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We continue with our chat where we reveal our ballot for this year’s Independent Spirit Awards (occurring right as this is posting!). Part 1 is here.

BEST MALE LEAD

The nominees:

  • Demian Bichir, A Better Life
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Ryan Gosling, Drive
  • Woddy Harrelson, Rampart
  • Micahel Shannon, Take Shelter

WINNER: Michael Shannon (19 points – 12 from Brian, 7 from John)
Other votes: Jean Dujardin (1 point – Jared)

Jared: So you guys want to talk about your love for Michael Shannon?

John: He’s so intense!

Jared: He really is fantastic

Brian: I can’t imagine anyone else doing that role

John: He’s got the face, the voice, the demeanor for that role

Brian: There were only two categories I really truly cared about — and it was this and Supp. Female — but I didn’t realize you all agreed with me!

Jared: I thought this category was really, really strong, I wavered back and forth on voting for every single nominee.

John: This is all around a good crop of nominees though

Brian: I never considered voting for Gosling but other than that, the strongest batch of the nominees for sure

John: I agree that there wasn’t quite enough for Gosling to work with

Jared: I think Gosling managed to turn a little into a whole heck of a lot. Bichir has a kind of similar argument. Harrelson always seems to create these indelible characters.

John: I wish I liked Rampart more, but Harrelson is good. Dujardin is good. Bichir is good in a more subdued role. Good good good. I was a tad worried about Dujardin winning. Not because he’s not great but because I feel like someone else needs to win the Spirit. That’s why I fought the urge to take points from Shannon when I needed more elsewhere

Jared: I guess I want the best to win, but I see what you are saying.

BEST FIRST FEATURE

The nominees:

  • Another Earth
  • In the Family
  • Margin Call
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Natural Selection

WINNER: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Jared: I actually kinda liked all of the Best First Feature nominees, not sure I loved any of them, but all are worthwhile films. Our nominee, though, will be Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Brian: Wooooo, that’s who I would have voted for

John: Good movie

John: I can’t believe Margin Call and MMMM are first features. Those are some real up and coming talents

Adam: It was fine. Not great, but had interesting elements

Brian: I fear that Margin Call will be a little bit of a one-trick pony

John: It depends on what Chandor does next. He’s gotta do something different. imdb says his next project is called All Is Lost. “A journey of one man’s fight to survive.” Starring Robert Redford

Jared: I thought MMMM did a good job of maintain tension throughout.

Brian: yes, it was incredibly tense

Jared: So In the Family is a 170 minute film about an gay, ethnically Asian man from Tennessee (completely with drawl) and his battle to cope after his partner dies leaving behind a biological son the two had been raising, and his battle to win custody of said kid. It also is surprisingly watchable.

Brian: I can see the ads now: “Surprisingly Watchable’

Jared: I mean, there’s no way to describe it so it sounds interesting. And the guy is desperate need of an editor or something. But writer/director/star Patrick Wang managed to put together a pretty compelling film.

John: I can see how that would make a compelling movie

Jared: I wouldn’t say to go out of your way to see it, but you probably won’t be disappointed.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

The nominees:

  • A Separation
  • Melancholia
  • Shame
  • The Kid with a Bike
  • Tyrannosaur

WINNER: Shame

John: OUR vote for international film is Shame

Jared: Good thing Adam zoned out an hour ago, otherwise he’d be yelling at you a lot.

Adam: I would, but I am completely unsurprised that John chose the inferior film.

John: I know you all didn’t care for it, but it mesmerized me and it really affected me. I just wanted to curl up in my seat and then go take a shower

Brian: oh god

John: The last 30 minutes or so is so intense

Brian: or pointless

John: It reminds me of the finale to Requiem for a Dream. Just increasingly bleak and awful. I’m talking of the scenes in the lead up to his return home, which I cared for less

Brian: I’d love to hear about Melancholia instead of ragging on John about why Shame is terrible

John: You guys won’t like Melancholia

Brian: so… you loved it?

