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Birdman dominates Independent Spirit Award nominations

birdmanThe film that opened the Venice Film Festival, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, has topped the nominations list for the thirtieth Film Independent Spirit Awards; it’s nominated in six categories, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead for Michael Keaton, and Emma Stone and Edward Norton in the running for the Best Supporting contests.

It’s another year when the awards aimed at honouring the best that independent and low-budget cinema has to offer is dominated by some of the biggest names in the industry. The budgets might be smaller, but many of the names are not.

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette playing estranged parents is up for five awards, alongside Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Nightcrawler’s main supporting actor seems more like the kind of talent the ceremony was designed to acknowledge; Britain’s Riz Ahmed, in his international breakthrough role, finds himself nominated alongside Gyllenhaal. The British co-production Selma, also more in the spirit of the Spirits, will be challenging for five awards too.

Love is Strange and Whiplash are in the running for four.

But in another sign that the awards organisers, Film Independent, want to draw publicity to their event by putting bigger names on stage, two films that don’t qualify under the budgetary constraints, will be otherwise honoured in special categories, so that Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo will be able to accept a Special Distinction Awards for Foxcatcher, while Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, featuring Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson, will receive the Robert Altman Award, in which a director, casting director and cast receive recognition.

Similarly, stars as big as Julianne Moore and Jessica Chastain also find themselves nominated.

Alongside names that more often grace the Oscars red carpet are a number of Spirits alumni, welcomed back with the promise of more awards. Margin Call‘s JC Chandor is nominated for writing A Most VIolent Year and Jim Jarmusch is making a return, after previously being nominated for either writing or directing Down By Law, Mystery Train, Dead Man and Ghost Dog. His lead actress in Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda Swinton, has also been up for a Spirit Award before.

In this sense, with so many big names and returning nominees likely to grab most of the headlines, if not the awards, it’s the “first feature” and “first screenplay” categories where Film Independent best manages to do what it says on the tin, while it allows itself to mimic the rest of Hollywood in the main categories.

The Spirit Awards will be handed out at a ceremony in a marquee on the beach in Santa Monica, the day before the Oscars, next February..

The full list of the films and talent to be acknowledged: 


            Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

            Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W.   Skotchdopole 


            Producers: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland

            Love is Strange

            Producers: Lucas Joaquin, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, Jay Van Hoy


            Producers: Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Oprah Winfrey


            Producers: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michael Litvak


            Damien Chazelle


            Ava DuVernay


            Alejandro G. Iñárritu

            Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

            Richard Linklater


            David Zellner

            Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter


            Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

            Big Eyes

            J.C. Chandor

            A Most Violent Year

            Dan Gilroy


            Jim Jarmusch

            Only Lovers Left Alive

            Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias

            Love is Strange

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)

            A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

            Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

            Producers: Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah

            Dear White People

            Director/Producer: Justin Simien

            Producers: Effie T. Brown, Ann Le, Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez, Lena Waithe


            Director: Dan Gilroy

            Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster,   Michel Litvak

            Obvious Child

            Director: Gillian Robespierre

            Producer: Elisabeth Holm

            She’s Lost Control

            Director/Producer: Anja Marquardt

            Producers: Mollye Asher, Kiara C. Jones


            Desiree Akhavan

            Appropriate Behavior

            Sara Colangelo

            Little Accidents

            Justin Lader

            The One I Love

            Anja Marquardt

            She’s Lost Control

            Justin Simien         

            Dear White People

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000.  Award given to the writer, director and producer.  Executive Producers are not awarded.

            Blue Ruin

            Writer/Director: Jeremy Saulnier

            Producers:  Richard Peete, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani

            It Felt Like Love

            Writer/Director/Producer: Eliza Hittman

            Producers: Shrihari Sathe, Laura Wagner

            Land Ho!

            Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens

            Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

            Man From Reno

            Writer/Director: Dave Boyle

            Writers: Joel Clark, Michael Lerman

            Producer: Ko Mori


            Writer/Director/Producer: Chris Mason Johnson

            Producer: Chris Martin


            Marion Cotillard

            The Immigrant

            Rinko Kikuchi

            Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

            Julianne Moore

            Still Alice

            Jenny Slate

            Obvious Child

            Tilda Swinton

            Only Lovers Left Alive                    


            André Benjamin

            Jimi: All Is By My Side

            Jake Gyllenhaal


            Michael Keaton

            Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

            John Lithgow

            Love is Strange

            David Oyelowo



            Patricia Arquette


            Jessica Chastain

            A Most Violent Year

            Carmen Ejogo


            Andrea Suarez Paz

            Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

            Emma Stone

            Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


            Riz Ahmed


            Ethan Hawke


            Alfred Molina

            Love is Strange

            Edward Norton

            Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

            J.K. Simmons



            Darius Khondji

            The Immigrant

            Emmanuel Lubezki           

            Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

            Sean Porter

            It Felt Like Love

            Lyle Vincent

            A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

            Bradford Young


BEST EDITING                  

            Sandra Adair          


            Tom Cross  


            John Gilroy 


            Ron Patane 

            A Most Violent Year

            Adam Wingard       

            The Guest

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)

            20,000 Days on Earth

            Directors: Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard

            Producers: Dan Bowen, James Wilson


            Director/Producer: Laura Poitras

            Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

            Stray Dog

            Director: Debra Granik

            Producer: Anne Rosellini

            The Salt of the Earth

            Directors: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders

            Producer: David Rosier


            Director/Producer: Orlando von Einsiedel

            Producer: Joanna Natasegara

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)

            Force Majeure


            Director: Ruben Östlund



            Director: Pawel Pawlikowski



            Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev



            Director: Xavier Dolan

            Norte, the End of History


            Director: Lav Diaz

            Under the Skin

            (United Kingdom)

            Director: Jonathan Glazer

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – (Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)

Inherent Vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Casting Director: Cassandra Kulukundis

Ensemble Cast: Josh Brolin, Martin Donovan, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio Del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Michael Kenneth Williams, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon



            Director/Producer: Bennett Miller

            Producers: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik

            Writers: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

            Actors: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum

18th ANNUAL PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD – The 18th annual Producers Award, sponsored by Piaget, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.

            Chad Burris

            Elisabeth Holm

            Chris Ohlson

21st ANNUAL KIEHL’S SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 21st annual Someone to Watch Award, sponsored by Kiehl’s Since 1851, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl’s Since 1851.

            A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

            Director: Ana Lily Amirpour


            Directors: Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia

            The Retrieval

            Director: Chris Eska

20th ANNUAL LENSCRAFTERS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 20th annual Truer Than Fiction Award, sponsored by LensCrafters is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by LensCrafters.

            Approaching the Elephant

            Director: Amanda Rose Wilder

            Evolution of a Criminal

            Director: Darius Clark Monroe

            The Kill Team

            Director: Dan Krauss

            The Last Season

            Director: Sara Dosa



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