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David Poland

By David Poland

Dependent Spirit Awards Winners

As is now the annual tradition, Film INDependent has nominated the most expense, highest-profile “indies” possible and turned out a list of Oscar’s second place finishers, with one or two exceptions… for a couple of Oscar winners.

And as is the annual tradition, I find myself frustrated both by the nominations, which are as narrow-minded as The Academy’s, and by my pleasure in celebrating the work that has been nominated. It makes it hard to speak to how ridiculous it is to get an annual list that is so amazingly un-independent. And then you get a race oddly loaded with unexpected choices… like leaving Glenn Close and Kirsten Dunst out of Best Actress while nominating a film that has no distributor and another that hasn’t been released. I am not “unhappy with the nominees.” But I am continually shocked by how this show doesn’t push forward the agenda of independent cinema. It’s not like we’re still in the period when the indie world was so fat and happy that simple self-congratulatory events had real value.

As I say every year… celebrate Searchlight, Focus, and Sony Classics for the great work they do. Include The Weinsteins and Lionsgate and Summit. And then celebrate independent film, where Roadside and FilmDistrict and IFC and Magnolia are the big distributors. I feel like I am having a conversation with Jack Valenti about the NC-17. Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean there is not a solution that does a much better job of celebrating the films and distributors and the ideas of independence that really need to be supported.

Can I tell you whether The Artist or The Descendants will win Best Picture and Best Director? No. But one of them is 98% likely to be the winner. And if it’s The Artist, than Descendants wins Screenplay. If it’s Descendants, than I would count on Mike Mills or Tom McCarthy winning screenplay.

Martha Marcy May Marlene wins Best First Feature, unless Margin Call gathers a lot more steam. Margin Call will likely be beat out by 50/50 for First Screenplay. Pariah wins the Cassavetes.

They might as well ship an award to Michelle Williams now, while Jean Dujardin needs to watch out for American movie star Ryan Gosling to sneak in and steal Best Actor. Albert Brooks will win Best Supporting Actor… unless the jungle drums beat out “Chris Plummer is taking home the Oscar.” And Jessica Chastain will take the award home for whichever movie they nominated her for.

Darius Khondji wins for cinematography because his is the only name voters will recognize. And that’s nice, since the film wasn’t good enough, the director wasn’t good enough, and the script wasn’t good enough for nominations. Poor Woody.

Melancholia and Shame get ghettoized as “foreign,” one of the worst parts of the Indie Spirits process, which goes against the spirit of independents by cordoning off work because of where it was made or financed.

Darfung Dennis is up for a cash prize for his doc… but not for the doc prize. Oy. (Different committees for the two things… though there is no overlap, coincidentally.)

It really comes down to this list…

Fox Searchlight – 14
Sony Pictures Classics – 9
Focus Features – 6
The Weinstein Company – 6
FilmDistrict – 4
Roadside Attractions – 4
Summit Entertainment – 4

I honor and respect all of these companies. And no other companies have as many as 4 nominations.

Yes, these are the biggest “indies,” and so on some level it makes sense. But… with all the great product that IFC and Magnolia put out as true indies, eight films with no distribution matched Magnolia’s take of one nomination and IFC got zippo. Kinda defies logic, even if it can be rationalized. (And God knows, it will be rationalized.)

My question is, if this award event can be postulated as having any other consistent guiding principle than riding on Oscar’s coattails, what is it? That is, aside from having a nice party and honoring a lot of talented people… both of which I would consider a side result… and certainly the TV buyers do as well.

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13 Responses to “Dependent Spirit Awards Winners”

  1. Don R. Lewis says:

    Such standard choices, again. I was just talking about this on the Film Threat podcast too. The Spirit Awards have once again failed to set themselves apart from any other awards ceremony with the exception of the best first feature and Cassavettes awards, I just don’t see the point. Granted, without nominating “big indies,” they run the risk of no one watching or giving a shit but for the past 3-5 years all the noms just seem so damned predictable. I wish they’d mix it up more and would seem to have a kind of their own.