John: No I did not. I can see how people liked it though. It saves the best for last. The last 20-30 minutes is the impending doom of the apocalypse and it gets increasingly uneasy. So it ends with a tense bang

Adam: It looked absolutely awful

John: But holy hell the first hour is rough. The Kirsten Dunst character is at her wedding and has a serious case of cuntitis. She’s mentally ill, but still

Adam: YES!!!!

Jared: That may be the best line of the year, by the way. [ed note: “cuntitis” is a joke from Cinematography nominee The Off Hours]

Adam: That’s staying in

John: Tyrannosaur is terrific also, by the way

Jared: Adam, I believe Tyrannosaur is done by the guy who played Jason Statham’s partnerish guy in Blitz.

John: I heard some complaints that it was just another British bleak picture, but it has plenty of story and packs a punch

Adam: Oh. Maybe I’ll see that then

John: I also was underwhelmed by A Separation. Two hours of people being stubborn

Jared: That’s disappointing to hear, looking forward to seeing it this weekend.

Adam: John doesn’t know what he is talking about

Brian: thats good to hear, but I’m going with John’s evaluation so my expectations are lowered

Jared: That’s generally my operating assumption.

John: Everyone else seems to love it though so your mileage may vary. I just really expected it to be up my alley

BEST FEMALE LEAD

The nominees:

  • Lauren Ambrose, Think of Me
  • Rachel Harris, Natural Selection
  • Adepero Oduye, Pariah
  • Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

WINNER: Rachel Harris (20 points – Adam)
Other votes: Elizabeth Olsen (9 points- 5 from John, 4 from Brian)
Michelle Williams (7 points – Jared)

Adam: YES!!

John: ha

Brian: Hahahaha

Adam: Clean sweep

Jared: Wanna tell us why you gave her so many points?

John: And here I was worried that someone would outvote Olsen with Williams

Brian: I can support this nomination, but I too want to hear why you loved it

Adam: Sure…I gave her so many points because fuck Michelle Williams

Jared: Hahaha.

Adam: And I like Game Theory

Jared: I was actually really surprised by Harris’s performance. I thought she did a fantastic job.

Adam: I actually agree. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie itself, but she made the movie

Brian: Me too — it could have turned into a Tracey Ullman like parody, but it didn’t. I found this category the hardest, actually

John: Until the last second I was throwing a point to Ambrose. Wish I had left it now!

Jared: John, I almost did the same! I really like Lauren Ambrose and thought she carried the film something fierce. She was playing a tough character and thought she did an admirable job.

John: The movie was meh but I can definitely see why she was nominated

Brian: Agreed

John: Yeah all were good but I never hesitated picking Olsen

Jared: She was a revelation, it is true.

John: Actually, I will say Oduye was a lesser nod to me.

Jared: Agreed. She was fine, but unremarkable.

John: Truth be told I found a few other performances outshone her. Specifically Aasha Davis as her friend and Sahra Mellesse as her sister in a small role

Brian: and Kim Wayans

John: See I wasn’t taken by Wayans

Jared: In Living Color 4 life!

John: Wayans is the mom, right?

Jared: Yup.

John: It’s an uneven movie for acting

Jared: I also have to defend Michelle Williams here. Thought she created a rather memorable Marilyn Monroe…fragile and strong, sexy and insecure and always larger than life.

John: I didn’t like the movie at all but she is indeed good. The big snub for Actress was Liana Liberato for Trust. I was really surpised that film didn’t show up anywhere. She’s so good for a child actress

Jared: I agree with John, people should watch Trust and praise her role

BEST SCREENPLAY

The nominees:

  • Footnote
  • The Artist
  • Win Win
  • Beginners
  • The Descendants

WINNER: The Artist (6 points – 5 from Jared, 1 from Brian)

Brian: I guess I’m not in alone in feeling like the First Screenplay group were much stronger than the Screenplay group.

John: Definitely. And how does Take Shelter get love in so many categories but not screenplay?

Jared: It is a crime that 50/50 isn’t in here.

Adam: I am also surprised that 50/50 is not here

John: I believe that scripts can either be in screenplay or first screenplay, not both. I may not be right about that but I think that’s the case

Jared: Also, how did Midnight in Paris miss?

