As always, the Spirits are an intriguing beast. Originally a fly by the seat of your pants awards show meant to give exposure to indie films they couldn’t find anywhere else the Spirits have morphed into a prestigious honor that people in the industry actually care about. This year it appears the nominating committees got it mostly right. Sure, there’s that always sticky $20 million or less budget figure qualification no one wants to pay attention to (until they do) and some blatant omissions here and there. But, at the end of the day the Spirits still provide an important platform for new filmmakers to make their mark with moviegoers and the larger movie industry. Taking that into account, here are the winners and losers after the announcement of the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards nominees this morning.
Winner: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
With four nominations and two wins at the Gothams last night, Searchlight has to be relieved “Beasts” is getting the late push it needs to secure that best picture Oscar nod. A slew of expected top 10 lists next month should seal the deal.
Winner: “Silver Linings Playbook”
Is the film’s budget $16 million or $21 million? Only the accountants know for sure, but the film’s Spirits leading five nominations is a nice boost to an Oscar campaign that was once battling for frontrunner status.
Loser: Ezra Miller
Easily one of the more acclaimed supporting performances of the year, somehow Miller’s great turn in “Perks of a Wallflower” was ignored by the nominating committee. Sam Rockwell and Bruce Willis must just have more cache. Sad.
Loser: David Ayer and Jake Gyllenhaal
Michael Pena deservedly earned his first Spirit Award nod for a fantastic performance in “End of Watch,” but what about screenwriter/director David Ayer and star Jake Gyllenhaal? “Watch” was a critic’s favorite and a major indie hit. It was independently produced at just $7 million and grossed almost $40 million. Moreover, you expanded the best male lead category to six nods and Gyllenhaal still didn’t get in? Embarrassing.
As we predicted, the committee went gaga for “Bernie.” With strong Film Independent credentials (it was the opening night of the org.’s LA Film Festival in 2011) and an indie story to treasure (rejected by all the mini majors only to become an art house hit for Millennium), “Bernie” was destined to be one of the top best feature film nominees. Jack Black’s best male lead nod? Icing on the cake.
Winner: “Middle of Nowhere”
Underrated so much that’s its now possibly overrated, “Nowhere” didn’t make the top category of best feature film, but still managed an impressive 4 nominations including the John Cassavetes Award, best female lead, best supporting female and best supporting male. Wowzers.
Loser: The Foreign Films committee
No “Holy Motors” among the best foreign film nominees? “Once Upon A Time in Anatolia” and “War Witch” are better films? “Motors” exclusion is hands down the most embarrassing omission of the day.
Winner: CBS Films
“Seven Psychopaths” provided CBS Films with its first two Spirit Awards nominations for best supporting male (Sam Rockwell) and best screenplay (Martin McDonagh) and it’s first major awards nominations of any kind. Next stop, the Globes?
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Winner: Matthew McConaughey
Call it a reward for all the independent films he’s supported by starring in over the past few years. McConaughey landed not one, but two nods. The first, best male lead for “Killer Joe” and, in something of a surprise, best supporting male for “Magic Mike.” McConaughey, who also appeared in feature film nominee “Bernie,” spoke about the latter two films with HitFix a few weeks ago.
Winner: “Keep the Lights On”
The committee saw what this pundit and some other critics adored in Ira Sach’s powerful Sundance Drama awarding it four nominations including a jump for joy best feature film, best director (Sachs), best screenplay (Sachs) and best male lead (Thure Lindhardt).
Loser: Melanie Lynskey
A favorite among the indie community, Lynskey received a Gotham Award nomination for her work in “Hello I Must Be Going,” but her LA-based peers passed her by.
Winner: The Documentary committee
You’ll find little disagreement on the documentary committee’s fine selection of nominees this year. “How to Survive A Plague,” “Marina Abramovi?: The Artist is Present,” “The Central Park Five,” “The Invisible War” and “The Waiting Room” are all deserving nominees and at least four of them could make the Oscar cut.
Winner: Bruce Willis
After 30 years in the business, Willis lands his first Spirit nod for a wonderfully understated performance in Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” Add the praise for his work in the surprise hit “Looper” and it’s been quite a year for the “Die Hard” star.
Roadside Attractions’ September hit received much better reviews than expected (I certainly wasn’t a fan), but it couldn’t translate into Spirit Awards love. The Richard Gere thriller landed no nominations in what turned out to be a rare “off” year for Roadside overall.
Loser: Greta Gerwig
Poor Gerwig. Once the belle of the ball with “Greenberg,” she was shut out with no nominations for either “Damsels in Distress” or “Lola Versus.” That’s OK, we’re pretty sure she’ll make a comeback next year with the wonderful “Frances Ha.”
Not one nomination. Ouch.
Winner: Music Box Films
The little distributor that could secured seven nominations second to only Fox Searchlight’s nine and more than Sony Classics (6), Focus Features (6) or The Weinstein Company (5). Most impressive, they were from three different films demonstrating Music Box’s growing stature in the indie film business.
Winner: Julia Loktev
Never heard of her? Well, chances are you never heard of her film “The Loneliest Planet” either. The picture impressed the narrative committee enough to push her ahead of Richard Linklater, Stephen Chbosky and David Ayer for a best director nod.
What did you think of this year’s nominees? Share your thoughts below.
The 28h Annual Independent Spirit Awards will be handed out on Sat., Feb. 23, 2013.