Spirit Awards: Where's Oscar Season Favorite & How American Is Tolstoy? + Split Annies

Precious Gabourey Sidibe Paula Patton. Dysfunctional family drama tops Spirit AwardsPrecious with Gabourey Sidibe and Paula Patton. The Spirit Awards' eventual big winner – topping all of its five nominations – was Lee Daniels' dysfunctional family drama Precious, adapted by Geoffrey Fletcher from the novel Push by Sapphire. Gabourey Sidibe plays the illiterate Harlem adolescent Claireece “Precious” Jones, a rape victim – by her own father (Rodney 'Bear' Jackson) – who is systematically abused by her unemployed mother (Mo'Nique). Hope arises in the form of a new, caring teacher (Paula Patton). Initially named Push, Precious had its title changed to avoid confusion with the Chris Evans-Dakota Fanning thriller Push.

Spirit Awards: Urban family blight vs. Tolstoy's brave last days

The nominees for the 25th Spirit Awards have been announced. Two of the titles in the running for Best Picture also happen to be this year's most nominated films, with five nods apiece:

  • Lee Daniels' Harlem-set dysfunctional family drama Precious, featuring Best Actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe and Best Supporting Actress nominee Mo'Nique.
  • Michael Hoffman's The Last Station, a German-British co-production chronicling the last months in the life of Leo Tolstoy. James McAvoy, and nominees Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer star.

But how could a non-American production be shortlisted for the Spirit Awards? Well, the answer seems to be writer-director Hoffman, who was born in Hawaii.

In terms of surprises and/or unusual choices, there's quite a bit more.

Awards season favorite left out

For starters, where's Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, winner of two Gotham Awards – Best Picture and Best Ensemble – and a likely Oscar contender?

Well, don't panic. The Iraq War drama was nominated last year in (a mere) two categories, Best Actor (Jeremy Renner) and Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Mackie). It was thus ineligible this year.

Bear in mind that in addition to commercial runs, movies screened at six U.S.-based festivals are eligible for the Spirit Awards on any given year.

A tale of two juries

Now, what is really weird is that at the Spirit Awards' March 5 ceremony, Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man will be receiving the Robert Altman Award, which is akin to a Best Film prize as it honors a film's director(s) and cast.

Even so, A Serious Man is nowhere to be found among the Spirit Awards' five Best Feature nominees: (500) Days of Summer, Amreeka, The Last Station, Precious, and Sin Nombre. Nor is leading man Michael Stuhlbarg to be found among this year's Best Actor nominees. A tale of two juries, it seems: one for the Robert Altman Award; another for the narrative film nominations.

More glaring omissions: From Michael Moore to the usually snubbed James McAvoy

Below are several other glaring omissions from this year's Spirit Award nominations:

  • Michael Moore's documentary Capitalism: A Love Story.
  • Louie Psihoyos' dolphin slaughter documentary The Cove.
  • Ben Foster in the Best Actor category for Oren Moverman's The Messenger.
  • Zooey Deschanel in the Best Actress category for Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer.
  • 2009 Stockholm Film Festival Best Actor winner Edgar Flores for Cary Fukunaga's Sin Nombre.
  • Actress Hiam Abbass and director Cherien Dabis, whose Amreeka is a Best Feature nominee. (Dabis did at least get a Best First Screenplay nomination).
  • Veteran Hal Holbrook (All the President's Men, Into the Wild) for Scott Teems' That Evening Sun. It should be noted that Holbrook still has a chance to land a Best Actor Oscar nod.
  • Julianne Moore in the Best Supporting Actress category and cinematographer Eduard Grau for Tom Ford's A Single Man. Like Holbrook, Moore remains a possible Oscar candidate.
  • James McAvoy for The Last Station.

For whatever reason, this is the third time McAvoy has been bypassed during awards season in the U.S. – no matter how popular his films and/or fellow players. The two previous instances: Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland and Joe Wright's Atonement.

Forest Whitaker won the Best Actor Oscar for the former, while Saoirse Ronan was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for the latter. At this year's Spirit Awards, both Helen Mirren (as Sofya Tolstoy) and Christopher Plummer (as Leo himself) were shortlisted for The Last Station.

South American not American

And finally, Sebastián Silva's Chilean/Mexican comedy-drama The Maid, considered an American movie at the Gotham Awards, was apparently deemed unAmerican by Film Independent: it landed a Best Foreign Film nomination and that was that.

