Moonrise Kingdom: Is the Indie Award Darling Headed for an Oscar?

After a Gotham Awards win and a host of Independent Spirit nominations, can Wes Anderson's coming-of-age romance take the big prizes?

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Focus Features

Edward Norton (at center) stars as Scout Master Ward in Wes Anderson’s MOONRISE KINGDOM, a Focus Features release.

It used to be a rule in Hollywood: “win on Saturday, lose on Sunday.” A big win at the Film Independent Spirit Awards meant a bad night at the Oscars, which take place the following night. No matter how artful or impressive, whichever indie film was honored for its achievements would be snubbed at the Oscars. It was the curse of Platoon, the movie that won Best Feature at the very first Spirit Awards in 1987 and went on to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars. There wouldn’t be another dual winner for 25 years.

Last year, The Artist broke the bad luck cycle—taking the top prize at both the Indie Spirits and the Oscars. (Things were looking better even before the curse was broken: The King’s Speech won the Best Foreign Film title at the Spirit Awards before it was named Best Picture at the Oscars. And The Hurt Locker would have been a favorite at the Spirit Awards if not for a technicality that made it qualify for 2009 rather than 2010.)

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And if the Spirit Awards, which take place on Feb. 23 this year, are now a blessing rather than a jinx, that’s very good news for the following nominees, which were announced Nov. 27: Beasts of the Southern WildBernieKeep The Lights OnMoonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook were nominated for Best Feature. (There was a bit of a hubbub, at The Huffington Post for example, over the fact that Silver Linings Playbook has a reported budget that’s $1 million over the $20 million ceiling for indie-ness by Film Independent; it’s much ado about not much, explains The Hollywood Reporter, as the ceiling is not so much a bright line as a guideline.)

That wasn’t the only nomination for those films, either. Moonrise also scored nominations for director Wes Anderson, supporting actor Bruce Willis, cinematographer Robert Yeoman and its screenplay by Anderson and Roman Coppola. Linings was also mentioned in five categories, for director David O. Russell, actress Jennifer Lawrence, actor Bradley Cooper and its screenplay by David O. Russell. Beasts was nominated for director (Benh Zeitlin), cinematographer (Ben Richardson) and actress Quvenzhané Wallis. 

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Moonrise Kingdom has already gotten off to a strong start. At the Nov. 26 Gotham Independent Film Awards—which its organizers tout as the official start to the season—the Wes Anderson film won Best Feature. Other Spirit-nominated winners at the ceremony included Beasts‘ Benh Zeitlin for breakthrough director and Linings‘ David O. Russell, who won a lifetime achievement award. The Gothams have similar qualifying criteria to those of the Spirit Awards: films must be American, released during the year, feature-length, independently distributed and made with an economy of means. But the nominees looked very different: Moonrise is only movie to be nominated for a Best Feature Spirit Award as well as a Gotham Best Feature award. Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for Best Ensemble Performance but the award went to Your Sister’s Sister.

So does this mean Moonrise Kingdom is on its way to a Spirit Award followed by an Oscar? It still seems unlikely, between Moonrise‘s June 29 release date (movies that are considered big Oscar contenders tend to come out later in the year) and the strong momentum behind its competitors. Silver Linings Playbook, just recently released, already has Oscar buzz, and Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of the most well-respected movies of the year, the kind of movie that could add some real indie cred to a list of best picture nominees. And if we’re going to stereotype Oscar voters in terms of these three movies’ chances, natural disaster or mental illness > a charming if melancholy world of first love and kittens and vintage suitcases.

But it wouldn’t be unheard of—and it’s clear that the movie’s producers want to make a real go of it, in their own special way. Via the movie’s tumblr, fans were invited to make a “for your consideration” ad promoting Moonrise Kingdom for best picture, director and original screenplay, as well as acting awards. The winners will be announced Nov. 30.

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