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What Is an Indie Movie? + The Hollywood England Awards Strike Again

What is an indie movie? Silver Linings Playbook Jennifer Lawrence
What is an indie movie? Silver Linings Playbook with Jennifer Lawrence.

What is an indie movie? All-star Harvey Weinstein release tops Spirit Awards

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

As expected, Silver Linings Playbook was the big winner at the 2013 Spirit Awards, though the David O. Russell-directed comedy drama about mental illness, family issues, and blossoming romance failed to make a clean sweep. Distributed by the awards-savvy Weinstein Company, Silver Linings Playbook won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (also Russell), and Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence).

However, the Best Actor Spirit Award went to John Hawkes for The Sessions, instead of Silver Linings Playbook‘s Bradley Cooper. Another The Sessions winner was Helen Hunt in the Best Supporting Actress category. The Best Supporting Actor was Matthew McConaughey for Steven Soderbergh’s sleeper hit Magic Mike, featuring McConaughey, Channing Tatum, and Matt Bomer as strippers of various sizes and shapes.

Of the aforementioned Spirit Award winners, John Hawkes and Matthew McConaughey are the only two not in the running for the Academy Awards. Silver Linings Playbook, for its part, is up for eight Oscars – and it has grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office.

And needless to say, Spirit Awards voters – i.e., Film Independent members – are no different than voters in other organizations. In other words: generally speaking, the movies and actors with the biggest buzz, best-known faces, and widest distribution are the ones that end up taking home the American indie world’s trophies in the top categories.

Other Spirit Award winners

The other 2013 Spirit Award winners were Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere, recipient of the John Cassavetes Award for a movie made under $500,000; Derek Connolly, winner of the Best First Screenplay Award for Safety Not Guaranteed; and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallfower, chosen as the Best First Feature Film.

Also, Best Cinematography for Beasts of the Southern Wild (Ben Richardson); Best Documentary for Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War; Best International Film for Michael Haneke’s Amour; the Piaget Producers Award for Stones in the Sun‘s Mynette Louie; the Someone to Watch Award to Gimme the Loot‘s director Adam Leon; and the Truer Than Fiction Award to Peter Nicks’ The Waiting Room.

Additionally, as previously announced, Starlet received the Robert Altman Award for its director, Sean Baker; casting director, Julia Kim; and ensemble cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, and James Ransone.

Is ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ an indie movie?

And finally, I should point out that some have grumbled that Silver Linings Playbook shouldn’t have qualified as an independent film – even though it actually is one. At (officially) $21 million, the film’s budget is slightly above the Spirit Awards’ $20 million limit, but that cut-off line and other eligibility rules have been stretched and/or bent time and again in the last two decades, depending on the whims of the Spirit Awards’ nominating committee and, in all probability, on the determination of the submitting companies.

Last year, for instance, Michel Hazanavicius’ French-made (but Los Angeles-set) The Artist won the Best Picture Spirit Award, which is nominally reserved for American independent movies. The Artist, by the way, was also a Weinstein Company release in the United States.

“Indie Movie” Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence image: The Weinstein Company.

Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper Jennifer LawrenceSilver Linings Playbook with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

Spirit Awards: ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ receives key nominations

Silver Linings Playbook, Keep the Lights On, and Moonrise Kingdom were the only three movies to receive nominations for Best Feature, Best Director, and Best Screenplay for the 2013 Spirit Awards. Additionally, all three movies received nods in the acting categories, though Silver Linings Playbook was the only one to land both Best Actor (Bradley Cooper) and Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) nods. (Image: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook.)

Also worth noting is that much like the Academy Awards, the Spirit Awards’ nominating committees love stars (and/or leading players) in supporting roles: see the list below, which includes Helen Hunt, Bruce Willis, and Matthew McConaughey (who’s also up for Best Actor) – but not, surprisingly, Robert De Niro (for Silver Linings Playbook). Announced earlier today, the nominated films were selected out of 299 entries.

