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Independent Spirit Awards: 13 Biggest Snubs and Surprises

There may have been a lot of bruised egos and hurt feelings, as well as unexpected champagne-popping, after the Film Independent Spirit Awards were announced on Tuesday morning. It was a list that neglected to mention some of the most acclaimed performances in independent film — including Michelle Williams (“Manchester by the Sea”), Joel Edgerton (“Loving”), Adam Driver (“Paterson”), Sally Field (“Hello, My Name is Doris”), Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”) and Rebecca Hall (“Christine”).

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the swell of support for “American Honey,” the little-seen but critically heralded road trip movie directed by Andrea Arnold. It picked up six Spirit nominations, tying “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age story expected to be an Oscars favorite. “Manchester by the Sea,” directed by Kenneth Lonergan, scored five nods.

It was a good day for A24, the New York indie distributor that landed 19 nominations. Its feature “Moonlight” also took the Robert Altman Award, which precludes its cast — led by Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali — from picking up individual acting nominations. Other festival favorites, such as “La La Land” and “Nocturnal Animals,” weren’t eligible because their budgets are too high (the limit is $20 million).

The Spirit Awards, selected by small committees made up of critics, directors and producers, among others, don’t necessarily overlap with Oscars voters. But the quirky group, which hosts a party in a tent in Santa Monica on the day before the Academy Awards, has become a crucial stop on the awards season trail, and can influence buzz.

Here are the biggest snubs and surprises.


1. “American Honey” scores big
When Andrea Arnold’s drama about a group of nomad kids on a cross-country road trip debuted at Cannes last May, it took the Croisette by storm. But sadly, it was ignored by audiences last fall, only grossing $650,000 in theaters. The Spirit Awards were designed to offer recognition to small movies that fall under-the-radar, and “American Honey” fits the bill. The film scored in many of the top categories, including best feature, director, female lead (newcomer Sasha Lane) and cinematography.

2. Shia LaBeouf gets downgraded to best supporting actor
However, LaBeouf, who carries most of “American Honey” with Lane, got recognized in the best supporting actor category. An upside to that: it’s less competitive, and the Spirits could actually give him the prize for his gritty turn.

3. “Other People” makes a comeback
The Sundance opening night cancer dramedy racked up deserved nominations for Jesse Plemons (best actor) and Molly Shannon (supporting actress), as well as best director (Chris Kelly) and best first feature.


4. Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Williams has been a Spirits darling, picking up six nominations over her career and winning for 2012’s “My Week With Marilyn.” But somehow, this year’s group failed to nominate her for a wrenching portrait of a mother dealing with tragedy in Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea.” Regardless, she’s still seen as a shoe-in for her fourth Oscar nomination.

5. Joel Edgerton, “Loving”
While “Loving” received nominations for best directing (Jeff Nichols) and actress (Ruth Negga), the Spirits overlooked Edgerton, who plays one half of a Virginia couple fighting anti-miscegenation laws in 1967. It’s possible that his restrained performance was too subtle.

6. Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Many think that Bridges will get his seventh Oscar nomination for his wry take on a Texas ranger, on the brink of retirement but still pursuing a pair bank robbers. Instead, the Spirits’ committee recognized co-star Ben Foster’s showier turn as a hot-tempered crook.

7. Kristen Stewart, “Certain Women”
Her co-star Lily Gladstone received a Spirit nomination for her heartbreaking portrait of a woman who falls in love with her teacher. But the other half of this onscreen couple, played by Kristen Stewart, didn’t factor into the best supporting actress category. What’s even worse: she’s never been nominated for a Spirit Award, despite a resume filled with edgy fare like “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Still Alice.”

8. Adam Driver, “Paterson”
Driver’s work as a bus driver who writes poetry in his spare time was a favorite out of last year’s Cannes and picked up a Gotham Award nomination.

9. Sally Field, “Hello, My Name is Doris”
Field should have been a contender for playing a 60-something cubicle worker in the middle of a sexual awakening in this comedy directed by Michael Showalter. It’s one of the best performances of her career.

10. Rebecca Hall, “Christine”
The Spirits seem tailor-made to honor performances like Hall’s, who is superb as troubled 1970s local TV reporter Christine Chubbuck.

11. Kate Beckinsale, “Love and Friendship”
As an amoral social climber, Beckinsale dominates Whit Stillman’s delicious adaptation of a Jane Austen novella. She gets all the best lines, but even her perfectly delivered bon mots weren’t enough to get her an invitation to the Spirits Awards.

12. “Weiner”
James Comey strikes again. The documentary about the sexting congressman’s failed campaign for mayor of New York City received strong reviews out of Sundance. But the recent FBI investigation into his emails that implicated Hillary Clinton (and may have cost her the election) could sideline the movie from future awards glory.

13. “Everybody Wants Some”
Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused,” which centers on a 1980s college baseball team, tanked at the box office, but at least it earned a best picture nomination from the Gotham Awards, the New York-based independent film group.  The Spirits didn’t like it as much.

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