Yet rest assured that Catalina Saavedra, who plays the titular character, will be heard from again this awards season.

Update: See below the full list of Spirit Award winners and nominees.

James McAvoy The Last Station. Spirit Awards bypass Leo Tolstoy secretary Valentin BulgakovJames McAvoy in The Last Station. Set in 1910 in Leo Tolstoy's country estate of Yasnaya Polyana, Michael Hoffman's The Last Station, based on a novel by Jay Parini, features James McAvoy as Tolstoy's secretary, Valentin Fedorovich Bulgakov, caught between two rival factions – Tolstoy's family vs. Tolstoy disciple Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) and fellow “Tolstoyans” – as the War and Peace and Anna Karenina author is about to expire. The apple of discord is Tolstoy's literary works, as both sides want to decide their fate following his death. Impressively, Bulgakov also finds time to romance a pretty Tolstoyan, the fictitious Masha (Kerry Condon).

Spirit Awards: Winners & nominations

Update: Ultimately, The Last Station failed to win any Spirit Awards at a ceremony dominated by Precious.

BEST FEATURE
(500) Days of Summer – Producers: Mason Novick, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Steven J. Wolfe.
Amreeka – Producers: Paul Barkin, Christina Piovesan.
* Precious – Producers: Lee Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness.
Sin Nombre – Producer: Amy Kaufman.
The Last Station – Producers: Bonnie Arnold, Chris Curling, Jens Meuer.

BEST FOREIGN FILM
A Prophet (France) – Director: Jacques Audiard.
* An Education (U.K./France) – Director: Lone Scherfig.
Everlasting Moments (Sweden) – Director: Jan Troell.
Mother (South Korea) – Director: Bong Joon-ho.
The Maid (Chile) – Director: Sebastián Silva.

BEST DIRECTOR
Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man.
* Lee Daniels, Precious.
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Sin Nombre.
James Gray, Two Lovers.
Michael Hoffman, The Last Station.

BEST ACTRESS
Maria Bello, Downloading Nancy.
Nisreen Faour, Amreeka.
Helen Mirren, The Last Station.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Two Lovers.
* Gabourey Sidibe, Precious.

BEST ACTOR
* Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart.
Colin Firth, A Single Man.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days of Summer.
Souléymane Sy Savané, Goodbye Solo.
Adam Scott, The Vicious Kind.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Dina Korzun, Cold Souls.
* Mo'Nique, Precious.
Samantha Morton, The Messenger.
Natalie Press, Fifty Dead Men Walking.
Mia Wasikowska, That Evening Sun.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jemaine Clement, Gentlemen Broncos.
* Woody Harrelson, The Messenger.
Christian McKay, Me and Orson Welles.
Raymond McKinnon, That Evening Sun.
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station.

BEST SCREENPLAY
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger.
Michael Hoffman, The Last Station.
Lee Toland Krieger, The Vicious Kind.
Greg Mottola, Adventureland.
* Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, (500) Days of Summer.

BEST FIRST FEATURE

A Single Man – Director: Tom Ford.
Producers: Tom Ford, Andrew Miano, Robert Salerno, Chris Weitz.

* Crazy Heart – Director: Scott Cooper.
Producers: T Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner, Scott Cooper, Robert Duvall.

Easier with Practice – Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez.
Producer: Cookie Carosella.

Paranormal Activity – Director: Oren Peli.
Producer: Jason Blum, Oren Peli.

The Messenger – Director: Oren Moverman.
Producers: Mark Gordon, Lawrence Inglee, Zach Miller.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Sophie Barthes, Cold Souls.
Scott Cooper, Crazy Heart.
Cherien Dabis, Amreeka.
* Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious.
Tom Ford & David Scearce, A Single Man.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
* Roger Deakins, A Serious Man.
Adriano Goldman, Sin Nombre.
Anne Misawa, Treeless Mountain.
Andrij Parekh, Cold Souls.
Peter Zeitlinger, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

BEST DOCUMENTARY
* Anvil! The Story of Anvil – Director: Sacha Gervasi.
Food, Inc. – Director: Robert Kenner.
More Than a Game – Director: Kristopher Belman.
October Country – Directors: Donal Mosher & Michael Palmieri.
Which Way Home – Director: Rebecca Cammisa.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000.