    Michael Parks in RED STATE was robbed also.

  2. Ivan says:

    I think Kirsten Dunst wasn’t even eligible, since “Melancholia” is ‘international film’, as is “Shame”, so no Michael Fassbender either among the nominees.

  3. Don R. Lewis says:

    I think something similar happened last season too, Ivan….can’t remember the people or film though.

    Also- I think WIN-WIN also got shafted. While not a perfect film, it’s very very good and Giamatti continues to knock roles out of the park.

  4. yancyskancy says:

    Ivan: So THE ARTIST isn’t considered an ‘international film’ by their definition? I know it was shot in L.A., but isn’t it a French production? So confusing.

  5. David Poland says:

    And Shame, it’s worth noting, was shot in New York… much as The Artist was shot in LA. And top crew brought with… much like The Artist.

    And Shame was crewed up in NY, aside from dept heads, as I seem to recall McQueen saying.

  6. JKill says:

    By these standards, they should consider Lionsgate an indie, right…?

    Where is WARRIOR!?!

  7. JS Partisan says:

    Don, you are the resident Smith fan in here. What do you think about Smith’s tirade at the Spirit Awards?

    Also, really, they nominate who they nominate because these are supposedly indie films. Giving them grief for what the big boys do the day after these awards are given out, is not the Spirt Awards problem. These are indies and the best indies to a lot of people. Ignoring that is really hokey.

  8. Ivan says:

    Don R. Lewis: You are probably thinking about “The King’s Speech”, it won best foreign film last year, and it couldn’t be nominated in other categories.

    yancyskancy: It is kind of a travesty, since “The Artist” was up for the best foreign at the Oscars, but France comitee didn’t give it a green light. Yes, it was shot in LA, and yes it has couple of american actors in supporting roles, but almost the entire crew (except art and costume department) is foreign. How it ended up eligible is stunning to me. Seems like Harvey pull up some strings, what do you think?

    David Poland: Yes, it is quite annoying, the “Shame” snub… I heard in an interview with Steve McQueen that he wrote the screenplay with Abi Morgan in New York, doing all the research there.

    Maybe there should be a rule who can be nominated, something like the European Awards. If you have a passport from any of the european countries you are eligible. I am not saying it is best solution, but at least it is a start.

  9. PTC says:

    Ryan Gosling is Canadian, not American, no?

  10. JS Partisan says:

    Gosling is from Florida by way of an accent that originated with Bruce Springsteeen back in 1973 (Yes he’s from Ontario, but tell no one)!

  11. Don R. Lewis says:

    IO- I’m not surprised by Smith’s twitter tantrum but I’m pretty surprised Michael Parks, John Goodman and/or Melissa Leo were left out. I don’t blame him for being surprised and history shows he wears his heart (and mouth) on his sleeve. I think he thought they had those noms in the bag for this award show though. I thought Parks’ performance was amazing and say what you want to about Smith, he embraced the indie spirit of film in both making and distributing RED STATE.

    I also can’t help but wonder if the nominating committee intentionally ignored those actors to like, get back at Smith and his ranting, raving and “bridge burning” or if Smith and Co. screwed up “pitching” the nomination to the awards committee. Or maybe they just didn’t find those actors “worthy.”

    He’s been pushing for an Oscar nod for the actors which always struck me as a massive longshot. He should have focused on an Indie Spirit nom and used that to pitch the Oscar vote. Then again, in his steadfast refusal to show the film to anyone for free (unless they are prone to a favorable review) no one I know got an Oscar screener of RED STATE and I’m sure a combo of not being on the Indie Spirit award radar and a lack of a screener burned him.

  12. yancyskancy says:

    PTC: The nationality of the actors isn’t the issue.

  13. Joe Leydon says:

    Glad to see the acting nominations for Natural Selection.

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