Published November 29, 2011
The silent movie "The Artist" and the doomsday drama "Take Shelter" led the Spirit Awards honoring independent film on Tuesday with five nominations each, including best picture.
Also in the running for best picture were the cancer tale "50/50"; the action thriller "Drive"; and the family dramas "Beginners" and "The Descendants."
A black-and-white throwback to early Hollywood, "The Artist" also earned a lead-actor nomination for Jean Dujardin as a silent film star whose career crumbles as the sound era takes over in the late 1920s. The film grabbed directing and screenplay nominations for Michel Hazanavicius, along with a cinematography slot for Guillaume Schiffman.
"Take Shelter" star Michael Shannon earned a lead-actor nomination as a family man who comes unhinged amid visions of a coming apocalyptic storm. Co-star Jessica Chastain was nominated for supporting actress, while "Take Shelter" also received nominations for director Jeff Nichols and a prize for emerging producers for Sophia Lin.
The lead-actress field included Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn." Also nominated were Lauren Ambrose for the single-mom story "Think of Me," Rachael Harris for the road-trip comedy "Natural Selection," Adepero Oduye for the teen drama "Pariah" and Elizabeth Olsen as an escapee from a cult in "Martha Marcy May Marlene."
Presented by the cinema group Film Independent, the Spirit Awards will be handed out the day before the Academy Awards, at an afternoon ceremony on Feb. 25. The show will air later that night on IFC.
The Spirit Awards nominations are one of the first key honors on the long road to the Oscars, which often are dominated by big Hollywood films but generally include many nominees from the independent film world.
Last season's top winner at the Spirit Awards also was a hit with Academy voters, earning a best-picture nomination there and winning the best-actress Oscar for Natalie Portman.
Notably absent from the Spirit Awards lineup was Academy Award winner George Clooney, considered a strong prospect for a best-actor nomination at the Oscars for "The Descendants." Kirsten Dunst, who won the best-actress prize at May's Cannes Film Festival for the end-of-the-world tale "Melancholia," also was snubbed.
"Like Crazy," the top winner at last January's Sundance Film Festival, was completely overlooked, receiving no nominations.
Spirit Awards nominees were chosen by panels of film professionals. Members of Film Independent, who include filmmakers and movie fans, are eligible to vote on the winners.
Eligible films must have production budgets of no more than $20 million and meet independent-cinema criteria that include uniqueness of vision and original, provocative subject matter.