The Indie Spirit Awards announced their nominations this morning, honoring a whole bunch of films that were only seen by film critics, artsy intellectuals and/or people who accidentally walked into the wrong theater while on their way to watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I kid, of course, because if it wasn't for shows like the Spirit Awards, a number of really great independent films (and performances) would probably go unnoticed. So I command you to check out the list of nominees after the jump and start tracking them down one by one (either in theaters or on DVD). Go! Now!

This year's crop of nominees is definitely stirring the pot a little bit. Surprises include Maria Bello for Best Female Lead in Downloading Nancy, a film that all of about one person (me!) actually enjoyed. 500 Days of Summer also took home a couple nods for Best Feature and Best Male Lead (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and even the viciously panned Gentlemen Broncos walked away with a nod for Best Supporting Male (Jermaine Clement). One of the more interesting (and talked-about) nominations went to Paranormal Activity in the Best First Feature category, alongside other notable indies like A Single Man, Crazy Heart, Easier with Practice and The Messenger.

But does Paranormal Activity really belong there, or is it being honored more because of what it achieved at the box office versus how good it actually is? I've seen some already poking fun at the nomination on Twitter, as if it doesn't deserve to shine the shoes of the other films listed alongside it. But is that just because it doesn't fit the 'Best Picture" mold? Is it because it's become a "fanboy" film?

Granted, it's listed in the Best First Feature category -- a spot that I personally think it deserves -- and so it's technically not being considered for Best Feature ... but, still, seeing it listed among some of the year's best films does make you wonder whether it's being overlooked in all the Oscar talk. While some would like to write the film off as a joke, there's a reason why it earned over $100 million at the box office with little to no mainstream (TV commercials, billboards, etc) marketing. Obviously it's a film people really enjoyed on a number of different levels (and one that will go down in history as being one of the most successful independent films of all time) ... but is it a film worthy of awards?

What do you think? Does it deserve a spot in the Best First Feature category? And what about Oscars -- with ten nominations this year, does it deserve a spot in the Best Picture category?


Check out the full list of Spirit Award nominees below. You can watch the awards show live on IFC on March 5th at 11pm EST.

Best Feature
"(500) Days of Summer"
"Amreeka"
"Precious"
"Sin Nombre"
"The Last Station"

Best Director
Ethan and Joel Coen, "A Serious Man"
Lee Daniels, "Precious"
Cary Fukunaga, "Sin Nombre"
James Gray, "Two Lovers"
Michael Hoffman, "The Last Station"

Best First Feature
"A Single Man"
"Crazy Heart"
"Easier With Practice"
"The Messenger"
"Paranormal Activity"

Best Lead Female
Maria Bello, "Downloading Nancy"
Nisreen Faour, "Amreeka"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Gwyneth Paltrow, "Two Lovers"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"

Best Lead Male
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "(500) Days of Summer"
Souleymane Sy Savane, "Goodbye Solo"
Adam Scott, "The Vicious Kind"

Best Supporting Female
Mo'Nique, "Precious"
Dina Korzun, "Cold Souls"
Samantha Morton, "The Messenger"
Natalie Press, "Fifty Dead Men Walking"
Mia Wasikowska, "That Evening Sun"

Best Supporting Male
Jemaine Clement, "Gentlemen Broncos"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christian McKay, "Me and Orson Welles"
Ray McKinnon, "That Evening Sun"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"

12012009_themessenger.jpgBest Screenplay
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, "The Messenger"
Michael Hoffman, "The Last Station"
Lee Toland Krieger, "The Vicious Kind"
Greg Mottola, "Adventureland"
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, "(500) Days of Summer"

Best First Screenplay
Sophie Barthes, "Cold Souls"
Scott Cooper, "Crazy Heart"
Cherien Dabis, "Amreeka"
Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"
Tom Ford, "A Single Man"

Best Foreign Film
"A Prophet"
"An Education"
"Everlasting Moments"
"Mother"
"The Maid"

Best Documentary Feature
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil"
"Food, Inc"
"More Than A Game"
"October Country"
"Which Way Home"

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins , "A Serious Man"
Adriano Goldman, "Sin Nombre"
Anne Misawa, "Treeless Mountain"
Andrij Parekh, "Cold Souls"
Peter Zeitlinger, "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"

John Cassavetes Award
"Big Fan"
"Humpday"
"The New Year Parade"
"Treeless Mountain"
"Zero Bridge"

Robert Altman Award
"A Serious Man"

Acura Someone to Watch Award
Kyle Patrick Alvarez, "Easier With Practice"
Tariq Tapa, "Zero Bridge"
Asiel Norton, "Redland"

Piaget Producers Award
Karin Chien, "Santa Mesa" and "The Exploding Girl"
Larry Fessenden, "I Sell the Dead" and "House of the Devil"
Dia Sokol, "Beeswax," "Nights and Weekends"

Truer than Fiction Award
Natalia Almada, "El General"
Bill and Turner Ross, "45365"
Jessica Oreck, "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo"