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by Peter Knegt
November 30, 2010 6:22 AM
12 Comments
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For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations

A scene from Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine." [Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company]

Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone" led the 2011 Film Independent Spirit Award nominations, which were announced this morning. The film was joined by the likes of "The Kids Are All Right," "Black Swan," "127 Hours," and "Rabbit Hole" in many of the major categories, together leading a list of nominations that was at times entirely expected, and at others quite perplexing. While "Winter's Bone"'s nods were among those in the "entirely expected" column, for example - that was seen 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, here's the ten things that surprised the most.

1. No Ryan Gosling.
Gosling's intense, nuanced performance in "Blue Valentine" was certainly among the year's best, and the Spirits had an opportunity to give his performance a much needed boost this season. But instead they opted to reward the likes of Ben Stiller in "Greenberg" and John C. Reilly in "Cyrus." Both fine performances, and ones unlikely to get notice anywhere else, but rather incomparable to what Gosling pulled off in "Valentine."

2. Little "Blue Valentine" love in general.
Beyond Gosling, Derek Cianfrance's film was absent from all categories except best actress, where Michelle Williams was deservedly nominated. Going into the nominations, "Valentine" looked like a good bet for at least a couple more nominations, and collectively these snubs don't bode well for its buzz heading into the non-indie specific Oscar precursors of the next few weeks. Which is a real shame.

3. However, a lot of love for "Greenberg"
Despite its mixed reviews, the Spirits decided to show a lot of love for Noah Baumbach's "Greenberg," giving it nominations for best feature, best male lead (Stiller), and best female lead (Greta Gerwig). Gerwig in particular was surprising given how intensely competitive that category was this year, and her nomination came at the expense of...

4. No Julianne Moore.
There's been lots of talk surrounding the dual entry of Moore and Annette Bening in the best actress category at the Oscars, and while generally it's suspected Moore might get left out, the Spirits seemed like an opportunity for both women to make the cut. When the nominees were being announced, presenters Jeremy Renner and Eva Mendes first said that the category would have "an unprecedented six nominees," and it seemed like a Bening/Kidman/Lawrence/Moore/Portman/Williams lineup was inevitable. But not so. Greta Gerwig was the sixth nominee instead.

5. You clearly enjoyed "Rabbit Hole" (and rightfully so), so why snub it where it hurts?
John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole" got deserved nods for directing, acting (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) and screenwriting, but for whatever reason, the Spirits decided not to include it in both the best feature category and, even more strangely, in the best supporting actress category. Dianne Wiest's performance in the film seems like a near-lock for an Oscar nomination, and the Spirits' exclusion of her here is downright bizarre.

6. The supporting female category in general is very surprising.
The only nominee in this category that indieWIRE predicted was the warranted likes of Dale Dickey, who was so great in "Winter's Bone" and along with fellow Spirit nominee John Hawkes deserves to be part of "Bone"'s rewards just as much as Jennifer Lawrence. Beyond Dickey, though, the category was entirely unexpected. Instead of "Black Swan"'s Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey, or "Get Low"'s Sissy Spacek, or an actress from Robert Altman Award winner "Please Give," the Spirits nominated Ashley Bell ("The Last Exorcism"), Allison Janney ("Life During Wartime"), Daphne Rubin-Vega ("Jack Goes Boating"), and Naomi Watts ("Mother and Child"). This is not to say any of those performances aren't deserving (particularly Janney's), but they just all seemed to - in varying degrees - come out of nowhere.

7. Foreign film hopefuls "Animal Kingdom," "Carlos," "Another Year," "I Am Love" (among others) get snubbed in favor of "The King's Speech"?
Of ALL the films that needed recognition here, "The King's Speech" - being the Oscar best picture frontrunner and all - most definitely did not. So why bother putting it in at the expense of "Animal Kingdom," "Carlos," "I Am Love," "Another Year," "Certified Copy," "Alamar," "The Illusionist," "Four Lions," and many more?

8. Following the Academy's lead by snubbing "The Oath"
Last night's best documentary winner at the Gothams, Laura Poitras' "The Oath" was surprisingly not present in this year's Spirit Award nominations. "Exit Through The Gift Shop," "Marwencol" (particularly nice to see here after it wasn't eligible Oscar consideration), "Restrepo," "Sweetgrass," and "Thunder Soul" - the five best documentary nominees - are all deserving and this is not to suggest any one of them should have been left out, but after "The Oath" outraged many by being omitted from the Oscars' shortlist, one would have expected the Spirits would have been another place to make up for that.

9. No Robert Duvall.
The best thing about "Get Low," and favored for an Oscar nomination, Robert Duvall was not nominated here, even though the Spirits did nominate the film for both best first feature and best supporting actor (Bill Murray).

