit. Which brings me to...
2. The best feature and screenplay snubs for "Goodbye Solo" and "A Serious Man"
These two films mark the work of beloved indie filmmakers all working at the top of their game, and I had fully expected them to gain notice in the top category. This actually isn't the first time the Spirits have snubbed the Coens. They've actually only received two best feature nods over the course of their career - for "Fargo" and "Blood Simple." Even more surprising, particularly regarding "Serious Man," is that they didn't receive screenplay nods either.
3. Three first features in the best feature category
Particularly odd about "Goodbye Solo" and "A Serious Man"'s snubs is that they were beat out by three first time feature filmmakers - Marc Webb, Cherien Dabis, and Cary Joji Fukunaga - despite the fact that there is a category specifically designated for first features. The Spirits' rules always tend to confuse me, but I was under the assumption that first features were designated to the one category.
4. "Paranormal Activity"
One of the films that did make it into the first feature category, "Activity"'s indie box office success story certainly warrants some congrats, but I didn't expect the Spirits to be the ones to do it. It's a micro-budgeted indie to be sure, but it's also a $100 million grossing studio release. Perhaps a different film could have benefited greater from inclusion here.
5. Adam Scott for best male lead
I have not seen "The Vicious Kind," so I'm not qualified to make a judgement on Scott's performance in it, but this is a considerably left-of-field nomination in a category that had some very heavy competition. Scott - in a tiny Sundance film that few saw - got in over the likes of "The Messenger"'s Ben Foster, "That Evening Sun"'s Hal Holbrook, "Big Fan"'s Patton Oswalt, and "A Serious Man"'s Michael Stulbarg.
6. Fox Searchlight's 7 nominations
Despite what many saw as a tough fall for the distributor's awards hopes, Fox Searchlight rallied to seven nominations. Led by "(500) Days of Summer" and last minute awards entry "Crazy Heart," the distributor tied Sony Pictures Classics for the most nominations from any distributor.
7. Jemaine Clement's nomination
Another Fox Searchlight entry, Clement nabbed a supporting male nod for "Gentlemen Broncos." While Clement was certainly the best thing about the critically trashed film, it was still a surprise to see him get in over, say, the entire supporting cast of "A Serious Man."
8. "The Cove" and "We Live In Public"'s best documentary snubs
Sundance's audience award and jury prize winners in the U.S. documentary competition, Louie Psihoyos's "The Cove" and Ondi Timoner's "We Live In Public" were both shut out of the documentary feature category. In their place: “Anvil! The Story of Anvil," “Food, Inc.," “More Than a Game," “October Country," and "Which Way Home."
9. The female acting nominees
We all saw Gabby and Mo'Nique coming, and Helen Mirren and Samantha Morton aren't particularly surprising either, but other than that, the Spirits continued Adam Scott-esque nominees by honoring the likes of Maria Bello ("Downloading Nancy"), Nisreen Faour ("Amreeka"), Mia Wasikowska ("That Evening Sun), and especially, Natalie Press ("Fifty Dead Men Walking) and Dina Korzun ("Cold Souls"). I'm not necessarily saying any of them aren't deserving, it's just surprising when quite a few actresses got a bit of a slap in the face...
10. The female acting snubs
Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart"), Zooey Deschanel ("(500) Days of Summer"), Patricia Clarkson ("Whatever Works"), Julianne Moore ("A Single Man"), Michelle Monaghan ("Trucker") and Shohreh Aghdashloo ("The Stoning of Soraya M.") were left out in their wake. But you have to hand it to the Spirits for going against the grain.
"For Your Consideration" is a weekly column by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions:
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
For Your Consideration: The 50 Most Despicable Oscar Snubs of the 2000s
For Your Consideration: Assessing The Major Oscar Categories
For Your Consideration: Oscar's Gay Tendencies
For Your Consideration: 11 Underdog Performances
For Your Consideration: History Repeats as Major Foreign Films Left Off Academy List
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Told Us About Awards Season