The Best Feature nominees are Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild; Richard Linklater’s Bernie; Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On; last night’s Gotham Award winner Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson; and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. Zeitlin, Sachs, Anderson, and Russell were also nominated for Best Director, but Richard Linklater’s spot went to The Loneliest Planet‘s Julia Loktev – the only nod for Loktev’s film.

Up for Best Screenplay are Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola), Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), the critically acclaimed but little-seen (in North America) Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh), Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell), and Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias).

The Best International Film nominees are Michael Haneke’s Amour (France – though it represents Austria at the Academy Awards); Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey), last year’s Turkish submission for the Academy Awards; Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone (France / Belgium); Ursula Meier’s Sister (Switzerland); and Kim Nguyen’s War Witch (Democratic Republic of Congo – though it represents Canada at the Academy Awards).

Mostly based on “Rust and Bone” and “Rocket Ride,” two of the stories found in Craig Davidson’s short story collection Rust and Bone, Audiard’s romantic drama stars Marion Cotillard as a woman who, after losing her legs in an accident at a marine tourist park, develops a relationship with a troubled bouncer/fighter (Matthias Schoenaerts). Of the five international Spirit Award nominees, Rust and Bone is the one movie that has a chance in other categories – chiefly Best Actress for Marion Cotillard – during this awards season.

Potential Oscar contenders shortlisted in acting categories

In the acting categories, Linda Cardellini (Return), Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed) are the Best Actress / Best Female Lead contenders.

The (six) Best Actor / Best Male Lead contenders are Jack Black (Bernie), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), John Hawkes (The Sessions), Thure Lindhardt (Keep the Lights On), Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe), and Wendell Pierce (Four).

In the supporting categories, the nominees for Best Supporting Actress are Rosemarie DeWitt for Your Sister’s Sister, Ann Dowd for Compliance, Helen Hunt for The Sessions, Brit Marling for Sound of My Voice, and Lorraine Toussaint for Middle of Nowhere. Up for Best Supporting Actor are Matthew McConaughey for Magic Mike, David Oyelowo for Middle of Nowhere, Michael Peña for End of Watch, Sam Rockwell for Seven Psychopaths, and Bruce Willis for Moonrise Kingdom.

More Spirit Award nominations

The Best First Feature nominees are the following: Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void, Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot, Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed, Zal Batmanglij’s Sound of My Voice, and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

In the running for Best First Screenplay are Rama Burshtein for Fill the Void, Derek Connolly for Safety Not Guaranteed, Christopher Ford for Robot & Frank, Rashida Jones and Will McCormack for Celeste and Jesse Forever, and Jonathan Lisecki for Gayby.

Nominees for the John Cassavetes Award, given to “the best feature made for under $500,000,” are Laura Colella’s Breakfast with Curtis, Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere, Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari, Sean Baker’s Starlet, and Alex Ross Perry’s The Color Wheel.

The Best Documentary contenders are David France’s AIDS-themed Gotham Award-winning How to Survive a Plague; Matthew Akers’ Marina Abromovic The Artist is Present; Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon’s The Central Park Five; Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War; and Peter Nicks’ The Waiting Room.

And finally, the Robert Altman Award will go to Starlet. The recipients will be director Sean Baker, casting director Julia Kim, and actors Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, and James Ransone.

The 2013 Spirit Awards ceremony will be held in Santa Monica on Feb. 23, the day before the Oscars.

Silver Linings Playbook: Spirit Awards eligibility and the $20 million Budget Cap

The Spirit Awards 2013 nominations offered a few curiosities. Chief among those is probably the inclusion of David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook among the nominees. Reportedly made for $21 million, Silver Linings Playbook should have been ineligible for the Spirit Awards, which have a $20 million production-budget cap.

