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AWARDS WATCH ’08 | “River,” “Rachel,” “Ballast” Lead Spirit Award Nominations

AWARDS WATCH '08 | "River," "Rachel," "Ballast" Lead Spirit Award Nominations

“Frozen River”

Courtney Hunt‘s “Frozen River,” Lance Hammer‘s “Ballast” and Jonathan Demme‘s “Rachel Getting Married” topped the 2009 Film Independent’s Spirit Award nominations, announced this morning in Los Angeles by actors Sandra Oh and Jason Bateman. All three films grabbed six nods apiece, including best feature, where they will compete against Darren Aronofsky‘s “The Wrestler” and Kelly Reichardt‘s “Wendy & Lucy.”

In addition to its six traditional Spirit nominations, including its cast – Melissa Leo, Misty Upham and Charlie McDermott – and two for its writer/director Hunt, “Frozen River”‘s producer Heather Rae was also nominated for a separately juried Piaget Producer’s Award. Other nominees in that inaugural category were Jason Orans (“Year of the Fish,” “Goodbye Solo“) and producing team Lars Knudsen and Jay Von Hoy (“Treeless Mountain,” “I’ll Come Running“).

Spirit Award nominees Debra Winger, Rosemarie DeWitt and Anne Hathaway in a scene from Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married.” Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Rachel Getting Married” matched “River”‘s three acting nominations for stars Anne Hathaway (competing against her “Brokeback Mountain” co-star Michelle Williams), and Debra Winger and Rosemarie deWitt (competing against each other). “Ballast” scored two for Tarra Riggs and JimMyron Ross, while both films received nominations for best director and best first screenplay.

Other films finding multiple nominations include Gus Van Sant‘s “Milk,” which was nominated for Sean Penn and James Franco‘s performances, Harris Savides‘ cinematography and Dustin Lance Black‘s script. Though the film’s lack of best feature or director nominations were probably one the morning’s biggest surprises. Other multiple nominees include “The Wrestler,” “The Visitor” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” each with three.

The foreign film and documentary categories saw both Academy Award hopefuls (“The Class” and “Gomorrah,” “Man on Wire” and “Encounters at the End of the World“) and representatives of the many ineligible, disqualified or unshortlisted (“Silent Light,” “Up The Yangtze,” “The Order of Myths“), while Charlie Kaufman‘s “Synecdoche, New York” was honored with the Robert Altman Award, which goes to a film’s director, casting director and entire ensemble cast.

The complete list of nominations:

BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)

Rachel Getting Married (Neda Armian, Jonathan Demme, Marc Platt)

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin)

Wendy and Lucy (Larry Fessenden, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani)

Ballast (Lance Hammer, Nina Parikh)

Frozen River (Chip Hourihan, Heather Rae)


Tom McCarthy, The Visitor

Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married

Courtney Hunt, Frozen River

Ramin Bahrani, Chop Shop

Lance Hammer, Ballast

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)

Afterschool (Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, Josh Mond)

Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, Justin Barber)

Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, Anthony Bregman, Spike Jonze, Sidney Kimmel)

Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, Anthony Bregman)

Sangre De Mi Sangre (Christopher Zalla, Per Melita, Benjamin Odell)

(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)

Prince of Broadway (Sean Baker, Darren Dean)

Take Out (Sean Baker, Shih-Ching Tsou)

The Signal (David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry, Alexander Motlagh)

Turn the River (Chris Eigeman, Ami Armstrong)

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Alex Holdridge, Seth Caplan, Scoot McNairy)


Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, Sugar

Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York

Howard A. Rodman, Savage Grace

Christopher Zalla, Sangre De Mi Sangre


Dustin Lance Black, Milk

Lance Hammer, Ballast

Courtney Hunt, Frozen River

Jonathan Levine, The Wackness

Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married


Summer Bishil, Towelhead

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Tarra Riggs, Ballast

Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy


Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Sean Penn, Milk

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler


Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married

Rosie Perez, The Take

Misty Upham, Frozen River

Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married


James Franco, Milk

Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker

Charlie McDermott, Frozen River

JimMyron Ross, Ballast

Haaz Sleiman, The Visitor


Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler

Lol Crawley, Ballast

James Laxton, Medicine for Melancholy

Harris Savides, Milk

Michael Simmonds, Chop Shop

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)

The Order of Myths (Margaret Brown)

Up the Yangtze (Yung Chang)

Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)

The Betrayal (Ellen Kuras & Thavisouk Phrasavath)

Man on Wire (James Marsh)

BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)

The Class (Laurent Cantet)

Gomorra (Matteo Garrone)

Secret of the Grain (Abdellatif Kechiche)

Hunger (Steve McQueen)

Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)

(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)

Charlie Kaufman (Director), Jeanne McCarthy (Casting Director), Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson, Diane Weist, Michelle Williams, Synecdoche, New York


Heather Rae (Frozen River)

Jason Orans (Goodbye Solo, Year of the Fish)

Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy (Treeless Mountain, I’ll Come Running)


Lynn Shelton (My Effortless Brilliance)

Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues)

Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy)


Darius Marder (Loot)

Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil)

Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths)

EDITORS NOTE: indieWIRE’s Eugene Hernandez again served on the Spirit Awards documentary film committee this year.

The latest coverage of the Spirit Awards, the Oscars, and more are available in indieWIRE’s Awards Watch section.

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