Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Check Out This Year's Nominees for The Spirit Awards

Scene from Anomalisa
As November has dwindled down, it's time to start looking ahead to the big awards season. While we're in the middle of a barrage of great films coming out, there hasn't been really any focus yet - largely because there hasn't been any major awards show yet. Today marks the announcement of the 31st Annual Independent Spirit Awards nominations, which is set on commemorating the best in independent cinema from the past year. While the Golden Globes are likely to be more of an indicator of The Academy Awards to come, there's no denying that the general impact of The Spirit Awards has grown over the past decade; even almost unanimously tying with the 2013 Oscar winners. What lies in store for this year's line-up? There's a few great surprises, of which likely will tell us of the films that we'll be discussing about for the next few months.

The following is a list of every nominee. Following each category will be a few personal thoughts on the category as well as any additional notes that I'll choose to share.

Best Feature
Beasts of No Nation

Personal Thoughts: While I have only seen one of these (Beasts of No Nation), all of these have been pretty much on the radar for most of the season. With Carol getting unanimous praise from critics, it is another darling likely to keep showing up. However, it's nice to see Tangerine actually getting momentum after Mark and Jay Duplass launched their campaign a month ago. One can only hope that this is a positive sign of things to come. However, the general consensus is that Spotlight is the film to beat this season. While the theory remains unproven, it's been considered to be one of the most universally acclaimed films of 2015 and thus stands some chance. Still, a strong bunch with an impressive and surprising pull from Anomalisa.

Best Female Lead

Bel Powley -The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Brie Larson - Room
Cate Blanchett - Carol
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez - Tangerine
Rooney Mara - Carol

Personal Thoughts: With exception to Bel Powley, most of these faces have long been in the Oscar race. Even if this is the highest success rate that Kitana Kiki Rodriguez gets, it will at least mean that The Duplass Brothers had some success with their campaign. This may also prove that Brie Larson is the newcomer in this year's Oscar race. Even if Cate Blanchett looks primed to win her third Oscar, it's a relief to see her Carol co-star Rooney Mara getting a lead, as opposed to another dubious supporting actor nomination. Still, I am hoping that this early buzz for Tangerine pans out and it becomes the indie hit that most have been citing it as.

Best Male Lead

Abraham Attah - Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn - Mississippi Grind
Christopher Abbott - James White
Jason Segel - The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon - Mediterranea

Personal Thoughts: I personally don't get the love for Beasts of No Nation, as I feel that it was more miserable than immersive. However, it does seem like Netflix's plan to get it into the conversation has been panning out considerably with Abraham Attah's nomination here. Among the others is a string of other names that have been getting buzz. Among the more noteworthy is Jason Segel, whose performance as David Foster Wallace has been getting an awards push. Among those not likely to get attention but have been receiving praise nonetheless is Christopher Abbott, whose dark role in James White has been getting a lot of attention recently. While Abbott isn't likely to get an Oscar nomination off of this, it's nice to see him finally getting attention for his great work.

Best Supporting Female

Cynthia Nixon - James White
Jennifer Jason Leigh - Anomalisa
Marin Ireland - Glass Chin
Mya Taylor - Tangerine
Robin Bartlett - H.

Personal Thoughts: I have to admit, I'm loving that Anomalisa is being taken very seriously despite being an animated movie. While it does seem likely that Jennifer Jason Leigh will be getting more attention for the Quentin Tarantino-hyped performance in The Hateful Eight, it does seem hopeful that this is shattering taboos about animated films being legitimate performances by actors. I wish that I could comment on the others, but my knowledge on them isn't high. 

Best Supporting Male

Idris Elba - Beasts of No Nation
Kevin Corrigan - Results
Michael Shannon - 99 Homes
Paul Dano - Love & Mercy
Richard Jenkins - Bone Tomahawk

Personal Thoughts: Again, I don't get the Beasts of No Nation love. While I get Attah's acclaim, Idris Elba is kind of ineffective for me as the brutish leader. Meanwhile, I do find it interesting that Paul Dano is nominated in supporting when most of the commercials for Love & Mercy were focused on his performance. Maybe it's because I haven't seen it, but I still come across a little confused as to how the central character is supporting. Of course, I didn't have high hopes for Love & Mercy anyways, so that's an interesting surprise.

Best Director

Cary Joji Fukunaga - Beasts of No Nation
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson - Anomalisa
David Robert Mitchell - It Follows
Sean Baker - Tangerine
Todd Haynes - Carol
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight

Personal Thoughts: Overall, a strong batch of nominees. I like that Tangerine has pretty much dominated this list. I also like that Anomalisa and Carol are present, as this gives me some hope that the Oscars will be looking a little different because of moves like this (though not likely). While I do not like Beasts of No Nation, I do think that giving Cary Fukunaga a nomination for his direction is apt, as he does a great job of making it look gruesome and exhilarating simultaneously. However, and I'm in the minority again here, I didn't like It Follows. While a fine horror film, I never felt like the direction made the horror any more scary or the story more captivating. The soundtrack did more of the heavy work in my opinion. The rest was kind of bland. Spotlight, as I've said before, is the one to beat. 

Best Screenplay

Charlie Kaufman - Anomalisa
Donald Marguiles - The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy - Carol
S. Craig Zahler - Bone Tomahawk
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer - Spotlight

Personal Thoughts: With exception to Bone Tomahawk, this is a pretty consistent list to what's been showing up this awards season. While Spotlight likely seems to be the favorite, I do think that there's hope that Carol or Anomalisa will be surprisingly more effective and overthrow the category. Meanwhile, The End of the Tour's nomination fills me with joy because of it being less conventional than most of these. The fact that people have been talking about its use of conversation has been one of the highlights of the awards season so far.

Best Documentary

Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker

Personal Thoughts: So glad to see The Look of Silence on here. Maybe it will get Joshua Oppenheimer an Oscar after The Act of Killing failed to make an impression.

Best International Film

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul

Personal Thoughts: I have only seen Girlhood. Still, it's a very good movie and worth checking out. However, the buzz around Son of Saul and being one of the most impressive directorial debuts has got me thinking that it's going to stand a chance at being the film to beat. While I haven't seen it yet, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence has also gotten praise for its dark comedy and existential themes. Between all of these, I'm thinking that Son of Saul is the one to beat.

Best Cinematography

Cary Joji Fukunaga - Beasts of No Nation
Ed Lachman - Carol
Joshua James Richards - Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Michael Gioulakis - It Follows
Reed Morano - Meadowland

Best Editing

Julio C. Perez IV - It Follows
Kristan Sprague - Manos Sucias
Nathan Nugent - Room
Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie - Heaven Knows What 
Tom McArdle - Spotlight

Best First Feature

James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brothers Taught Me
The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Best First Screenplay

Emma Donoghue - Room
Jesse Andrews - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, and Myna Joseph - The Mend
Jonas Carpignano - Mediterranea
Marielle Heller - The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Personal Thoughts: Among these, I have seen Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. While I don't feel that the film was entirely successful, it was very entertaining in what it was trying to achieve. Also, the third act is particularly innovative with how it addresses art as a form of coping. While I haven't seen The Diary of a Teenage Girl, it's another film that has me curious thanks to its frank depiction of sexuality among teenage women. It's supposedly a controversial take, and one that I think might be worth checking out.

John Cassavetes Award

Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award


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