Apparently, that rule isn’t all that strict (“Any variations are at the sole discretion of the nominating committees and Film Independent”), or there are loopholes – rebates, tax deductions and the like – that allowed the Weinstein Company release to sneak in. But then again, remember earlier this year, when a French movie named The Artist – also a Weinstein Company release – won the US-indie-dedicated Spirit Award for Best Feature?

Also of interest, movies representing one country for the Academy Awards may represent another for the Spirit Awards’ Best International Film. Admittedly, not that it matters all that much when it comes to the Spirit Awards, as the same country can be nominated for more than one film. Anyhow, Kim Nguyen’s War Witch is a Canadian entry at the Oscars, but is listed as a Democratic Republic of Congo entry for the Spirit Awards. Michael Haneke’s Amour is Austrian at the Oscars – thus allowing The Intouchables to be the French entry – but Haneke’s Paris-set drama is French at the Spirit Awards.

Emayatzy Corinealdi: Awards-season contender

After having been named Breakthrough Performer – instead of favorite Quvenzhané Wallis (for Beasts of the Southern Wild) – at the Gotham Awards last night, Middle of Nowhere‘s Best Actress Spirit Award nominee Emayatzy Corinealdi has now become a de facto awards-season contender. And in case Corinealdi gets singled out by the likes of, say, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and/or the National Society of Film Critics, she may end up with SAG Award and Academy Award nominations as well. That is, if AFFRM / Participant Media have done a good job in getting screeners to SAG and Oscar voters.

Matthew McConaughey has two Spirit Award acting nominations: Best Actor (or Best Male Lead, in Spirit Award lingo) for Killer Joe and Best Supporting Actor for Magic Mike. McConaughey’s Oscar chances as Best Actor are iffy at the best; but he does have a good chance of landing a nomination in the supporting actor category.

Marion Cotillard, On the Road, Cosmopolis, Arbitrage snubbed?

Now, without an actual list of eligible films – I couldn’t find one at the Spirit Awards’ website – it’s impossible to say for sure which movies and performers were totally snubbed by the Spirit Awards’ voting committees. But one thing seems certain: Rust and Bone‘s Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, and Amour‘s Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva were not snubbed, as their films could not in any way be considered American-made (or American-shot) productions. In fact, both Rust and Bone and Amour are in the running for Best International Film.

Also, Walter SallesOn the Road, starring US players Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, might have been eligible even though it’s not exactly a US-made film. But On the Road‘s reported production cost is $25 million. That may have made it ineligible. Here’s another one: Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, starring potential Oscar contenders Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, cost a reported $30 million.

David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, starring British-born Hollywood actor Robert Pattinson, cost $20m, which theoretically would have made it eligible – except for the fact that Cronenberg’s “limo movie” is a French-Portuguese-Canadian production mostly shot in Canada. Having said that, Cosmopolis – much like fellow “limo movie” Holy Motors – was left out of the Spirit Awards’ Best International Film shortlist.

Now, among those who were surely snubbed were Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook; Zachary Booth for Keep the Lights On; Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, and Mike Birbiglia for the Gotham Awards’ Best Ensemble winner Your Sister’s Sister; Ezra Miller and Emma Watson for The Perks of Being a Wallflower; everyone involved in The Loneliest Planet but director Julia Loktev; Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon for Robot & Frank; and Bernie director Richard Linklater and supporting player Shirley MacLaine. And, depending on the budget, everyone involved in Arbitrage, including director Nicholas Jarecki, and stars Richard Gere and the aforementioned Susan Sarandon.

List of Spirit Award nominees via the Film Independent website.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook image: The Weinstein Company.

Ben Affleck BAFTA Awards
Ben Affleck at the BAFTA Awards.

Argo, Ben Affleck top BAFTA Awards

Argo and Ben Affleck, much like most of their predecessors in recent years, remain unstoppable. Argo was named Best Film and Ben Affleck Best Director at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, a.k.a. the BAFTAs, earlier this evening at a ceremony held at the Royal Opera House in London. Last night, Argo received the USC Scripter Award in Los Angeles.

