My Birby Thoughts: 2023 Independent Spirit Award Nominations

From critically acclaimed favorites like Everything Everywhere All at Once and Tár to under-the-radar hopefuls like Palm Trees and Power Lines and Our Father, The Devil, here are my thoughts on this year’s Independent Spirit Award nominees.

By Sean Blanford

2022 will be my fourth year as a voting member of the Independent Spirit Awards, and unlike previous years where who I thought the winner could be was pretty cut-and-dry, this year has a slew of fan favorites and potential Oscar nominees. This is also the first year where the Lead and Supporting Performance categories are no longer gender-specific, with ten nominees vying for one award. Overall, Everything Everywhere All at Once leads all films with eight nominations, Tár has seven, Aftersun has five, and Emily the Criminal, Palm Trees and Powerlines, and The Inspection each have four nominations apiece.

This article will not cover who I think will win but rather my thoughts on the nominees. One thing I take seriously is the Independent Spirit’s caveat that you do not vote on a category if you have not seen all the films nominated. If only the Academy held their voting members to such stringent guidelines. Anyway, here are my thoughts on several of the major categories.

Best Feature
Bones and All, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Our Father, the Devil, Tár, Women Talking

The biggest award of the night is a loaded category. As of this writing, only Our Father, the Devil is the one film I am yet to see. For the remaining four films, I personally graded four stars or higher, with three of them being 4.5 or higher. Everything Everywhere All at Once and Tár seem like the early favorites, but if there is one thing this award show is known for is subverting expectations.

Best Director
Todd Field (Tár), Kogonada (After Yang), The Daniels (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Sarah Polley (Women Talking), Halina Reijn (Bodies Bodies Bodies)

A category that I have seen all five films nominated, and while the Daniels and Todd Field might be playing a game of chicken, don’t count out Sarah Polley. While she may be a shoo-in for Best Screenplay, she did a fantastic job adapting the Miriam Toews novel to a riveting motion picture centered around several groundbreaking performances. Another category that will be tough to parse out.

Best Lead Performance
Cate Blanchett (Tár), Dale Dickey (A Love Song), Mia Goth (Pearl), Regina Hall (Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul), Paul Mescal (Aftersun), Aubrey Plaza (Emily the Criminal), Jeremy Pope (The Inspection), Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie), Taylor Russell (Bones and All), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

I pinned my hopes last year on a more genre-specific performance with Isabelle Fuhrman’s exceptional performance in The Novice (and seriously, if you haven’t seen it, you should). The expanded field of ten nominees allowed Mia Goth and Taylor Russell to slide in where potential only one may have previously. Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh feel like the two apparent frontrunners (where have I said that before about the two films they’re associated with), but I have heard great things about Jeremy Pope in The Inspection and Dale Dickey in A Love Song. I am excited to get to both of those films, as well as Aftersun and To Leslie.

Best Supporting Performance
Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway), Nina Hoss (Tár), Brian d’Arcy James (The Cathedral), Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Trevante Rhodes (Bruiser), Theo Rossi (Emily the Criminal), Mark Rylance (Bones and All), Jonathan Tucker (Palm Trees and Powerlines), Gabrielle Union (The Inspection)

With two performances from EEAAO in this category, there could be thoughts that they could cannibalize each other to allow another top contender, such as Nina Hoss and Gabrielle Union, to swoop in. However, the Ke Huy Quan train might be too powerful to overcome. So again, I will hold my final thoughts on who I believe will win until nomination time, but this is an almost obvious choice.

Other Categories I am Excited About
* Best Screenplay touts four heavy hitters, with Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy being the only outlier, in my eyes.
* I love that this award’s show highlights the best first feature and best breakthrough performance. This will be a great introduction to many of these up-and-coming filmmakers and performers, as I have only seen two of the seven films nominated in these two categories.
* I put best First Screenplay in its box because Emergency, Bodies Bodies Bodies and Emily the Criminal are all fantastic, with Palm Trees and Powerlines and Fire Island being highly touted in their own right.
* I’ve already seen three of the five Best International Feature nominees, which is saying something because this and Best Documentary are the two categories I always feel behind on. Corsage, Lenore Will Never Die, and Return to Seoul are all good to great, and I am interested in both Joyland and Saint Omer.

The 38th Annual Independent Spirit Awards will be awarded on March 4th.

Author: Sean Blanford

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