Taking the road less traveled is paying off for some of Hollywood's filmmakers — if not financially, at least in credibility.
Three low-budget pictures dominate this year's list of Independent Spirit Awards nominees, ranging in subject matter from same-sex stalking to poignant sibling rivalry. The ISAs, which are in their 16th year, are awarded March 24, the day before the Academy Awards. Quirky director John Waters will host the ceremony.
Chuck & Buck, a dark comedy about a grown man obsessed with his childhood pal, and the addiction drama Requiem for a Dream both grabbed five nods. Also up for five statues is the soulful family saga You Can Count on Me, which was named to most critics' year-end best lists and is up for two Golden Globes.
The Independent Spirit Awards are sponsored by the Independent Feature Project/West, a nonprofit support group consisting of approximately 5,000 independent filmmakers. Candidates are considered based on their provocative subject matter and their vision, their budget, and the degree of independent financing.
"It shows that filmmaking is working on all different budget levels in completely different subjects, in completely different styles and techniques," IFP/West's executive director, Dawn Hudson, told Reuters at the nominations ceremony Wednesday. "I think it represents a year where, instead of having a few really breakout films like [1999's] Boys Don't Cry and Being John Malkovich, … we've had many more strong films this year, across the board."
You Can Count on Me's Laura Linney snagged yet another best leading actress nomination, while the film earned a best first feature nod, along with nominations for best screenplay (for first-time director-writer Kenneth Lonergan), best male lead (Mark Ruffalo), and best debut performance (Rory Culkin, who's likely anxious to escape the tag "Macaulay's younger brother"). The picture centers on the gentle bonds and subsequent disenchantment between an orphaned brother (Ruffalo) and sister (Linney), who try to navigate their tenuous adult relationship.
Chuck & Buck was nominated for best feature under $500,000, best screenplay (Mike White); best director (Miguel Arteta, whose next project, The Good Girl, features Jennifer Aniston), best supporting female (Lupe Ontiveros), and best debut performance (White). White played the emotionally stunted Buck, who crosses boundaries in trying to reunite with his childhood best friend, yuppie Chuck (Chris Weitz).
Requiem for a Dream, which traces the parallel addictions of a mother (Ellen Burstyn) and son (Jared Leto), was nominated for best feature, best director (Pi helmer Darren Aronofsky), best cinematography (Matthew Libatique), best female lead (Burstyn), and best supporting female (Jennifer Connelly). Surprisingly, Leto — who was given kudos for his portrayal of a thieving junkie — was shut out.
Three films received four noms each: George Washington; Before Night Falls, a biopic about the late Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas; and The Visit, a prison drama. Ang Lee's martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, another critics' fave, and sports romance Love and Basketball received three apiece.
Reuters contributed to this story.