Spirit Fingers, Everyone! – 36th Independent Spirit Nominations

Damn, this has been a busy week so far, and it’s only Thursday. Awards Season got itself into full swing basically overnight, and already I’m doing my best to keep up. For example, over the last 48 hours I’ve been trying to get a handle on foreign films in anticipation of the Academy’s announcement of eligible submissions in specialty feature categories. But in my haste, I forgot something just as important, the Independent Spirit Awards.

The Spirit Awards, for me, is the unofficial beginning of Awards Season, as for film, they’re typically the first to announce nominations but the last to hand out their hardware before the Academy, normally the night before the Oscars. Well, as it turns out, we’re already past the starting gun, as the Spirit Awards announced their nominations on Tuesday. I swear I’ll get better at this.

The schedule for the ceremony is mostly in line with the rest of the industry in the COVID era with a two-month delay in the proceedings. However, there is a slight tweak in the overall timetable, in that instead of giving out their prizes on Oscars Eve, they’ll instead hold their ceremony on Thursday, April 22, three days before the Academy Awards. The Spirit Awards have also added new categories for television and streaming, but for our purposes here, that’s not a concern. It’s cool, but we’re just focused on movies.

Here are your nominees for the 36th Independent Spirit Awards, with requisite links to anything I’ve reviewed and any info I have on availability to view or stream. You can view the full nomination announcement here.

Best Feature
First Cow – Amazon or Showtime
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Netflix
Minari – Limited theatres and Amazon February 26
Never Rarely Sometimes Always – Amazon or HBO
Nomadland – Limited theatres and Hulu February 19

Best First Feature
I Carry You with Me – Streaming Spring 2021
The 40-Year-Old Version – Netflix
Miss Juneteenth – Amazon
Nine Days – Opens Summer 2021
Sound of Metal – Amazon

Best Director
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman – Various VOD services for rent
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Best Screenplay
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Mike Makowsky – Bad Education – HBO
Alice Wu – The Half of It – Netflix

Best First Screenplay
Kitty Green – The Assistant – Various VOD services
Noah Hutton – Lapsis – Virtual Cinemas and VOD February 12
Channing Godfrey Peoples – Miss Juneteenth
Andy Siara – Palm Springs – Hulu
James Sweeney – Straight Up – Various VOD services

John Cassavetes Award (Budget under $500,000)
The Killing of Two Lovers – Limited theatres February 23
La Layenda Negra – Amazon or HBO
Lingua Franca – Netflix
Residue – Netflix
Saint Frances – Various VOD services

Best Male Lead
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Adarsh Gourav – The White Tiger – Netflix
Rob Morgan – Bull – Hulu
Steven Yeun – Minari

Best Female Lead
Nicole Beharie – Miss Juneteenth
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Julia Garner – The Assistant
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Male
Colman Domingo – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Orion Lee – First Cow
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
Glynn Turman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Benedict Wong – Nine Days

Best Supporting Female
Alexis Chikaeze – Miss Juneteenth
Yeri Han – Minari
Valerie Mahaffey – French Exit – Limited theatres (and possible VOD) February 12
Talia Ryder – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Yuh-jung Youn – Minari

Best Cinematography
She Dies Tomorrow – Various VOD services
Bull
The Assistant
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Nomadland

Best Editing
The Invisible Man – Various VOD services
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Residue
I Carry You With Me
Nomadland

Best International Film
Brazil – Bacurau – Amazon
India – The Disciple – Amazon
Ivory Coast – Night of the Kings – Streaming March 5
Hungary – Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time – Virtual Cinemas
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Quo Vadis, Aida? – Limited theatres (and possibly VOD) February 11

Best Documentary
Collective – Virtual Cinemas
Crip Camp – Netflix
Dick Johnson is Dead – Netflix
The Mole Agent – Amazon
Time – Amazon

Robert Altman Award
One Night in Miami – Amazon

Producers Award
Lucas Joaquin
Gerry Kim
Kara Durrett

Someone to Watch Award
David Midell
Ekwa Msangi
Annie Silverstein

Truer Than Fiction Award
Cecilia Aldarondo
Elegance Bratton
Elizabeth Lo

* * *

Well, my initial thoughts are super positive. My favorite film of 2020, Never Rarely Sometimes Always leads the way with a whopping seven nominations! My #2 film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, has five, and two more films I loved – First Cow and Sound of Metal – each got three. I’m really looking forward to Minari and Nomadland coming out next month, as they’re both expected to compete with the Academy as well. Promising Young Woman is on my personal list and a top priority once the Oscar shortlists come out (foreign entries and documentaries are top of the list until then). The Mole Agent and Collective are also International Feature entries, and I have them on my schedule for a few days from now, along with Preparations…, which is the only International Film on this list that was submitted to the Academy AND is currently available to watch. I plan on seeing it tomorrow. The nominees from Brazil and India were not selected to submit to the Academy.

This is a long way of saying that I’m very pleased because the vast majority of these films I’ve either already seen or can easily access, which is rarely the case with the Spirit nominees, mostly because a good number of them don’t have a distributer when they’re nominated. For example, The Climb, which has gotten rave reviews and may get Oscar consideration this year was actually nominated by the Spirit Awards last year, because it was available and eligible through their process, but had not been released to the general public. It finally got that release last fall, which makes it eligible for the Oscars this time around. It would be cool if I could actually do a Spirit Blitz in addition to the Oscars, but I don’t have that kind of access… yet.

Join the conversation in the comments below! How many of these films have you seen? Which ones were your favorites? Who do you think has the advantage to win? Let me know!

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