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We here at Golden Grouches are a voter for the Independent Spirit Awards. That is, the four of us combine to form one member of Film Independent and we merge our brainpower to submit one ballot. We had a fun time doing it last year, seeking out smaller films and arguing about our votes.

On Tuesday the nominees will be announced and we’ll have our list of films to try to track down in the next three months. The Spirits give us a nice long time to see the films and hopefully give the nominees a box office boost.

It’s tough to know beforehand what has qualified for the Spirits. A film’s budget must come in under $20 million and be primarily American. They don’t publish a list of qualified films so we’re all left doubly guessing for tomorrow. Maybe the films we hope to see on the nomination list were too costly or too Canadian. But we’ve got a few nominees we’re hoping to see show up.


My major hope is a Best Actress nomination for Liana Liberato in Trust. I really liked the (David Schwimmer-directed!) film about a girl targeted by an online predator and maybe Catherine Keener and Clive Owen as her parents will garner the awards nominations as the bigger stars, but Liberato is so so good as the victimized teen. The film works because it’s not simply a weepy melodrama. Liberato’s character won’t admit she was a victim and her relationship with her dad becomes fraught. So she’s got the angsty teen thing down! Plus of course the horrible abuse.

I’m not entirely positive 50/50 qualifies, but if it does I’d like to see it get some recognition. It wasn’t as great as I was expecting – I think I sunk it with high expectations – but it’s still a very good and fairly brave film. Any of the actors would be good nominees: Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt.


If it is eligible, I’d love to see Gregg Araki’s Kaboom get some love.  A divisive movie, to be sure, but it totally worked for me.  It will end up as one of my favorite films of the year, so I’d be tickled pick if it somehow got some top nominations, including a best actor for lead Thomas Dekker.

Super is a dark, twisted, brilliant ordinary guy-turned-superhero flick.  It is best watched with a friend and some good beer (Thanks, Adam!).  I’d love to see its script get a nod and I wouldn’t mind Rainn Wilson for lead and Ellen Page for supporting.  And OK, it is the fanboy in me, but if Judi Dench can get an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, then Nathan Fillion is totally deserving of a nomination for his role here.

One of the few actual contenders I’ve seen is Martha Marcy May Marlene, and I’m pretty sure it is deserving of all the noms it will receive.

I’m guessing Hesher was eligible last year, but if not, Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserves a nom both because he is awesome and because he so completely inhabits this role that’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen from him.

Best Actor is always crowded, but David Hyde Pierce in The Perfect Host is way more under than radar than he should be, in my opinion.  He’s excellent as a…well…I don’t want to spoil anything, but he is super creepy.

And I’m actually pretty down on three likely contenders: Jane Eyre, Win Win, and Take Shelter.  They are all populated with actors I really like, so I’m not necessarily opposed to acting nominations (I think the order in which I’d root fort them is: Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender, Amy Ryan, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Paul Giamatti).  But I’ll be a little disappointed with any best picture or writing nominations.

John’s a good man and got this up before the nominees were announced.  I’m gonna see how many categories I can get through before Oscars.  Now, I’ve seen probably more 2009 movies than I should have, but I’m still slogging my way through some, so between that and the game theory of the ballot, I reserve the right to have my best of 2009 list look a little different, though ballots are due when ballots are due.

1.  Stanley Tucci, Blind Date

A remake of the same-named Theo van Gogh film, Blind Date slipped into a few theaters rather quietly, and I have no idea how it came across my radar.  Little more than Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, and a single room, it blurs the line between film and staged play.  Revolving around a husband and a wife who set up blind dates with each other as they deal with a tragedy, the role requires tremendous range and depth, and I can’t really imagine too many actors pulling it off successfully.

2.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days of Summer

He’ll have turned 30 around next year’s Oscars, so maybe he’ll finally be old enough for some Academy love.  He’s certainly built an impressive resume.  The male lead in a romantic comedy of this sort is difficult to play, in my opinion.  It is very easy to veer off into sheer whininess, but Gordon-Levitt is eminently relatable.

3. Sharlto Copley, District 9

In traditional hands, this role is played by someone like Vin Diesel.  Which would have been interesting, sure.  But instead, one of the most unlikeliest action heroes turned in something quite memorable.

4.  Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine

The movie wasn’t great, sure.  But Daniel Day-Lewis was his usual crazy impressive self.  If he had been billed as, say, Baniel Bay-Kewis, I would have had absolutely no idea that this actor was the same one who played Daniel Plainview.  His ability to morph from role to role is just staggering.

5.  Colin Firth, A Single Man

Another performance hampered by a subpar film.  It tickled me pink to see Colin Firth get a nod, because he’s been so consistently great.  Given about as much to work with as Jeff Bridges, for example, Firth creates a much more textured character, one who felt more like a real person than a caricature.

Just off the ballot: Michael Sheen (The Damned United) and Patton Oswalt (Big Fan)

Oscar nominations will be announced on February 2. We’re counting down to the big day by offering some hard-hitting analysis and incisive opinions on the toughest questions surrounding the nominees. No claims the Academy is perfect.  But sometimes they seem to refuse to consider certain films or performances, which can be terribly infuriating. If you ruled the Academy, what would you decree to get a nomination?

We exempted one film from this discussion. Look for our thoughts on that movie in the coming days.

Brian: Maybe The Film Would Do Better If It Had A Name

I write this without seeing any of the other nominated foreign films, but if I could pick a film to get some overdue recognition, it’d be Sin Nombre, a thrilling, engaging, and beautifully shot film that handles the dicey subjects of illegal immigration and the spread of MS-13 with grace. Critically, it was adored by most when it came out last spring, but it seems to have faltered pretty fast this Oscar season. I’m disappointed — there are parts of the movie that still stick with me and it’s been nearly a year since I saw it. Based on the trailers I’ve seen for the nominated foreign films, this looks much more accessible to American audiences and falls far from the cliched tropes of the dreaded “foreign film” with subtitles. Truly great and deserving of recognition.

Jared: Move the Oscars to Summer

Oscar actually isn’t doing a terrible job this year.  As always, comedy gets shafted in the Best Picture race.  My ideal nominee list would likely include The Hangover, (500) Days of Summer, I Love You, Man, and as much as it pains me to agree with John, In the Loop.  One of my pet films this year is an obscure movie called Blind Date. I’ll be talking about it more later on, but I think Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson’s performances should have been in the discussion this year.  Fudging things a little bit, if I only had control of one thing, I’d advocate for the acting in (500) Days of Summer.  I imagine Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel faced the double disadvantage of not being in a drama and not “paying their dues,” but their work absolutely contributed to the magic of the film, and it makes me sad that they were barely considered.

John: Best Loop-de-loop

I have a couple ideas of what omnipotent John would do with the Oscar nomination and damned if it isn’t hard to pick. The Informant! could be put in Best Picture or Matt Damon in Best Actor. But I’m going to go with a film I loved even more, In the Loop, for Best Picture. This is an exquisitely written film, packed to the gill with jokes and spot-on as a satire. I don’t think a plot point or performance goes wrong. If there’s any recent film that I can say, “we need more films like this!” it’s In the Loop. It won’t get the recognition it deserves without me breaking into PricewaterhouseCoopers and messing with the ballots. Which is too bad because more people should check it out.

February 2020
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