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Putting the Spirit Award Nominations in Context of the Oscar Race

As the earliest nominations by major awards groups, both the Gotham and the Spirit Award nominations tell us some things we already knew and some things we didn’t know.  The single biggest thing that stood out to me when I saw them was Pablo Larrain being nominated for Best Director and Jackie getting Picture. Manchester and Jackie both get their lead performances nominated and those performances are frontrunners to win. Today with the Spirit announcement, Jeff Nichols gets in for Picture and not director, while Manchester by the Sea gets in for Picture and but no Lonergan for director. That’s interesting. The only film that gets Picture, Director and Screenplay is Moonlight.

It might sound silly, but once again I think it’s worth pointing out what a big deal it is when a critic like Guy Lodge champions Kelly Reichardt and Andrea Arnold. I do not think Certain Women or American Honey are headed for the Oscar race but it’s clear that this voting body wanted to acknowledge women filmmakers. And it’s a big deal that two are nominated here.

We knew Moonlight was going to be a major player. We’re seeing enough of a strong showing for Manchester, Jackie, Loving and 20th Century Women to warrant their continued participation in the Oscar race. I didn’t see anything that really surprised me except perhaps Pablo Larrain getting in for Best Director. I do think, as you readers have been saying all along, that Jackie is a strong Oscar player all the way around.

It’s nice to see Ralph Fiennes name pop up for a Bigger Splash but it’s sort of too bad that film didn’t get more attention all the way around. It is surely deserving. Likewise, Lucas Hedges and Ben Foster are looking good to go for supporting nods.

We may wonder why the very popular Kenneth Lonergan missed in director, just as you can wonder why Loving missed in Best Picture. I think the absence of both simply shows that it was an extremely competitive year and there was absolutely an effort made to recognize female filmmakers. This is one way the Spirit Awards really do set themselves apart from the Oscars. They do make an effort to stay modern, up to minute and even, at times, activist with their choices.

We definitely need more intel on this race to see where it’s headed. The Spirits give us SOME indication but they don’t tell the whole story, not in the least bit. We’ll need more. My predictions at the moment for which these could win might go something like:

Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight or Pablo Larrain, Jackie

Manchester vs. Moonlight (probably, could be something else)

Bening or Portman

Casey Affleck has a clear shot

I’ll go with 13th

But we’ll have to wait and see what shakes down in the coming months.