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2007 Indie Spirit Nominations: commentary & predictions!

Dysfunctional loving families undergoing reality checks, a paralyzed man checking out and a checklist of Dylan figures are the film narratives that have collected the most noms for the 2008 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Sparkling Fox Searchlight titles of Tamara Jenkins’s The Savages and Jason Reitman’s Juno each grab a significant amount of noms, but it is Todd Haynes’ I’m not There and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Dysfunctional loving families undergoing reality checks, a paralyzed man checking out and a checklist of Dylan figures are the film narratives that have collected the most noms for the 2008 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Sparkling Fox Searchlight titles of Tamara Jenkins’s The Savages and Jason Reitman’s Juno each grab a significant amount of noms, but it is Todd Haynes’ I’m not There and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly that have collected the most kudos with the Dylan kaleidescope already leading 1 to zero by winning the inaugural Robert Altman award: given to one film's director, casting director and its ensemble cast (Haynes gets cred and so does Laura Rosenthal for casting Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Bruce Greenwood).

As noted in the Hollywood Reporter, these American independent films have a distinct international flair about them this year – from locations, to production money and foreign tongues – several noms this year have jetted off to other corners of the globe to bring forth their stories but with the enforced rules meant that “indie films” breaking the 20 million dollar budget gap were not included, hence the reason why we don’t see Into the Wild, There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men among the noms.   

Notable inclusions for acting awards for thesps flying under the radar includes a best actor nom Pedro Castaneda for “August Evening”, Tamara Podemski for Best Actress with Four Sheets to the Wind.

Below you’ll find a complete list of the nominations, and IONCINEMA.com’s predictions and commentary (excluding the award categories for the JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD, TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD and PRODUCERS AWARD which we will be highlighting separately on another page) for what should be a grand evening on February 23rd.:

Best Feature:

       

Commentary: One would think that the number of mentions for The Savages would guarantee a Best Feature nom, but it was edged out by a comedy (Juno) that stands out “fresher” than its Sundance counterpart. Paranoid Park proves that Gus Van Sant is still delivering solid works of art and Michael Winterbottom might have to thank Angelina Jolie and a summer placement for the attention it is receiving in late November. The true grudge match of the evening will be between Diving Bell and the Dylan X6 fantasy biopic.    

Best Director:

       
There are four noms in this category that demonstrate excellence in poise, the form and the mastery, attention to detail in directing (and most likely this will be a Julian Schnabel vs. Todd Haynes kind of night) and the additional mention of Jason Reitman for Juno is very apropos – has he demonstrated skill hands in a quick-to-production project for Fox Searchlight. 

Best First Feature:

       
I don’t think there is one film in this category that is near-perfect – I had issues with 4 out of the 5 (Vanaja – I haven’t seen), but you got to admit that picking up a slew of Gotham noms is an advantage: hence why Craig Zobel’s Great World of Sound is the favorite from the gang.

Best Documentary:

       
2007 was another exceptional year in doc film – what this 5-some tells us is that audiences may just be fed up with war-themed documentaries as they already are with fiction films. Beginning of the year docs Dan Klores’ Crazy Love and Petra Epperlein & Michael Tucker’s The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair don’t stand out as much as my favorite of the group in Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes or The Monastery (Pernille Rose Grønkjær) – perhaps the more critically acclaimed of the bunch. Lake of Fire by Tony Kaye made some strides in late October.

Best Foreign Film:

       
What a great selection we find in the best foreign pics. They are emotionally accessible to audiences on different levels. From harsh to joyful, from controversial to worldly common this is a cream of the crop with zero front-runners. Out of the limelight are films like Jellyfish, Control and Silent Light and Pan's Labyrinth. 

Best Female Lead:

       
I wasn’t entirely sure if Julie Christie and Away From Her was an import, but I guess I got my answer. Among the five nominees, the one noticeable missing name from this year’s list is Laura Linney and her brilliant performance in The Savages. A Mighty Heart’s Angelina Jolie leads the pack, with the dark horse favorite being Ellen Page’s perf in Juno. Sienna Miller gets a nod for her celeb status Interview, Parker Posey’s bubbly character in Broken English was a highlight and Tang Wei’s screen capturing presence in Lust, Caution merits a nom as well. 

Best Male Lead:

     
The odd bunch of noms begins with a film that flew so low to the ground that it was not even on our radar. Who is Pedro Castaneda and what is August Evening will be answered over the upcoming weeks ahead. I’m glad that this summer dramedy Talk To Me got some attention – because Don Cheadle’s perf is delicious. Tony Leung’s bully-esque perf in Lust, Caution was great, but the unpopularity of the period pic means that the faves in this category are Sundance acting showcases from Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Savages and Frank Langella in Starting Out in the Evening. A noticeable absentee from this list is Ryan Gosling from Lars and the Real Girl (perhaps this was an over 20 million dollar production?) And what about Christian Bale from Herzog's Rescue Dawn?

Best Supporting Female:

       

If ever there was a sure bet in any category this year it will be Best Supporting Actress – Cate Blanchett has got a lock on it with her Dylan impression in I'm Not There. Little know perfs from Anna Kendrick in Rocket Science and Tamara Podemski in Sundance film fest’s Four Sheets to the Wind get kudos, while veteran actresses Jennifer Jason Leigh in Margot at the Wedding (the only nomination for the Paramount Vantage film at this year’s awards) and Marisa Tomei proves her worth in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

 

Best Supporting Male:

       
First observation is: lots of dark skinned actors in this category. My second obs: makes total sense that Marcus Carl Franklin has the edge in this category. The young actor was not just ‘reciting’ lines – if you listed closely enough I swear we could hear some legit Dylanisms. His phenomenal perf as one of the six BD’s in I'm Not There makes him the clear leader of this pack. I’m glad that Chiwetel Ejiofor in Talk To Me and Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn were not forgotten, and the not commonly known names of Kene Holliday in Great World of Sound and Irfan Khan in The Namesake might benefit from the acknowledgement.

Best Screenplay:

       

I’m not There appears to be the toast of this year’s awards, but oddly enough best screenplay nods go to Mike White’s Year of the Dog and Fred Parnes & Andrew Wagner’s Starting Out in the Evening instead. Adrienne Shelly might be smiling from above as Waitress struck a cord with auds this summer – but the heavy favorite and 2nd place finishing should be a toss up between either Ronald Harwood’s take on The Diving Bell and the Butterfly or Tamara Jenkins’s dysfunctional family called The Savages.

Best First Screenplay:

       

Number one with a bullet in the Best First Screenplay category is the rich dialogue and believable characters that Diablo Cody created for Juno. Kelly Masterson’s structured screenplay is one of the principle reasons why Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is getting creds these days. Sundance entries and biographically spun tales from doc filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz (Rocket Science) and Zoe Cassavetes (Broken English) get a nod as well and A Mighty Heart’s John Orloff completes the group with his take on the book adapted true story of the Pearl family.

Best Cinematography:

       
It’s a masterclass in cinematography this year – obvious noms such as Janusz Kaminski fabulous work in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Rodrigo Prieto’s warm shooting of Lee’s Lust, Caution will be the top tier favorites for this award and are joined by films (that I have yet to see – but the trailers show plenty of promise) Mihai Malaimare, Jr. (Youth Without Youth) and Milton Kam’s camera eye work in Vanaja. I’m especially happy to see the inclusion of Mott Hupfel – the varied techniques he brought to The Savages mixed well with the film’s thematics.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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