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So, this year's list of nominees for the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards have been announced. How did things shake out? Well, Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" led the way with seven nominations, but Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" wasn't far behind with six.
The nominees for Best Feature were "All is Lost," "Frances Ha," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska" and "12 Years a Slave." My first instinct was to cry foul that Richard Linklater's glorious "Before Midnight" didn't slip in and only managed nods for screenplay and female lead, but as someone put it to me on Twitter, perhaps that just goes to show the quality of work across the independent spectrum this year. There is only so much room.
As has been repeated constantly in this space this season, 2013 has been a spectacular year for movies. And when you look through the various nominees today, it's nice to see that quality represented here as well. I look at that Best Actor list, for instance, and wonder if we could see five from that list at the Oscars. It wouldn't be illegitimate in any way, that's for sure.
I was worried for a moment that, as Film Independent live-tweeted the nominees, Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" would get the shaft much like it did with the Gotham Awards committee (whoever they may have been this year -- though they DID give "Before Midnight" a Best Feature nod). But it popped up, thankfully, in the Best Feature category. That would have been its only mention if not for the added Best Editing category this year. So it goes without saying... poor Greta Gerwig. One of the great performances, lost on an awards season.
Paramount has to be feeling fantastic today. Their little movie that could, "Nebraska," struck me as a sure-fire contender across the board as soon as I saw it late last summer, though many pundits were curiously low on its awards prospects coming out of Cannes. Here it sits, not only an obvious Best Picture contender with the Academy, but potentially a Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Will Forte) nominee there, too. It picked up all of those nominations today, as well as Best Actor for Bruce Dern, Best Supporting Actress for June Squibb and Best First Screenplay for Bob Nelson's work on the page.
The Coen brothers' latest was spotlighted in a couple of areas, though fewer than I would have expected. Best Feature, Best Actor (Oscar Isaac) and Best Cinematography are nothing to sneeze at, but nothing for the filmmakers themselves, in either Best Director or Best Screenplay. But, again, it's a great year. And if titans like the Coens are squeezed out to make room for a few notices for brilliant films like "Short Term 12" (three nominations) and "Mud" (two nominations), then I guess you have to make due.
Speaking of "Mud," I wish it could have received more love but I'm truly happy for Jeff Nichols, who picked up a Best Director nomination. I had wondered going into the announcement whether Matthew McConaughey could be a double nominee, but he was only recognized for "Dallas Buyers Club." Still, the film did win the Robert Altman Award, which goes to the director, casting director and ensemble. That's a great call.
And what can you say about "12 Years a Slave?" Of course it was going to dominate this morning. And so it did. Maybe this will go a long way toward convincing hold-out Academy members (and there are plenty still) to finally watch the film. It was actually a huge day for Fox Searchlight overall, given the nominations for "Enough Said."
Anyway, I imagine I could go on and on, but I'll leave it at that. A couple of our wish list hopefuls turned out, so of that, going into the holiday Thursday, we can certainly be thankful. Have a look at the full list of nominees here. We'll have more coverage on the announcement later today, including a massive interview with "Inside Llewyn Davis" star Oscar Isaac.
Let's see... Am I forgetting anything? Oh! WAIT! WAIT! What am I thinking? I can't leave it at that. Let me close by offering another hearty congratulations to former In Contention contributor Chad Hartigan, whose "This is Martin Bonner" was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award (reserved for films made under the $500,000 price tag). This after the film won the audience prize in the NEXT competition at Sundance. He's going places, folks.
The 29th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards will be held on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
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