The Independent Spirit Awards – or Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, whatever title they’re going by now – always brings a smile to our face. That’s probably because the producers have figured out what the producers of the Oscars are still trying to realize: taking an awards show seriously is a waste of time. So instead of tuxedos and stuffy montages on a Sunday night, the Spirit Awards treat us to jeans and parody songs about the nominees under the warm sun of a Saturday afternoon. This is something we can get behind. That being said, we never consider their nominations as any kind of precursor for the Academy Awards. But after the 2008 nominations were announced yesterday, we might have to change our minds. With neither a Best Director or Best Feature nomination amongst its four, perhaps Milk isn’t the Oscar shoe-in everyone thought.
We won’t even get into why Milk, with major stars, a top-level director and full Oscar campaign, is considered an independent film because arguing about what constitutes "independent" is like trying to figure out how to fix the economy. Suffice to say, in most previous circumstances a film like Milk would clean up at the Spirit Awards. Past Spirit winners include Oscar favorites like Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Lost in Translation and Juno. In fact, the Spirit Awards are usually considered the consolation prize; when Juno won last year, it was clear that Jason Reitman and company didn’t have to worry about winning Best Picture the following night. Now Milk won’t even get the chance for 2nd place.
Of course it’s possible that the film will still get heaped with Oscar plaudits come January. The four nominations Milk received–for Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Screenplay and Cinematography – are all certainly likely (though we’d rather see Josh Brolin or Emile Hirsch get recognized in the supporting category and not the oddly flaccid James Franco). The blustery Oscar bloggers took Milk‘s slight as a mere oversight, or, the Spirit Awards’ attempt at being "different". But isn’t it possible that this was an indictment on the film? It wouldn’t be the first time a critical smash was snubbed come Oscar time, though admittedly they do usually make it to the Oscars (see: Sideways). Perhaps Milk‘s exclusion from Best Feature and Director categories mean the film is going to be viewed as more of a performance piece by Academy voters. Or maybe it just didn’t resonate. Either way, this is a slight. Though fear not Milk fans! Since it’s early in the awards season, there is no need to cry over spilled… nah, we won’t even bother.