×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spirit Awards: ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ ‘Get Out’ Soar, ‘Shape of Water’ Shunned Again

Film Independent’s annual Spirit Awards has become less the consolation opportunity for small films and performances destined to lose at the Oscars the very next night, and more like a trial run. Five of the last six winners of the organization’s top prize have gone on to best picture glory, including “Moonlight” last year.

There’s no causality to speak of here. The Spirit Award nominations are determined by anonymous voting committees, while the winners are determined by Film Independent’s 6,200-strong membership (which can include anyone willing to plunk down the $95 annual dues). The only real Oscar boost any of Tuesday’s nominees gets is this very moment in the sun, which could illuminate, say, Robert Pattinson’s brilliant performance in “Good Time” (also nominated for the east-coast equivalent Gotham Awards), or Salma Hayek’s deserving turn in “Beatriz at Dinner,” for this Academy voter or that. Like so many announcements, it’s about the headline, and an added laurel to the campaign machinery.

The headline Tuesday is “Call Me by Your Name.” Luca Guadagnino’s film led the nominations with six, including best film, best director, best actor (Timothee Chalamet), and best supporting actor (Armie Hammer). That’s quality cannon fodder for Sony Classics’ campaign efforts.

Popular on Variety

Not far behind with five nominations was Universal’s “Get Out,” hot on the heels of the most overblown “controversy” of the season (i.e. the film’s placement in the comedy category at the Golden Globes). Writer-director Jordan Peele’s satire led the Gotham nominations and finds itself on the bubble for serious best picture consideration this year. Keeping the February release on everyone’s radar, whether via Internet Outrage™ or actual awards notices, will be crucial.

One of those “Get Out” nominations went to lead actor Daniel Kaluuya, who deserves to be singled out from the clutter. The lead actor Oscar race is pretty soft at the moment. The only thing everyone really agrees on is that it’s “Darkest Hour” star Gary Oldman’s to lose. But Kaluuya, who was also nominated for a Gotham Award, delivered one of the most nuanced and compelling portrayals in any category this year. Hopefully Academy voters will give him some serious consideration.

There were some interesting omissions that many will seize on as indicative of… something. But spare no tears for actor Willem Dafoe and director Greta Gerwig, passed over for “The Florida Project” and “Lady Bird,” respectively, or for Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which was somewhat surprisingly shut out of the best film category. They’re still very much in the thick of this year’s Oscar race.

It is, however, noteworthy that Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” has again come up short with an independent film awards group. Both the Spirits and the Gothams blanked the film, eligible for both, entirely. It was budgeted at $19.5 million (just under the loose $20 million Film Independent threshold), and del Toro told me recently he even came in under budget by $100,000, officially. Clearly it looks like a movie that cost three times as much, but it’s hard to say why it’s struggling with these particular groups. After all, it’s a critical darling and it generates plenty of passion. Just chalk it up as something to keep an eye on, but my hunch is, while “The Shape of Water” isn’t likely to be the dominant force many expected it to be after winning the Golden Lion in Venice, it won’t find any trouble rallying the passion of its supporters, either.

Plenty of other Oscar contenders showed up in the nominations: Frances McDormand, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, James Franco, Holly Hunter, Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf, Sam Rockwell, etc. “Mudbound” was also once again singled out for a cast prize, as it was at the Gotham Awards. But lots of quality work that isn’t likely to register as “Oscar contender” was also given a spotlight, so again, hopefully voters can expand their horizons and maybe take some counsel with this strong and varied lineup.

The question, though, to bring it full circle, is whether the streak of best picture correlation will continue. If you’re eager for an answer, ask yourself if you can envision “Call Me by Your Name,” “The Florida Project,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” or “The Rider” as this year’s Oscar champ.

Well? Can you?

More Film

  • Worst movies 2019

    The Worst Films of 2019

    Keep in mind that we haven’t seen “Cats.” Or a single one of the half-dozen Nicolas Cage movies released “on demand” (to zero demand?) this past year. Still, in the ongoing quest to find the next masterpiece, film critics inevitably have to sit through a lot more turkeys than your typical moviegoer. Rather than let [...]

  • FAMILIAR FACE -- In Walt Disney

    'Frozen 2' Still Sizzling With $37 Million in Third Weekend; 'Playmobil' Crashing

    “Frozen 2” is gradually warming up the North American box office, with an estimated $37 million its third weekend at 4,440 sites, early estimates showed Friday. Disney’s animated sequel is projected to decline about 57%. Should estimates hold, “Frozen 2” should finish the weekend with nearly $340 million domestically in it first 17 days. With [...]

  • Legendary Logo

    Legendary Invests in Library Pictures to Fund Local-Language Production

    Legendary Pictures has made an investment in Library Pictures International with plans to fund local-language productions. Library Pictures is a content-financing entity organized earlier this year by CAA Media Finance to support industry-leading filmmakers and distributors by investing in local-language production slates. As part of the deal, Legendary becomes part of a team at Library [...]

  • Knives and Skin

    Film Review: 'Knives and Skin'

    Jennifer Reeder’s “Knives and Skin” will test the limits of viewer patience. The positive qualities lie in the surrealistic film’s bold cinematography, distinctive use of music, and diversity of cast, though that’s not enough to redeem this tedious viewing experience. Following a festival run that began at the Berlinale, IFC Midnight is giving the film [...]

  • Frozen 2

    Women In Animation Celebrate a Banner Year

    When “Missing Link” producer Arianne Sutner began her career in the early 1990s, fresh out of college, she had a goal: Get a job working on a film set that didn’t involve doing craft service. Because, she says “as women, they were always kind of either intentionally or unintentionally pointing you in that direction.” After [...]

  • Laura DernIFP Gotham Awards 2019 -

    Palm Springs Festival to Honor Laura Dern With Career Achievement Award (EXCLUSIVE)

    The 31st annual Palm Springs International Film Festival has selected Laura Dern as the recipient of its Career Achievement Award. Dern will be honored at the festival awards gala on Jan. 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The festival runs Jan. 2-13. “Laura Dern is one of the most outstanding and talented actresses of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content