Independent Spirit noms announced

'Half,' 'Miss' share lead

Fox Searchlight’s offbeat family comedy “Little Miss Sunshine” and ThinkFilm’s drug-addiction drama “Half Nelson” picked up five nominations each to lead all contenders for the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards, announced Tuesday.

The two pics each received best feature noms, joining IFC’s “American Gun,” First Look’s “The Dead Girl” and Picturehouse’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

Don Cheadle and Felicity Huffman announced the nominations in 13 categories Tuesday morning at the Sofitel Hotel. Winners will be revealed Feb. 24, the day before the Academy Awards.

Film Independent, which administers the awards, decided last year to limit nominations to films with budgets under $20 million.

“Little Miss Sunshine” is by far the biggest commercial success of the 41 films receiving noms, with $59 million in domestic grosses in four months. Road-trip pic, which carried a $12 million pricetag, also received nominations in the supporting actor category for Alan Arkin and Paul Dano, in directing for Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and for first screenplay for Michael Arndt.

“Little Miss Sunshine” is “right up the middle of what independent films aspire to,” “Sunshine” producer Ron Yerxa told Daily Variety. “It’s light but realistic and heartfelt, which is tough to pull off. And I think with ‘Half Nelson’ doing so well, these two films cover a lot of ground of what independent films should be.”

“Half Nelson,” with $2.7 million in domestic box office, took noms in the lead actor and actress categories (Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps) and dual mentions for Ryan Fleck for directing and first screenplay along with Anna Boden.

“My job as director and screenwriter was easy because Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps had such great chemistry on and off the screen,” Fleck told Daily Variety. “They made the life shine through the film.”

Besides Gosling, nominees for actor are Aaron Eckhart in Searchlight’s “Thank You for Smoking,” Edward Norton in Warner Independent’s “The Painted Veil,” Ahmad Razvi in Films Philos’ “Man Push Cart” and Forest Whitaker in “American Gun.”

Joining Epps in vying for the actress prize are Catherine O’Hara in Warner Independent’s “For Your Consideration,” Elizabeth Reaser in “Sweet Land,” Michelle Williams in “Land of Plenty” and Robin Wright Penn in IFC’s “Sorry, Haters.”

In addition to the helmers for “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Half Nelson,” the directing category pulled in two high-profile names — the late Robert Altman for Picturehouse’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and Steven Soderbergh for Magnolia’s “Bubble” — along with Karen Moncrieff for “The Dead Girl.”

A quartet of pics received three noms each: “American Gun,” “The Dead Girl,” First Look’s “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” and “Man Push Cart.”

Eight films pulled in two mentions apiece: “Four Eyed Monsters,” Sony Classics’ “Friends With Money,” “The Painted Veil,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Sorry, Haters,” “Sweet Land,” “Thank You for Smoking” and “Wristcutters: A Love Story.”

Among distributors, IFC received the most nominations with nine, followed by Searchlight with seven, First Look with six and ThinkFilm with five. IFC president Jonathan Sehring noted the shingle received noms for half a dozen different movies, including two (“Land of Plenty” and “Sorry, Haters”) as part of its First Take slate, whose pics are released day-and-date in theaters and through video-on-demand.

“To get recognition for the First Take films, which otherwise would probably not have gotten a theatrical release, is very satisfying,” he said.

First Look president Ruth Vitale noted the shingle, which has been revamped over the past year, was able to score half a dozen nominations from two pics with budgets well under $10 million. “Both of these — ‘The Dead Girl’ and ‘A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints’ — are tough calls, so this really helps us establish ourselves as a place that takes risks and is filmmaker-friendly,” she added.

In a category designed to herald emerging producers, “Half Nelson” received additional recognition with a nomination for the Axium Producers Award. The duo of Alex Orlovsky and Jamie Patricof also were nominated for “Point & Shoot” along with Julie Lynn for “Nine Lives” and “10 Items or Less” and the duo of Howard Gertler and Tim Perell for “Shortbus” and “Pizza.”

Also announced were a special distinction award for David Lynch and Laura Dern for their collaborative work on “Blue Velvet,” “Wild at Heart” and “Inland Empire.”

Film Independent will send out ballots Jan. 1 to about 12,000 members of its org and the Independent Film Project.The 2006 Spirit Awards matched the Oscars only for “Capote” star Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Spirit Awards ceremony will take place in a tent on the Santa Monica beach, with Sarah Silverman as emcee.

