Independent Spirit Awards: Good News/Bad News

Meet our new awards expert Joe Reid — keep up with his column for the predictions, news and opinions you’ll need to sound well-informed at parties for the entire awards season.

The 28th Annual Film Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced on Tuesday -- you can check out the full list of nominees here. I made my best guesses for who would be nominated yesterday, but as always, the Spirits had more than their fair share of curveballs ready for me. I did okay. Three-for-five in most categories, with my best showing in Supporting Female, where I missed only Lorraine Toussaint for "Middle of Nowhere," because I was possessed of the fool notion that Nicole Kidman's sticky performance in "The Paperboy" might bring a bit of the A-List to the Spirits.

I should also note that while I was correct in assuming that The Weinstein Company would have no problem sneaking "Silver Linings Playbook" past the $20 million budget cap, I did not anticipate that "Seven Psychopaths" or "The Loneliest Planet" would be deemed American enough to qualify, nor that "Magic Mike" would have its status as a studio film brushed aside. I'm not exactly complaining -- particularly when it comes to "Magic Mike," which kept to a tidy little budget and felt sufficiently indie in spirit.

GOOD NEWS: "Silver Linings Playbook"

With five nominations, The Weinstein Company got their top dog into the Best Feature race, and it's hard to not think of it as the frontrunner to sweep the Spirits on Oscar eve. I'd place Jennifer Lawrence (over Quvenzhane Wallis) and Bradley Cooper (over John Hawkes) as favorites in Female and Male Lead, and David O. Russell the favorite in Director and perhaps even Screenplay. You might expect a backlash against aggressive campaigning from an organization with "Independent Spirit" in their title, but the last few years have shown no indication that voters will rebel against big-time Oscar players.

GOOD NEWS: "Moonrise Kingdom"

Wes Anderson's latest also grabbed five nominations, though I'd say it's only a threat to win in Screenplay. Still, it was a nice get for Bruce Willis in Supporting Male, and maybe the producers of the award show can coax him and his harmonica onstage for one of their customary musical performances. More importantly, as far as the Oscar race goes, five nominations are more than enough to keep fledgling Best Picture hopes afloat, for now. (Next stop: a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical/Comedy?)

GOOD (?) NEWS: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Nominations for Best Feature, Best Female Lead, and Best Director for Benh Zeitlin  all add up to a very good day for the Sundance hit and leading contender to represent true (i.e. non-Weinstein) indies at the Oscars. But it could have been an even better one. No nomination surfaced in Supporting Male for Dwight Henry, as Hushpuppy's troubled dad, nor for screenwriter Lucy Alibar. Alibar's script (adapted from her own stage play) is already fighting an uphill battle at the Oscars, with "Lincoln," "Silver Linings," "Argo," and "Life of Pi" crowding the category.

GOOD NEWS: "Middle of Nowhere"

Showing up bigger than expected was Ada DuVernay's film about a woman dealing with the incarceration of her husband,  which got Best Female Lead for Emayatzy Corinealdi (as predicted), as well as notices in Supporting Female (Toussaint), Supporting Male (David Oyelowo), and a nomination for the John Cassavetes Award, for best feature film made for under $500,00.  This is exactly the kind of movie that benefits most from a Spirit nod, and hopefully more people will end up seeing it now.

GOOD NEWS: "Keep the Lights On"

The day's most unexpected juggernaut was easily Ira Sachs's "Keep the Lights On," which scored for Best Feature, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, along with a Best Male Lead nod for Thure Lindhardt, as one half of a gay couple whose hearts are put through the wringer by the other's drug addiction. Both are fine choices and deserving of the publicity boost.

GOOD NEWS: Matthew McConaughey

In the acting races, the Spirit nod can't hurt the campaigns for performers like Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Smashed") and Ann Dowd ("Compliance"), but the big winner is McConaughey, whose two nominations (supporting for "Magic Mike," lead for "Killer Joe") will only advance the notion that 2012 was the Year of McConaughey. That Oscar nomination is still looking entirely attainable.

BAD NEWS: Richard Gere

Getting shut out for his well-regarded performance in "Arbitrage" is a blow, in no uncertain terms. The Best Actor race at the Oscars is already looking far too crowded to get rushed by such a small film. The Spirits seemed to be the one place Gere was poised to get his due. Alas. Other acting hopefuls who got the cold shoulder include Robert DeNiro, though you can probably chalk his absence from Best Supporting Male for "Silver Linings Playbook" to a fluke more than anything. He's so very Establishment; that's gotta be a tough sell for the Spirits. Think of it like George Clooney getting passed over for "The Descendants" last year.

BAD NEWS: "Hitchcock"

The total shutout for "Hitchcock" -- no Anthony Hopkins, no Helen Mirren, no nothing -- can't be a good sign for that film's awards chances going forward. That said, it's always felt like a far better fit at the Golden Globes than at the Spirits, so maybe that's where it will find traction.

BAD NEWS: Greta Gerwig

One prediction I whiffed on was that Gerwig would see a Female Lead nomination for her festival hit "Frances Ha." Maybe they're holding back to prepare to shower it with love next year, when it will have actually opened. But even so, there were plentiful other opportunities to nominate this ascendant actress, for either her sad-eyed wanderings in "Lola Versus" or for her cracked take on collegiate perfectionism in Whit Stillman's "Damsels in Distress." Better luck next year!

GOOD NEWS: Brit Marling

This might be promising news for Gerwig fans: the darling of Sundance 2011, Marling was nominated twice last year (First Feature and First Screenplay) for the middling "Another Earth," but waited a whole year for her first acting nomination, for her spellbinding performance as a cult leader in "Sound of My Voice." I was a doubter of the Brit Hype myself (she was in "Arbitrage" as well and was, you know, fine), but she knocked me out in "Sound," at turns compelling and quietly terrifying. My favorite nomination of the day.

GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS: "Seven Psychopaths"

The first good news, of course, is that this UK-produced (though American-set) picture was deemed eligible for these awards at all. And even better news for Sam Rockwell, who got an unexpected Supporting Male notice. It was unexpected, mostly, because Christopher Walken had been touted as the supporting actor to watch in the film. Maybe Walken and DeNiro can stage a "Deer Hunter" reunion/cocktail hour while the Spirit Awards play out in Santa Monica. Somebody get Meryl Streep on the phone!

Movie & TV Awards 2018