Adam: Also, while I didn’t always agree with the overall story, Midnight in Paris had some of the best dialogue of any movie this year

Jared: Instead we get Win Win and Beginners.

John: Obviously I would have voted for Midnight in Paris if it had been there, but I can understand spreading the love around, like the way Clooney wasn’t nominated

Brian: I liked Win Win much more than Jared

Adam: I am also fine with Win Win. Beginners should not be here

Brian: Beginners was so trite

John: Beginners is about 40% awesome and 60% navel gazing whiny crap

Brian: with an unoriginal take on the manic pixie dream girl

John: Yeah really. More gay dad please! We want gay dad! We want gay dad!

Brian: Win Win wasn’t anything new either, but well done

John: The weird thing with Win Win is that there isn’t much drama. It’s quite pleasant but that’s about it. Even the sullen teen is a good kid.

Brian: since when do you care about drama?

Jared: Did any of you guys actually like The Descendants script?

Brian: MORE LAND DEALS!

John: I suppose I would have voted for Descendants by default if I had to vote but I clearly didn’t care enough to bother. It has some really great elements but it just doesn’t cohere in a way that I hoped

Jared: Agreed. Maybe Footnote will be really awesome.

John: So weird to me that Footnote is in here

Brian: I guess we should talk about the winner, Jared?

Jared: oh. Everyone already knows The Artist is awesome.

John: I liked the ratatat patter of our winner

Brian: making a screenplay work for a silent movie is no small feat

Jared: And I’m glad people realize that a script is so much more than dialogue. Everything that happens has to be in a script first.

Adam: Says the Aaron Sorkin fan

Jared: [walks down a hallway]

John: Yeah I’d say my problems with The Artist are probably more in execution than in writing. I hope you like stage directions because that script is full of them

Brian: [says self important things]

BEST DIRECTOR

The nominees:

  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Mike Mills, Beginners
  • Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive

WINNER: Jeff Nichols (9 points – 6 from John, 3 from Brian)
Other votes: Nicolas Winding Refn (6 points – 3 from John, 3 from Jared)

John: Oh good. I was worried after that last category that The Artist was ready to sweep our votes. Both Drive and Take Shelter are real directors’ movies. All about execution. I liked Take Shelter better than Drive so I gave it more points, but kudos to both

Jared: I think Drive has the script of a direct to DVD movie, but Refn worked really hard to make every single shot memorable and elevate it to something arthouse.

Adam: Yeah..I agree with that I wasn’t blown away by any of these movies directing. If I had to pick though, it would have been for Drive

John: I agree fully, Jared. If we have issues with it it’s from the script. Refn gives it some real style: Camera work, scene staging, sound, music, editing. And the same could be said for Nichols. I’d say the only problem I have with Take Shelter is the pacing through some of the middle. It could have used some trimming, I think. Nichols is really good at ratcheting up the tension and doom

Brian: Drive was all flash, no substance. I put some of that on the director. Actually I thought he kept getting in the way of the small semblance of plot that was there. But Take Shelter — those visuals were so arresting and haunting

John: Getting in the way, by being too awesome?

Brian: by being distracting. The violence was the definition of gratuitous

Jared: Refn didn’t really seem to try to be invisible, he wanted you to know someone was Directing, dammit.

John: Yes, but that’s literally the point. This was an exercise in stylish violence

Brian: but it was pointless

John: Well, it was the point

Brian: the point was that it was pointless?

John: I don’t disagree for the most part. But the point seemed to be nothing but to do some stylish violence

Brian: how is that in the plus column?

Adam: Wasn’t that one of your complaints about Inglourious Basterds?

John: Yeah it was my complaint about Inglourious Basterds and I have the same complaint about Drive. I’m just saying the violence isn’t pointless, it is the point. As a directorial exercise it’s great. It just needs some more substance

Brian: see I think Basterds and Drive are totally different. the violence in Basterds had a point — it was war and there was vengeance. in Drive — we knew nothing about The Driver

John: Are we talking writing or directing then

Brian: both. the director chooses what to do with the script . he choices he made didnt make much sense to me

Jared: Anyone have anything to say about the other nominees?

