Home Movie Awards Spirit Awards Nominations: Jennifer Lawrence & James Franco In + What’s American & What’s Ain’t

Spirit Awards Nominations: Jennifer Lawrence & James Franco In + What’s American & What’s Ain’t

Michelle Williams Blue Valentine
Michelle Williams in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine.

Winter’s Bone, in which an Ozark Mountain teenager hunts down her drug-dealing father, topped the 2011 Spirit Award nominations announced earlier today.

Directed by Debra Granik, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone garnered seven nods, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actress (or Best Female Lead) for Jennifer Lawrence, and Best Screenplay.

Just yesterday, the well-received Roadside Attractions release won two Gotham Awards: Best Feature and Best Ensemble Performance.

Top Spirit Award runners-up were Lisa Cholodenko’s family comedy drama The Kids Are All Right with five nods, and, with four nominations apiece, Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Black Swan, Noah Baumbach’s character study Greenberg, and John Cameron Mitchell’s bereaved-family drama Rabbit Hole.

Of those, only Rabbit Hole failed to nab a Best Feature nod, though director Mitchell was shortlisted in place of Greenberg‘s Noah Baumbach.

The fifth Best Feature nominee is the “triumph of the human spirit” drama 127 Hours, which also earned Danny Boyle a Best Director nod.

The acting categories feature numerous Oscar-buzzed names, e.g., Annette Bening and supporting actor Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right, James Franco for 127 Hours, Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart for Rabbit Hole, supporting actress Naomi Watts for Mother and Child, and Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone.

As a British production, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech was ineligible for the Best Feature award, but earned a Best Foreign Film nod. Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, however, was classified as an American film – though written and directed by an Englishman – and was thus eligible in the Best Documentary category.

Also classified as an American production, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go landed only one nomination: Best Cinematography.

Curiously, Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men, France’s entry for the 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, is listed in the Spirit Awards as a Moroccan production – perhaps so Stéphane Brizé’s Mademoiselle Chambon could sneak in as France’s nominee.

Glaring omissions in the various categories include the aforementioned Rabbit Hole for Best Feature; Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right); Robert Duvall (Get Low); Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder (Black Swan); Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine); and Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give, absent from the Best Feature, Best Director and acting categories – though, incongruously, the recipient of the Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble.

At the other end, a surprising inclusion was Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism, which opened at Film Independent’s Los Angeles Film Festival earlier this year. The horror mockumentary’s reviews could hardly be considered overwhelmingly positive.

In case you’re wondering why the critically acclaimed political thriller Fair Game wasn’t shortlisted in any of the categories, that’s because it reportedly cost $22 million. The Spirit Awards’ budget limit is $20 million.

Also of interest: the Best Female Lead category has six nominees this year. In addition to Kidman, Portman, Lawrence, Bening, and Williams, Greta Gerwig was also shortlisted for Greenberg.

The 2011 Spirit Awards will take place on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011. The ceremony will be telecast uncut (in other words, “this is fucking great” in your acceptance speech is acceptable) on IFC at 10 PM ET/PST Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011. (That means the Spirit Awards will once again be – absurdly – tape delayed on the West Coast.) [Update: The after-10 p.m. West Coast time slot might be tied to the FCC’s regulations regarding child-unfriendly programming.]

Photos: Spirit Awards

Spirit Awards vs. Gotham Awards

Eligibility rules for the New York-based Gotham Awards and the Los Angeles-based Spirit Awards aren’t the same. Voting committees – the people who select the nominees – aren’t the same. Categories are different as well.

All that helps to explain the discrepancies found among the nominations of those two award groups dedicated to promoting the cause of low(er)-budget – “independent,” if you wish – American filmmaking.

Yet, comparisons between the Gothams and the Spirits are all but inevitable. Here are a few:

Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, and Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone were shortlisted by both groups in their Best Feature category.

The Gothams’ other two slots went to Matt Reeves’ acclaimed vampire movie Let Me In and Derek Cianfrance’s controversial Blue Valentine, whereas the Spirit Award voters opted for Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.

In the Best Documentary category, only Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s Sweetgrass, about sheepherding in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains, managed to be shortlisted by both groups.

Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give was one of the nominees in the Gothams’ Best Ensemble category and has already been named the winner of the Spirits’ Robert Altman Award for best ensemble cast. (Strangely, none of the Please Give performers were shortlisted in the Spirits’ various acting categories.)

Among the Gothams’ Breakthrough Director nominees, only Tiny Furniture‘s Lena Dunham and Night Catches Us’ Tanya Hamilton had their films shortlisted in the Spirits’ Best First Feature category.

Three of the Gothams’ Breakthrough Actor nominees were shortlisted in the Spirit Awards’ four acting categories: Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone, Gotham winner Ronald Bronstein for Daddy Longlegs, and Greta Gerwig for Greenberg.

And finally, Gotham Awards’ Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You winner Littlerock earned its director, Mike Ott, a Spirit Awards nomination in the Someone to Watch category.

Spirit Awards: What’s American and What Ain’t

In 2009, the Chilean-set The Maid was considered an American production at the Gotham Awards but a Foreign Film at the Spirit Awards.

This year, Tom Hooper’s British-made The King’s Speech is in the running in the 2011 Spirit Awards’ Best Foreign Film category, whereas Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed and written by a British national, is considered an American (or at least partly American) production and thus eligible as Best Documentary.

For those who can’t quite figure out what’s “American” and what ain’t as far the Spirit Awards are concerned, here are a few explanations found on the Spirit Awards faqs page:

How does the Spirit Awards define an “American” narrative feature?

We define a U.S. film by its key creative components. If two of the three key creative positions (director, writer, producer) are U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the U.S., then the film qualifies as a U.S. feature—no matter what language or country the film is made in. For example, if Joan Chen writes and directs a feature shot in China and her actors all speak Mandarin (Xiu Xiu, the Sent-Down Girl), her film counts as a U.S. feature because Joan Chen (writer and director) is a U.S. citizen.

My film is a foreign production but has lead actors who are American and is in English. Does this qualify as an American entry?

Well, not necessarily. A U.S. film is defined as (a) having at least one U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident credited in two or more of the following categories of responsibility: writer, director, producer; or (b) the film is set in the United States and fully financed by a company whose principal office is in the United States.

Does a foreign film entry qualify for any categories other than Best Foreign Film?

No. Foreign films are not eligible for acting, screenwriting, cinematography, or other categories.

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