Awards season's most reliably confusing nominations broke this morning, with the 2008 Independent Spirit Award nods recognizing everything and everyone from Anne Hathaway to Towelhead to Woody Allen and self-distributed Sundance darlings.
There's often little sense to make of the Spirit Awards beyond the volume of tables that the organizers at Film Independent can sell to its nominees, and this year, with Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married and Sundance award-winner Frozen River receiving six nods apiece, expect Sony Pictures Classics to bring the most guests. The microbudget fest-circuit favorite Ballast earned six nods as well; its producers are expected to valet through the host's opening monologue before settling into their own, smaller table in a beachside annex to watch the show on closed-circuit TV.
The diversity of the other major categories is a testament to the sloppy overlap between indie upstarts and the Oscar mainstream that continues to sustain them:
· The Wrestler and the Michelle Williams-and-her-dog drama Wendy and Lucy join Rachel, Ballast and Frozen River as this year's Best Feature nominees;
· Rachel helmer Jonathan Demme duels lauded indie filmmakers Courtney Hunt (Frozen River), Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop) and Lance Hammer (Ballast) for Best Director. Tom McCarthy is in there for The Visitor, too; Overture Films must have pledged two tables or something.
· Williams and likely Rachel Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway face off against Frozen River's Melissa Leo and even Towelhead star Summer Bishil for Best Female Lead;
· Jeremy Renner earned a Best Male Lead for The Hurt Locker, an acclaimed Iraq film that hasn't screened anywhere outside the Toronto Film Festival. His opponents: Sean Penn (Milk), Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Wrestler star Mickey Rourke and Oscar underdog Richard Jenkins (The Visitor);
· In the screenwriting category, Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) will do battle against Sundance '08 alums Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Sugar) and Howard Rodman (Savage Grace);
· Along with Penn, Bardem, Williams and Hathaway, round out the starfucking quotient with Best Supporting Actress nominee Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona). Ben Lyons may decide to show up with his camera after all!
Look for other Defamer Attractions underdog alums scattered around the room as well: Best First Feature candidates Chris Eigeman (Turn the River) and Chris Zalla (Sangre De Mi Sangre); John Cassavetes Award contender Alex Holdridge (In Search of a Midnight Kiss); and Best Documentary front-runner Man on Wire, directed by James Marsh. Congrats to all, and may none of you still be busing tables in the show's tent if/when your names are called Feb. 21.