Tonight brings the first big awards event of the year, The Gothams, which makes today exciting enough (I will be back in NYC in time to attend the Kodak party--save some room for me at the bar, please), but the just-announced Spirit Award nominations has me almost as excited as if I had been nominated myself (I have to confess a major swell of disappointment that I didn't get nominated for Best Supporting Male in QUIET CITY, but I guess I'll let that one slide). I would like to applaud the nominating committee members for spotlighting so much great work. Some highlights:
IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award
To prove that true artistry and extraordinary talent don't get swept under the rug, Ronnie Bronstein has received another big nomination in the Someone to Watch category. As I wrote recently, if FROWNLAND doesn't win the Gotham tonight I will eat my iPod. I'm not going to make the same declaration with regards to the Spirit nomination, but I still think that this award was made for someone like Ronzo Bronzo and I will be pulling for him, as much as I support the other nominees (Full Disclosure: I've yet to see either of Ramin Bahrani's lauded features, which makes me feel like a disconnected loser, since my hunch is that they are both very much up my alley; the same goes for what I've read about Lee Isaac Chung's MUNYURANGABO).
Truer Than Fiction Award
It's great to see Laura Dunn get recognized for THE UNFORESEEN, which is one of the most powerful works I've seen this year. Her Q&A at the SXSW screening I attended left me wanting to either give her an enormous hug or vote for her for president. I've seen it twice and it wowed me both times (unlike some double-viewings I've had this year, a strange concept I will address in my nerdily comprehensive year-end wrap-up). I also support the decision to nominate Gary Hustwit for the unexpectedly electrifying HELVETICA. But it is the last nominee that made me elicit a verbal, Yes!, into my empty bedroom. I saw John Maringouin's RUNNING STUMBLED in Rotterdam back in 2006 and it left me disoriented and spun for days. I was convinced the film would cause quite a stir back in the States, but for some reason John got more rejections than acceptances. Granted, his film isn't the easiest pill to swallow--it's actually like ingesting twenty-seven toxic pills at once, then being dropped in an angry, unfamiliar town and told to find your own way home--but I consider it to be an undeniably powerful work. John's decision to stay out of the way and not stick his own filmmaker/victim perspective into the narrative is no doubt what turned so many people off, but that is exactly what made it so unforgettable to me. Hopefully this attention will enable RUNNING STUMBLED to find an audience at home here in the States. It deserves it.
Best First Feature
I was hoping that Craig Zobel's truly excellent debut, GREAT WORLD OF SOUND, would get many nominations, but this is the most important one, I think. GREAT WORLD OF SOUND is this year's little indie that could, and it remains one of the smartest and most sincere movies I've seen this decade. Congratulations to everyone on the GWOS team. Whether or not Craig wins any awards at the Gothams tonight, I can't wait to meet up with the You And What Army crew to raise several glasses to all of this supercool news.
John Cassavetes Award
This category is the other one that caused me to get vocal when I saw the nominees. I'm dying to see THE POOL, but I haven't been able to yet. I also haven't seen OWL AND THE SPARROW or AUGUST EVENING, but if the filmmakers of AUGUST EVENING saw fit to license Ola Podrida's "Cindy," then they're definitely doing something right. The last two nominees are what gave me the biggest thrill. I've received countless emails from people saying something to the effect of, "I'm not really into the whole 'mumblecore' thing, but I really liked QUIET CITY!" Aaron Katz's sophomore film is a lesson in how to not let a lack of budget stand in your way. I'm so happy for Aaron and Brendan and Ben and Andy and Cris and Erin. You guys totally deserve all the positive attention that you've gotten! Which leads into the last film in the category. While I haven't seen many other nominees, for my money, it would be difficult to top the achievement that is Jeff Nichols' SHOTGUN STORIES. As I wrote after seeing it in Newport, this film does not have one false note. I feel like this category was created for films like SHOTGUN STORIES, those works which transcend their limitations to be as gorgeous, striking, and affecting as "big budget" movies. Basically, SHOTGUN STORIES feels like a big budget movie, and that's what makes it so remarkable. Again, congratulations to Jeff and Adam and Mike Shannon and Lisa and everyone who joined forces to create such a beautiful film.
Best Supporting Male
Once again, the cream rises to the top, and Kene Holliday's incredible performance in GREAT WORLD OF SOUND wasn't about to be forgotten. But it's still great to see him nominated. Whether or not he wins tonight or at the Spirits, it can't take away that breathtaking monologue, which remains for me one of the most powerful displays of acting virtuosity of 2007.
Lastly, we must congratulate David Gordon Green, who has proven himself with this year's nominations to be not only a gifted writer and director, but an exceptional producer as well. David is recovering from jaw surgery at the moment (a New Orleans bar brawl gone wrong--while he's always getting into fracases like that, this one spun wayyy out of control), so hopefully this bit of good news will take some of the pain away.
Of course, there are many outstanding films that didn't make the cut, but I'm choosing to harp on the good rather than the bad this time around. So, hooray to everyone!