‘Tis the Season: “2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations”

Awards season has technically been upon us for some time. I, for some ridiculous reason, choose to not pay all that much attention to anything not involving the typical awards everyone else pays attention to. So, what’s that reason? There’s just too many to keep track of, and some seem to sneak up on you when you’re not paying attention.

Today, regardless of whether or not they were leaked early again, the nominees for the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards were released. I didn’t even know this was coming up as I have simply been focusing on other things. Even if I had known, today was still a very exciting day for anyone invested in this year’s awards season!

I feel that this year is a really competitive one. I know we say this every year, or believe it to some degree or another, but the quality of films this year certainly speaks louder than even last year. After reading the nominees from Deadline.com, and stopping to get up and be over the moon about what I’d read, amongst other laughter and excitement I showed, I definitely made up my mind about bringing this awards ceremony into the mix. I just felt I couldn’t read such exciting nominees, even if some I’ve not heard of, or only vaguely heard of, and not write about them in some way. Some of these nominees are expected to be major players in the big awards (Oscar, SAG, Golden Globes, etc.), so it certainly seemed the right choice, more so than in the past. Those past years I’ve actually only read, but never put too much thought into them. Sorry, it happens.

So, how am I going to tackle this particular group of nominees? By definitely talking about the ones I know about, which includes some I haven’t seen, and maybe a few that I know nothing about. There’s at least one. It’s easiest as these are the film’s I have seen, that make me really excited about this particular year’s nominees. The rest I don’t know of yet, or very little about them, which is what is great about awards, as it introduces them to me and makes me a bit more interested than before.

So, for those of you wondering which ones I’m most thrilled about seeing nominated, more or less, they are as follows:

“Carol” with six nominations total; Best Feature, Best Female Lead for Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

“Spotlight” with four nominations and the special Robert Altman Award, bringing it to five total nominations; Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing.

“Beasts of No Nation” with five nominations; Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead, Best Supporting Male, and Best Cinematography.

“Room” with three nominations; Best Female Lead, Best First Screenplay, and Best Editing.

“It Follows” with three nominations; Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” with one nomination for Best First Screenplay.

Let me start with the obvious on why I’m excited bout these films. I’ve seen all but two of these, but I expect that “Carol” and “Room” will live up to all my expectations, and even pass them.

While some may not find nominations outside of acting all that exciting or important, which anyone will argue they truly are with any awards, here, I’d say they are more so than others. These are independent films, and these types of films typically don’t get much notice except by critics. At least, not at at first.

Take, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”. It was in and out of theaters really fast that I’m surprised I even caught it. I did. So did critics, and that’s probably about it. It probably didn’t bring in that much money either. So to see that Jesse Andrews’s script got nominated is incredible! If this script hadn’t been that good, no studio would’ve picked it up and taken the chance, even though they would of known it wouldn’t make millions, and we’d never have seen it. It is that good. The same can be said for “It Follows”, which along with a nod for Best Director, got nominations in more technical categories. But here, like with “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, and every film made, these technical achievements are crucial to bringing the film to life. Most of what I felt while watching “It Follows” wouldn’t have been possible if not for these two specific areas. I’m so glad these two films are being recognized at all.

“Beasts of No Nation” isn’t a film I’m surprised by, in terms of nominations here. If I’d thought about it before they were announced today, I’d probably have guessed a few of the categories it would be nominated in. However, while all the nominations are probably well deserved, for the type of film it is, I don’t see this being all that helpful in other major awards.

First off, which I’ll talk about at some point, as I have seen this film, I don’t find that what this film achieved was truly all that spectacular. The final result is a good and compelling film, but not one that will be able to push through all the other infinitely better films. It’s a sad reality of smaller films, and films that tackle heavy, heavy issues, particularly when they’re filled with lots of extreme violence. In this case, I’m not talking about the over the top, somewhat comical violence that accompanies a Quentin Tarantino film. I’m speaking of the realistic violence, which may be necessary, but still could hurt a films chances. The only other main reason I’m not terribly excited for this film is when I saw it, I don’t think I responded too well. I wasn’t put off by the necessary violence or occasional subtitles, I was more or less bored. I found myself tuning in and out, and that was enough for me to truly stop caring about any of what occurred. Okay, I also found Idris Elba not all that interesting in his supporting role. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t a performance that rose as high as I had envisioned. Maybe I’ll need to see it once more.