Big Fan – Writer/Director: Robert Siegel.
Producers: Elan Bogarin, Jean Kouremetis.

* Humpday – Writer/Director/Producer: Lynn Shelton.

The New Year Parade – Writer/Director: Tom Quinn.
Producers: Steve Beal, Tom Quinn.

Treeless Mountain – Writer/Director: So Yong Kim.
Producers: Bradley Rust Gray, Ben Howe, So Yong Kim, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy.

Zero Bridge – Writer/Director: Tariq Tapa.
Producers: Josée Lajoie, Hilal Ahmed Langoo, Tariq Tapa.

ACURA SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
* Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Easier with Practice.
Asiel Norton, Redland.
Tariq Tapa, Zero Bridge.

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Natalia Almada, El General.
Jessica Oreck, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo.
* Bill Ross & Turner Ross, 45365.

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
* Karin Chien, The Exploding Girl, Santa Mesa.
Larry Fessenden, I Sell the Dead, The House of the Devil.
Dia Sokol, Beeswax, Nights & Weekends.

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
A Serious Man.
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen.
Casting Directors: Ellen Chenoweth, Rachel Tenner.
Ensemble Cast: Richard Kind, Sari Lennick, Jessica McManus, Fred Melamed, Michael Stuhlbarg, Aaron Wolff.

Coraline: Annie Awards to Henry Selick dark fantasy but Pixar gets Best Animated FeatureCoraline won three Annie Awards this year, tying with the Walt Disney Studios' The Princess and the Frog. Yet the Annies' Best Animated Feature was Pixar/Disney's blockbuster Up, which also won top honors for its director, Pete Docter. Based on Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel, writer-director Henry Selick's 3D stop-motion dark fantasy Coraline follows a little girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who, guided by a doll and a rat, discovers behind a secret door in her new home a Nirvana-like parallel world filled with doppelgängers. Things, however, aren't quite what they seem.

Annie Awards: 'Coraline' – instead of Pixar fave 'Up' – leads the pack

Phil Lord and Chris Miller's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Henry Selick's Coraline, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ron Clements and John Musker's The Princess and the Frog, Tomm Moore's The Secret of Kells, and Pete Docter's Up are the six Best Animated Feature nominees for the International Animated Film Society's 2010 Annie Awards. The winners in this and other categories will be announced on Feb. 6 at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles.

Four of the above films were also shortlisted in the Best Director category; Tomm Moore and the duo Ron Clements & John Musker were replaced by one man: Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki, for Ponyo.

Somewhat surprisingly, Focus Features' Coraline – featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, John Hodgman, and Ian McShane (as Mr. Bobinsky, pictured above) – leads the pack with ten nods. Pixar/Disney's Up, one of the year's biggest box office hits, came in second place with nine.

All six Best Animated Feature Annie Award nominees are also semifinalists for the 2010 Academy Award in that category, while The Secret of Kells is also up for a European Film Award.

Additionally, among the notable nominees in the voice acting categories are Dawn French (Coraline), John Leguizamo (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs), and Hugh Laurie (Monsters vs. Aliens).

Tim Burton and Jeffrey Katzenberg are among those receiving career awards.

See also: “Blue Dragon Awards: 'Mother' Snub Surprise + Where's Anne of Green Gables?”

'Up' – more or less – tops Annie Awards

Feb. 7 update: Pete Docter's blockbuster Up was chosen Best Animated Feature and Docter was Best Director at the 2010 Annie Awards.

The Pixar/Disney release and all-around fave this awards season did collect the top two Annie statuettes – but that was it. With three wins each, Focus Features' Coraline and the Walt Disney Studios' The Princess and the Frog were the 2010 Annies' champions.

Yet Up's Best Animated Feature victory at least avoided a repeat of last year's outrage following the Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks Animation) sweep when Andrew Stanton's WALL-E (Pixar/Disney) was the odds-on favorite.

Up is this year's odds-on favorite for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award. It's also the second ever animated feature to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, following the category's recent expansion. The Walt Disney Studios' Beauty and the Beast was the groundbreaker, 18 years ago.

See below a partial list (the feature film section is complete) of this year's Annie Award winners and nominees.

Update: See “Annie Awards: DreamWorks Animation vs. Pixar-Disney.”

