‘Banquet,’ ‘Ruby’ top IFP noms

The story of a young woman’s coming of age in a Florida resort town and a gay Asian-American businessman’s arranged marriage plans topped the list of honorees for the eighth annual Independent Feature Projects/West’s Spirit Awards.

October Film’s 1993 Sundance award-winner “Ruby in Paradise” and Goldwyn’s “The Wedding Banquet” each received six nominations, including best picture nods , from the event’s 11-member award committee. New Line and its Fine Line division secured 12 nominations, leading the distributor tally. The awards presentation will take place March 19 at the Hollywood Palladium.

The 10-category paeans to American indies took on additional drama this year when the the nomination slate came under scrutiny at a Tuesday board meeting. The inclusion of several titles was put into question and one picture — Gramercy’s “A Dangerous Woman”– was disqualified.

“We’re thrilled with the quality recognized through the nominations,” said IFP/W chairman Jonathan Wacks. “You always hope that it will reflect a wide diversity and this truly demonstrates the continued vitality of the independent world.”

Triton’s “American Heart”– a gruelling tale of marginal life in the big city — was cited as best in five areas including first feature.Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” from Fine Line and Alan Rudolph’s “Equinox,” via IRS Media, were both nominated for best picture and in three additional categories.

One of the major surprises on the slate was a best picture slot for Goldwyn’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” At first glance “Much Ado” would not appear to qualify as an American indie. But IFP/W director Dawn Hudson said that as the film was largely U.S. financed and had Americans in its cast, it met event eligibility guidelines.

“Much Ado’s” inclusion in the best picture category was the subject of heated discusssion by the IFP/W board. A significant faction felt it more properly should be in the foreign film category.

“I believe the rules will be changed next year,” said nomination chairman Geoff Gilmore. “As they stand now, any American-financed film outside the majors qualifies. ‘Much Ado’ was financed by Goldwyn, so there is no question of its eligibility.”

Gilmore noted that there are additional inclusionary provisos that allow films financed outside the U.S. in whole or part to be accepted. The films have to have at least two Americans among the producer, director and writer components. Both “The Wedding Banquet” and “Equinox,” which were primarily financed by (respectively) Taiwanese and Canadian sources, would not otherwise be included.

Defining what does and does not qualify for the Spirits has been an ongoing thorn in the side of the organization. Currently, films produced independently but released by a major fit the rules. “El Mariachi,” acquired by Columbia, was on the ballot in first feature and direction sections.

“A Dangerous Woman” was developed at Amblin and financed by Universal in its joint distribution venture with Polygram. Gilmore said the committee was mistakenly told that Universal’s financial involvement came only after production. Another source at IFP/W was less diplomatic, saying the committee was “downright lied to.”

Jane Campion, who wrote and directed “The Piano,” is rumored to be the keynote speaker for the awards luncheon, but officials would not confirm.

After New Line and its Fine Line label’s 12 noms, Goldwyn was close behind with eight, followed by October with seven, and the recently defunct Triton named six times for its films. Miramax, acquired by Disney in May, had but three nods, including two in the foreign-language section.

The nominees are:

FILM

“Equinox,” IRS Media

“Much Ado About Nothing,” Goldwyn

“Ruby in Paradise,” October

“Short Cuts,” Fine Line

“The Wedding Banquet,” Goldwyn

FIRST FEATURE

“American Heart,” Triton

“Combination Platter,” Arrow

“El Mariachi,” Columbia

“Mac,” Goldwyn

“Menace II Society,” New Line

LEAD ACTOR

Jeff Bridges, “American Heart”

Vincent D’Onofrio, “Household Saints”

Mitchell Lichtenstein, “The Wedding Banquet”

Matthew Modine, “Equinox”

Tyrin Turner, “Menace II Society”

LEAD ACTRESS

Suzy Amis, “The Ballad of Little Jo”

May Chin, “The Wedding Banquet”

Ariyan Johnson, “Just Another Girl on the IRT”

Ashley Judd, “Ruby in Paradise”

Emma Thompson, “Much Ado About Nothing”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

David Chung, “Combination Platter”

Tate Donovan, “Inside Monkey Zetterland”

Todd Field, “Ruby in Paradise”

Edward Furlong, “American Heart”

Christopher Lloyd, “Twenty Bucks”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Lara Flynn Boyle, “Equinox”

Lucinda Jenny, “American Heart”

Ah-Leh Gua, “The Wedding Banquet”

Julianne Moore, “Short Cuts”

Lili Taylor, “Household Saints”

DIRECTOR

Robert Altman, “Short Cuts”

Ang Lee, “The Wedding Banquet”

Victor Nunez, “Ruby in Paradise”

Robert Rodriguez, “El Mariachi”

John Turturo, “Mac”

SCREENPLAY

Robert Altman, Frank Barhydt, “Short Cuts”

Edwin Baker, Tony Chan, “Combination Platter”

Ang Lee, Neil Peng, James Shamus, “The Wedding Banquet”

Victor Nunez, “Ruby in Paradise”

Nancy Savoca, Richard Guay, “Household Saints”

FOREIGN FILM

“Like Water for Chocolate”

“The Piano”

“Naked”

“Orlando”

“Story of Qui Ju”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

James Bagdonas, “American Heart”

Elliot Davis, “Equinox”

Lisa Rinzler, “Menace II Society”

Nancy Schreiber, “Chain of Desire”

Alex Vlacos, “Ruby in Paradise”

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