Like their New York counterpart Gotham Awards, the Film Independent Spirit Awards are by no means a gauge of what to expect from the Academy. But like any awards announcement this time of year, they can fan the flames of a campaign looking for a boost.
It was a safe assumption that “Carol” and “Spotlight” would go over well for the nominating committees, as they did with Gotham voters. But two films landed in the best feature category that will be looking to turn the corner on bigger things for Oscar: “Anomalisa” and “Beasts of No Nation.” The former was acquired by Paramount after bowing at the Telluride Film Festival, and the studio would really love for it to be perceived as more than just an animated contender. The latter, meanwhile, has been looking to move the needle with countless A-lister-hosted screenings in Los Angeles and New York.
The other best feature nominee was “Tangerine,” a fantastic inclusion. Both Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor were nominated, which reminds me: Who says there aren’t any women of color in the awards race this season? Both have been the focus of the first Oscar campaign for transgender actresses in history, and while the road might end with indie tips of the hat such as this, they shouldn’t be marginalized as exceptions to a rule.
(Note: “The Danish Girl” and “Suffragette” were among the films ineligible outside of the international film category.)
I was surprised to see such limited love for Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy,” still one of the year’s best movies and one that could have used more than just a supporting male citation for Paul Dano. On the other hand, that might help narrow the campaign’s focus (in a supporting actor field that is more crowded than ever). But Elizabeth Banks remains a strong force in her category despite deferring to a field of women today that isn’t likely to translate for Academy voters. (That said, the inclusion of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s voice work for “Anomalisa” is a brilliant note; she might be better there than as a gnarly, fowl-mouthed outlaw in Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.”)
Another boost came for “99 Homes” star Michael Shannon. Broad Green Pictures has been trying to rev the engines on that push for a while now, but again, the best supporting actor category is positively thick with possibilities.
Elsewhere, there was apparently no room for, well, “Room” in the best feature lineup, though the film did pick up three nominations. It also missed out on a Gotham nomination in the top category. Does that hurt its Oscar chances? Nah.
If anything gets taken more seriously in the best picture race now, though, it’s probably “Carol.” Leading the pack with six nominations, it’s a film that has been lingering as a strong possibility since Cannes. But in a year so odd, so all over the map, so dependent on various little bases of support with not much blanket approval for this or that contender to go around, it’s been in need of a cumulative effect. This continued awards spotlight (cinematographer Ed Lachman also won the Camerimage award over the weekend) keeps it fortified.
Now, if critics want to push the issue after the Thanksgiving holiday, they can really light the fuse. Will NYFCC or LAFCA hand it a best film prize? Soon enough, it’ll be their move.
Check out the full list of Film Independent Spirit Award nominations here.