Besides its Best Picture and Best Director BAFTA wins, Argo also took home the Best Editing (William Goldenberg) trophy. Curiously (or perhaps tellingly), Argo‘s Chris Terrio lost the Best Adapted Screenplay BAFTA to David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. And here’s wondering if Argo would have lost that award had director and co-producer Ben Affleck been the film’s co-writer as well.

“This is a second act for me,” winner Ben Affleck exulted in the sort of modest / hopeful / grateful speech that awards voters everywhere worship. “You’ve given me that, this industry has given me that and I am so grateful and proud and I dedicate this to anyone out there who is trying to get their second act because you can do it.”

Awards season juggernauts: Popularity contest

In recent years, Ang Lee and Brokeback Mountain, Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire, Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker, Tom Hooper and The King’s Speech, Michel Hazanavicius and The Artist became awards-season juggernauts either from the get-go, i.e., when American critics began naming their favorites, or halfway through awards season, when the Hollywood guilds began announcing their winners.

Regardless of Argo‘s and Ben Affleck’s merits, awards season is and always has been chiefly about popular choices – picking the (eventual Academy Award) winner, the sentimental favorite – and herd mentality.

Do you want to bet that had (the then little-known) Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech received more Best Film citations from top American critics groups that the two televised pre-Oscar shows – the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards – would have selected Hooper’s crowd-pleasing film as well? Needless to say, both populist voting bodies went for the movie that seemed until then a lock for the Best Picture Academy Award: David Fincher’s The Social Network. (The tide turned a week later, when the major Hollywood guilds began lending their support to the Oscar-savvy Weinstein Company’s release The King’s Speech.)

Among the aforementioned awards-season juggernauts, the only one that got torpedoed on Oscar night was Brokeback Mountain, a gay love story that lost the Best Picture Academy Award to Paul Haggis’ Los Angeles-set, interethnic warfare drama Crash.

BAFTA Awards = British Oscar

Across the Atlantic, the British Academy has usually fallen in step with their American counterparts. They’ve only gone their own way when popular homegrown product was in the running: Stephen Frears’ The Queen (2006) and Joe Wright’s Atonement (2007). Else, the BAFTAs have been acting quite literally like the British Oscars.

Ben Affleck on the BAFTA 2013 red carpet photo: © BAFTA.

Ben Affleck BAFTA 2013 quote via The Guardian.


Tom Hiddleston BAFTA
The AvengersTom Hiddleston: BAFTA Awards.

BAFTA Awards: Hollywood dominates once again

The British Academy has announced the (mostly Hollywood) BAFTA 2013 winners. For starters, the Warner Bros. release Argo won BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Director (Ben Affleck), and Best Editor (William Goldenberg). (Image: The Avengers star and BAFTA presenter Tom Hiddleston on the BAFTA 2013 red carpet.)

David O. Russell and Quentin Tarantino won the writing awards in, respectively, the adapted and original screenplay categories for Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained – both The Weinstein Company releases in the United States. Additionally, Django Unchained earned Christoph Waltz his second BAFTA – the first one, also in the supporting category, was for another Tarantino effort, Inglourious Basterds (2009).

The Universal-distributed Les Misérables won more awards than any other nominated film: a modest four. Les Misérables was awarded BAFTAs in the Best Supporting Actress category for Oscar favorite Anne Hathaway, who thanked the film’s cast, crew, and Victor Hugo; Best Production Design (Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson); Best Make-Up and Hair (Lisa Westcott); and Best Sound (Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst).

Ang Lee’s 20th Century Fox release Life of Pi won BAFTAs for Best Cinematography (Claudio Miranda) and Best Visual Effects (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer). Disney / Pixar’s Scotland-set Brave was the Best Animated Feature.

