'Gold,' 'Maps' grab five nods each

The Independent Spirit Awards got religion, as October’s “The Apostle” led the field of 1997 nominees with six nods including best feature and three citations to Robert Duvall. MGM’s “Ulee’s Gold,” Fox Searchlight’s “Star Maps” and the defunct Metromedia’s “Hard Eight” were each cited in five categories.

The alternative American film org presents 11 honors to indies plus a prize to a foreign film. Sponsored by the Independent Feature Project/West, this year’s event will be held on Santa Monica Beach on March 21.

“The Apostle,” a tale of a fundamentalist preacher who winds up on the wrong side of the law and in search of redemption, was a long-gestating project for Oscar-winner Duvall. In addition to starring in the indie financed pic, he wrote and directed.

His performance has already earned him awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and National Society of Film Critics. Other nominees that have been cited by the major critics groups are actors Peter Fonda (“Ulee’s Gold”) and Julie Christie (“Afterglow”) and Kevin Smith’s screenplay of “Chasing Amy.”

The Spirit ballot for best pic includes “The Apostle,” “Chasing Amy,” “Loved,” “Ulee’s Gold” and “Waiting for Guffman.”

“The Bible and Gun Club,” “Eve’s Bayou,” “Hard Eight,” “In the Company of Men” and “Star Maps” are vying in the first-feature category.

This year’s list of nominees runs the gamut from neophytes to industry veterans and movie stars. The directors short list, for instance, comprises the interna-tionally acclaimed Wim Wenders (“The End of Violence”), vet writer-director Paul Schrader (“Touch”), second-timer Duvall, former Sundance winner Victor Nunez (“Ulee’s Gold”) and the very independent Larry Fessenden (“Habit”).

Similarly, such relative newcomers as Stacy Edwards from “In the Company of Men,” Efrain Figueroa of “Star Maps” and Alison Folland of “All Over Me” face challenges from more established performers Farrah Fawcett (“The Apostle”), Roy Scheider (“The Myth of Fingerprints”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“Eve’s Bayou”). Jackson received a second nomination as co-producer of “Eve’s Bayou.”

The Spirits also present awards for debut performances and first-time scripters. The most unusual nomination this year is a single entry for Phuong Duong, Eddie Cutanda and Tyrone Burton of “Squeeze” in the debut acting category for their semi-autobiographical roles as inner-city working-class kids involved in an acting workshop. An organization spokeswoman said the nominating committee felt grouping the three into a single slot was most appropriate.

The annual ballot is determined by an 11-member nominating committee, with the IFP’s 4,500 members selecting the winner. This year, 146 films were accepted for submission in the primary sections with 23 making the initial cut.

“It’s not an easy process,” said a nominating committee member who requested anonymity. “It’s impossible for everyone to see that many films and the group is so unwieldy and disparate that it’s amazing more seemingly odd decisions don’t arise.”

The guidelines for acceptance include requirements that a majority of key creative people be American, that the film be dominantly financed outside the studio system and produced with an “economy of means” (that has recently meant movies with budgets of $10 million or less). The latter rule disadvantages such 1997 releases as “Jackie Brown,” “Wag the Dog,” “Boogie Nights” (directed by “Hard Eight” helmer Paul Thomas Anderson) and “The Ice Storm.” However, a number of acclaimed indies including “The Daytrippers,” “Nowhere,” “Love Jones,” “The Delta,” “Dream With the Fishes” and “Kiss, Me Guido” also failed to secure a single nomination.

Another irony in the rules and regs is that a film need not have a U.S. copyright to be eligible. In 1996, the top prize went to the French-produced “Leaving Las Vegas.” “Kama Sutra,” largely British-financed and set in India, received a best cinematography nomination this year.

The finalists in the foreign-film category are: “Happy Together” (Hong Kong), “Mouth to Mouth” (Spain), “Nenette et Boni” (France), “The Sweet Hereaf-ter” (Canada) and “Underground” (Bosnia).

A complete list of nominees follows:

FEATURE

“The Apostle,” Rob Carliner, producer

“Chasing Amy,” Scott Mosler

“Loved,” Philippe Caland

“Ulee’s Gold,” Peter Saraf, Sam Gowan

“Waiting for Guffman,” Karen Murphy

FIRST FEATURE

“The Bible and Gun Club,” producer/director, Daniel J. Harris

“Eve’s Bayou,” director, Kasi Lemmons; producers, Caldecot Chubb, Samuel L. Jackson

“Hard Eight,” Paul Thomas Anderson; Robert Jones, John Lyons

“In the Company of Men,” Neil LaBute; Mark Archer, Stephen Pevner

“Star Maps,” Miguel Arteta; Matthew Greenfield

DIRECTOR

Robert Duvall, “The Apostle”

Larry Fessenden, “Habit”

Victor Nunez, “Ulee’s Gold”

Paul Schrader, “Touch”

Wim Wenders, “The End of Violence”

ACTOR

Robert Duvall, “The Apostle”

Peter Fonda, “Ulee’s Gold”

Christopher Guest, “Waiting for Guffman”

Philip Baker Hall, “Hard Eight”

John Turturro, “Box of Moonlight”

ACTRESS

Stacy Edwards, “In the Company of Men”

Julie Christie, “Afterglow”

Alison Folland, “All Over Me”

Lisa Harrow, “Sunday”

Robin Wright Penn, “Loved”

SCREENPLAY

Robert Duvall, “The Apostle”

Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, “Waiting for Guffman”

Victor Nunez, “Ulee’s Gold”

Paul Schrader, “Touch”

Kevin Smith, “Chasing Amy”

DEBUT SCREENPLAY

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Hard Eight”

Miguel Arteta, “Star Maps”

Daniel J. Harris, “The Bible and Gun Club”

Neil LaBute, “In the Company of Men”

Steven S. Schwartz, “Critical Care”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Efrain Figueroa, “Star Maps”

Samuel L. Jackson, “Hard Eight”

Jason Lee, “Chasing Amy”

Ajay Naidu, “SubUrbia”

Roy Scheider, “The Myth of Fingerprints”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Farrah Fawcett, “The Apostle”

Amy Madigan, “Loved”

Debbi Morgan, “Eve’s Bayou”

Miranda Richardson, “The Apostle”

Patricia Richardson, “Ulee’s Gold”

DEBUT PERFORMANCE

Tyrone Burton/Eddie Cutanda/Phuong Duong, “Squeeze”

Aaron Eckhart, “In the Company of Men”

Lysa Flores, “Star Maps”

Darling Narita, “Bang”

Douglas Spain, “Star Maps”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Michael Barrow, John Foster, “Sunday”

Frank DeMarco, “Habit”

Robert Elswit, “Hard Eight”

Declan Quinn, “Kama Sutra”

Alex Vendler, “The Bible and Gun Club”

FOREIGN FILM

“Happy Together” (Hong Kong), Wong Kar-Wai

“Mouth to Mouth” (Spain), Manuel Gomez Pereira

“Nenette et Boni” (France), Claire Denis

“The Sweet Hereafter” (Canada), Atom Egoyan

“Underground” (Bosnia), Emir Kusturica

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