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by Peter Knegt
November 29, 2011 1:20 PM
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The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations

"The Artist"

There were considerable surprises among the nominations for the 27th Film Independent's Spirit Awards, which were announced this morning in Los Angeles.

While the expected likes of "Beginners," "Drive," "The Descendants," "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Take Shelter" found many a nomination, they were joined (or not joined) by quite a few unexpected developments.

Check out 10 major surprises from the announcement below. A full list of nominations is available here.

1. "The Artist" was eligible. And it DOMINATED.

The one thing no one seemed to see coming was that Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist" would lead the nominations. Largely because no one seemed to realize it was even eligible for anything beyond best foreign film. The Spirits' guidelines firmly state:

Except for the category of Best International* Film, all nominations go to American productions. The Spirit Awards defines an “American production” as:

a. A film in which U.S. citizens or permanent residents are credited in at least two of the following categories of responsibilities: director, writer, or producer. This can be fulfilled by one person with multiple duties or by separate individuals; or

b. The film is set primarily in the United States and at least partially financed by a company whose principal office is in the U.S. Documentary films are only eligible for Best Documentary; foreign films are only eligible for Best International Film.

It turns out "The Artist" was eligible because it had partial US financing and the director has status as a US permanent resident. Who knew?

Either way, this sets the stage for awards season domination care of "The Artist."

2. "Albert Nobbs"'s Janet McTeer got nominated, but Glenn Close did not.

Nothing against McTeer's performance, but nominating her over her co-star (who co-wrote and co-produced "Nobbs" as a decades long passion project), was quite the slap in the face. It also really hurts Close's Oscar chances, which many considered to be all-but-assured.

3. "Like Crazy" was snubbed altogether.

Joining close in the lead actress snubbery was "Like Crazy"'s Felicity Jones, seen as a shoo-in after big wins at Sundance and the Gotham Awards. But Jones - and "Crazy" altogether - were nowhere to be found, breaking the three years running streak of Sundance Grand Jury Prize winners getting nominated for the Spirit Awards' top prize.

4. Rachael Harris and Lauren Ambrose got noms for best female lead over Close and Jones.

"Natural Selection"'s Harris and "Think of Me"'s Ambrose aren't necessarily undeserving inclusions, they are just completely out-of-nowhere. Close and Jones were surprise omissions in their wake, as were (to lesser degrees) Brit Marling, Mia Wasikowska, Miranda July and Vera Farmiga. That said, it does give a nice boost to two films few have heard of.

5. No George Clooney!

Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" scored 4 nominations, including best feature and best director. But in perhaps the most shocking snub of the morning, its lead actor George Clooney (who some see as the Oscar frontrunner) was left out. Perhaps what's most shocking is that the Spirits gave up the opportunity to have such serious star wattage attend their ceremony...

6. Anjelica Huston gets nominated for "50/50" but her co-stars Joseph Gordon Levitt and Anna Kendrick get snubbed.

Anjelica Huston is fantastic in "50/50," but it's more-or-less a cameo. The heart and soul of that film belong to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Clooney's "Up In The Air" co-star Anna Kendrick, both of whom failed to get Spirit Award noms.

7. No "Martha Marcy May Marlene" in first screenplay?

Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene" did quite well at the Spirits, nabbing four major nominations. But it's the subtle snubs that hurt, and that came in the form of losing out on a very deserved first screenplay nomination. I mean, sure, it's funny, but can anyone argue that "Cedar Rapids" was a better screenplay than "Martha Marcy"?

8. Very little love for "Midnight in Paris"

While it received nominations for both cinematography and supporting actor (Corey Stoll), Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" was shut out of the major categories, including feature, director, screenplay and lead actor (Owen Wilson). Maybe the Spirits figured a $50 million+ domestic gross was award enough for the Woodman.

9. "Footnote" for best screenplay?

Joseph Cedar's Israeli drama "Footnote" was bizarrely included among the screenplay nominees, over the likes of "Midnight in Paris," "Take Shelter" and "Like Crazy."  Like "The Artist," no one seemed to have any idea that the Israeli production (which is not set in the US, though Cedar himself is American) was even eligible.

10. There can only be one win for "Win Win" (and it probably won't happen)

After winning best first screenplay for "The Station Agent" and best director for "The Visitor," the Spirits' love for Tom McCarthy seems to have stalled. His "Win Win" got only one nomination in the best screenplay category, a trophy he's sure to lose to Alexander Payne and company's script for "The Descendants."

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5 Comments

  • Joseph | November 30, 2011 1:05 PMReply

    I thought that the SpiritAwards would have more love for Shame by nominating Fassbender! And, it is shocking the snub on Jones and Clooney! What was really surprising was Cedar Rapids receiving nominations, and Win Win (which is a much better comedy!) being left out...

  • Melissa | November 29, 2011 6:11 PMReply

    Bombay Beach wasn't nominated for best doc... only for Truer than Fiction. Huge surprise for this fan

  • Beth | November 29, 2011 5:37 PMReply

    THE ARTIST was set and filmed in the U.S. as well.

  • brian fantana | November 29, 2011 5:13 PMReply

    the Spirits (with perhaps the exception of the Gothams) have what is undoubtedly the most ridiculously absurd grouping of nominees and inane qualification rules of any awards in existence - TWC fought deservedly hard for THE ARTIST to be the French Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language film (oops, no dialogue) so it is gratifying to see they found a loophole for it to be eligible for the Spirits as a US film - good to see the Israeli Oscar entry get love in the domestic-only Spirits category of screenplay - so SHAME is up for Best Foreign Film even though it was shot in NY with NY crew but ARTIST is a US film? It is so hard to take the Spirits seriously (and yes, the absence of Felicity Jones is ridiculous, as is absence of Woody Allen) - t?

  • Jeffrey Abramson | November 29, 2011 2:37 PMReply

    yes. sad to see no recognition for Felicity Jones