Nominations – Film Independent Spirit Awards

Here we go!  The first major awards nominations have been announced and they are the Film Independent Spirit Awards.  Voted on by members of Film Independent with the intention to select winners from films with smaller budgets representing the best of the year and celebrating inclusion and diversity, this tends to be a fun show with a wiiiiiiiide range of films.  It can be hard to predict the nominees and often hard to predict the winners.  Several of the titles below are movies that have received festival runs or East/West coast qualifying releases so far, meaning most of middle America hasn’t seen them yet, but I’m sure looking forward to a number of them.  There will be some overlap of nominees with the Oscars (held the next day) but I hope the tradition continues where it’s not across the board winners throughout the season.

Thankfully, these nominations are announced so early that you have enough time to seek these movies out well beforehand!  So…get to watching!  Don’t forget to bookmark here for all your top award season coverage.

Best Feature
A Hidden Life
Clemency
The Farewell
Marriage Story
Uncut Gems

Best First Feature
Booksmart
The Climb
Diane
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
The Mustang
See You Yesterday

Best Director
Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse)
Alma Har’el (Honey Boy)
Julius Onah (Luce)
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie (Uncut Gems)
Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers)

Best Screenplay
Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)
Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder (To Dust)
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie (Uncut Gems)
Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency)
Tarell Alvin McCraney (High Flying Bird)

Best Female Lead
Karen Allen (Colewell)
Hong Chau (Driveways)
Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell)
Mary Kay Place (Diane)
Alfre Woodard (Clemency)
Renée Zellweger (Judy)

Best Male Lead
Chris Galust (Give Me Liberty)
Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Luce)
Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse)
Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems)
Matthias Schoenaerts (The Mustang)

Best Documentary
American Factory
Apollo 11
For Sama
Honeyland
Island of the Hungry Ghosts

Best Supporting Female
Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers)
Taylor Russell (Waves)
Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell)
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer (Give Me Liberty)
Octavia Spencer (Luce)

Best Supporting Male
Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
Noah Jupe (Honey Boy)
Shia Labeouf (Honey Boy)
Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)
Wendell Pierce (Burning Cane)

Robert Altman Award
Noah Baumbach, Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler, Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever (Marriage Story)

Best First Screenplay
Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol (See You Yesterday)
Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen (Driveways)
Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy (Blow the Man Down)
Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe (Greener Grass)
James Montague, Craig W. Sanger (The Vast of the Night)

Best Editing
Julie Béziau (The Third Wife)
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems)
Tyler L. Cook (Sword of Trust)
Louise Ford (The Lighthouse)
Kirill Mikhanovsky (Give Me Liberty)

Best Cinematography
Todd Banhazl (Hustlers)
Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse)
Natasha Braier (Honey Boy)
Chananun Chotrungroj (The Third Wife)
Pawel Pogorzelski (Midsommar)

Best International Film
Invisible Life, Brazil
Les Miserablés, France
Parasite, South Korea
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, France
Retablo, Peru
The Souvenir, United Kingdom

John Cassavetes Award
Burning Cane
Colewell
Give Me Liberty
Premature
Wild Nights With Emily

Producers Award
Mollye Asher
Krista Parris
Ryan Zacarias

Someone to Watch Award
Rashaad Ernesto Green (Premature)
Ash Mayfair (The Third Wife)
Joe Talbot (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)

Truer Than Fiction Award
Khalik Allah (Black Mother)
Davy Rothbart (17 Blocks)
Nadia Shihab (Jaddoland)
Erick Stoll, Chase Whiteside (América)

Annual Bonnie Award
Marielle Heller
Kelly Reichardt
Lulu Wang

Movie Review ~ Minding the Gap


The Facts
:

Synopsis: Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust-Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.

Stars: Kiere Johnson, Bing Liu, Zack Mulligan

Director: Bing Liu

Rated: NR

Running Length: 93 minutes

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review: Part of the joy of a documentary film done right is getting an insider look into a world different from your own and gaining some knowledge into a unique human experience. Sometimes that world is on the other side of the globe and sometimes, like in Minding the Gap, that new understanding can be found just a few states over. The three men at the center of Minding the Gap feel like people I’ve known or could have grown up with; that is, Midwestern guys from blue collar families that don’t want to grow up to be like their parents. Finding solace and friendship in skateboarding culture, their lives may center around that thrill seeking rush of adrenaline but as they take on more adult roles not all make the transition to maturity with ease.

Filmmaker Bing Liu brings audiences into his life as well as the lives of his friends Kiere and Zack over several years as the three deal with personal struggles and set-backs. Each bring a different set of conflicts to the table. Liu’s childhood involves unresolved issues with his immigrant single mother that brought an abusive stepfather into his life, leaving lasting emotional scars that have never healed between parent and child. Losing his dad unexpectedly just as he is entering manhood, Kiere pushes down that pain as he tries to find a male role model to guide him through his formative years…and quickly realizes his core group of older friends aren’t much wiser than he is. Then there’s the charismatic Zack, raised in a tumultuous home by young parents who seems destined to repeat history with his own girlfriend and infant son.

When the film began, I sort of slumped in my seat because I was expecting it to go in a totally different direction. I assumed it would be more focused on the skateboarding and didn’t see the emotional heft of the movie that, looking back on it now, was hiding in plain sight. While there are terrifically filmed scenes of grit as various skateboarders bob and weave around downtown Rockford, IL like locomotives (creating enough tension that my palms started to sweat like they did in Free Solo),  the skateboarding becomes the bright spot of the film to break away from the more emotionally taxing moments.

As he continues to peel away layers, it’s clear that Liu begins to discover things about himself and his friends he never considered when he started making the film. That’s what sets Minding the Gap apart from so many similar documentaries and what keeps your eyes glued to the screen, you just never know what turns the film will take next. It helps that Liu isn’t afraid to turn the camera around and direct the tough questions he asks of others to himself. Even at only 93 minutes, the movie gave me hints of Boyhood in that it truly shows its subjects growing right before our eyes. Where these people end up is so far from where they begin – it’s a remarkable achievement in documentary filmmaking.