The apocalyptic drama "Take Shelter" and the black-and-white silent film "The Artist" are the top nominees for the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards, with five nods each. The nominations were announced on Tuesday morning by actors Anthony Mackie and Kate Beckinsale, as well as by Film Independent Senior Director Sean McManus.
The films competing for the top prize, Best Feature, are "50/50," "The Descendants," "Beginners," "Drive," "Take Shelter" (left) and "The Artist."
That last film is the biggest surprise among the nominations, largely because most Indie Spirit Awards observers figured it wasn't even eligible in most categories.
The Spirit Awards require films to be largely made by Americans, or to be set and filmed in the U.S. and at least partially financed by an American company. "The Artist" was written and directed by Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, and shot in the United States with lead actors from France and a supporting cast that included American and British actors.
The slate of nominees is a mainstream one by Spirit Awards standards, with likely Oscar nominees "The Descendants" and "The Artist" going up against a group of films short on the micro-budgeted indies that sometimes compete at the Spirit Awards.
Nominated actors range from the Oscar hopefuls Michelle Williams ("My Week With Marilyn"), Elizabeth Olsen ("Martha Marcy May Marlene"), Jean Dujardin ("The Artist") and Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") to smaller indie entrants Rachael Harris ("Natural Selection") and Harmony Santana ("Gun Hill Road").
Surprising omissions in the acting categories include George Clooney for "The Descendants" and Glenn Close for "Albert Nobbs." Their co-stars, Shailene Woodley and Janet McTeer, respectively, did receive nominations.
The lineup is also more international than usual, between the nominations for "The Artist" and the fact that Joseph Cedar won a Best Screenplay nomination for "Footnote," Israel's entry in the Oscar Foreign-Language category.
Nominations for the Indie Spirit Awards are made by juries of about a dozen filmmakers and critics who watch the eligible movies for weeks and then meet to discuss and choose the nominees. The main group, the American Narrative Nominating Committee, determines nominations in the vast majority of categories.
The awards are limited to films made for less than $20 million, and judged to be "independent" by a jury. Winners are chosen by all members of Film Independent, which is open to filmmakers and to movie fans who pay an annual fee.
With its focus on low-budget films and its traditional ceremony taking place on the beach the day before the Academy Awards, the Spirit Awards led to the catchphrase "win on Saturday, lose on Sunday."
But the last Spirit Awards did recognize a couple of Oscar winners, including actress Natalie Portman and "The King's Speech," which won the one category in which it was eligible, Best Foreign Film. (The awards classify everything not made in America as foreign, regardless of language.)
"Black Swan," the big winner at last year's Spirit Awards, received five Oscar nominations and won one, for Portman.
The nominations came on the heels of Monday night's Gotham Independent Film Awards ceremony in New York, where the Best Feature category resulted in a tie between Mike Mills' "Beginners" and Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." The latter film was not eligible for the Spirit Awards.
The 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards will take place on Saturday, February 25, and will be broadcast later that evening on IFC.
BEST FIRST FEATURE
"In the Family"
"Martha Marcy May Marlene"
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000)
Joel Hodge, "Bellflower"
Benjamin Kasulke, "The Off Hours"
Darius Khondji, "Midnight in Paris"
Guillame Schiffman, "The Artist"
Jeffrey Waldron, "The Dynamiter"
"An African Election"
"Bill Cunningham New York"
"The Redemption of General Butt Naked"
"We Were Here"
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
"The Kid With a Bike"
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Chad Burris, "Mosquita y Mari"
Sophia Lin, "Take Shelter"
Josh Mond, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Simon Arthur, "Silver Tongues"
Mark Jackson, "Without"
Nicholas Ozeki, "Mamitas"
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Heather Courtney, "Where Soldiers Come From"
Danfung Dennis, "Hell and Back Again"
Alma Har'El, "Bombay Beach"