Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gotham Winners and Spirit Noms: The Oscar Race Heats Up

As the song goes, its the most wonderful time of the year. Its a time I await with anxious enthusiasm, checking out all of the goods to see what offers the best. And the presents I'll wake up to that glorious morning will bring me untold joy. I'm talking, of course, about the awards season. The various top 10s will start pouring in in the next few days, and the Oscar race will begin to find its true shape (also, the Grammy nominations are tomorrow. I'll have them here.).
Yesterday the winners of the Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced (see the nominees here). Winter's Bone was the big winner, which seems to indicate that the momentum is only continuing to build for this film, while The Kids Are All Right and festival favorite Tiny Furniture went home empty handed. Here's the full list of winners:
Best Film: Winter's Bone
Best Documentary: The Oath
Best Ensemble: Winter's Bone
Best Breakthrough Performance: Ronald Bronstein, Daddy Longlegs (Interestingly, Winter's Bone's Jennifer Lawrence lost this one.)
Best Breakthrough Director: Kevin Asch, Holy Rollers
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You: Little Rock
Festival Genius Audience Award: Waiting for Superman
Then, this morning, the nominees for this year's Independent Spirit Awards were announced. Usually, this isn't a major Oscar predictor, per se, but it does usually shed light on some of the potential nominees, particularly the ones from smaller films. But this year does have some major surprises, and could actually prove to be a major factor in a lot of these films' Oscar chances.
The nominees are:
BEST FEATURE FILM
Black Swan
127 Hours
Greenburg
The Kids Are All Right
Winter's Bone
Its possible that as many as four of these films could end up Best Picture nominees (Greenburg is pretty much out of the picture, despite being a fine film). Its a tight race here: any of them could reign supreme, but if momentum and total nominations are any indication, Winter's Bone and The Kids Are All Right are looking really good. I'm still surprised that Winter's Bone has managed such an impressive comeback; I wasn't head-over-heels for it but I can see why people would react to it this way. And I don't buy for a second all of this "TKAAR is overrated" crap. It was a bold original story, exploring an alternative family by treating it as it should be: like its no different from a heterosexual couple. And I'm excited about 127 Hours and Black Swan, both of which will be around here soon (I hope).
BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik, Winter's Bone
John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole
A very interesting and exciting group of directors, all of which have made important impacts on independent film in the past. Its hard to imagine them passing up the opportunity to reward a visionary director like Aronofsky, but Cholodenko is one of their favorites, so she's possible too. And I'm so glad that Mitchell was recognized: he's got a terrific filmography that hopefully more people will dive into after they see Rabbit Hole.
BEST SCREENPLAY
Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik & Anne Rosselini, Winter's Bone
Nicole Holofcener, Please Give
David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole
Todd Solondz, Life During Wartime
I expect a few of these will probably be Oscar nominees as well. And how great is it that there are so many women writers in here?
BEST FIRST FEATURE
Everything Strange and New; director, Frazer Bradshaw
Get Low; director, Aaron Schneider
Night Catches Us; director, Tanya Hamilton
The Last Exorcism; director, Daniel Stamm
Tiny Furniture; director, Lena Dunham
I'm sure Tiny Furniture, with so much love from critics, will win this. I'm shocked to see The Last Exorcism here: I didn't realize people liked it this much.
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Obselidia, Diane Bell
Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham
Lovely, Still, Nik Flacker
Jack Goes Boating, Bob Glaudini
Monogamy, Dana Adam Shapiro & Evan M. Wiener
I genuinely hope to see these writers (and the above directors) find more work in the future.
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Daddy Longlegs
Lbs.
Lovers of Hate
Obselidia
The Exploding Girl
This is the award for films made for less than $500,000.
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
This is the only category Blue Valentine is nominated in, which makes me think that if the hipster Spirit crowd aren't comfortable with it, I doubt the Academy will be. Still, with the exception of the lovely Gerwig, all of these are in serious Oscar contention, and this could be one of the big showdowns for the Academy's prize between current frontrunners Bening and Portman. We'll see how this turns out.
Gerwig
BEST MALE LEAD
Ronald Bronstein, Daddy Longlegs
Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
James Franco, 127 Hours
John C. Reilly, Cyrus
Ben Stiller, Greenberg
Bronstein, as you read above, won at the Gothams, so its notable that he's been nominated here. Also, this is probably Franco's to lose. But notice who's not nominated: Robert Duvall for Get Low. Does this mean that his film has lost two years' worth of momentum, and that his Oscar chances are in jeopardy?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
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
Again with The Last Exorcism! This is a very indie category, and I'm not entirely sure who's really got the best shot at a win here. I do have to say that I hope its Dickey, since she's so good in the film.
Bell
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
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
I find it odd that Murray got a nomination but Duvall didn't. Still, I'm rooting for Hawkes and Ruffalo, since both are terrific, but namely Ruffalo, since he needs this to remind people that he deserves an Oscar nomination for his brilliant work in the film.
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
If Black Swan does prove to be too outre for Academy tastes, it at least will most likely have a lock for Libatique. I can't see him losing here.
BEST DOCUMENTARY
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Marwencol
Sweetgrass
Restrepo
Thunder Soil
I actually saw Restrepo on National Geographic last night, and boy, is it a doozy of a doc. I think it stands a serious threat as an award-grabbing film, though I've heard good things about the others too. But only Restrepo and Gift Shop made the Academy shortlist, so we'll see how it goes.
BEST FOREIGN FILM
The King's Speech
Kisses
Of Gods and Men
Mademoiselle Chambon
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
I still don't understand why British films are included here, since most are American co-productions. And for some reason, this is the only category The King's Speech was eligible for. Of Gods and Men and Uncle Boonmee were Oscar submissions from France and Thailand, respectively, and it'll be interesting to see if either one picks up steam after this.
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
Please Give
This is given to the director, casting director, and cast of a film. I've just added this to my Netflix queue for future viewing.
The Spirit Awards will be held on the Santa Monica beach the day before the Oscars. What do you think of these? How many of the nominees have you seen?

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