Annie Awards: Winners and nominations

Production Categories

Best Animated Feature
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Coraline.
Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The Princess and the Frog.
The Secret of Kells.
* Up.

Best Animated Short Subject
Pups of Liberty.
* Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5.
Santa, The Fascist Years
The Rooster, The Crocodile and The Night Sky.
The Story of Walls.

Best Animated Television Production
Glenn Martin, DDS.
Merry Madagascar.
* Prep & Landing.
The Simpsons.

 

Individual Achievement Categories

Animated Effects
Scott Cegielski – Monsters vs. Aliens.
Alexander Feigin – 9.
Eric Froemling – Up.
Tom Kluyskens – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
* James Mansfield – The Princess and the Frog.

Character Animation in a Feature Production
Andreas Deja – The Princess and the Frog.
* Eric Goldberg – The Princess and the Frog.
Travis Knight – Coraline.
Daniel Nguyen – Up.
Bruce Smith – The Princess and the Frog.

Character Design in a Feature Production
Daniel Lopez Munoz – Up.
* Shane Prigmore – Coraline.
Shannon Tindle – Coraline.

Directing in a Television Production
Pam Cooke, Jansen Yee – American Dad: Brains, Brains & Automobiles.
Rob Fendler – Popzilla.
John Infantino, J.G. Quintel – The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Candy Casanova.
* Bret Haaland – The Penguins of Madagascar.
Jennifer Oxley – The Wonder Pets: Help the Monster.

Directing in a Feature Production
Wes Anderson – Fantastic Mr. Fox.
* Pete Docter – Up.
Christopher Miller, Phil Lord – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Hayao Miyazaki – Ponyo.
Henry Selick – Coraline.

Music in a Television Production
Michael Giacchino – Prep & Landing.
Kevin Kiner – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Weapons Factory.
* Guy Moon – The Fairly OddParents: Wishology - The Big Beginning.

Music in a Feature Production
* Bruno Coulais – Coraline.
Michael Giacchino – Up.
Joe Hisaishi – Ponyo.
John Powell – Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Production Design in a Feature Production
Christopher Appelhans – Coraline.
Ian Gooding – The Princess and the Frog.
* Tadahiro Uesugi – Coraline.
Christophe Vacher – 9.

Storyboarding in a Feature Production
Sharon Bridgeman – Astro Boy.
Chris Butler – Coraline.
Ronnie Del Carmen – Up.
* Tom Owens – Monsters vs. Aliens.
Peter Sohn – Up.

Voice Acting in a Television Production
Danny Jacobs – Voice of King Julien – Merry Madagascar.
Nicky Jones – Voice of Chowder – Chowder: The Dinner Theatre.
* Tom Kenny – Voice of SpongeBob – SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square.
Dwight Schultz – Voice of Mung Daal – Chowder:The Party Cruise.
Willow Smith – Voice of Abby – Merry Madagascar.

Voice Acting in a Feature Production
* Jennifer Cody – Voice of Charlotte – The Princess and the Frog.
Dawn French – Voice of Miss Forcible – Coraline.
Hugh Laurie – Voice of Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. – Monsters vs. Aliens.
John Leguizamo – Voice of Sid – Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur.
Jenifer Lewis – Voice of Mama Odie – The Princess and the Frog.

Writing in a Feature Production
* Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach – Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthyUp.
Timothy Hyde Harris and David Bowers – Astro Boy.
Christopher Miller and Phil Lord – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

 

Juried Awards

Winsor McCay Award: Tim Burton, Bruce Timm, Jeffrey Katzenberg.

June Foray Award: Tom Sito.

Ub Iwerks Award: William T. Reeves.

Special Achievement: Martin Meunier and Brian McLean.

Certificate of Merit: Myles Mikulic, Danny Young and Michael Woodside.

 

Spirit Awards website.

Annie Awards website.

Image of Gabourey Sidibe and Paula Patton in Spirit Award winner Precious: Lionsgate Films.

Image of James McAvoy in multiple Spirit Awards nominee The Last Station: Sony Pictures Classics.

Coraline image: Focus Features.

“Spirit Awards: Where's Oscar Season Favorite & How American Is Tolstoy? + Split Annies” last updated in April 2018.

Spirit Awards: Where's Oscar Season Favorite & How American Is Tolstoy? + Split Annies © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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