Spirit Awards: 3 to root for | EW.com

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Spirit Awards: 3 to root for

As this year’s Oscar ballots are now being sent to Academy members, voters for the Spirit Awards are also deliberating over their ballots. (You can check out all the nominees here.) I’m expecting Precious and Crazy Heart to dominate the ceremony on March 5, which would be completely fine by me. But I’d also like to point out three underdog nominees that are worth considering.

Best Male Lead: Adam Scott, The Vicious Kind My EW colleagues Wendy Mitchell and Margaret Lyons have both declared their love for Scott (Step Brothers, Party Down) on PopWatch. In last year’s Sundance entry The Vicious Kind, he delivers one of the most fascinating performances I’ve seen in a while, playing a short-fused rural Connecticut construction worker who finds himself attracted to his little brother’s new girlfriend. He’s equal parts scary and alluring, and now he’s a deserving nominee alongside powerhouses like Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth. The film is playing now in New York and will be available on demand and on DVD later this month.

Best Female Lead: Gwyneth Paltrow, Two Lovers James Gray’s New York love story was quite polarizing at Cannes in 2008, so I was glad to see it receive multiple Spirit nominations. Paltrow is fully convincing as Joaquin Phoenix’s fragile neighbor who’s caught in a toxic relationship. She will most certainly lose to Precious’ remarkable Gabourey Sidibe, but I hope the nomination will encourage Paltrow to take on more similarly challenging roles.

Best First Feature: A Single Man With Crazy Heart, The Messenger, and Paranormal Activity all in the running, the Best First Feature category is as strong as the Best Feature race, which includes Precious and (500) Days of Summer. But while all the First Feature nominees boast strong components, the one that amounts to the greatest overall achievement is A Single Man, Tom Ford’s miracle of a directorial debut. The performances, the script, the design, the score, and the cinematography all add up to a confidently directed film that feels like it’s from a veteran filmmaker.