The line between the Hollywood mainstream and the independent film community continues to blur with yesterday's announcement of the nominations for the 10th annual Independent Spirit Awards at the Hollywood Athletic Club.
The films nominated by the Independent Feature Project/West included the expected "Pulp Fiction," which was nominated for best feature, but also "I Like It Like That," a low-budget feature produced and released by Columbia Pictures, which was among the best first feature nominees.
In addition to Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp," Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway," Alan Rudolph's "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" and the foreign film "Eat Drink Man Woman," from director Ang Lee, are all in the running for best feature film.
Aside from first-time director Darnell Martin's "I Like It Like That," other films on the best first feature list were "Clean Shaven" from director Lodge Kerrigan, Kevin Smith's "Clerks," David Siegel and Scott McGehee's "Suture," and David O. Russell's "Spanking the Monkey."
The decision to include "I Like It Like That," is in keeping with the IFP's recent announcement that it was expanding the definition of an "independent" film to encompass a broader spectrum of movies. Rather than emphasize only the origin of financing, says Dawn Hudson, the IFP/West's executive director, the Spirit Awards nominating committee now gives equal weight to other criteria including "economy of means, original and provocative subject matter and uniqueness of vision."
The expansion also reflects the fact that such "independents" as Miramax and New Line are now owned by "billion-dollar corporations," Disney and Turner Entertainment respectively, which finance their projects. To disqualify "I Like It" would thus seem arbitrary since it meets all the other criteria except that the money for it came from Columbia, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The decision came after continued discussions within independent film organizations over last year's award disqualification of Gramercy Pictures' "A Dangerous Woman," after it was revealed that it had been financed in part by Universal Pictures.
Surprising among the omissions in this year's films were "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," two Gramercy releases that were prominent among the recent Golden Globe nominees. Because they were made by foreign talents, however, both pictures were eligible only in the category of best foreign film, a crowded category in which neither film made the final cut.
Yet "Eat Drink Man Woman" was nominated for best feature, despite the fact that it's Taiwanese in origin. The reason, says Hudson, is that three of its producing/directing talents are American--producers Ted Hope and James Shamus and director Ang Lee, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
This year's nominating committee consisted of Steve Bernstein, Sharon Bialy, Julie Dash, Geoff Gilmore, Larry Gross, Tom Kalin, Jeff Kleeman, Cheng Sim Lim, Howard A. Rodman, Michael Schultz and Ella Taylor. The Spirit Awards will be handed out March 25, in a big tent on the beach in Santa Monica.
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Other nominations include:
Best male lead: Winston Chao, "Eat Drink Man Woman;" Samuel L. Jackson, "Pulp Fiction;" William H. Macy, "Oleanna;" Campbell Scott, "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle;" Jon Seda, "I Like It Like That."
Best female lead: Linda Fiorentino, "The Last Seduction;" Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Mrs. Parker;" Karen Sillas, "What Happened Was . . .;" Lauren Velez, "I Like It Like That;" Chien-Lien Wu, "Eat Drink."
Best debut performance (new category): Jeff Anderson, "Clerks;" Jeremy Davies, "Spanking the Monkey;" Sean Nelson, "Fresh;" Alicia Witt, "Fun;" Renee Zellweger, "Love and a .45."
Best director: John Dahl, "Red Rock West;" Ang Lee, "Eat Drink;" Roman Polanski, "Death and the Maiden;" Alan Rudolph, "Mrs. Parker;" Quentin Tarantino, "Pulp Fiction."
Best supporting female: V.S. Brodie, "Go Fish;" Carla Gallo, "Spanking the Monkey;" Kelly Lynch, "The Beans of Egypt, Maine;" Brooke Smith, "Vanya on 42nd Street;" Dianne Wiest, "Bullets Over Broadway."
Best supporting male: Gian Carlo Esposito, "Fresh;" Chazz Palminteri, "Bullets Over Broadway;" Larry Pine, "Vanya on 42nd Street;" Eric Stoltz, "Pulp Fiction;" Nicholas Turturro, "Federal Hill."
Best screenplay: "Bullets Over Broadway" (Woody Allen, Doug McGrath); "Eat Drink" (Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus, Ang Lee); "Mrs. Parker" (Alan Rudolph, Randy Sue Coburn); "Pulp Fiction" (Quentin Tarantino); "Red Rock West" (John Dahl, Rick Dahl).
Best first screenplay: "Blessing" (Paul Zehrer); "Clerks" (Kevin Smith); "Fun" (James Bosley); "Spanking the Monkey" (David O. Russell); "What Happened Was . . . " (Tom Noonan).
Best cinematography: "Suture" (Greg Gardiner); "I Like It Like That" (Alexander Gruszynski); "The Beans of Egypt, Maine" (Stevan Larner); "Eat Drink" (Jong Lin); "Barcelona" (John Thomas).
Best foreign film: "Blue Kite," "The Boys of St. Vincent," "Ladybird, Ladybird," "Red," "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould."