Gold Standard: Spirit Awards: What movies received the biggest boosts?

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Netflix’s child-soldier war drama “Beasts of No Nation,” nominated Tuesday for five Film Independent Spirit Awards -- picture, director, lead and supporting actor and cinematography -- has been a pet cause of many academy members since it debuted last month on the streaming service.

Hosted screenings, presented by the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Stiller, Kerry Washington and Sally Field, have been held routinely a couple of times a week in Los Angeles and New York since early October. The idea: Lend your name to prompt people to see a searing, important movie that, because of its subject matter, can be intimidating to the casual viewer.

The Spirit Awards’ stamp of approval for “Beasts,” as well as Todd Haynes’ romance “Carol” (which led the way with six noms, including picture and leads Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) and the journalism procedural “Spotlight” (five nods, including picture), serves as a crucial signal to academy members as they begin to sift through towering stacks of screeners this Thanksgiving weekend.


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The nominated films can also trumpet the bevy of nominations as they look to expand -- and survive -- in a commercial marketplace crowded with awards-season contenders and big-budget studio movies.

To be eligible for the Spirit Awards, films must be American productions, which Film Independent defines as movies either having American citizens credited in two of the three categories of director, writer and producer or a movie set primarily in the United States with an American company providing at least 70% of its financing.

Those guidelines eliminated such films as the sweeping immigrant love story “Brooklyn,” the transgender relationship drama “The Danish Girl” and other awards-season contenders like “Suffragette,” “45 Years,” “Youth” and “Son of Saul.”

The’ intense mother-son drama “Room,” an Irish-Canadian production, was eligible, but the movie, an audience-prize winner at several film festivals, was surprisingly shut out of both the picture and director categories. Instead, voters -- composed of committees of industry professionals, critics and members of Film Independent’s board -- went with “Beasts,” “Carol,” “Spotlight,” Charlie Kaufman’s upcoming animated movie about alienation titled “Anomalisa” and the micro-budgeted, iPhone-shot Sundance favorite “Tangerine” in both categories.

The director category featured six nominees, with David Robert Mitchell, from the acclaimed horror film “It Follows,” also winning a nomination.


Two years ago, all four Spirit acting winners went on to take the Oscar. Last year, three of the four (Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons and Julianne Moore) repeated, with Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) ineligible.

This year’s Oscar acting races are less settled, and with studios stepping up with movies like “Joy,” “The Revenant” and “Bridge of Spies,” there will probably be less overlap. No members of the acclaimed “Spotlight” acting team won individual nominations. The group instead was given the Robert Altman Award for ensemble.

Perhaps the most significant statement Spirit voters made was placing both “Carol” actresses in the lead category. The Weinstein Co. had been hoping to campaign Blanchett as lead and Mara in supporting to avoid conflict. Now that both the Golden Globes and Spirit Awards have designated Mara as a lead, Weinstein could face a challenge from academy voters as well.

But then, that’s a problem a lot of studios and filmmakers would like to have right about now.

Twitter: @glennwhipp



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