Independent Spirit Awards: '12 Years a Slave' and 'Nebraska' lead nominations

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup and Michael Fassbender stars as Edwin Epps in "12 Years a Slave."

Story highlights

  • The awards are distributed by a non-profit arts organization
  • "12 Years a Slave" has the most nominations
  • James Gandolfini has been nominated posthumously

12 Years a Slave may have the most nominations, but Nebraska will probably benefit the most from its Independent Spirit Awards recognition — which give a much needed boost to low-budget movies competing for Oscar attention.

The epic slavery drama collected a leading seven nominations, while Nebraska was right behind it with six. Both films are in the running for Best Feature, alongside All Is Lost, Frances Ha, and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Fruitvale Station, this year's grand jury winner at the Sundance Film Festival, was honored in a separate category for "first feature," which also included Blue Caprice, Concussion, Una Noche, and Wadjda.

The Independent Spirit Awards, distributed by the non-profit arts organization Film Independent, are only a sporadic indicator for the Academy Awards, but can help cast a spotlight on scrappier, more intimate films that don't always have huge marketing budgets.

Acclaim for the intense and harrowing 12 Years a Slave has already secured it a solid place in the running for this year's Best Picture Oscar, and Spirit nominations were expected for director Steve McQueen, screenwriter John Ridley, cinematographer Sean Bobbit, lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, and supporting actors Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender. It would only have been a shock if one of them had been snubbed.

But Nebraska — director Alexander Payne's black-and-white dramedy about a terse Midwestern family — is only a possible Oscar contender for Best Picture, and these six nominations will reinforce its bona fides and perhaps add some box office momentum just as the movie is gradually expanding beyond a handful of theaters. The film had nods for director, first screenplay for Bob Nelson, lead actor Bruce Dern, and supporting actors June Squibb and Will Forte. The one surprise omission was the lack of a cinematography mention for Phedon Papamichael's silvery images of the desolate rural landscapes.

A few films that could have fared better: Inside Llewyn Davis, another movie on the Oscar bubble, which really could have used a director or screenplay bid for Joel and Ethan Coen; Dallas Buyers Club, which was only recognized for its two actors (lead actor Matthew McConaughey and supporting actor Jared Leto), and Before Midnight, which got only female lead for Julie Delpy and best screenplay.

    Other curiosities among the nominees included a posthumous honor for James Gandolfini's supporting performance as a middle-aged lonelyheart in Enough Said, a best director bid for Upstream Color's Shane Carruth, even though the poetic science fiction drama was named in only one other category (best editing), and a best first screenplay mention for Don Jon writer-director-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

    BEST FEATURE

    12 Years a Slave

    All Is Lost

    Frances Ha

    Inside Llewyn Davis

    Nebraska

    BEST DIRECTOR

    Upstream Color, Shane Carruth

    All is Lost, J.C. Chandor

    12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen

    Mud, Jeff Nichols

    Nebraska, Alexander Payne

    BEST SCREENPLAY

    Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen

    Before Midnight, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater

    Enough Said, Nicole Holofcener

    The Spectacular Now, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

    12 Years a Slave, John Ridley

    BEST FIRST FEATURE

    Blue Caprice

    Concussion

    Fruitvale Station

    Una Noche

    Wadjda

    BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

    In A World, Lake Bell

    Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

    Nebraska, Bob Nelson

    Afternoon Delight, Jill Soloway

    The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, Michael Starrbury

    JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD -- (Best Feature made for under $500,000)

    Computer Chess

    Crystal Fairy

    Museum Hours

    Pit Stop

    This is Martin Bonner

    BEST FEMALE LEAD

    Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

    Julie Delpy, Before Midnight

    Gaby Hoffmann, Crystal Fairy

    Brie Larson, Short Term 12

    Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now

    BEST MALE LEAD

    Bruce Dern, Nebraska

    Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

    Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis

    Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station

    Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

    Robert Redford, All Is Lost

    BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

    Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale Station

    Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

    Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

    Yolonda Ross, Go For Sisters

    June Squibb, Nebraska

    BEST SUPPORTING MALE

    Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

    Will Forte, Nebraska

    James Gandolfini, Enough Said

    Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

    Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

    Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave

    Benoit Debie, Spring Breakers

    Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis

    Frank G. DeMarco, All Is Lost

    Matthias Grunsky, Computer Chess

    BEST EDITING

    Shane Carruth & David Lowery, Upstream Color

    Jem Cohen & Marc Vives, Museum Hours

    Jennifer Lame, Frances Ha

    Cindy Lee, Una Noche

    Nat Sanders, Short Term 12

    BEST DOCUMENTARY

    20 Feet From Stardom

    After Tiller

    Gideon's Army

    The Act of Killing

    The Square

    BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

    A Touch of Sin (China)

    Blue is the Warmest Color (France)

    Gloria (Chile)

    The Great Beauty (Italy)

    The Hunt (Denmark)

    ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD -- (Ensemble Cast)

    Mud

    17th ANNUAL PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

    Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston

    Jacob Jaffke

    Andrea Roa

    Frederick Thornton

    SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

    My Sister's Quinceañera, director Aaron Douglas Johnston

    Newlyweeds, director Shaka King

    The Foxy Merkins, director Madeline Olnek

    TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD

    Kalyanee Mam, A River Changes Course

    Jason Osder, Let the Fire Burn

    Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, Manakamana

    See the original story at EW.com.