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“Precious” tops the Indie Spirits

Gabourey Sidibe is Precious

This hasn’t been a very good year for people who like awards surprises. And, so, this year’s most high profile indie film, say it with me — “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” —  has won the lion’s share of the more high-profile awards at Film Independent’s Independent Spirit Awards, this year hosted by Eddie Izzard.

To be specific, “Precious” nabbed “Best Feature” from a field that included the very popular “(500) Days of Summer,” Berkeley-bred Cary Joji Fukunaga’s surprisingly assured directorial debut, “Sin Nombre,” and “The Last Station.” Director Lee Daniels, whose work on “Precious” has been the single most criticized aspect of the somewhat controversial film, nevertheless beat the Coen Brothers work on “A Serious Man,” Fukunaga, James Gray of “Two Lovers,” and Michael Hoffman of “The Last Station.” “Precious” also took the Best First Screenplay. The best not-first screenplay went to Scott Neustader and Michael H. Weber of “(500) Days.”

In the acting categories, Gabourey Sidibe received the Best Female Lead for playing Precious herself and, naturally, Mo’Nique proved to own her category fully across all award shows and won the Best Supporting Female category. Among the males, Jeff Bridges, took the Best Male Lead award that is deemed pretty much his due this year for the country music drama, “Crazy Heart.”

Since the $40 million dollar budget of “Inglourious Basterds” presumably put it beyond the realm of the Spirits, Christoph Waltz was not nominated for Best Supporting Male. Instead, he cut a deal in which he collected the award anyway in return for helping the show to end early. Just kidding. Woody Harrelson in his non-zombie-thwacking mode took the award for his work in the low-key stateside wartime drama, “The Messenger.” (My sympathies to Christian McKay of “Me and Orson Welles” — so much critical praise and so few awards even when this year’s male 500 pound gorilla is safely out of the room.)

Anvil! The Story of AnvilBest Foreign Film went to a film that doesn’t feel so foreign now that England is our 52nd state, “An Education.”  Best Documentary went to one some of you might actually have seen and found fun rather than upsetting, “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” defeated a list that included the highly praised “Food, Inc.” (For whatever reason, “The Cove” was not nominated.) Roger Deakins took the cinematography award for “A Serious Man.”

Among the special awards, the John Cassevettes Award, which goes to a film with a budget of less than $500,000, went to a favorite around these parts, Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday,” edging out another film we’ve kind of taken to our breast here, “Big Fan.” The latter film looked, literally, like a million dollars to me, so kudos to the penny-saving producers on that one. “A Serious Man” won the Robert Altman award for its acting ensemble.

You can see a complete list of nominees and winners here. You can also check and see if Indiewire ever corrects their typos here.

  

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BAFTA nominations

The British equivalent of the Oscars has announced its choices. Since the BAFTAs include American films, it’s often somewhat similar to the Oscars though with a bit of an edge, not surprisingly, for UK fare. You can see the complete list at the BAFTA site.

This year’s Best Film list looks very much like the lists we’ve been seeing all along, with one major difference. The spot usually reserved for “Inglourious Basterds” has been taken up by the highly regarded coming-of-age/relationship dramedy, “An Education,” which makes it the token British nominee in a field that includes usual suspects “The Hurt Locker,” “Precious,” “Up in the Air,” and “Avatar.” As if to make sure no Hollywood feelings were hurt too hard, Quentin Tarantino was nominated for Best Director while Lee Daniels — whose direction has, in fact, taken its share of criticism from some critics and film bloggers — went un-nominated for his work on “Precious.”

“An Education” is also nominated in the “Outstanding British Film” category against “In the Loop,” “Moon,” the currently in limited U.S. release “Fish Tank,” and the upcoming John Lennon biopic, “Nowhere Boy.”

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In other tidbits of interest, the terrific Andy Serkis of LOTR fame was nominated for Best Actor for his work in the musical biopic, “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” which hasn’t been released here yet. There’s hope for a possible upset win for Serkis to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Jeff Bridges here, if the BAFTAs go by the usual acting award tendencies.Not only does Serkis transform himself into a fairly well-known entertainment figure as oddball rocker Ian Dury (that nailed Oscars for Martin Landau in “Ed Wood” and Jamie Foxx in “Ray“) but Dury was partially disabled by polio, so there’s that whole actors-playing disabled-characters-win-awards thing to deal with.

Some of you will also note that Sandra Bullock was not nominated for Best Actress. “The Blind Side” has not been released in the U.K. yet and therefore won’t be eligible until next year’s awards. Release patterns may also explain why the artful vampire tale, “Let the Right One In,” one of 2008’s biggest arthouse films in the U.S., was nominated for in the foreign language category this year.

  

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DGA nominations: no surprises

If you’ve been following the various awards and awards nominations that have been coming out of the past several weeks, there’s a good chance you can guess exactly what the Directors’ Guild nominations are without me even telling you. But just for the sake of latecomers, the casual and those who can’t be bothered, they are:  Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker,” James Cameron for “Avatar,” Lee Daniels for “Precious,” Jason Reitman for “Up in the Air” and Quentin Tarantino for “Inglourious Basterds.” It would be a fairly big surprise if the Oscar’s nominees were a whole lot different.

Gregg Kilday at THR points out that Lee Daniels is the first African-American to be nominated (!!!!) and Kathryn Bigelow is joining the very small club of women to be nominated for the award. However, you can be sure that if she wasn’t nominated, her absence would have been the story, considering how her film has been received up to now. The same might have gone for Daniels, though perhaps to a lesser degree as he has more detractors.

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My hunch is that Bigelow also enjoys a somewhat better better chance to actually win than did such past female nominees as Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Copolla, and, yes, Barbara Streisand, though the competition is mighty stiff. Of course, there’s always some controversy, so now the question is, why leave out first-timer Tom Ford of “A Single Man”? And so, the Playlist asks  a related question: “Too Gay or Too Little Money?”

Fun fact time: This is also the first time, I’m pretty sure, a once-married coupled (Bigelow and James Cameron) have been nominated to oppose each other for the directors’ awards. Of course, once we succeed with overturning Proposition 8, that could get more common even if the DGA remains predominantly a boys’ club.

On a related note: The BAFTAS long list.

  

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