Analyzing today’s 26th Annual Independent Spirit Award nominations, I would say Winter’s Bone, the film that led with the most nods, is also the one to beat, particularly after its triumphs at Monday night’s Gotham Awards where it took the Best Ensemble and Best Feature awards. It is the kind of movie that personifies “indie spirit” and seems to have so much heat in that regard that several Oscar nominations could also be in the picture. It’s generally thought that, for the Best Actress Oscar, the race may come down to Annette Bening vs Natalie Portman, but at the Indie Spirits the front runner is most likely Winter’s Bones’ Jennifer Lawrence with her co-stars Dale Dickey and John Hawkes figuring as viable potential winners in their respective supporting categories as well. Place your bets.
Winter’s Bone led the indie Spirit race with 7 nods, along with The Kids Are All Right, Black Swan, and 127 Hours all nabbed Best Feature nominations. And it’s entirely possible, at least according to current conventional wisdom, that the same quartet will land four of the 10 Academy Awards Best Picture slots as well. This time around, there’s perhaps the closest correlation between the Spirits and Oscar’s Best Picture race seen in years. Which would indicate that, despite the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science’s attempt to broaden the field in the category to include more commercial entries, the indie spirit is still alive and well in both organizations. Only Focus Features’ Spirit nominee Greenberg does not have a realistic chance of getting into the Oscar Best Pic club.
As for the Spirit-ed list of actresses nominated today, Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, and Michelle Williams are also frontrunners for slots in the intensely competitive Actress Oscar race as well. Again, only a 6th nominee, Greenberg’s Greta Gerwig has no shot but then there are only five possible Oscar nominees for Best Actress anyway. This strong showing at the spirits for key Oscar contenders makes this year’s Indie Spirit ceremony, held the Saturday before the Academy Awards on Feburary 26th , all that more interesting as a possible harbinger of the way things could go at the Kodak on Sunday. Of course, there’re alsos the old adage referring to the Spirit/Oscar competitions — “Win on Saturday, Lose on Sunday”. It’s happened to many contenders, many times.
In fact since Platoon won Best Feature at the first ceremony in 1987 and also won the Best Picture Oscar, no other film has been able to pull off that feat. Granted, last year’s Oscar winning Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, almost certainly would have except for its ineligibility due to a technicality that made it eligible for Spirits a year earlier when no one had the film on their radar. (It received only a couple of acting nominations — and lost both.) Crash in 2004 managed to win Best First Feature, but not the big Spirit prize. That went to Brokeback Mountain which got sideswiped at the Academy Awards by upset winner Crash, again proving ‘Win on Saturday, Lose on Sunday’.
As for the rest of today’s nominees, they represent the usual mix of true indie spirit and more commercially viable films. What other ceremony will you find an obscure contender like Ronald Bronstein in the virtually unseen Daddy Longlegs competing for Best Male Lead against the likes of Aaron Eckhart, James Franco, John C. Reilly, and Ben Stiller? Or where Oscar frontrunner The King’s Speech was eligible due to indie Spirit rules for only a single nomination, in the Foreign Film category.