The 2016 Spirit Awards are fast approaching with incredibly talented actors and filmmakers gearing up for the ceremony this Saturday, February 27th, at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC. And although there are quite a few familiar nominees — like Best Feature candidates Spotlight and Carol — there are many that might’ve flown under the radar, even within indie circles.
So, in the interest of maintaining an educated moviegoing populace, here are 10 nominated movies you’ll need to binge before Saturday’s big show. (Click here to find IFC on your TV in your area. You can also stream the ceremony live this Saturday with an authenticated IFC.com account.)
This past year, film auteur and general mindblower Charlie Kaufman did for stop-motion existentialism what Wes Anderson did for stop-motion twee with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anomalisa injects introspection and mundane social dynamics into lifeless dolls, rendering them even more lifelike and real than most films starring actual people.
Sean Baker’s celebrated indie film is part of a new crop of films that has helped usher transgender issues into the mainstream consciousness. Starring two trans actors and revolving around LA’s sex trade industry, Tangerine filters a timeless romantic-comedy storyline through a gritty, modern lens with fantastic results.
3. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
If you’re looking for a 1970s period piece answer to Juno and Ghost World, check out The Diary of a Teenage Girl for a revealing look at the life of a high schooler. Bel Powley plays ’70s teen Minnie with an authenticity you rarely see in a coming-of-age film. It’s a buzzworthy performance from a rising star you’ll want to keep an eye on.
4. The End of the Tour
In the 20 years since its publication, David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest has amassed millions of diehard fans, countless spots on “Best of” lists and almost infinite iterations of the question “How in the hell did he pull this off?” While it’s not explicitly answered in The End of the Tour, the character study attempts to thin the myth and mystique that shrouds the late author by way of a moving and humorous road trip/interview with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg).
5. James White
Sporting a powerhouse ensemble that includes Christopher Abbott (Girls), Cynthia Nixon, Ron Livingston, and Comedy Bang! Bang!‘s former bandleader Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, James White follows a self-destructive, pleasure-seeking twentysomething (is there any other kind?) who faces a reality check when his mother’s health declines from a terminal illness.
6. Bone Tomahawk
With The Revenant and The Hateful Eight, 2015 brought a double-roundhouse kick of relentless frontier hardship, but both movies somehow failed to incorporate cave-dwelling cannibals into the story. Extending the use of that shaggy ‘stache, Kurt Russell plays Sheriff Franklin Hunt who assembles a ragtag Old West posse to track down a mysterious breed of indigenous barbarians. Bloody, brutal, and loads of fun.
Parents of young children may wanna skip this one, but gluttons for complex psychological studies should set aside some time to power through Meadowland — a brilliant, powerful, and unflinching glimpse at a couple who lost a child. Overwhelmed with remorse, the couple descends into dangerous behavior and self-destruction. Steel yourself and strap in.
8. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Eschewing a traditional three-act plot, Swedish writer-director Roy Andersson tackles facets of the human condition through multiple tableaus in the marquee-depleting A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. A unifying thread links the otherwise disparate scenes, creating a cohesive and universally relatable cinematic experience.
At a time when “If you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide” has become the mantra of counterterrorism, a documentary like (T)error is required viewing. An unsettling glimpse at the increasingly draconian tactics taken by our government, the movie centers on a 63-year-old FBI informant and reveals how our civil liberties are under threat by an overzealous and unchecked surveillance state.
10. 99 Homes
In the spirit of Adam McKay’s dispiriting dramedy The Big Short, the 2008 housing crash also sets the backdrop for 99 Homes, which focuses on a family’s struggle to reclaim their home amidst financial troubles. Michael Shannon earned raves for playing a soulless real estate broker and redefining what it means to be a modern-day villain we can all root against.
Click here to watch clips from the nominated movies and get cohosts Kate McKinnon and Kumail Nanjiani’s takes on what they’re really about.