And the 2007 Independent Spirit nominees are…

FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)
“American Gun,” Ted Kroeber, producer
“The Dead Girl,” Tom Rosenberg, Henry Winterstern, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright, Eric Karten, Kevin Turen, producers
“Half Nelson,” Jamie Patricof, Alex Orlovsky, Lynette Howell, Anna Boden, Rosanne Korenberg, producers
“Little Miss Sunshine,” Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, producers
“Pan’s Labyrinth,” Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuaron, Frida Torresblanco, Alvaro Augustin, Guillermo Del Toro, producers

FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
“Day Night Day Night,” Julia Loktev, director; Julia Loktev, Melanie Judd, Jessica Levin, producers
“Man Push Cart,” Ramin Bahrani, director; Ramin Bahrani, Pradip Ghosh, Bedford T. Bentley III, producers
“The Motel,” Michael Kang, director; Matthew Greenfield, Miguel Arteta, Gina Kwon, Karin Chien, producers
“Sweet Land,” Ali Selim, director; Alan Cumming, James Bigham, Ali Selim, producers
“Wristcutters: A Love Story,” Goran Dukic, director; Adam Sherman, Chris Coen, Tatiana Kelly, Mikal P. Lazarev, producers

Robert Altman, “A Prairie Home Companion”
Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Ryan Fleck, “Half Nelson”
Karen Moncrieff, “The Dead Girl”
Steven Soderbergh, “Bubble”

Aaron Eckhart, “Thank You For Smoking”
Ryan Gosling, “Half Nelson”
Edward Norton, “The Painted Veil”
Ahmad Razvi, “Man Push Cart”
Forest Whitaker, “American Gun”

Shareeka Epps, “Half Nelson”
Catherine O’Hara, “For Your Consideration”
Elizabeth Reaser, “Sweet Land”
Michelle Williams, “Land of Plenty”
Robin Wright Penn, “Sorry, Haters”

Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Raymond J. Barry, “Steel City”
Daniel Craig, “Infamous”
Paul Dano, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Channing Tatum, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”

Melonie Diaz, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”
Marcia Gay Harden, “American Gun”
Mary Beth Hurt, “The Dead Girl”
Frances McDormand, “Friends with Money”
Amber Tamblyn, “Stephanie Daley”

Neil Burger, “The Illusionist”
Nicole Holofcener, “Friends with Money”
Ron Nyswaner, “The Painted Veil”
Jason Reitman, “Thank You For Smoking”
Jeff Stanzler, “Sorry, Haters”

Michael Arndt, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, “Half Nelson”
Goran Dukic, “Wristcutters: A Love Story”
Dito Montiel, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”
Gabrielle Zevin, “Conversations with Other Women”

Arin Crumley, “Four Eyed Monsters”
Anthony Dod Mantle, “Brothers of the Head”
Guillermo Navarro, “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Aaron Platt, “Wild Tigers I Have Known”
Michael Simmonds, “Man Push Cart”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
“Chalk,” Mike Akel, director; Mike Akel, Angela Alvarez, Graham Davidson, Chris Mass, producers; Chris Mass & Mike Akel, writers
“Four Eyed Monsters,” Arin Crumley & Susan Buice, writer/director/producers
“Old Joy,” Kelly Reichardt, director; Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy, Anish Savjani, Neil Kopp, producers; Jon Raymond & Kelly Reichardt, writers
“Quinceanera,” Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland, writer/directors; Anne Clements, producer
“Twelve and Holding,” Michael Cuesta, director; Leslie Urdang, Michael Cuesta, Brian Bell, Jenny Schweitzer, producers; Anthony S. Cipriano, writer

DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)
“A Lion in the House,” Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert, directors
“My Country, My Country,” Laura Poitras, director
“The Road to Guantanamo,” Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, directors
“The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, directors
“You’re Gonna Miss Me,” Keven McAlester, director

FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)
“12:08 East of Bucharest,” (Romania); Corneliu Porumboiu, director
“The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros,” (Philippines); Auraeus Solito, director
“Chronicle of an Escape,” (Argentina); Israel Adrian Caetano, director
“Days of Glory,” (France/Morocco/Algeria/Belgium); Rachid Bouchareb, director
“The Lives of Others,” (Germany); Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director

David Lynch, Laura Dern