Is 'The Artist' In Spirit Of An American Indie?

Do the Spirit Awards matter? They’re supposed to bring needed attention to American independent film – and they do. But the devil is in the details. The Artist just swept France’s top film awards, the Césars. But if the film wins the top prize today at the Independent Spirit Awards, then it will be America’s top indie. The Artist made the cut as an “American film” this year as outlined by the Spirit Awards’ general guidelines. But shouldn’t there be more stringent qualifications to ensure the focus is on American film if the Spirits’ mandate is to champion American independent cinema and not just make the cut on a technicality? If the momentum-meter is any indication, The Artist could win best feature today and likely take the Oscar after winning best film at the British BAFTAs. So it wouldn’t be a year that the Spirits distinguished itself as a voice for American independent film at least in the Best Feature category. This isn’t meant to be a hazing of The Artist. (Though I can’t understand how Weekend by Andrew Haigh failed to make the cut when The Artist did.) Perhaps the Spirits – including its selection committee and its voters – should leave the big tent to the Oscars and nurture its American indie/specialty niche. Perhaps it’s time for Film Independent and its 6,900 qualifying voters to consider some rule changes.

  1. After all the complaints about the technicalities in the Academy’s guidelines for Foreign Language and Documentary categories, you now want to add technicalities to the Spirit Awards to keep potentially deserving movies out? Is that the thesis? Would you still be complaining about The Artist’s Spirit noms if the Academy had ignored it? Or would you be complaining about their leaving it out? Hmmm.

    1. The focus, unlike the Oscars, for the Spirit Awards is intended to be specific. Its strange to argue then that one should try to be open to broad rules because the Oscars aren’t. It seems you are trying to solve a problem with the wrong awards show.

      1. Mostly American cast, but the three key people who matter most — Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress. All three are French and though I’m not sure about the Actress, the lead actor can barely speak English to give an acceptance speech (which made him uniquely qualified to play a role that had no speaking parts). Though with some serious work on it, he has a real chance to become a crossover star like Cristoph Walz. Still, though, it’s great that they decided to come to Los Angeles to shoot this movie about old-time Hollywood and employ some well-known American actors in the supporting roles. It’s very border-line if you want to include it in this category, though…

    2. There was no way, with the buzz and Best Actor win from Cannes BACK IN MAY 2011 that the Academy would’ve been able to ignore this film – nor should any awards organization. Not with the Weinsteins shepherding it. I’m sure in producing and distributing THE ARTIST was a great creative risk and bold approach. However, the sheen of it being American, when not actually home-grown, and having more momentum than any of the other nominees (minus DESCENDANTS) echoed a signal that says the Spirits won’t veer too far from the Oscars. A clearer vision and closed-up loopholes should come around.

    3. Agreed. I was disappointed in the Spirits this year (especially) since so many of the strident indies were crushed by Hollywood films. I don’t know how to suggest a resolution, but is it fair to true indies that a film with global financing and production be in the same category as one where the actors worked for free?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. The Artist was a great film, but it doesn’t meet my definition of American or Independent.

  3. I agree with you that The Artist should not be included.

    But it made the cut by virtue of it been filmed in the US with the participation of some American crew participation. Dubious, but that’s why.

    Weekend on the other hand was not remotely American in any way, shape or form.

    Their rules are often confusing – how does Footnote get into the screenplay category? It’s an Israeli film, in Hebrew. It was not released in the US during 2011. The director was born in the US – but so was the director (and lead actor) of A Separation (which actually did open in 2011.)

  4. Hold on now. The Artist had the balls to make a silent movie with no major stars, with a mostly US crew all in Hollywood, with no rebate. That’s more indepent thinking than most recent movies!

    1. I must concur.

      For that level of odds-defying creative risk, they deserve to sweep everything available and then some.

  5. I can tell you when actor nominees were announced, no one here in press tent applauded for artist actor but whooped it up for Ryan Gossling

  6. It was made in Hollywood with an American crew and cast (except for the two leads) and it’s about Hollywood in transition. So, other than the cast, crew and content being American I completely agree.

  7. Back it down. This film was made independently and shot here. That’s it, it won. It was the little creative darling that no one saw coming. Bravo.

  8. It’s interesting to me that the winner almost every year of the Spirit awards is the highest grossing nominee and usually the highest grossing indie of the year.

    1. I can’t imagine that any of the nominations and media buzz had anything to do with the increased veiwership had anything to do with the high gross.

  9. I was surprised to see the artist included in the nominees but I certainly did not think it should win — against Drive, the descendants and 50/50???? Come On, I thought that independents would vote for something that had more substance, does Harvey have the IFC in their back pocket too?

    Same with jean dujardin — up against ryan gosling and damien bachir — COME ON.

    At least they got margin call, michelle williams and shailene woodley and decendants screenplay correct.

  10. Thank you. I was just asking this question during a webcast. Then complaining about it on Facebook. I totally agree that the Spirits should start tightening their rules, even in light of how many indies can and must seek international co-production funds. Purely French above-the-line, THE ARTIST, as charming as it seems, is literally the most “internationally”-awarded film in awhile. By the time I write this, it’s taken major awards at the Sprits and everywhere else! The Oscars will guarantee more! It doesn’t make sense to not champion home-grown indies and kow-tow to the mainstream.

  11. I couldn’t agree more with this. I was shocked it was even nominated for a Spirit award. Certainly NOT in the spirit of an American independent film.

  12. I am reminded, that while watching the BAFTAS a few weeks ago, the audience was quite tepid responding to The Artist winning. And when the acceptor starting praising Harvey, they really sat on their hands. I thought after TINKER TAILOR ETC..won screenplay, there was no way Artist would win. Oh well.

  13. It is amazing that not many people are mentioning the fact that these award shows are all staged and hacked.

    From George and Brad even being nominated to The Artist winning all seems staged. Everyone knows harvey buys his oscars so whats the big deal. I dig the Oscars being the night filled with tradition, etc. But the seriousness of it all is mockery to the craft.

    About SBC, didn’t Shakespeare say, “the world is a stage” or something like that. I just wish SBC came with something funnier or put on a tux. Its the same, set-up bit he pulled with EMINEM at the MTV awards. Didn’t work then–didn’t work yesterday.

    Also would like to see more tech awards given away, this will show more kids the diverse amount of jobs behind the camera. #IMJUSTSAYIN

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