Believe it or not, another set of awards is vying for our attention as prize season nears its at-long-last end. The Independent Spirit Awards, contenders for which are limited to indie, non-mainstream films and their makers, are handed out the day before the Academy's big night. Although there's always the risk of someone getting holier-than-thou about not being "Hollywood," the Spirit bashes are much more entertaining than the big kids' show, with a premium on the risqué and irreverent.
Determining where indie leaves off and Hollywood begins is increasingly a challenge. Several years ago, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood—each as independent as it gets—were ruled ineligible, ostensibly because their budgets were too big but really so that somebody else had a shot at winning something. Incidentally, the rhythms of life are different in indie-land; the 2009 Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker was a Spirit nominee for 2008.
This year the Spirit and Oscar slates overlap more than usual. Four of the five nominees for Best Feature are among the ten films nominated by the Academy as Best Picture: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter's Bone. The fifth is Noah Baumbach's Greenberg.
In the Director category, only Darren Aronofsky is up for an Oscar, for Black Swan. His competition includes Danny Boyle, 127 Hours; Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right; Debra Granik, Winter's Bone; and John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole.
The nominees in other categories are:
Best Screenplay: Stuart Blumberg & Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right; Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, Winter's Bone; Nicole Holofcener, Please Give; David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole; Todd Solondz, Life During Wartime
Best Female Lead: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right; Greta Gerwig, Greenberg; Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole; Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone; Natalie Portman, Black Swan; Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine (Six? That's independent spirit.)
Best Male Lead: Ronald Bronstein, Daddy Longlegs; Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole; James Franco, 127 Hours; John C. Reilly, Cyrus; Ben Stiller, Greenberg
Best Supporting Female: Ashley Bell, The Last Exorcism; Dale Dickey, Winter's Bone; Allison Janney, Life During Wartime; Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jack Goes Boating; Naomi Watts, Mother and Child
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, Winter's Bone; Samuel L. Jackson, Mother and Child; Bill Murray, Get Low; John Ortiz, Jack Goes Boating; Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Marwencol, Sweetgrass, Restrepo, Thunder Soul
Best Foreign Film: Kisses (Ireland), Mademoiselle Chambon (France), Of Gods and Men (Morocco), The King's Speech (United Kingdom), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand)
Best Cinematography: Adam Kimmel, Never Let Me Go; Matthew Libatique, Black Swan; Jody Lee Lipes, Tiny Furniture; Michael McDonough, Winter's Bone; Harris Savides, Greenberg
Best First Feature: Everything Strange and New, Get Low, Night Catches Us, The Last Exorcism, Tiny Furniture
Best First Screenplay: Diane Bell, Obselidia; Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture; Nik Fackler, Lovely, Still; Bob Glaudini, Jack Goes Boating; Dana Adam Shapiro, Evan M. Wiener, Monogamy
The Spirit Awards also include one in the name of John Cassavetes honoring ultra-low-budget endeavors, the Acura Someone to Watch Award (Seattle's Lynn Shelton got it a couple of years ago), the Piaget Producers Award, and the Robert Altman Award, which goes to the year's most distinguished ensemble—in this case, the glorious cast of Please Give.
Winter's Bone, the best film nominated in both races, hasn't a prayer of collecting the Best Pic Oscar on Sunday night, but it may do nicely among the indie crowd. Its seven nominations outnumber any other film's—not that that, in and of itself, guarantees anything.
The Independent Spirit Awards ceremony (hoedown?) airs at 7 p.m. PT Saturday, Feb. 26, on IFC (Comcast 503 and 699). Probably some repeat showings are scheduled as well, but my cable box is scatterbrained at the moment and I can't check. -RTJ
P.S.: And the winners were:
Best Feature: Black Swan
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Best Female Lead: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Male Lead: James Franco, 127 Hours
Best Supporting Female: Dale Dickey, Winter's Bone
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Best Screenplay: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Best Foreign Film: The King's Speech
Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best First Feature: Get Low
John Cassavetes Award: Daddy Longlegs
Robert Altman Award: Nicole Holofcener, Jeanne McCarthy, Ann Guilbert, Rebecca Hall, Catherrine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Plat,, Lois Smith, Sarah Steele for Please Give
Piaget Producers Award: Anish Savjani, Meek's Cutoff
Acura Someone to Watch Award: Mike Ott, Littlerock
AVEENO Truer Than Fiction Award: Jeff Malmberg, Marwencol