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For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations

For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations

There were considerable surprises among the nominations for the 28th Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, which were announced yesterday in Los Angeles.

While the expected likes of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Bernie,” “Middle of Nowhere” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” 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. “Silver Linings Playbook” was indeed eligible. And it dominated.
The Weinstein Company has done it again. A year after they managed to unexpectedly wiggle a largely French production into all the major Spirit Award races, they got a film many assumed was over the Spirit Awards’ $20 million budget cut-off to get the most nominations of the announcement. With their two other major 2012 films (“The Master” and “Django Unchained”) well over the budget cut-off, the Weinsteins pushed for the reportedly $21 million “Silver Linings,” and succeeded.  As it turns out, the jury has some discretion in qualifying films. Says the official Spirit Award rules:

Cost of completed film, including post, must be less than $20 million. Any variations are at the sole discretion of the nominating committees and Film Independent.

Every film with a budget of more than $15 million is required to submit the top sheet from its final budget report to determine eligibility, and it seems the “Silver Linings” top sheet worked out to the tune of best feature, best director, best screenplay, best actor and best actress nominations (but oddly nothing for Robert DeNiro in supporting actor). It’s now the likely winner of most of those categories, as well.

2. “Your Sister’s Sister” and “Compliance” each only manage one nomination (both for supporting actress).
Despite being two of the most acclaimed indies of the year, Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” and Craig Zobel’s “Compliance” were largely and unforunately shut out of the nominations. At least both did manage best supporting actress nods for Rosemarie DeWitt and Ann Dowd, which in this opinion were two of the best performances this year (and sadly both unlikely to nab Oscar noms). Its just too bad their co-stars Emily Blunt and Dreama Walker couldn’t have joined them.

3. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” also only takes one nomination… In a category it shouldn’t have even been eligible for.
Another film that was undeservedly short on Spirit noms was Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (where was Ezra Miller in supporting actor?). The film managed a sole nomination for best first feature, which would be wholly deserved if “Perks” was Chbosky’s first feature. He directed “The Four Corners of Nowhere” back in 1995, a film that played in competition at Sundance. While 17 years is a long time between films, it doesn’t quite re-virginize Chboksy’s status as a first time filmmaker.

4. Music Box Films gets the second most nominations of any distributor.
Thanks in large part to the welcome surprise of Ira Sachs’ “Keep The Lights On” managing a bunch of nominations in major categories (it took four overall, including best feature), Music Box Films was second only to Fox Searchlight in terms of distributors, beating out Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, IFC Films and The Weinstein Company. The relatively new company found 7 nominations overall, from “Lights” as well as “Starlet” and “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present.”

5. It was a pretty gay-friendly list of nominations.
Sachs’ gay relationship drama led what was surprisingly LGBT-heavy list of films nominated at the Spirits. Rosemarie DeWitt’s aforementioned performance in “Your Sister’s Sister” was one of three nominated for depicting gay characters (Thure Lindhardt in “Lights” and Wendell Pierce in “Four” being the others). Beyond that, “Lights” got aforementioned best feature, best screenplay and best director nods, while Jonathan Lisecki’s “Gayby” (first screenplay), Aurora Guerrero’s “Mosquita y Mari” (John Cassavetes Award) and David France’s “How To Survive a Plague” (documentary) all took nominations as well. Add them to the first feature nod for “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and it’s a very gay-friendly list of nominations.

6. Linda Cardellini over Melanie Lynskey, Emily Blunt and Greta Gerwig
Last year Rachael Harris’s performance in “Natural Selection” deservedly snuck in over expected nominees like Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy”) in the lead actress category, and this year a similar situation occurred with another excellent performance (Linda Cardellini’s in “Return”) coming out of nowhere to manage a nomination. Not to say Cardellini is more or less worthy, but it definitely would have been more expected had, say, Melanie Lynskey (“Hello I Must Be Going”), Emily Blunt (“Your Sister’s Sister”) and Greta Gerwig (“Damsels in Distress,” which was snubbed altogether) been nominated instead.

7. Thure Lindhardt and Wendell Pierce over Richard Gere and Jake Gyllenhaal
There was also some big surprises in lead actor category (which last year snubbed George Clooney’s performance in “The Descendants”).  Aforementioned performances by Thure Lindhardt (“Keep The Lights On”) and Wendell Pierce (“Four”) both took unexpected (though, again, deserved) nominations in the category (which offered six nominees instead of the usual five). But absent as a result were two actors widely predicted to pop up here: Richard Gere (for “Arbitrage”) and Jake Gyllenhaal (for “End of Watch).

8. No English-language titles in the foreign film race.
The Spirit Awards’ foreign film race, unlike the Oscars, is open to any film not produced in the United States and thus has the option of English-language films to be included. And included they have been. Last year three titles (“Melancholia,” “Shame” and “Tyrannosaur”) got nominated, and at least one English title has been included each of the past five Spirit Awards (three of them winning in “Once,” “An Education” and “The King’s Speech”). But this year, it was all foreign language thanks to “Amour,” “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” “Rust and Bone,” “Sister” and “War Witch.”

9. And no “Holy Motors” either!?
One of the snubs that seemed to find the most outrage on Twitter was the absence of Leos Carax’s hugely acclaimed “Holy Motors” from the foreign category. Ineligible for the Oscar foreign category (France submitted “The Intouchables” instead, which thankfully also didn’t make the cut), this would have been a nice place for the film to get some recognition…

10. Matthew McConaughey is a double nominee!
It wasn’t clear whether “Magic Mike” would be eligible at the Spirits (while budgeted at just $7 million, it was released by a major studio), but it was indeed and Matthew McConaughey got an extremely warranted best supporting actor nomination as a result. But that wasn’t the end of the McConaughey love. He also got a lead actor nomination for his equally deserving turn in “Killer Joe.” Oddly, his nominations were the sole recognition each film received (“Magic Mike” at least should have got a screenplay nom), though another film he was in — “Bernie” — got nominations across the board, just not for McConaughey…

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