Last night, the 21st Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards aired, celebrating 2011's greatest achievements in the world of indie cinema.
Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick) / Beginners (dir. Mike Mills)
Nominees: The Descendants (dir. Alexander Payne), Meek's Cutoff (dir. Kelly Reichardt), Take Shelter (dir. Jeff Nichols)
Winner: Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)
Nominees: Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Harmony Santana (Gun Hill Road), Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Jacob Wysocki (Terri)
Winner: Dee Rees (Pariah)
Nominees: Mike Cahill (Another Earth), Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground), Evan Glodell (Bellflower)
BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
Nominees: The Descendants, Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Take Shelter
Girlfriend (dir. Justin Lerner)
Nominees: Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey (dir. Constance Marks), Buck (dir. Cindy Meehl), The First Grader (dir. Justin Chadwick), Wild Horse, Wild Ride (dir. Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus)
Better This World (dir. Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega)
Nominees: Bill Cunningham New York (dir. Richard Press), Hell and Back Again (dir. Danfung Dennis), The Interrupters (dir. Steve James), The Woodmans (dir. C. Scott Willis)
BEST FILM NOT PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU
Scenes of a Crime (dir. Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock)
Nominees: Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (dir. Madeleine Olnek), Green (dir. Sophia Takal), The Redemption of General Butt Naked (Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion), Without (dir. Mark Jackson)
It's a big day for indie film appreciation. First, last night's 21st Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards recipients were revealed (you can read the list of winners and nominees here). And now, we can cast our judgments and make our predictions about the announcements for the 27th Annual Independent Spirit Awards nominations.
2011 was no slouch when it comes to the release of some quality independent cinema, and the Spirit Awards are paying tribute to that with its diverse list of nominees. On the list, we have comedy, drama, action, romance...and, for the first time in quite a while, a silent film. Check out the list of nominees below, and start your deliberations on the "Who Should Win" vs. "Who Will Win" battle—that's the bread-and-butter of awards season, after all.
27th ANNUAL INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS NOMINEES
BEST PICTURE50/50 The Artist Beginners The Descendants Drive Take Shelter BEST DIRECTOR Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) Mike Mills (Beginners) Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) Alexander Payne (The Descendants) Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) BEST FIRST FEATURE Mike Cahill, Another Earth Patrick Wang, In the Family J.C Chandor, Margin Call Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene Robert Pickering, Natural Selection BEST FEMALE LEAD Lauren Ambrose (Think of Me) Rachael Harris (Natural Selection) Adepero Oduye (Pariah) Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marlene) Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) BEST MALE LEAD Demian Bichir (A Better Life) Jean Dujardin (The Artist) Ryan Gosling (Drive) Woody Harrelson (Rampart) Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter) Anjelica Huston (50/50) Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) Harmony Santana (Gun Hill Road) Shailene Woodley (The Departed) BEST SUPPORTING MALE Albert Brooks (Drive) John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene) Christopher Plummer (Beginners) John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids) Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris) BEST SCREENPLAY The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) Beginners (Mike Mills) The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash) Footnote (Joseph Cedar) Win Win (Tom McCarthy) BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Mike Cahill & Brit Marling, Another Earth J.C. Chandor, Margin Call Patrick deWitt, Terri Phil Johnston, Cedar Rapids Will Reiser, 50/50 BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Joel Hodge (Bellflower) Benjamin Kasulke (The Off Hours) Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris) Guillaume Schiffman (The Artist) Jeffrey Waldron (The Dynamiter) BEST DOCUMENTARY An African Election Bill Cunningham New York The Interrupters The Redemption of General Butt Naked We Were Here Spirit Awards
Misery loves the Savages--always has. Ever since they were kids Wendy (Laura Linney) and Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman) have been plagued by the blasé blues. Even though they went their separate ways the siblings have remained somewhat close geographically--she lives in Manhattan he in Buffalo--and in their discontentment. But what made them this way in the first place their father (Philip Bosco) is about to reunite them. After losing his mind to dementia and his longtime girlfriend (Rosemary Murphy) to well death the old man officially needs to be looked after and that’s where Jon and Wendy reluctantly come in. Despite having not seen their estranged father in ages they fly out to his Arizona senior-citizen-friendly community immediately upon word of his downfall. What they didn’t plan on however is staying more than a couple days. Ultimately they take him back to Buffalo and place him in a nursing home about which Wendy constantly feels guilty. Now forced to live together and look in the metaphorical mirror the siblings Savage learn about self-discovery mortality each other and how to revive a decades-old rivalry as though it had never gone away. Given the way Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman constantly one-up each other in The Savages you’d think there was a real sibling rivalry at play. Of course it’s merely two of today’s very best actors giving par-for-the-course flawless performances. In so doing they create something beyond chemistry: a relationship so fractured and imperfectly perfect that it could only exist between an aging brother and sister. Whether the scene calls for fireworks or subtlety solo or together Linney and Hoffman are always up to the task. Linney is especially wide-ranging as Wendy still fights her midlife crisis. The veteran actress is often heartbreaking because Wendy is often heartbroken even when she tries to convince herself otherwise but Linney still manages to leave the window of hope cracked open--for us and her character. She truly encompasses everything in this her best performance to date. Hoffman is slightly more of a supporting player here but no less impactful. The Oscar winner is apathetic through much of the film but his terse outbursts of anger and/or sadness are stark reminders of his awe-inspiring range as an actor. Perhaps the most savage Savage is the patriarch played with grace by longtime actor Bosco. But instead of vilifying Lenny or making him worthy of all your pity Bosco makes him a rollercoaster of emotion as per Lenny's dementia. It’s been nine years since writer-director Tamara Jenkins’ last--and only other--feature-length film the twisted coming-of-age tale Slums of Beverly Hills which has given her plenty of time to think grow older and think about growing older. She philosophizes aloud in The Savages a movie that addresses everything you don’t want to but with a sardonic edge to it; in fact maybe this is as much a coping mechanism for her as it is an artistic endeavor. While the movie is primarily about the title siblings it essentially explores the human condition under their guise. But Jenkins does so in a way that is never preachy never obnoxious never sappy and always astutely observed. It’s her naturalistic approach to moviemaking that will turn what is ultimately a sharp dramedy into too much of a downer to please casual moviegoers looking for lighthearted fare in wintertime--this is NOT Little Miss Sunshine--but those who go in looking for a drama will be moved occasionally to laughter. Because The Savages is that rare deep movie: heavy on symbolism and meaning light on pretense and contrivance.