10. Should "127 Hours" really be here?
Not included in indieWIRE's predictions because it was assumed it cost too much to be eligible (the budget cutoff is $20 million), Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" turned out to indeed be eligible as it had a reported budget of $18 million. Rules are rules, so it's clearly fair it made the cut. But it just feels like a shame that a film that had such considerable backing from a studio subsidiary and feels so very "un-indie" got to participate here, especially since it seemed to be at the expense of films like "Blue Valentine." "127 Hours" is more or less guaranteed to get rewarded from the Oscars and the Golden Globes and every other major award show, but "Valentine"'s chances in that regard are up in the air. Especially after today.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog. Check out his weekly Oscar prediction chart here.

Previous editions of this column:
For Your Consideration: The 10 Worst Original Song Oscar Snubs of the Past 10 Years
For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Stab at Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Gauging a Crowded and Female-Friendly Spirit Award Field
For Your Consideration: Could a Documentary Be Nominated For Best Picture?
For Your Consideration: Assessing Those Gotham Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actors
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actresses
For Your Consideration: Save For "Love" Snub, Foreign Language Submissions Uncontroversial
For Your Consideration: Post-Toronto Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Updating Oscar Contenders In The Eye of The Storm
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Should Say About Awards Season
For Your Consideration: Assessing Oscar In The Calm Before The Storm

12 Comments

  • Paul | December 14, 2010 9:01 AMReply

    The BARBARA HERSHEY snub is a crime. No actor is more deserving. She took what could have been a one dimensional character and created a complex and conflicted lost soul. All these award shows make themselves irrelevant with their perplexing nominations. They really blew it as far as I'm concerned.

  • Tim Thatcher | December 7, 2010 4:46 AMReply

    It seems to be the year of great quality films...could there be another boom in independent film as there was in late 1990s? I would expect not as these films have nothing indie about them (in a good way). There are some real interesting films this year that range in emerge talent to star studded affair. I have been following the potential Spirit Awards films, along with the other festivals at TheFreeStyleLife.com. Why read about a movie review or nomination when one can see for themselves = http://TheFreeStyleLife.com/film.html

  • Laura Costantino | December 1, 2010 5:42 AMReply

    Too bad for Blue Valentine, a movie about all the colors of love that really deserved more attention. Honestly, some of the nominated movies I did not even care too much to watch. I might be biased (for sure) but Greenberg... really?

  • richardM | December 1, 2010 2:19 AMReply

    re: 6. The supporting female category in general is very surprising.

    If you're talking about surprise, the real surprise should be of Naomi Watts not nominated in the best lead actress category where she rightfully belongs but being compromised here, politically.

  • bob hawk | December 1, 2010 1:06 AMReply

    One of the biggest questions is: if they allowed an "unprecedented" six nominees in the best actress category, why couldn't they have done the same for best actor (especially given the Gosling and Duvall omissions)?

    Besides Gosling and Duvall, my nominees for most egregious omissions are ANIMAL KINGDOM for best foreign, Dianne Wiest for supporting actress and THE OATH for doc.

    Two very welcome COmissions are the nominations for THE WOLF KNIFE in the Someone to Watch category and SUMMER PASTURE in Truer Than Fiction . Both were worthy nominees in the Gotham's Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You competition.

    Peter, one last thing. Could you clarify the nomination/eligibility requirements for "specials" such as the Piaget Producers Award? Specifically, I'm thinking of MEEK'S CUTOFF. It has only played festivals so far. Will it be eligible for the "regular" awards in 2011?

    Thanks -- Bob

  • heartGoslingnotgrewig | December 1, 2010 12:41 AMReply

    the greta grewig (who's she?) nomination was a true shock and not in a good way. The performance was really ho hum and unmemorable in my opinion. compared to moore it's a travesty. and all the other great performances that were overlooked - Ryan Gosling is an enormous oversight. Who votes for these? Ithink it's a conspiracy!

  • Hank G | December 1, 2010 12:36 AMReply

    The rich get richer

  • Josh Ralske | November 30, 2010 10:54 AMReply

    The King's Speech definitely shouldn't be there. Not just because it's a huge production, but because it's mediocre. So many more worthy choices that really could have used the support.

  • Paula | November 30, 2010 8:29 AMReply

    This should just be the beginning list of surprises, as there are many. And, no, 127 Hours shouldn't be there.

  • Frank K. | November 30, 2010 8:23 AMReply

    Lucky me, as a FIND member I get to see them all for free!

  • J.P. | November 30, 2010 7:37 AMReply

    Where the hell is Mia Wasikowska for the Best Supporting Female category (The Kids Are All Right)? That's just criminal, especially since hardly anyone saw "Jack Goes Boating."

  • rabbi | November 30, 2010 6:38 AMReply

    Not to mention no Kawasaki's Rose or Incendies for foreign film.