2016 Independent Spirit Awards Nominations Reactions: ‘Beasts’ comeback, ‘Tangerine’ joy, ‘Room’ gets snubbed

'Anomalisa' is on its way to being seriously overrated
Idris Elba in 'Beasts of No Nation'

The 2016 Independent Spirit Awards nominations were announced this morning and, as always, the results were a mix of the predictable and not-so predictable when you only have 8-10 people on each voting committee.  (Actually, the nominations were revealed hours earlier after they were mistakenly published online, but it’s not like they had a TV opp for all the major networks for the official announcement to worry about so…whatever).

“Carol” probably sealed a Best Picture Oscar nomination with six Spirits nods including Best Feature and two Lead Actress nominations for both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.  “Beasts of No Nation” made an awards season comeback with five nods including Best Feature, Best Male Lead (Abraham Attah) and Best Supporting Male (Idris Elba).  “Anomalisa” was probably the biggest surprise taking four nods including a history making Best Supporting Female nod for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s vocal performance.  “Spotlight” only earned four nods, but it took the Robert Altman honor for ensemble which took some pressure of its stars getting into the acting categories.

While films like “Room” and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” were snubbed in many categories the only truly great relief was the love for “Tangerine.”  Sean Baker’s Sundance breakthrough earned four nods including Best Female Lead for Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Best Supporting Female for Mya Taylor.  Shockingly, the one nomination you would have thought was a given – Cinematography – didn’t come to pass and this pundit is still shaking his head on that one.

Here’s some quick reactions to the nominations in each category.

Best Feature
Award given to the Producer; Executive Producers are not awarded.
“Beasts of No Nation”

Reaction: Listen, I think “Anomalisa” is a very good movie bordering on being overrated at this point, but “Room,” “It Follows” (which I’m not even a huge fan of personally) or “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” deserved that slot.

Best Director
Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation”
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, “Anomalisa”
David Robert Mitchell, “It Follows”
Sean Baker, “Tangerine”
Todd Haynes, “Carol”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

Reaction: If you’re going to go to six nominees instead of five, perhaps an equally deserving woman such as Marielle Heller deserves to be in the mix.  Especially considering the film lives on its inspired direction?

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, “Anomalisa”
Donald Margulies, “The End of the Tour”
Phyllis Nagy, “Carol”
S. Craig Zahler, “Bone Tomahawk”
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, “Spotlight”

Reaction: The bizarre love for “Bone Tomahawk” begins.  Why “Tangerine” or “Love & Mercy” isn’t here is insane.

Best First Screenplay
Emma Donoghue, “Room”
Jesse Andrews, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, “The Mend”
Jonas Carpignano, “Mediterranea”
Marielle Heller, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

Reaction: Hopefully Heller or Donoghue will win this category.

Best First Feature
Award given to the director and producer.
“James White”
“Manos Sucias”
“Songs My Brothers Taught Me”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

Reaction: Well, here’s one category at least that is pretty hard to argue with.

Best Female Lead
Bel Powley, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, “Tangerine”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”

Reaction: Blythe Danner and Lily Tomlin were snubbed, but overall you can’t really argue with these five.

Best Male Lead
Abraham Attah, “Beasts of No Nation”
Ben Mendelsohn, “Mississippi Grind”
Christopher Abbott, “James White”
Jason Segal, “The End of the Tour”
Koudous Seihon, “Mediterranea”

Reaction: The pool was smaller than you think for this category, but John Cusack deserved a nod for “Love & Mercy” here.  Maybe even Thomas Mann from “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”? Andrew Garfield in “99 Homes”?

Best Supporting Female
Cynthia Nixon, “James White”
Jennifer Jason Leigh, “Anomalisa”
Marin Ireland, “Glass Chin”
Mya Taylor, “Tangerine”
Robin Bartlett, “H.”

Reaction: Some strange ones here for sure (no Elizabeth Banks in “Love & Mercy”? Really?)  Jennifer Jason Leigh makes history, but at least the field is set up so that Mya Taylor has a legitimate shot to win.

Best Supporting Male
Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”
Kevin Corrigan, “Results”
Michael Shannon, “99 Homes”
Paul Dano, “Love & Mercy”
Richard Jenkins, “Bone Tomahawk”

Reaction: Kevin Corrigan? Richard Jenkins?  Really? No Jacob Tremblay (“Room”) or any of the actors from “The Stanford Prison Experiment”?  Or Alexander Skarsgard from “Diary”?  Good news is that Elba will likely take this one for “Beasts.”

Best Documentary
“Best of Enemies”
“Heat of a Dog”
“The Look of Silence”
“The Russian Woodpecker”

Reaction: The noteworthy films that didn’t make the cut is too long to list, but that just reflects how wide open this year’s Best Documentary Oscar race is.

Best Cinematography
Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation”
Ed Lachman, “Carol”
Joshua James Richards, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”
Michael Gioulakis, “It Follows”
Reed Morano, “Meadowland”

Reaction: Again, the idea “Tangerine” didn’t make the cut here is ludicrous. At worst they should have added a six slot. You could also argue for “Room,” “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

Best Editing
Julo C. Perez IV, “It Follows”
Kristan Sprague, “Manos Sucias”
Nathan Nugent, “Room”
Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie, “Heaven Knows What”
Tom McArdle, “Spotlight”

Reaction: Clearly, the editing, feature and directing committees are all on very different wavelengths.  That’s our Spirits!

Best International Film
“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence”
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Son of Saul”

Reaction: Well, at least “The Assassin” didn’t make the cut (could have been budget though).  “Victoria” is a huge omission here as are “45 Years,” “Youth” and “Brooklyn.”

John Cassavetes Award
Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director and producer; Executive Producers are not awarded.
“Christmas, Again”
“Heaven Knows What”
“Out of My Hand”

Reaction: “Krisha” or “Heaven Knows What” for the win.

Robert Altman Award

Reaction: This will be a great photo opp before the Oscars the next day.

Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
The 22nd annual Someone to Watch Award, sponsored by Kiehl’s Since 1851, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl’s Since 1851.
Chloe Zhao, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”
Felix Thompson, “King Jack”
Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, “God Bless the Child”

Piaget Producers Award
The 19th annual Producers Award, sponsored by Piaget, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.
Darren Dean
Mel Eslyn
Rebecca Green & Laura D. Smith

Truer Than Fiction
The 21st annual Truer Than Fiction Award, sponsored by LensCrafters is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by LensCrafters.
Alex Sichel and Elizabeth Giamatti, “A Woman Like Me”
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, “Incorruptible”
Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, “Among the Believers”


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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios, has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times and co-founded HitFix, Inc. serving as its first Editor-in-Chief and President. Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.

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