Daniel Day-Lewis: Four-time BAFTA winner

The British Daniel Day-Lewis was this year’s Best Actor BAFTA winner – but for an all-American production in which Day-Lewis plays an iconic U.S. president: Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Of note: Out of its ten BAFTA nominations, more than any other film, Day-Lewis’ turned out to be Lincoln‘s sole win . It remains to be seen whether Lincoln‘s underwhelming BAFTA performance will be repeated at the Oscars, where Spielberg’s film also topped the nominations chart.

Daniel Day-Lewis, on the other hand, isn’t lacking in BAFTAs; Day-Lewis’ Lincoln win was his fourth following his work in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot (1989), Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002), and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007).

“Just in case I might have to speak at these awards,” Day-Lewis told the crowd at London’s Royal Opera House, “I’ve actually stayed in character as myself for the past 55 years. Every time I rise from a chair, it spontaneously unleashes a soundtrack of thunderous applause, with a few boos and some drunken hecklers.”

Partially backed by MGM and Sony Pictures, the Sam Mendes-directed James Bond movie Skyfall was the Outstanding British Film and the winner of the Best Original Music BAFTA for Thomas Newman. Skyfall‘s Best British Film win was the first for a James Bond film; in fact, no Bond movie had won any BAFTA since Best Cinematography winner From Russia with Love (1963).

Distributed by Universal in the United Kingdom (and by the Universal-owned Focus Features in North America), Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina won one BAFTA: for Jacqueline Durran’s sumptuous Costume Design. Of note: both Anna Karenina and Les Misérables were Working Title co-productions.

BAFTA Awards 2013: The Non-Hollywood choices

Malik Bendjelloul’s British-made Producers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America winner Searching for Sugar Man was the Best Documentary Feature.

Director Bart Layton and producer Dimitri Doganis won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for the documentary The Imposter, about French serial impostor Frédéric Bourdin.

And finally, Michael Haneke’s drama Amour won BAFTAs for Best Film Not in the English Language (for Haneke and veteran producer Margaret Ménégoz) and for veteran actress Emmanuelle Riva. Riva, who turns 86 next Feb. 24 (Oscar night), is reportedly the oldest BAFTA winner ever.

Other 2013 BAFTA Awards

Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson’s The Making of Longbird was the Best Animated Short, while Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, and Diarmid Scrimshaw’s Swimmer was the Best Short Film. Ramsay is the director of the Tilda Swinton drama We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Film 4’s Tessa Ross, whose producing credits include Billy Elliot and Slumdog Millionaire, received the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award. Alan Parker, who directed Midnight Express, Fame, Evita, and Mississippi Burning, was given the Fellowship Award.

Juno Temple, recently seen in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, was given the Rising Star Award, whose winner is chosen by the public. Temple’s competitors were Alicia Vikander, Suraj Sharma, Elizabeth Olsen, and Andrea Riseborough. Previous winners of the Rising Star Award winners are James McAvoy, Shia LaBeouf, Eva Green, Noel Clarke, Kristen Stewart, Tom Hardy, and Adam Deacon.

Daniel Day-Lewis BAFTA 2013 quote: The Guardian.

Tom Hiddleston on the BAFTA 2013 red carpet photo: © BAFTA.

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1 comment

ccoraacid -

They were definetely pushing the Hollywood presenters-itsa shame when we have so much homegrown talent I would have liked to seen.And the young british actors like Ben Whishaw,Tom Hiddleson and David Hennesy did not even make it onto the BBC coverage but were a tag on at the end.Likewise the awards seem to favour USA productions.I use to like the Baftas because it was about the UK celebration of world wide film and generally I thought their choices were less about the big bucks that he Oscars but this seems to have changed.I was pleased for Amour but dissapointed about the Best Marigold Hotel which i thought was far more innovative with some excellant acting than some of the films nominated.The Baftas were saved by Stephen Fry’s wonderful wit,Danial Day Lewis’s amusing speech ( which wasr funnier when it has not been cut) and the presence of our Uk stars like Hiddleston and Wisahw on the Red Carpet.


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