Ideally, there are two races going on at once. One is the Oscar race, with all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it. The other is the independent film race, which one might expect to be a different sphere of influence. Lately, these two world increasingly overlap, because when Big Studio Hollywood mostly stopped making the kinds of films that Oscar voters liked, independent filmmakers stepped up to fill the void. That’s why both Spotlight and Moonlight did very well in both spheres, winning the Gothams, the Spirits, and the Oscars.
But last year the Academy underwent a bit of an identity crisis when it the possibility was posed that a “popular film” category might be created. And just like that, big splashy money-making movies were hot at the Oscars again – Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born, Black Panther. Does that mean that this year the same thing will happen? No one knows. There are so many big question marks punctuating the way this year will go.
However, a few movies — at least in the indie realm — got a nice big break today. Among them, Honey Boy, the trauma recovery film written by Shia LaBeouf and directed by Alma Har’el. It didn’t get a Best Feature nomination but it did earn nods for Har’el, Noah Jupe, and Shia LaBeouf.
The Indie Spirit nominating committee split their awards up widely this year, nominated these films for Best Picture:
A Hidden Life
One way or another, the Spirits appear to be really trying hard to honor women directors. This is pretty obvious, since two films in Best Feature are directed by women and two Best Director nominees are women. However, none of these match up for both, and that is how you build consensus strong enough to get it through to the Oscar race.
So which movies hit the trifecta of Picture, Director, Screenplay?
Only one: Uncut Gems
The biggest surprise was a lack of mention for Noah Baumbach in Director, though Marriage Story did get the Robert Altman award for ensemble and a Screenplay nod.
The nominations are good news for:
A Hidden Life – finally it breaks somewhere
Honey Boy – in play for supporting actors
Uncut Gems – strong here, so who knows
In the lead actress category, other than Renee Zellweger landing, it’s also for Alfre Woodard in Clemency, who gets an added boost by being the only actress with a Best Picture nomination alongside.
The supporting actresses also look good – who knows:
- Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
- Taylor Russell, Waves
- Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell
- Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, Give Me Liberty
- Octavia Spencer, Luce
Lopez, Russell and Shuzhen seem to be building some momentum but it’s a little odd that Waves didn’t get more nominations in other categories, considering what a strong film it is. But remember, they are trying hard this year and last to advocate for women directors — and we certain;y can’t fault them for that.
One thing nice to see was a nod for Jonathan Majors in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which hasn’t really been buzzed much but it’s nice tht it finally got some recognition there.
These nominations are very much in keeping, I think, with the core values of “independent spirit” — which is what they’re supposed to represent. How it will all shake down for Oscar? Well, it’s anyone game, baby.