By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 1, 2009 at 4:08AM
It was amusing watching announcers Matt Dillon and Taraji Henson maul the global Independent Spirit Awards nominees live on UStream Tuesday morning: they couldn't wrap their tongues around many of the names. Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire and The Last Station dominated with five nominations apiece. Best feature and best actor nominee 500 Days of Summer and best director James Gray (Two Lovers) were other big surprises. The announcement of Paramount's breakout thriller Paranormal Activity for best first feature (made for $15,000), brought gasps in the room. Excellent move: that film defines an indie breakout.
UPDATE: The films that will get the most award-season boost from these noms are Lionsgate's Precious (which was already well on its way) and Sony Pictures Classics' The Last Station, which needs a higher profile; best actress nominee Helen Mirren should repeat on Oscar nominations morning. (UPDATE: The Palm Springs Fest just added her to its tribute list.) Precious stars Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique are inevitable Oscar noms at this point, and could win Indie Spirits for actress and supporting actress respectively. Fox Searchlight's 500 Days of Summer is an unlikely Oscar contender (except for best original screenplay), as is best actor nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a surprise entry, given the film's comedic slant.
Oddly, the Coen brothers' A Serious Man failed to land best feature or screenplay noms, but was recognized for director, cinematography (Roger Deakins) and the coveted Robert Altman Award for director, casting director and acting ensemble. The best actor race will be between Crazy Heart's Jeff Bridges and A Single Man's Colin Firth, who will also be duking it out for the Oscar. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Julianne Moore both failed to win noms here. [Movieline spots some Spirit snubs.) Slowly but surely, Oren Moverman's The Messenger is moving into awards contention, with four Spirit nominations. Its best Oscar shot: Woody Harrelson for supporting actor.
Among the docs, Gotham-winner Food, Inc. continues its push for Oscar glory, while I was glad to see Anvil! The Story of Anvil and SXSW winner 45365 get recognition. On the foreign front, SPC gets a slight leg up for An Education and director Lone Scherfig, and I was thrilled to see my favorite film of 2008 get a nom, Jan Troell's Everlasting Moments, which was submitted by Sweden last year but did not land an Oscar slot.
Distribs Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics tied with seven noms apiece, followed by Focus Features, Lionsgate and upstart Oscilloscope with six and Magnolia with five. Several of the nominated films, in a sign of the times, were released through service distributors, including Me and Orson Welles, That Evening Sun and Anvil! The Story of Anvil, while three had no distribution at all, October Country, Easier with Practice, and Zero Bridge. Hopefully that will change.
If you're wondering why big Gotham award-winner The Hurt Locker didn't do better, it earned several nominations last year. The 25th anniversary Indie Spirits will take place downtown at L.A. Live this year on Friday March 5 instead of the Saturday before the Oscars, moving away from the customary day time beach-front tent. The telecast will air on IFC.
Eugene Hernandez reports.
The complete list of nominations:
BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)
“(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
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, “A Serious Man”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Sin Nombre”
James Gray, “Two Lovers”
Michael Hoffman, “The Last Station”
BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
"A Single Man" Director: Tom Ford
"Crazy Heart" Director: Scott Cooper
"Easier With Practice" Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
"The Messenger" Director: Oren Moverman
"Paranormal Activity" Director: Oren Peli
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
"The New Year Parade"
"The Messenger" Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman
"The Last Station" Michael Hoffman
"(500) Days of Summer" Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
"The Vicious Kind" Lee Toland Krieger
"Adventureland" Greg Mattola
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
"Cold Souls" Sophie Barthes
"Crazy Heart" Scott Cooper
"Amreeka" Cherien Dabis
"Precious" Geoffrey Fletcher
"A Single Man" Tom Ford, David Scearce
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Maria Bello, “Downloading Nancy”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Gwentyth Paltrow, “Two Lovers”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”
Nisreen Faour, “Amreeka”
BEST MALE LEAD
Jeff Bridges "Crazy Heart"
Colin Firth "A Single Man"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt "(500) Days of Summer"
Souleymane Sy Savane "Goodbye Solo"
Adam Scott "The Vicious Kind"
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Mo'Nique "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Samantha Morton "The Messenger"
Natahlie Press "Fifty Dead Men Walking"
Mia Wasikowska "That Evening Sun"
Dina Korzun "Cold Souls"
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Jemaine Clements "Gentlemen Broncos"
Woody Harrelson "The Messenger"
Christian McKay "Me and Orson Welles"
Raymond McKinnon "That Evening Sun"
Christopher Plummer "The Last Station"
"A Serious Man"
"Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"
BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil" Sacha Gervasi
"Food Inc." Robert Kenner
"More Than a Game" Kristopher Belman
"October Country" Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri
"Which Way Home" Rebecca Cammisa
BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)
"A Prophet" Jacques Audiard
"An Education" Lone Scherfig
"Everlasting Moments" Jan Troell
"Mother" Bong Joon-Ho
"The Maid" Sebastian Silva
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
"A Serious Man"
Karen Chien "That Exploding Girl," "Santa Mesa"
Larry Fessenden "I sell the Dead," "The House of the Devil"
Dia Sokol "Beeswax," "nights & Weekends"
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 and Turner Ross "45365"