The highly regarded film, “Spotlight” is a phenomenal film. I recently saw this (and need to write on it), and was amazed by every aspect. To me, for many reasons I’ll get to when I write about it, the acclaim and recognition this film has received are well deserved. Seriously. This film is one that should be seen as quickly as possible. It does so much more than merely tell the behind the scenes story of real life events, which shocked the country and probably the world. Sitting in the theater watching, which I was surprised by, I found myself being shocked by what I was learning. It’s the upside/downside of being too young to know what happened during a given event. Take that into consideration when you think about seeing this film, as it could very well change the viewing experience and ultimately make it more worth it for you. And, of course, there’s the Robert Altman Award, which, in part, recognizes the ensemble cast. This is one film with a stellar ensemble! Another reason why this film works so well, should be seen, and is absolutely deserving of this award.

“Carol” and “Room” are the only films I haven’t seen of the ones I’m most excited about. The release schedules for these films have made it a little difficult for me to see them. Which, like with many indie films, is usually the problem. They’re never in a theater near you, or for very long. For both, just purely on the marketing, I’ve been just building up the excitement. I really want to see these films. When I saw the trailers for these films I was blown away. They were both so powerful and the stories looked so captivating.

“Carol” had the added benefit of just looking so beautifully done. “Room”, just about every time I saw anything about it, a trailer, TV spot, or featurette, just moved me so much. Tears were coming to my eyes. It shows how impactful the film will be among other things. Brie Larson’s performance looks incredible and the little boy who plays her kid, just amazes me. Then, which I’ll really see when I see “Room”, the relationship between them will be one that is truly inspiring. With “Carol”, it’s the two leads, Blanchett and Mara, which will have me in awe and have me so emotionally moved. I have complete confidence in these two women, even though with Mara, I’ve seen very little of her work. I guess that speaks to how strong the chemistry they have on screen is, as it’s already radiating off the screen in trailers and TV spots, that I can’t stop looking. I want more of this story.

The last thing I can say on why I believe these films will be great, based on footage I’ve seen now, is I’ve read the book that “Room” is being adapted from. It was a good book and the adaptation is written by the author and it looks faithful. “Carol”, based on “The Price of Salt”, I’m hoping to be able to say the same. I have to finish it still, but so far, it’s looking like it will be a book worth having been adapted.

The only films I’m a bit more interested in now, if only to finally see the trailer, are “Anomalisa” and “99 Homes”. This is because I’ve actually heard the most about them, and it’s been positive. I’ve also at least seen a big promotional piece at one of the theaters I’ve been to for “99 Homes” The majority of the other nominees I have a vague feeling of hearing about, or I’ve just never heard of them. With so many films that come out each year, this isn’t surprising.

The films “Truth”, “Trumbo”, and “Brooklyn” all have one thing in common. If you’ve read the list of nominees than you know exactly what that is. None of these films were recognized. This is just another area where the same arguments had each year arise. One film should’ve been nominated and another not. I, like how I view the major awards, don’t see this as an indicator that these films are bad. Far from it. “Truth” is an exceptional film, with another great performance from Blanchett. Even the source material, which makes “Truth” possible, is amazing to read. These films simply show how crowded each year is and how there are some films that are much more worthy of top five recognition. That’s truly what this is about. Which films were the best. Sadly, while these films are probably not bad, they were not the absolute best. And that, of course, is according to a group of people that hold different views than my own or anyone else’s.

Even though it’s been considered as having occurred for awhile, I guess I’ve officially decided to join in this year’s awards season. It’s a really exciting year for film, and I can’t wait to see what kinds of conversations come up as more and more films debut and award nominations are announced. Of course, at the same time, I don’t want to have to hear the same complaints dominate the entertainment news. That such and such an awards show or organization is unfair, racist, or otherwise. I don’t even want to hear how such and such a film should or shouldn’t have been nominated. We get it, you don’t agree. That will never change. If these negative sides to the overall positives were different or constructive, then I might be open to listening and chiming in. Seeing as they have yet to be, I’ll probably stick to watching from the sidelines.

The rest of the nominees can be found here, along with a not so happy point on how, two years in a row, the nominees were leaked early. A shame. The winners of the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards will be announced on Feb. 27, 2016 exclusively on IFC at 2PM PT/5PM ET.


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