The comedy Little Miss Sunshine and the drama Half Nelson led the list of contenders on Tuesday for the Independent Spirit Awards. Each film captured five nominations, including best feature and best director.
Another contender in the best director category was Robert Altman, who passed away last week. He was cited for his work on A Prairie Home Companion. American Gun, The Dead Girl, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Man Push Cart each landed three nominations.
The Spirit Awards, in their 22nd year, honour low-budget films based on criteria such as original, provocative subject matter and degree of independent financing. Winners will be unveiled on February 24, 2007, one day before the Academy Awards ceremony.
There is usually some crossover among nominees for the two award shows, but little commonality among the actual winners. Last year was an exception because Oscar voters recognized a large number of low-budget films, including Crash, Brokeback Mountain and Capote, which were also honored at the Spirit Awards.
Little Miss Sunshine, a box office success starring Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear, revolves around a family’s cross-country trip to attend a little girls’ beauty pageant. It marked the feature directing debut of music video veterans Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Two of its stars, Alan Arkin and Paul Dano, will compete against each other for the supporting male lead award. Additionally, screenwriter Michael Arndt was nominated for best freshman screenplay.
The searing drama Half Nelson stars Ryan Gosling as a drug-addicted teacher who forms a special bond with one of his high school students. Ryan Fleck was nominated for best director and first screenplay, along with his co-writer Anna Boden. Gosling and Shareeka Epps(who will also appear in the upcoming Alien vs. Predator: AVP2) were nominated for male and female lead, respectively.
Other best feature nominees were American Gun, The Dead Girl and Pan’s Labyrinth. The other nominated directors were Karen Moncriefffor The Dead Girl and Steven Soderbergh for Bubble.
Aside from Gosling, the male lead contenders are Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking), Edward Norton (The Painted Veil), Ahmad Razvi (Man Push Cart) and Forest Whitaker (American Gun).
In the female lead category, Epps will vie for honors alongside Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration), Elizabeth Reaser (Sweet Land), Michelle Williams (Land of Plenty) and Robin Wright Penn (Sorry, Haters).