Let’s Hear it For the Multiverse – 38th Independent Spirit Awards Nominees!

As any reader is aware, there are two things going on with this blog right now. One, I’m in a near-constant state of clearing my backlog due to the absolute glut of films being released right now. Two, this is because it’s Awards Season, and everyone is jockeying for position, attention, and prestige.

Well, as is tradition, today was the official opening salvo, as the nominations for next year’s Independent Spirit Awards were announced. To the surprise of absolutely no one – especially those who saw the movie – Everything Everywhere All At Once is the morning line favorite, leading the way with eight nominations. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where one of the best reviewed films of the year (and A24’s highest-grossing film ever) doesn’t clean up.

There are also two new features to consider this year. One, the budget threshold was raised. Previously, only films with production coffers of $22.5 million or less would be eligible. This year the number raises to $30 million, which potentially opened the doors for several more projects to have a shot. Two, the acting categories have been rearranged significantly. In what I assume is an effort for more inclusion and diversity of gender identities, the previous categories of “Lead Male” and “Lead Female” have been merged into “Best Lead Performance.” The same was done to create “Best Supporting Performance.” This ostensibly removes two categories and creates a rather lengthy list of candidates in each new field, which may or may not work out in the long run. To somewhat compensate, a new category was added, “Best Breakthrough Performance,” to specifically highlight actors in their first major roles.

As ever, I will provide links to relevant reviews of the nominees, as well as any pertinent release data if you want to track any of these films down and see them for yourselves.

The nominees for the 38th Film Independent Spirit Awards are…

Best Feature
Bones and All – In Theatres Now
Everything Everywhere All At Once – DVD/VOD
Our Father, The Devil – TBD
Tár – In Theatres Now
Women Talking – In Theatres December 23

Best First Feature
Aftersun – In Theatres Now
Emily the Criminal – VOD
The Inspection – In Theatres Now
Murina – VOD
Palm Trees and Power Lines – TBD

John Cassavetes Award
The African Desperate – VOD
The Cathedral – VOD
Holy Emy – VOD
A Love Song – VOD
Something in the Dirt – VOD

Best Director
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Todd Field – Tár
Kogonada – After Yang – VOD
Sarah Polley – Women Talking
Halina Reijn – Bodies Bodies Bodies – VOD

Best Screenplay
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Lena Dunham – Cathering Called Birdy – Amazon
Todd Field – Tár
Kogonada – After Yang
Sarah Polley – Women Talking

Best First Screenplay
Jamie Dack and Audrey Findlay – Palm Trees and Power Lines
Joel Kim Booster – Fire Island – Hulu
K.D. Dávila – Emergency – Amazon
John Patton Ford – Emily the Criminal
Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian – Bodies Bodies Bodies

Best Lead Performance
Cate Blanchett – Tár
Dale Dickey – A Love Song
Mia Goth – Pearl – Theatres/VOD
Regina Hall – Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. – Peacock
Paul Mescal – Aftersun
Aubrey Plaza – Emily the Criminal
Jeremy Pope – The Inspection
Andrea Riseborough – To Leslie – VOD
Taylor Russell – Bones and All
Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Supporting Performance
Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Brian Tyree Henry – Causeway – AppleTV
Nina Hoss – Tár
Brian d’Arcy James – The Cathedral
Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Trevante Rhodes – Bruiser – TBD
Theo Rossi – Emily the Criminal
Mark Rylance – Bones and All
Jonathan Tucker – Palm Trees and Power Lines
Gabrielle Union – The Inspection

Best Breakthrough Performance
Frankie Corio – Aftersun
Gracija Filipović – Murina
Stephanie Hsu – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Lily McInerny – Palm Trees and Power Lines
Daniel Zolghadri – Funny Pages – VOD

Best Documentary
All That Breathes – Limited Theatres
All the Beauty and Bloodshed – Limited Theatres
A House Made of Splinters – TBD
Midwives – TBD
Riotsville, U.S.A. – VOD

Best International Film
Corsage – In Theatres 12/30
Joyland – TBD
Leonor Will Never Die – Limited Theatres
Return to Seoul – In Theatres Early 2023
Saint Omer – TBD

Best Editing
Ricky D’Ambrose – The Cathedral
Blair McClendon – Aftersun
Dean Fleischer-Camp and Nick Paley – Marcel the Shell with Shoes On – VOD
Paul Rogers – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Monika Willi – Tár

Best Cinematography
Florian Hoffmeister – Tár
Hélène Louvart – Murina
Gregory Oke – Aftersun
Eliot Rockett – Pearl
Anisia Uzeyman – Neptune Frost – VOD

Robert Altman Award
Women Talking

Producers Award
Liz Cardenas
Tory Lenosky
David Grove Churchill Viste

Someone To Watch Award
Adamma Ebo
Nikyatu Jusu
Araceli Lemos

Truer Than Fiction Award
Isabel Castro
Reid Davenport
Rebeca Huntt

***

My instant takeaway is that Everything Everywhere All At Once should run roughshod over pretty much everyone else. This is arguably the best film of 2022 regardless of budget or process, so I can’t imagine the membership leaving it empty handed.

Second, while I understand the good intentions behind the acting category changes, I think the execution was somewhat mishandled. If you’re going to make a point of eliminating gender from consideration, then there should be a plethora of genderless actors to fill the category. Instead, the way it’s presented is a touch slapdash, especially considering both categories took two five-person fields and turned them into one 10-person field. Never mind the inherent unfairness of having Ke Huy Quan face off against Jamie Lee Curtis when their roles are vastly different, in part because of their gender dynamics, it’s just kind of shitty to have each nominee have to best nine other competitors instead of four. Similarly, it’s a bit of a bad ask of the voters. Either they’re going to consolidate behind one nominee, rendering the large field basically moot, or they’ll all pick someone different, meaning we’ll have a “winner” with just over 10% of the vote, satisfying no one. Plurality makes sense when there are five nominees or less, because there’s a better chance for consensus, if not outright majority. But 10 nominees only works if you have a ranked choice system like the Oscars do for Best Picture. And there’s no indication here that that’s the case.

All in all, it feels like a bit of a stunt to get out ahead of a social issue. And I totally get that. Honestly, if the organization wanted to add a new category for nonbinary and/or trans actors, go for it. Hell, I’m 100% behind “Breakthrough Performance” because it’s in keeping with the “spirit” of “independent” cinema, giving people without a huge Q-rating a chance to shine and forge their future careers. It makes total sense. But there’s no real outcry to merge acting into one mass that lacks identity, and there certainly wasn’t one to merge the categories into super-sized fields. If you want to make a statement, fine, but go all the way. Keep it as five nominees. Tell the world that there’s a chance that no matter the film, the five best performances could be all men, or all women, or something in between. As it is, it kind of feels like they’re trying to send a message without knowing what exactly they want to say.

Still, I’m looking forward to the ceremony, which traditionally happens right before the Oscars, even though this is the first major award to announce its ballot. It gives voters (and hopefully audiences) the maximum amount of time to watch as many of these films as possible, and a good number of them are readily available. I’m considering joining Film Independent next year ($95 membership fee) so I can get access to screenings of these movies so I don’t have to scramble as much. I already pay for a Razzie vote, so it’s not like it’ll be anything new.

Join the conversation in the comments below! How many of these films have you seen? Which is your favorite? Should the winners be given a new award in the form of a trophy that looks suspiciously like a butt plug? Let me know!

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