John: The Artist is also all about directorial vision. And people seem to like it. I think Mills gets in based on his segues when McGregor is rambling about shit over montages and the talking dog. Otherwise, why the hell is he there. If you think it’s a good movie you probably like it for the writing and the performances. What is there that makes it particularly well directed?

Jared: Nothing, frankly.

John: And Payne… whatever. He picked some nice Hawaiian music I suppose

Jared: Or the music supervisor did.

BEST FEATURE

The nominees:

  • 50/50
  • Beginners
  • Drive
  • Take Shelter
  • The Artist
  • The Descendants

WINNER: The Artist (10 points – Jared)
Other votes: Take Shelter (8 points – John)
50/50 (3 points – Brian)

Jared: Victory is mine again!

John: Jesus if The Artist wins the Spirits too then what’s the point

Jared: The best movie should win best picture.

Brian: yeah John I dont really think your argument makes much sense

Jared: The Artist is a black and white silent film…that seems pretty independent to me.

John: Mostly I just wish it cost a few million more so it didn’t qualify and we could have our own little playground here without The Artist juggernaut to deal with

Brian: made by French people!

Adam: Ugh…notice how I didn’t vote for it at all. Stupid French

Brian: Next time Adam is in charge of the voting so he rigs it

Adam: You realize that’s EXACTLY what would happen

John: Next time Brian doesn’t waste all his points so we can put up a fight against Jared’s taste in Best Feature

Adam: That said, I am more than happy to be in charge of voting

Brian: I’m actually fine with the selection though I’d have preferred Take Shelter or 50/50

John: So did The Artist warm your cold heart, Jared?

Jared: Yes. The Artist was fun and funny and also surprisingly dark and bleak. Also, it has a great doggie.

Brian: UGGGIE!

John: To me it was just too thin. The style wasn’t enough to get me through. I was on board for about 20 minutes

Jared: The movie managed to placate my entire family, which has pretty much never happened. There’s a really interesting story in there, though

John: It needs another viewing I think.

Thanks for reading. We’ll find out tonight if any of our selections won!

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The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Actor in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

BRIAN

My list of Supporting Actor couldashouldas is even longer than what I had for Supporting Actress– I could easily fill out a full batch of nominees for the category: Ben Kingsley for Hugo, Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Corey Stoll for Midnight in Paris, Patton Oswalt in Young Adult and Uggie in The Artist. Sure, the last one was a little bit of a stretch, but you never know.

I’ll start with everyone’s favorite nominee that I don’t really understand. Christopher Plummer plays a gay, dying old man. If he has been a Holocaust survivor then that’d have checked off all of the Academy’s weak spots. It helps his case that he’s in the same movie as a flaccid romance and a way-too-twee conceit. But I found his performance underwhelming.

Max Von Sydow falls in the same category as a “career achievement” nominee for me, though I appreciated his work as a mute in ELIC. (Yet another Academy weak spot — physical disability). Playing off the unbearable precociousness of Thomas Horn’s Oskar, von Sydow’s expressive face was a nice respite, but he was never able to transcend the strained premise.

Kenneth Branagh? Sure, whatever. Get him back to doing something that befits a man of his pedigree. He was as stuck in Marilyn as Olivier was inThe Prince and the Showgirl.

Jonah Hill’s nomination is the one that makes me angriest, mostly because I should be thrilled that a young, comedic actor is getting recognized. But Hill didn’t DO anything in Moneyball except wear glasses and play against “type.” There are many things about Moneyball that make me think I saw a different movie than the one others did (especially the folks at The Atlantic) — Jonah Hill’s nomination is a the top of this list.

Everyone should go see Warrior. I’ve been preaching the gospel far and wide on this one. Nick Nolte is one of many reasons why. His sons are MMA fighters — strong, brutal and merciless — but they are feeble when it comes to interacting with Nolte. It’s a multi-layered performance that can only improve with repeated watchings. Give the award to Nolte!!

