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Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: 2016

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The great biopic that didn’t get its due. (Source)

The Independent Spirits announced their nominations the other day. Should’ve written it up then, but better late than never.

I will say, before we break it all down…there aren’t a ton of surprises here. More by omission than by anything else.

Really, I’m just biding my time until the 29th, which is when the NBR announces their top 10 and winners. Next to Oscar nominations day, it’s my own favorite awards event.

But let’s not slight the Indies. Let’s dig in.

Best Feature:

  • American Honey
  • Chronic
  • Jackie
  • Manchester By the Sea
  • Moonlight

The hell is Chronic?

It’s a drama about Tim Roth as a nurse who works with terminally-ill patients and deals with his own depression. Probably a perfectly fine film. Seems like an odd choice here though, given that the other four all make sense.

Cool that American Honey is here. I mean, I’d rather see Christine, Don’t Think Twice, Indignation, or a solid half dozen other films here. But it’s nice that it went over as well as it did.

Jackie is a little surprising to see, but I guess it does qualify for these awards (they must, among other things, cost less than $20 million). I can’t wait to see it.

Manchester is clearly going to be a major player this season. I’ll just leave it at that.

Moonlight, if I haven’t spoken about it on here before…is solid. It’s very good, and I’ll highlight some of its other strengths as we talk about other categories. But I’ve seen it twice now, and I don’t think it’s great. Very good, yes, but for various reasons it doesn’t get over the top into true greatness.

Best Director:

  • Andrea Arnold, American Honey
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Pablo Larraín, Jackie
  • Jeff Nichols, Loving
  • Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women

Really? You leave Loving out of Best Feature but you nominate it here? That looks weird.

And leaving off Kenneth Lonergan looks a bit odd too. But I guess on paper I can understand.

Arnold does a solid job. I just nudged her out of my top 15 (I’m only tracking my categories 15 deep. Otherwise it’s a mess to keep them straight and the rankings become even more of a mess than, frankly, they already are), but she gets her vision across well.

Jenkins also does a good job. He’s #7 on my list.

Reichardt is my #8. I didn’t really love her film, but she’s an excellent director and crafts a beautiful looking film (and achieves some beautiful moments).

Best Male Lead:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea
  • David Harewood, Free in Deed
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Jesse Plemons, Other People
  • Tim Roth, Chronic

No Joel Edgerton for Loving?

I haven’t seen any of these performances, which makes talking about this category difficult. Though looking at it, I feel like Affleck wins this easily. I haven’t even heard of Free in Deed (it’s a New Zealand film; sounds interesting enough) or Other People (about a gay man dealing with his mother’s terminal illness and his family’s disapproval of him).

I did mean to see Captain Fantastic and just never did. So that’s something.

I suppose Roth could win this, since his film got a Best Feature nomination, but I think this is Casey’s to lose.

Best Female Lead:

  • Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Sasha Lane, American Honey
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie

This category is so much better than Male Lead that it’s not even funny. I could see any one of these actresses winning.

I’ve only seen Lane’s performance, and it’s a good performance (she’s my #8). I’d say she or Bening is the least likely winner, though. The other three are the real heavyweights.

I’m seeing Elle soon, and for the moment, I’m rooting for Huppert on general principle. Negga and Portman are probably equally worth rooting for, though, and there’s not a truly bad choice to be made here. Even Lane winning would fit in with the idea of these awards celebrating truly independent film.

Best Supporting Male:

  • Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
  • Ben Foster, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester By the Sea
  • Shia LaBoeuf, American Honey
  • Craig Robinson, Morris from America

Decent category.

Foster is my #8 (Side note: It’s weird Hell didn’t get into Best Feature. Remember when people thought that might sneak into the Oscars?). He’s really solid.

LaBoeuf is just outside of my top 15. He’s good. Not as good as he is in, say, Nymphomaniac, but solid.

I meant to see A Bigger Splash. And I really want to see Morris from America.

I have no idea who wins this. I’ll guess Hedges because he’s in the biggest movie and would be considered the breakout performer of the category.

Best Supporting Female:

  • Edwina Findley, Free in Deed
  • Paulina Garcia, Little Men
  • Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
  • Riley Keough, American Honey
  • Molly Shannon, Other People

Gladstone wasn’t quite as outstanding as I was hoping, but hers is the best segment of the film and her performance is definitely a part of that. She’s 8th on my list.

And Keough arguably gives the best performance in that film. At first you think she’s just a hardass, but you realize it’s more complex than that. And she does a good job of showing that with not all that much screentime.

As for the others: Findley has a thriving career on television and in independent film. No idea who she plays in the film. Garcia is in a film I expected would go over bigger than it did; she plays the mother of one of the adolescent protagonists. And Shannon plays the terminally ill mother.

Another category where I really don’t know who wins. Oddly enough, they didn’t nominate Michelle Williams for Manchester By the Sea, when she’d probably win in a heartbeat in this category if they did.

Best Screenplay:

  • Hell or High Water
  • Little Men
  • Manchester By the Sea
  • Moonlight
  • 20th Century Women

Hell or High Water is a very solid script. A little heavy handed with the financial themes, but otherwise, good stuff. My #3 Original Screenplay.

Moonlight is more of a mixed bag. It’s got some really good moments, some not so great moments (they just feel…scripted), and I feel like especially in the final third it’s building up to just a bit more than it actually delivers. So it only makes it to #6 in Original Screenplay – though, it’s funny that it’s been ruled Original even though it was totally based on a play by some other guy. But since the play hasn’t been produced or published, they can count the play as just the “story” and count it as technically Original.

Little Men might be nice. I didn’t love Love is Strange, but it was likable.

20th Century Women should be good. I haven’t even seen the trailer yet, but I’m definitely sold on seeing it.

