Will 'The Artist' and 'The Descendants' Reverse the Indie Spirit-Oscar Trend? (Analysis)

The Artist Jean Dujardin Backstage - H 2011

The Artist Jean Dujardin Backstage - H 2011

The nominations for the 27th annual Independent Spirit Awards were revealed this morning, and were dominated by The Weinstein Company's The Artist and Sony Pictures Classics' Take Shelter, which scored five nods each. Historically, Indie Spirit winners have tended to get nominated for -- but lose -- at the Oscars. That could change this year, however, with The Artist and The Descendants, two films that have both resonated as strongly as any with Academy members thus far, both nominated for best feature, best director and best screenplay.

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The Artist, The Descendants and Take Shelter will compete for best feature with Beginners (the big winner at last night's Gotham Awards), Drive, and 50/50. Bizarrely, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which is one of the likeliest best picture Oscar nominees, was denied a spot in this category (as well as best director and best screenplay), even though it was nominated for best supporting actor (Corey Stoll) and best cinematography. Drake Doremus' Like Crazy, which also seemed to be a likely nominee, was also snubbed.

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A few other films were left out of the major categories for other reasons: Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, with its $32 million budget, was too big to pass as an indie for this group. Meanwhile, three critics' favorites with Oscar aspirations -- Lars von Trier's Melancholia, Steve McQueen's Shame and Lynne Ramsey's We Need to Talk About Kevin -- were deemed to be foreign films and therefore ineligible outside of the category alotted for those.

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Lastly, two inexplicable snubs occurred in the lead acting categories: George Clooney, the star of The Descendants, was left out of the best actor race, while Glenn Close, the star of Albert Nobbs, was left out of the best actress field-- even though her co-star Janet McTeer was nominated for best supporting actress. (I wouldn't read too much into these particular outcomes; indeed, it is highly likely that the Academy will reverse them.) I expect that those races will now be won by Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and either Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) or Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), respectively, and that Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) will prevail in the supporting categories.