“The Artist” and “Take Shelter” lead with five nominations each for the 27th annual edition of the Independent Spirit Awards. They are both contending for Best Picture as are “50/50,” “Beginners,” “Drive” and “The Descendants.” Among the films snubbed for the top prize were “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Midnight in Paris” and “My Week with Marilyn.”
Conspicuously absent from the Best Actor race is “The Descendants” star George Clooney. One of his main Oscar rivals, Jean Dujardin, was nominated for “The Artist” as were Demian Bechir (“A Better Life), Ryan Gosling (“Drive”), Woody Harrelson (“Rampart”) and Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter”).
Glenn Close was denied a Best Actress bid for her passion project “Albert Nobbs.” The nominees are two of her potential Oscar rivals — Elizabeth Olsen (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) and Michelle Williams (“My Week with Marilyn”) — as well as Lauren Ambrose (“Think of Me”), Rachael Harris (“Natural Selection”) and Adepero Oduye (“Pariah”).
Close’s co-star Janet McTeer was recognized in the supporting race as were New York Film Critics Circle winner Jessica Chastain (“Take Shelter”), Anjelica Huston (“50/50”), Harmony Santana (“Gun Hill Road”) and Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”).
Among the supporting actor nominees are two strong Oscar contenders — NYFCC winner Albert Brooks (“Drive”) and Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) — as well as outside hopefuls John Hawkes (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) and Corey Stoll (“Midnight in Paris”).
This was a good day for Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”) who won Best Director from the Gotham critics and reaped two bids here as well. In the directing category he contends against Mike Mills (“Beginners”), Jeff Nichols (“Take Shelter”), Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) and Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”). And in the writing race, he is up against Mills and Payne (with collaborators Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) as well as Joseph Cedar (“Footnote”) and Tom McCarthy (“Win Win”).
American feature film nominees, culled from entries with budgets of under $20 million, were determined by a committee chaired by producer Gail Mutrux which included: film critic/journalist Robert Abele; writer Dustin Lance Black; producers Stuart Cornfeld, Barry Mendel; actors Dale Dickey, André Royo, Souléymane Sy Savané; cinematographers Paula Huidobro, Stephen Goldblatt; writer/directors Courtney Hunt, Robert D. Siegel; writer/director/producer Malcolm D. Lee; director Floria Sigismondi; casting director Margery Simkin; and writer Dan Waters.
The prizes will be handed out on Feb. 26, one day before the Oscars. Following the ill-advised one-day shift to Friday and relocation to downtown L.A. in 2009, the Spirit Awards returned to their traditional Saturday afternoon slot at Santa Monica beach last year. A 2 p.m. start means that only a taped version of the show will air on IFC.
Last year, “Black Swan” won all four of its bids including Best Picture while rival nominee “Winter’s Bone” took two of its seven races. They — along with “127 Hours” and “The Kids Are All Right” — contended in the top race at the Oscars. However, the eventual Oscar champ “The King’s Speech” was eligible only in the category of Best Foreign Film which it won.
Natalie Portman edged out her four Oscar rivals to win for “Black Swan.” James Franco (“127 Hours”), the lone Oscar candidate among the Best Actor nominees, prevailed. “Winter’s Bone” supporting players John Hawkes and Dale Dickey won those awards. Hawke was in the running at the Oscars as was fellow Spirits nominee Mark Ruffalo (“The Kids Are All Right”) but both lost to Christian Bale (“The Fighter”).
Darren Aronofsky, the only Oscar nominee in this race, won Best Director for “Black Swan.” The Screenplay award went to “Kids Are All Right” director Lisa Choldenko and her co-writer Stuart Blumberg. The pair vied at the Oscars in the Original Screenplay race while fellow Spirit nominees Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (“Winter’s Bone”) were up for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Other winners at the free-wheeling ceremony included “Exit Through the Gift Shop” which was named Best Documentary over, among others, fellow Oscar nominee “Restrepo.” And Oscar nominee Matthew Libatique won here for lensing “Black Swan.”