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2008 Indie Spirit Awards noms: Ballast tied with Frozen River and Rachel Getting Married?

I’m pleased by some of the names and film titles that were nominated in the fifteen categories and especially glad to see that Lance Hammer’s Ballast grabbed six nominations but I’m perplexed by one of the two films it shares a total of six nominations with.

I’m getting to this a little late today – I had morning and afternoon screenings for Milk and Doubt respectively, but for the most part I’m pleased by some of the names and film titles that were nominated in the fifteen categories and especially glad to see that Lance Hammer’s Ballast grabbed six nominations but I’m perplexed by one of the two films it shares a total of six nominations with. Perhaps I need to see Frozen River for a second time — with the exception of Melissa Leo’s perf, I couldn’t help but feel that everything came across as manufactured, by the numbers and that it played out like a Hollywood movie rather than a poignant indie film with a punch. Below you’ll find the different categories, the nominations and some commentary on my part on who will win and who should win. 

BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)
Rachel Getting Married (Neda Armian, Jonathan Demme, Marc Platt)
The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin)
Wendy and Lucy (Larry Fessenden, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani)
Ballast (Lance Hammer, Nina Parikh)
Frozen River (Chip Hourihan, Heather Rae)
Commentary: It’s a close race between The Wrestler and Ballast, but Ballast in my books has the edge. 

BEST DIRECTOR
Tom McCarthy, The Visitor
Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Ramin Bahrani, Chop Shop
Lance Hammer, Ballast
Commentary: What I can’t understand is why McCarthy and Bahrani weren’t included in the Best Feature category? Where is Aronofsky? Hammer takes this one.

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
Afterschool (Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, Josh Mond)
Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, Justin Barber)
Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, Anthony Bregman, Spike Jonze, Sidney Kimmel)
Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, Anthony Bregman)
Sangre De Mi Sangre (Christopher Zalla, Per Melita, Benjamin Odell)
Commentary: Ballast is Hammer’s debut film. Why he isn’t on this list? Synecdoche, New York will win, while Antonio Campos could be the dark-horse of the category.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
Prince of Broadway (Sean Baker, Darren Dean)
Take Out (Sean Baker, Shih-Ching Tsou)
The Signal (David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry, Alexander Motlagh)
Turn the River (Chris Eigeman, Ami Armstrong)
In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Alex Holdridge, Seth Caplan, Scoot McNairy)
Commentary: Hard to say which film has the weight. In Search of a Midnight Kiss had a good critical reception while Sean Baker’s Prince of Broadway just won a festival prize from Torino.

BEST SCREENPLAY
Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, Sugar
Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York
Howard A. Rodman, Savage Grace
Christopher Zalla, Sangre De Mi Sangre
Commentary: Hands down Charlie Kaufman. Nice to see Savage Grace get a mention.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Lance Hammer, Ballast
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Jonathan Levine, The Wackness
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
Commentary: This one might actually go to Lance Black’s Milk.

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Summer Bishil, Towelhead
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Tarra Riggs, Ballast
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy
Commentary: This is a Melissa Leo and Anne Hathaway competition. Flip a coin.

BEST MALE LEAD
Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Sean Penn, Milk
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Commentary: Rourke versus Penn. I’d love to see this showdown at the Oscars as well. Flip a coin again.

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Rosie Perez, The Take
Misty Upham, Frozen River
Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married
Commentary: Cruz offers the most memorable perf from the five.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
James Franco, Milk
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Charlie McDermott, Frozen River
JimMyron Ross, Ballast
Haaz Sleiman, The Visitor
Commentary: Franco does more than lock lips with Penn. He should get the nod.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler
Lol Crawley, Ballast
James Laxton, Medicine for Melancholy
Harris Savides, Milk
Michael Simmonds, Chop Shop
Commentary: I’ve seen four of the five films and all did superb work. Savides’ package should edge out the comp.

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)
The Order of Myths (Margaret Brown)
Up the Yangtze (Yung Chang)
Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)
The Betrayal (Ellen Kuras & Thavisouk Phrasavath)
Man on Wire (James Marsh)
Commentary: It’s a Man on Wire kind of year.

BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)
The Class (Laurent Cantet)
Gomorra (Matteo Garrone)
Secret of the Grain (Abdellatif Kechiche)
Hunger (Steve McQueen)
Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)
Commentary: Ask me what would be in my top ten this year: I’d name these five among the ten-pack. The Class might have the edge.

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
Charlie Kaufman (Director), Jeanne McCarthy (Casting Director), Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson, Diane Weist, Michelle Williams, Synecdoche, New York
Commentary: Hands down no other film would deserve such an award.

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Heather Rae (Frozen River)
Jason Orans (Goodbye Solo, Year of the Fish)
Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy (Treeless Mountain, I’ll Come Running)

ACURA SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Lynn Shelton (My Effortless Brilliance)
Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues)
Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy)
Commentary: Here are three films to add to the must see list.

LACOSTE TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Darius Marder (Loot)
Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil)
Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths)
Commentary: Brown has the edge here.

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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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