Nominations for the 32nd annual edition of the Independent Spirit Awards were announced on Nov. 22. Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” and Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” lead with six bids apiece, followed by Kenneth Lonergan‘s “Manchester By the Sea” at five. A trio of films — Jake Mahaffy‘s “Free in Deed,” Pablo Larrain‘s “Jackie” and Chris Kelly‘s “Other People” — have four each. The prizes will be handed out on Feb. 25, one day before the Oscars, during an afternoon ceremony on Santa Monica. The kudocast will air live on IFC.
The race for Best Picture includes three strong Oscar contenders — “Jackie,” “Manchester By the Sea” and “Moonlight” — as well as “American Honey” and “Chronic.” Of these, only the helmers of “American Honey,” “Jackie” and “Moonlight” vie for Best Director, joined by Jeff Nichols (“Loving”) and Kelly Reichardt (“Certain Women”).
While “Loving” did reap a Best Actress bid for Ruth Negga, her on-screen love interest Joel Edgerton was snubbed in Best Actor as was Nichols in the screenplay category, which does not distinguish between original and adapted scripts. Conversely, “Manchester By the Sea” writer/director Lonergan contends only for his screenplay. Among the other notable absences is Indie Spirits darling Michelle Williams, who delivered strong performances in both “Certain Women” and “Manchester By the Sea.” As the cast of “Moonlight” is to be feted with the Robert Altman Award, none of them was eligible to be singled out with a nomination. (An earlier version of this post erroneously referred to them as snubbed.)
For the last three years running, the winner of Best Feature at Saturday’s Indies — “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman” and “Spotlight” respectively — went on to claim the top Oscar on Sunday. And eight of the 12 acting Academy Awards champs first prevailed here.
However, predicting the nominations for these prizes is complicated by several factors. To start, we don’t know which films are eligible. Unlike the motion picture academy, Film Independent does not release a list of qualifying films.
The rules dictate that the films have budgets of no more than $20 million and be “American,” which is defined as either:
1. U.S. citizens or permanent residents being at least two of the director, writer and producer of the film; OR
2. the film is set primarily in the U.S. and at least 70% financed by American companies.
Add to that the fact that nominations are determined by three small committees of less than 10 people each. In the past we have been told the names of those serving on these committees but now all we know is that they are drawn from “writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, editors, actors, critics, casting directors, film festival programmers and other working film professionals.” Compare that to the selection process for winners in which the entire membership of Film Independent, numbering in the thousands, cast ballots.
The Weinstein Company has proven adept at qualifying films that would otherwise be ineligible including the Gallic import “The Artist” in 2011 and “Silver Linings Playbook” with a budget of $21 million the following year; both won Best Feature here.
Last year, A24 did likewise with “Room,” an Irish-Canadian co-production filmed in Toronto. However, “Brooklyn” didn’t qualify, despite being set, in part, in America and distributed by powerhouse Fox Searchlight which had last two winners. And neither did “Ex Machina,” which was co-produced by EGOT champ Scott Rudin.
Will one of the Indie Spirit contenders win Best Picture at this year’s Oscars? Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.