Best Cinematography:

  • American Honey
  • The Childhood of a Leader
  • The Eyes of My Mother
  • Free in Deed
  • Moonlight

I’m going to just lay it on the line: Certain Women not being nominated is bullshit. It’s my current #1.

That said, American Honey is my #2 and Moonlight is my #7.

Also, I really want to see The Childhood of a Leader. It sounds interesting as hell.

I don’t know much about The Eyes of My Mother, but it’s a horror film, and those aren’t really my scene.


The (hopefully) great biopic that did. (Source)

Best Editing:

  • Hell or High Water
  • Jackie
  • Manchester By the Sea
  • Moonlight
  • Swiss Army Man

Oh, fuck you. So you saw Swiss Army Man and liked it enough to nominate it for something. But not for, I don’t know, Actor, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Director, or Feature? All of which you could make a legitimate case for it in? Dicks.

Hell or High Water is my #8. Moonlight is my #9. Swiss Army Man is my #14.

Jackie should be awesome and Manchester apparently has a well-executed flashback structure. So this is at least a good lineup.

Best First Feature:

  • The Childhood of a Leader
  • The Fits
  • Other People
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The Witch

Can I just say, fuck “First Feature” categories and the like?

A good film is a good film. A good script is a good script. If the best film of the year is a first film, or the best performance of the year came from someone making their debut…you let them sit at the grown-up table. Like Sasha Lane.

These categories always feel so marginalizing to me. I’m sure everyone’s heart is in the right place, but I feel like you’re still consciously or unconsciously working against these films by sticking them over here. The best is the best.

And frankly, Swiss Army Man is better than at least one of the Best Feature nominees. It’s my #14 film overall, but it makes my top 5 in Director, Original Screenplay, and Song, just misses the top 5 in Visual Effects, and wins Supporting Actor.

The only other one I’ve seen is The Witch. It’s solid, but frankly, if ever a film belonged in this category, this is it. Because to me it’s more about showing off Robert Eggers’ skills as a director than telling a memorable story. Because the story is pretty unremarkable, but he directs it well enough that it manages to be a good film overall. My #33 film of the year.

Still really want to see Childhood of a Leader. Other People…meh.

The Fits actually sounds really cool. It’s about a young girl who becomes fixated on being accepted by a dance troupe at her local gym, and the mysterious “fits” they begin suffering. It’s apparently really good.

Best First Screenplay:

  • Barry
  • Christine
  • Jean of the Joneses
  • Other People
  • The Witch

Bastards. You fucking bastards.

You clearly saw Christine. Some of you clearly thought well of it, otherwise it wouldn’t be here.

And still you left it out of Best Female Lead, Best Director, Best…anything the fuck else?!

Idiots. Fucking morons.

Also, The Witch is here. That’s a fucking joke. For awards consideration. It’s not that bad of a script, but come on. There are clearly better options. (It’s out of my top 15, so I don’t have an exact ranking. Probably around #20.)

Barry is the young Obama film that isn’t Southside with You. It’s about his college years. I’m not honestly too on-board with films portraying sitting presidents in an idealized manner (even if I like them), but whatever.

Jean of the Joneses (that sounds like a YA novel from 1905) is about a struggling young writer. It’s probably fine.

Christine should win this by a mile. It’s my #1 Factually-Based Screenplay of the year to date. It’s amazing. It really is. See it.

Best International Film:

  • Aquarius
  • Chevalier
  • My Golden Days
  • Toni Erdmann
  • Under the Shadow

No Elle? That’s odd.

I’ve probably mentioned having seen Under the Shadow already. It’s good.

Chevalier is on Netflix. I need to see it. And of course I want to see Toni Erdmann. Which I have to imagine will win this.

Aquarius and My Golden Days are Brazilian and French, respectively, and appear to be more in the social realist vein. So not as interesting to me as Greek New Wave absurdism or epic-length German cringe-farce.

Best Documentary Feature:

  • Cameraperson
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • Sonita
  • 13th
  • Under the Sun

Strong, strong category. Not sure why there are six, but no matter.

Cameraperson looks really good. It’s a photographer/videographer’s sort of filmic memoir of their travels all around the world. It’s already set to be released on DVD by Criterion, so that’s promising.

I Am Not Your Negro is based on a James Baldwin manuscript about race relations. It’s narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Probably quite good.

O.J.: Made in America…you can probably guess what that’s about. What’s cool is it’s about 8 hours long and is probably riveting the whole way through.

Sonita is about an Afghan girl who became a rapper and raps about the evils of forced marriage and other such injustices. Probably the weak link here, but also one of the only remotely inspiring films in the category.

13th is by Ava DuVernay and is about how the prison system is essentially a modern-day extension of slavery. From what I heart, it’ll get your blood boiling. I could see this winning.

Under the Sun is about a North Korean girl joining some of sort of youth organization. I’m sure it’s not as good as The Red Chapel (which is incredible), but still, most likely worth seeing.

John Cassavetes Award:

  • Free in Deed
  • Hunter Gatherer
  • Lovesong
  • Nakom
  • Spa Night

For films that cost under $500,000.

I’m not going to break these down. Lovesong sounds interesting, though. A lesbian romance with Jena Malone and Riley Keough, both of whom have impressed me this year.

Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble:

  • Moonlight

I can work with this. The acting was excellent across the board. It’s actually my #2 here, behind Don’t Think Twice, but then again, I nominate multiple members of the cast and they did not.

There are some other special awards that I’m not going to get into here. I’ve covered the big stuff.

I’m just waiting for Wednesday and the NBR.


One thought on “Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: 2016

  1. Pingback: Predicting the 89th Academy Awards Nominees | If you want the gravy...

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