Spirit Award nominees express varied reactions to the recognition

When the nominations for the Spirit Awards came out Tuesday morning, nominees were mostly busy with other things. Shane Carruth, nominated for director and editing for “Upstream Color,” was in line at LAX. Michael B. Jordan, nominated for male lead for “Fruitvale Station,” was in the shower at his family’s home in Newark, N.J.

In all, 45 films were nominated, from considered Oscar contenders such as “12 Years a Slave” and “Nebraska” to lesser-known films such as “Museum Hours,” “Blue Caprice,” “Computer Chess” and “Crystal Fairy.”

Even those who were nominated couldn’t help but feel tinges of regret over colleagues who missed the cut.

“Obviously, I would have wanted the film to be nominated [for best feature],” said Julie Delpy. Nominated for female lead for “Before Midnight,” Delpy was also recognized with costar Ethan Hawke and director Richard Linklater for their co-written screenplay. “It’s something we worked on together. It’s such a labor of love for the three of us.”

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“Before Midnight” is the third film in a trilogy that includes “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” in charting specific moments in an ongoing relationship. (“Sunset” was also nominated for a Spirit Award for  its screenplay.)

“In this last film we decided to make the character as raw and not cute and to go places that you don’t necessarily want to see her,” said Delpy. “Actually, I’m surprised I was nominated for anything as an actress because I felt my character was not likable enough, in a way. It’s a dangerous place to go as an actor; not everyone loves me at the end of the film. It’s tough to go there. I’m surprised it paid off in some way.”

“Fruitvale Station” won the jury and audience awards when it premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival with its dramatization of the real-life story of Oscar Grant, who was gunned down by transit police in Oakland in the early hours of New Year’s Day in 2009. On Tuesday, writer-director Ryan Coogler received a nomination in the best first feature category, with Melanie Diaz nominated for supporting female along with Jordan’s nod for male lead.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Jordan said of the nominations. “Just the fact we have to tell the story of a young man who lost his life the way he did, somebody that could have been me.

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“But also that people are affected by the work, that it really has people thinking,” Jordan added, "feels like a victory in my book.”

“There are people deeply affected by this tragedy,” Diaz said. “I think we all felt this sense of responsibility where we wanted it to be right and good enough where they were going to be happy.”

“I think all the awards buzz is just getting it more attention,” noted Jordan. “The accolades and nominations encourage people who might not have wanted to see it or thought they’d watch it when they get around to it, they might now give it a look."

Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber were recognized with a nomination for their adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel “The Spectacular Now.” The duo had previously won in the screenplay category for “(500) Days of Summer.”

For the duo, the nomination seemed a validation of their efforts to make a clear-eyed and graceful look at young love. (The film also brought in a nomination for Shailene Woodley for female lead.)

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“We didn’t want to make the conventional version, and this was very outside the box, an R-rated teen story about what it feels like to fall in love for the first time,” said Weber. “And I think the studio version would have felt very different.”

“What I think is awesome about these kinds of things is that people pay attention to them,” Neustadter said about the nomination. “That speaks volumes about the kinds of movies that audiences are clamoring for and love. These are the movies we really love, and to be spoken of in the same conversation as these other nominees is a huge deal for us. This is extremely exciting.”

“Short Term 12” has been generating buzz around the lead performance of actress Brie Larson, but the Spirit Awards may push the film even further into the conversation with nominations not only for her but also for Keith Stanfield for supporting male and Nat Sanders for editing.

Destin Daniel Cretton, the writer and director of “Short Term 12,” wrote in an email, "I'm so proud of Brie, Keith and Nat. Nothing makes me happier than seeing good friends honored for their talents. My heart is smiling big today."

“Blue Jasmine” was likewise not only recognized for the powerhouse performance of Cate Blanchett, nominated for female lead, but also for Woody Allen for screenplay and for Sally Hawkins for supporting female.

“To say I am delighted to be nominated for the Spirit Awards is somewhat of an understatement!” Hawkins said in a statement. “It is an honor and I feel very blessed. Thank you so much. I am immensely proud to be a part of 'Blue Jasmine' – it was a gift.  And I am delighted for both Cate and Woody for their nominations too. So richly deserved.” 

Some nominees found unusual ways to celebrate.

“I'm so thrilled to be nominated and included in such a talented group. Film Independent has been so supportive of this film and I couldn't be more excited about finally going to the Spirit Awards,” wrote Jill Soloway, nominated for first screenplay for “Afternoon Delight.” “I've been gluten-free since the announcement!”

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