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The Film Independent Spirit Awards, now in their 33rd go-at-it, have an annual tradition of recognizing two very different types of low-budget movies.
There are those festival darlings destined to land on every major awards ballot for the next three months, culminating with the Oscars. Those would be past winners like Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Spotlight, and Birdman. And then there are the more obscure titles that only the most hardcore cinephiles are aware of, like last year’s unexpected duo of Chronic and Free in Deed.
Such was the case once again with Tuesday’s announcement of the 2018 Spirit nominations, courtesy of actresses Tessa Thompson and Lily Collins (see full list of nominees here). Here are the five films that gained the most from the Film Independent love in the epic enterprise known as awards season:
Call Me by Your Name
Luca Guadagino’s much-loved coming-of-age tale about a 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet) who falls for a grad student (Armie Hammer) staying at his family’s Italian villa for the summer led the way with six Spirit Award nominations (Best Feature, Best Director for Guadagino, Best Male Lead for Chalamet, Best Supporting Male for Hammer, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography), which allows it to be called by the name of early frontrunner. A Best Feature triumph would be just peachy for the film’s Oscar chances: The last four movies to win that prize at the Spirit Awards (Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman, and 12 Years a Slave) won Best Picture at the Academy Awards the very next day.
The What? Chloé Zhao’s moody arthouse drama about an injury that forces a horse trainer (Brady Jandreau) off the saddle is the Chronic of this year, a tiny unknown drama that racked up multiple nominations (four to be exact: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography). Most impressively, The Rider will compete in that top race against more widely celebrated films Call Me by Your Name, The Florida Project, Get Out, and Lady Bird. If you weren’t at Cannes or Telluride and are wondering why you haven’t heard of The Rider yet: The film doesn’t yet have a U.S. theatrical release date, but this should help it clear that hurdle.
That was an independent film? It’s easy to forget that Jordan Peele’s hypnotic social satire (“comedy?”) was made for a mere $4 million given its major-studio distribution and staggering $175 million domestic gross. That’s $166 million more than all of its Best Feature competitors combined (though to be fair, Call Me by Your Name and The Rider haven’t been released yet). Either way, Get Out‘s five nominations (it’s also on the ballot for Best Director and Best Screenplay for Peele, Best Male Lead for Daniel Kaluuya, and Best Editing) further cement its status as the rare genre movie in the thick of the Oscar race.
Tying Get Out for the second highest number of nominations with five is the Safdie brothers’ dark and shifty indie heist thriller featuring a career-best performance from recovering heartthrob Robert Pattinson. The film stole noms for Best Director (Benny and Josh Safdie), Best Male Lead (Pattinson), Best Supporting Female (Taliah Webster), Best Supporting Male (Benny Safdie), and Best Editing. A critical darling that seems to be trending upward, the film’s bounty of Spirit noms could lead to some more good times on the awards circuit.
Dee Rees’s stunning Jim Crow-era racial drama did not register nominations in any of the Spirit Awards’ competitive categories, but it’s already been named the winner of the Robert Altman Award, recognizing the year’s best ensemble cast, director, and casting director. That’s a step in the right direction for an acclaimed and topical film whose Oscar chances seem more tenuous since it’s a Netflix film, and the streaming service hasn’t yet been able to break through in a meaningful way with Academy voters. But this honor went to Moonlight and Spotlight the past two years, and it worked out pretty well for them.
The 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards, once again cohosted by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, will be held March 3.
Watch stars at the Governors Awards make their early Oscar predictions:
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