Nov 272014


The 30th Independent Spirit Award nominations have been announced early this morning Australian time, with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) leading the way with six nominations. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler and Ava Duvernay’s Selma each scored five.

Movies budgeted over $20 million, such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, or funded and produced overseas are ineligible.

 You can find all of the nominees and my thoughts, after the jump.


Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole


Producers: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland

Love is Strange

Producers: Lucas Joaquin, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, Jay Van Hoy


Producers: Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Oprah Winfrey


Producers: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michael Litvak

The choices here aren’t unexpected, but I am surprised Love is Strange is getting so much love. No love for Oscar hopefuls Foxcatcher and A Most Violent Year, though the latter does have several nominations elsewhere. Boyhood and Birdman are two of the few locks for Best Picture Oscar (and perhaps Selma too). Considering the films that have been nominated in other categories but were left out here – Nightcrawler and Only Lovers Left Alive notably – this could have been a stronger field (I think).


Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Ava DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

David Zellner, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

David Zellner’s nomination for Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is a big surprise, his film replacing Ira Sachs’ in an all-but copy of the Best Feature nominees. I had issues with Kumiko, despite its originality and a weird balance of tone that kept it engaging. Linklater and Inarritu (and potentially DuVernay) seem to be contending for an Oscar nomination, and everyone loves Chazelle and Whiplash. 


Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Big Eyes

J.C. Chandor, A Most Violent Year

Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive

Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, Love is Strange

FANTASTIC to see Gilroy and Jarmusch nominated here. I am yet to see Big Eyes or A Most Violent Year but they will have to be pretty strong screenplays to take it away from either of them. Interestingly, Love is Strange is the only film here also nominated for Best Feature so the award could go to Sachs and Zacharias.

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour; Producers: Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah

Dear White People

Director/Producer: Justin Simien; Producers: Effie T. Brown, Ann Le, Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez, Lena Waithe


Director: Dan Gilroy; Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

Obvious Child

Director: Gillian Robespierre; Producer: Elisabeth Holm

She’s Lost Control

Director/Producer: Anja Marquardt; Producers: Mollye Asher, Kiara C. Jones

I am torn between Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Nightcrawler here. Both are stunning films. Instant classics. Dear White People and Obvious Child have been critical darlings so it is great to see them with some recognition here.


Desiree Akhavan, Appropriate Behavior

Sara Colangelo, Little Accidents

Justin Lader, The One I Love

Anja Marquardt, She’s Lost Control

Justin Simien, Dear White People

Yet to see any of these, but The One I Love is set to have a tiny theatrical release here next month. Appropriate Behaviour was well received here at the Sydney Film Festival. The nominees here aren’t a surprise.

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.

Blue Ruin

Writer/Director: Jeremy Saulnier; Producers: Richard Peete, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani

It Felt Like Love

Writer/Director/Producer: Eliza Hittman; Producers: Shrihari Sathe, Laura Wagner

Land Ho!

Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens; Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

Man From Reno

Writer/Director: Dave Boyle; Writers: Joel Clark, Michael Lerman; Producer: Ko Mori


Writer/Director/Producer: Chris Mason Johnson; Producer: Chris Martin

I have only seen Blue Ruin and I didn’t care for it. I am alone.


Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant

Rinko Kikuchi, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Jenny Slate, Obvious Child

Tilda Swinton, Only Lovers Left Alive

It is interesting that no one has really been talking about Marion Cotillard in this year’s Oscar race for her performance in…Two Days, One Night. It isn’t eligible here but she’s pretty good in The Immigrant too. Maybe this will spark voter’s memories. Any nomination for Only Lovers Left Alive is welcomed, but Julianne Moore is the one to beat here. She’s fantastic in Still Alice. Interesting omissions: Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Beyond the Lights, Reese Witherspoon for Wild and Hilary Swank for The Homesman. 


