Film Independent spotlights the right stuff in Independent Spirit Award nominations

Posted by · 9:57 am · November 29th, 2011

Much more interesting to me this morning was Film Independent’s list of nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards. Any slate that features multiple tips of the hat for “Drive,” “Take Shelter” and “Beginners,” love for Woody Harrelson in “Rampart” and recognition for Corey Stoll in “Midnight in Paris” is fine by me.

The announcement was made via Film Independent’s Twitter feed. No online stream or TV announcement. The economy route. Which made things kind of hairy if you were also following the New York Film Critics Circle’s feed at the same time. But it also brought a smile to my face to see, say, Albert Brooks winning a Best Supporting Actor prize for his work in “Drive” while at the same time receiving a nomination for same at the Independent Spirit Awards. Ditto Jessica Chastain and her work in “Take Shelter.”

Still, let’s not do this again, okay? Too much at once.

The big surprise of the field, I thought, was George Clooney missing out on a Best Actor nomination for “The Descendants” when the film was clearly a favorite across the board (receiving notices for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Supporting Female and Best Screenplay). I don’t know that Clooney should take it too personally, though, as the field of lead actors is an impressive and accomplished one (see below).

I appreciate that Film Independent spotlights a below-the-line category (Best Cinematography), but I wish they’d be even more interesting in their choices. “Bellflower” and “The Dynamiter” are handsome picks, but “Midnight in Paris,” much as I love the movie, and “The Artist,” though it does have some compelling compositions, feel like a placeholders for more dynamic work, like “Drive,” for instance, or, to say the least, “Rampart.”

And why just spotlight cinematography, by the way? It seems to me it’s time to expand a bit. Bring in film editing. That’s a good start. I know cinematography is the most accessible in terms of people actually knowing what they’re talking about when awarding films, but I think you can grow into a few other areas. I’d love, for instance, to see the eclectic picks this group would offer up for Best Original Score.

Who gets a boost out of all this? Well, I think it’s a good feather in Corey Stoll’s cap, for one. He was part of the David Cronenberg tribute at the Gotham Awards last night, and no, there is no connection between the two, other than the fact that both “Midnight in Paris” and “A Dangerous Method” are Sony Pictures Classics movies and it shows they are clearly trying to push him out into the light a bit. Good.

John Hawkes could get some more attention for his work in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” but there seems to be an atmosphere of reserve around that one suddenly after it failed to win a prize at the Gothams or from the NYFCC and was only noted for acting and the producers award here.

The “Win Win” screener could be popped into a few more DVD players now, as could “Pariah” and “Beginners,” which both did well at the Gothams last night. But mostly, this all seems to solidify “The Artist” and its ubiquitous place in the season. While it was busy sharing the lead in nominations here it was winning the Best Picture and Best Director prize from the New York critics.

It’s lovely to see Jonathan Levine’s “50/50” get some love, particularly for Anjelica Huston, who’s very little screen time is masterfully handled and draws out real emotion. And I’d like to think that the strong showing for “Drive” will put some wind in its sails, but I’m doubtful.

“The Artist” and “Take Shelter” led the field with five nominations each. “Beginners,” “The Descendants” and “Drive” weren’t far behind with four apiece.

The full list of nominees:

Best Feature
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Take Shelter”

Best Director
Mike Mills, “Beginners”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive”
Jeff Nichols, “Take Shelter”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Best Male Lead
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Ryan Gosling, “Drive”
Woody Harrelson, “Rampart”
Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”

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”

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”

Best Supporting Female
Jessica Chastain, “Take Shelter”
Anjelica Huston, “50/50”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Harmony Santana, “Gun Hill Road”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Best Screenplay
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Win Win”

Best First Feature
“Another Earth”
“In the Family”
“Margin Call”
“Martha Marcy May Marlene”
“Natural Selection”

Best First Screenplay
“Another Earth”
“Cedar Rapids”
“Margin Call”

Best Cinematography
“The Artist”
“The Dynamiter”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Off Hours”

Best International Film
“The Kid with a Bike”
“A Separation”

Best Documentary
“An African Election”
“Bll Cunningham New York”
“The Interrupters”
“We Were Here”
“The Redemption of General Butt Naked”

Robert Altman Award
“Margin Call”

John Cassavetes Award
“The Dynamiter”
“Hello Lonesome”

Piaget Producers Award
Chad Burris, “Mosquito y Mari”
Sophia Lynn, “Take Shelter”
Josh Bond, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”

Someone to Watch Award
Simon Arthur, “Silver Tongues”
Mark Jackson, “Without”
Nicholas Ozeki, “Mamitas”

Truer Than Fiction Award
“Bombay Beach”
“Hell and Back Again”
“Where Soldiers Come From”

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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