JOHN

Supporting Actor elicits the opposite response from me than Supporting Actress. I have no pretty much no interest in three of the nods, a fourth is okay, and one is miles above the rest. I wish I had the Supporting Actress problem of having to parse great acting from the great written character for these uninspiring picks.

I generally like Jonah Hill but I don’t see what’s so special about this performance. I can see some improvement in his work – he’s no longer half-shouting his lines – but I wouldn’t rank it among the year’s best. Branagh didn’t entrance me, though he’s not helped by a total snoozer of a film, while von Sydow is meh. By the time I saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close I knew von Sydow had scored an Oscar nomination. I kept waiting for some scene that would show how he earned that nod… and then nothing materialized.

Nolte does kind of hit the same notes again and again in Warrior. Sad, angry, or thrilled the dialogue all gets croaked out similarly. But given his years of boozing you could say he’s been preparing for this role for years! He’s certainly memorable, though it is a little tough since Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton both stood out to me more in the film. Still, I think there would be a temptation to play up some of the character’s emotional moments – create an Oscar Scene, even – but Nolte keeps it realistic.

Not that I needed to eliminate the others to reach this conclusion, but Christopher Plummer is the obvious winner. There’s a lot of complexity to a the role despite its fairly limited profile. There’s the regret for all the years he suppressed his true self, the timidity of launching into a new life at an advanced age, the joy of new love, the support of a father for a son, and the contemplation of impending death. Plummer is marvelous in all these aspects. Whenever he isn’t on screen, Beginners seriously drags. Plummer is so mesmerizing and his subplot so interesting that the primary plot thread pales in comparison. I would love to see a whole film built around this character.

This category is so lackluster I can’t even name many other actors I wish were here instead. I wasn’t as taken by Drive‘s Albert Brooks as others, but his play against type as a psychopath made for a great story. Ditto for Patton Oswalt in Young Adult, whose unrealized nomination would have been a nice recognition for a terrific but underexposed film. Otherwise, some of the actors from the sprawling casts of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy orMidnight in Paris would have been nice: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Corey Stoll, or Tom Hiddleston.

ADAM

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

JARED

What an odd collection of nominees.  The next time someone tries to convince you there’s such a thing as an Oscar performance, point them to this category.  You can’t say the nominees came from “Oscar movies”, because two of the films weren’t nominated for anything else.  The nominees aren’t all old or young or handsome or ugly or rookies or veterans or dramatic or comedic.  And you can’t say any had an Oscar scene.  Heck, it’d be easier to argue none of them had a traditional Oscar scene.  Indeed, about the only thing the performances have in common is that they aren’t particularly near my top picks of the year.

I remain baffled as to how Jonah Hill secured a nomination for such a blank character.  I’m guessing Brad Pitt just went around telling people to vote for Hill.  Which, to be honest, is probably the most effective campaign strategy for anything that I’ve ever heard.

I love the concept of Nick Nolte getting a nod for portraying a grilled old dad/trainer in a fighting movie that was one of the best of the year.  Kudos to the PR team for turning that in an Oscar nomination.  What complicates the pitch is that I’m not sure Nolte was required to show any depth or range.

There has to be someone somewhere who can explain to me what’s so great about Christopher Plummer in Beginners.  I swear that I went in with an open mind and additionally have read multiple people’s takes on the role.  But, I dunno.  Nothing in particular stands out for me there.

Does Max von Sydow get in if this wasn’t the year where a silent picture rampaged through the awards circuit?  That’s a tough call.  I’d argue The Artist certainly made people more receptive to a character that doesn’t speak.  Though that film is also an example of how people in a movie can be so expressive even without any dialogue.  As opposed to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I seem to to recall the book giving the character more backstory, maybe that is what’s missing here.

So by process of elimination, that leaves…Kenneth Branagh?  Fine, whatever.  I think people are getting too caught up in the storyline about how Branagh is like Olivier, and so it is cute the former is playing the latter in the film.  Or how odd it is for this all to be happening in a relatively light movie.  But I think Branagh was solid.  More than anything, his character served as a way to explain to the audience what was going on with the movie in a movie and what should be going. Branagh rises to the occasion and turns the character into one worth remembering.

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