Indie Spirit Nominations Could Predict Oscar

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 BonesJennifer 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.

  1. I just looked up Winter’s Bone on IMDB. Sheryl Lee is apparently in it. That reminds me – what the hell happened to all talented actors from Twin Peaks? The women were especially gorgeous and in a more natural way than today’s plastic surgerized wanna bes.

  2. There were much stronger true indies such as Blue Valentine that should have been recognized with many more nominations. The Greenberg noms are ridiculous. Totally political. I bet the only male actor nominated on this list who has a shot at an Oscar nom is James Franco.

    1. oh enough already harvey. blue valentine is a pretentious mess with so much scenery chewing by gosling that he couldn’t even get a nom at the spirits

  3. boy, I hate to write this, as I respect how difficult it is to get small films like Winter’s Bone made, but after seeing it once it just didn’t do it for me. So I watched it again and was left flat. Maybe it’s so low key and the story isn’t all that interesting I had no response to it emotionally as I left the theater.
    I think the hype is based on the fact it’s so “anti” what is being churned out of Hollywood/Sundance lately that it’s blinding people to the fact that it just isn’t a great movie.

    Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think I am.

  4. Considering this year was not that spectacular for movies overall, Winters Bone — which was a mediocre film IMO – would fit right in with whatever the Academy decides.
    Nobody saw Winters Bone.

  5. “boy, I hate to write this, as I respect how difficult it is to get small films like Winter’s Bone made, but after seeing it once it just didn’t do it for me.”

    Nor me. I walked out halfway through.

    I think because it’s directed by a woman (echoes of K Bigelow) is the reason it’s being nom’d.

  6. It’s an insanely strong lead actress year this year, which is nice to see for a change. But i’m guaranteeing one of these actresses will miss out on an Oscar nom and be replaced by a young actress no one is looking at yet – Hailee Steinfeld. She’s a phenomenon in the Coens’ True Grit. She won’t threaten Portman’s guaranteed win but i’d bet the farm she scores a nomination, probably over Williams from this list. Portman, Lawrence, Bening, Kidman and Steinfeld – i’m tellin’ ya.

  7. To be honest, Winter’s Bone is a decent film, but nothing special. It showcases some great performances from Lawrence and Hawkes, but other than that nothing else really stands out.

    Concerning the best actress race, it’s still Portman vs Bening. However, Lawrence will for sure snag a nomination.

  8. Dale Dickey deserves an Oscar nomination for the chainsaw scene. After 4 years of My Name Is Earl, she really knew how to turn on the coldness. Her biggest threat is a Winona Ryder comeback buzz for The Black Swan. Remember when Winona was loved?

  9. Can’t believe Greenberg got nominated over Blue Valentine. Blue Valentine was on an entirely different level and definately deserves to be nominated here.

  10. Winter’s Bone is an incredible film. It captures part of America that is rarely seen. John Hawkes also is lights out in it and deserves a nomination.

  11. This morning was another happy day for me. Seeing Winter’s Bone get praised like this is great news. Maybe it will help turn the film industry back to the Golden 90’s or even better the 70’s.

    As much as there is hatred for big stupid films like Avatar, there is equal hatred for independent films that are trying to be something they are not.

    What is important is Winter’s Bone may not be Affliction, and it may even be slow, yet you are left with a feeling. An example of this is The Ice Storm. Average to me, yet I still recall reading the script and the feeling of the movie. It sits in your gut.

    Please do not confuse indie wannabees with the real thing. I can go on about those that try to be but I think the Spirit Award nominations got it right this year. They may not all be great but the ones left off were certainly not deserving of anything. Often “filmmakers” get loads of praise for an indie they made, especially if they have a star in it. They often believe the film is good. But thankfully the truth comes clean when the Spirit Awards are announced.

    Don’t fall for the hype. More often than not if you’ve heard of nobody in the film, it turns out better than the ones with A list talent.

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