The Spirit Awards came through with several surprises, at least if you go by the narrative from the Oscar world, which isn’t all that reliable since we’re looking at the long game. These awards clearly wanted to spread the wealth. Probably the biggest and most surprising omission was the absence of Melissa McCarthy and Can You Ever Forgive Me. Rather than honoring Marielle Heller for her brilliantly directed film, they went another way and chose to honor directors for films more under the radar, like Debra Granik’s truly brilliant Leave No Trace and Tamra Jenkins’ Private Life.
Paul Schrader’s First Reformed is the only film in the whole list of nominees to earn Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actor nominations. If Beale Street Could Talk, which is also nominated for a Gotham along with First Reformed, earned Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress. First Reformed leads both the Gothams and the Spirits, which would ordinarily qualify it for top Oscar nominations.
Paul Schrader being Paul Schrader means this is a real possibility, despite how so many Oscar folks have mostly only put it in the screenplay category. It is possible it’s in for Director and Screenplay, just like Beale Street.
If things keep going as they’re going, we will all have to reorder our predictions somewhat. Toni Collette also was named for Best Actress for her work in Hereditary at both the Gothams and the Spirits (as did Glenn Close), which might mean she, too, can squeeze into the top five, particularly if the critics stand behind her — as they very likely will, some of them anyway.
The most disappointing thing about these nominations (along with the Gothams) is that BlackKklansman was once again shut out for everything but Adam Driver. For a film that so many praised, for a film that did so well with critics and it being Spike Lee, it remains shocking that there isn’t a push to get the film recognized. It, like all of Lee’s underrated, undervalued work, will likely end up being one of the ones that got away. At this point, its placement at the Oscars remains in doubt.
Onward to the National Board of Review, which will most definitely be more in the ballpark of Oscar than these nominations will be. That’s what is great about the Spirits. It’s always better when they live up to what their intention is: to honor the independent film spirit as opposed to being another cog in the Oscar machine.