André Benjamin, Jimi: All Is By My Side

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

John Lithgow, Love is Strange

David Oyelowo, Selma

Andre Benjamin is undoubtedly a surprise, but perhaps the biggest headscratcher here is Lithgow (who is hardly the lead in the ensemble). Keaton and Oyelowo look headed for Oscar, but a win here for Gyllenhaal would be huge. He’s building momentum (as it is) anyway. Ouch omissions: Tatum and Carrell for Foxcatcher. Did they see the film?


Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Carmen Ejogo, Selma

Andrea Suarez Paz, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

Emma Stone, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Jessica Chastain, great in almost everything she appears in, has been generating a lot of buzz for her performance in A Most Violent Year, and this will probably come down to her, Patricia Arquette and Emma Stone.


Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Alfred Molina, Love is Strange

Edward Norton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

I’m pretty close to calling this whole category a joke, with Mark Ruffalo’s exclusion for Foxcatcher. Having said that, the four performances I have seen here (Norton’s excluding) are very good. It is somewhat strange that Lithgow and Molina have been split into Lead and Supporting for Love is Strange. I thought Molina was the MVP of the film. Ethan Hawke was my favourite part of Boyhood, and while Simmons’ character in Whiplash has problems, he’s brilliant.


Darius Khondji, The Immigrant

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Sean Porter, It Felt Like Love

Lyle Vincent, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Bradford Young, Selma

Wow, Lyle Vincent is going to wonder what more he could have done. A Girl Walks Home Alone is incredibly beautiful. From what I have heard about Lubezki achievement in Birdman, he’ll likely win. But, Bradford Young’s name has been mentioned several times in relation to Selma, I thought he must have been one of the supporting cast. There you go.


Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Tom Cross, Whiplash

John Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Ron Patane, A Most Violent Year

Adam Wingard, The Guest

I’d certainly consider giving this to Cross for his pristine tempo-matching editing, but Nightcrawler is such a polished film – pretty much perfect on a technical level – that it would score another vote.  Perhaps they will go with Adair for the sheer volume of footage to condense down. It is very elegantly done I might add.

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)

20,000 Days on Earth

Directors: Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard; Producers: Dan Bowen, James Wilson


Director/Producer: Laura Poitras; Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

Stray Dog

Director: Debra Granik; Producer: Anne Rosellini

The Salt of the Earth

Directors: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders; Producer: David Rosier


Director/Producer: Orlando von Einsiedel; Producer: Joanna Natasegara

I am just so glad that 20,000 Days on Earth was nominated. I loved that film. It is the only one I have seen here, and I expect CITIZENFOUR to win.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)

Force Majeure


Director: Ruben Östlund

Ida (Poland)

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Leviathan (Russia)

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Mommy (Canada)

Director: Xavier Dolan

Norte, the End of History (Philippines)

Director: Lav Diaz

Under the Skin (United Kingdom)

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Now here’s a great category. I haven’t seen Norte but the rest are sublime. Dolan vs Glazer though. Two of he year’s most unforgettable cinematic experiences. It could be that five of the six here end up represented at the Oscars. Winter Sleep and Two Days, One Night – overlooked here – are the challengers.

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – (Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)

Inherent Vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Casting Director: Cassandra Kulukundis

Ensemble Cast: Josh Brolin, Martin Donovan, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio Del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Michael Kenneth Williams, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon



Director/Producer: Bennett Miller; Producers: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik; Writers: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

Actors: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum

What does this award mean? The sixth best in every category? Or, forget what you have just read – this is the film we love the best? Foxcatcher is great. It deserves to be amongst a lot of these categories.

18th ANNUAL PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD – The 18th 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.

Chad Burris

Elisabeth Holm

Chris Ohlson

21st ANNUAL KIEHL’S SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 21st 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.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour


Directors: Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia

The Retrieval

Director: Chris Eska

Now Ana Lily Amirpour will received appropriate recognition.

20th ANNUAL LENSCRAFTERS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 20th 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.

Approaching the Elephant

Director: Amanda Rose Wilder

Evolution of a Criminal

Director: Darius Clark Monroe

The Kill Team

Director: Dan Krauss

The Last Season

Director: Sara Dosa


What are your thoughts on this year’s Independent Spirit nominations?


By Andrew Buckle