Dear Film Independent: You’re Cool

About a month back the British Independent Film Awards highlighted a knockout year for British indies with a fantastic slate of nominations. Today, Film Independent noted that we’ve had a pretty damn good time in 2011 on this side of the pond as well, finding room for all the critical hits of the season as well as finding room to recognize some low-profile but very deserving fare. The field was led by “Take Shelter” and “The Artist” (which apparently qualified as an American production despite a half-French crew and significant backing from Canal+), with five nominations apiece, followed by “Beginners,” “The Descendants” and “Drive,” all with four each. Further love for “50/50,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Cedar Rapids,” “Rampart,” “Pariah,” “Win Win,” “Another Earth,” “Margin Call,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Terri,” among others, proved what a varied and quality year it’s been for American independent cinema.

Note that “Shame,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “Tinker, Tailor” did not qualify for consideration, as British productions. So no bump for Fassbender, Oldman or Swinton there.

Check out the nominees below, with commentary when I have something to say.

Independent Spirit Award nominations:

Best Feature:

  • The Artist
  • Beginners
  • The Descendants
  • Drive
  • 50/50
  • Take Shelter
Comments: Indicative of the strong year that Film Independent couldn’t quite whittle Best Feature down to five nominees. Those who read my review will know that I’m a bit down on “The Descendants,” but not enough to feel too bitter about its recognition here. Good thing, since I’m sure it’s going to keep popping up this season.
Best Director:
  • Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
  • Mike Mills, “Beginners”
  • Jeff Nichols, “Take Shelter”
  • Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
  • Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive”
Commentary: Jonathan Levine of “50/50” is the odd man out here, but that’s not surprising; that film was driven more by its strong script and performances than particularly stylish direction.
Best Male Lead:
  • Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
  • Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
  • Ryan Gosling, “Drive”
  • Woody Harrelson, “Rampart”
  • Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”
Commentary: Film Independent had an embarrassment of riches in this category, resulting in probably the most surprising snub of the day, namely no George Clooney, despite the strong showing for “The Descendants” elsewhere. But, if there’s anyone who does NOT need an Indie Spirit nomination, it’s Clooney; he’ll be fine one way or the other, so it’s great to see them reaching instead for Harrelson and Bichir. A shame that there was no room for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, since they obviously loved “50/50” as well, but who do you bump out? That’s a tough call.
Best Female Lead:
  • Lauren Ambrose, “Think of Me”
  • Rachel Harris, “Natural Selection”
  • Adepero Oduye, “Pariah”
  • Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
  • Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”

Commentary: “Martha Marcy May Marlene” probably suffered the most from these nominations, landing two acting nods but surprisingly nothing for writer/director Sean Durkin. Combined with coming home empty-handed at the Gotham Awards last night, some of the air seems to be leaking out of that film’s campaign (though it probably didn’t stand a chance of much more than a Screenplay nod anyway).

Best Supporting Male:

  • Albert Brooks, “Drive”
  • John Hawkes, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
  • Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
  • John C. Reilly, “Cedar Rapids”
  • Corey Stoll, “Midnight in Paris”
Commentary: LOVE the nod for Stoll for his witty portrayal of Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s charmer. The Reilly nomination is also a welcome outside-the-box choice.
Best Supporting Female:
  • Jessica Chastain, “Take Shelter”
  • Anjelica Huston, “50/50”
  • Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
  • Harmony Santana, “Gun Hill Road”
  • Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Commentary: Intriguing that “Albert Nobbs” apparently was in the mix, yet nothing for Glenn Close. Hmmm. Anyway, one feels like Jessica Chastain HAS to turn up in Supporting Actress at the Oscars this year, but for what? “The Help?” “Take Shelter?” “The Tree of Life?” Will they be able to choose, or will her own productivity split the vote?

Best Screenplay:

  • Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
  • Mike Mills, “Beginners”
  • Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
  • Joseph Cedar, “Footnote”
  • Tom McCarthy, “Win Win”

Best First Screenplay:

  • Mike Cahill, Brit Marling, “Another Earth”
  • Phil Johnston, “Cedar Rapids”
  • Will Reiser, “50/50”
  • J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”
  • Patrick DeWitt, “Terri”

Commentary: I think I prefer the selections in First Screenplay over Screenplay this year, funnily enough.

Best Cinematography:

  • The Artist
  • Bellflower
  • The Dynamiter
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Off Hours

Commentary: I’m scratching my head at the inclusion of the rose-tinted (not literally) “Midnight in Paris” over the bolder work of Newton Thomas Sigel on “Drive.” Very odd snub there. Also, why have the Indie Spirits limited themselves to cinematography when it comes to the crafts? Sure, it’s the most recognizable contribution for laypeople, but isn’t it about time to start expanding?

Best International Film:

  • The Kid with a Bike
  • Melancholia
  • A Separation
  • Shame
  • Tyrannosaur

Best Documentary:

  • An African Election
  • Bill Cunningham New York
  • The Interrupters
  • We Were Here
  • The Redemption of General Butt Naked

Robert Altman Award (for one film’s director, casting director and acting ensemble): Margin Call

Commentary: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

John Cassavetes Award (for best feature made for under $500,000):

  • Bellflower
  • Circumstance
  • The Dynamiter
  • Hello Lonesome
  • Pariah

Best First Feature:

  • Another Earth
  • In the Family
  • Margin Call
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Natural Selection

Commentary: There’s something for “M^4” (I will now be calling it that, btw), I guess. Check back later today, when I’ll be discussing the New York Film Critics’ Circle awards, which were also announced today. Stay tuned!

One thought on “Dear Film Independent: You’re Cool

  1. Just so you know, I want copyright and royalties on that. 😛

    And I’m still sad “Like Crazy” didn’t get anything whatsoever. I’m a little surprised Felicity Jones at least didn’t pop up, given that everyone’s fawning over her.

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