I’m 37?! – 37th Independent Spirit Nominees Announced

Come on, how could I not preface the Independent Spirit Awards with a reference to quite possibly the greatest independent film of all time? The moment has come at last, and Awards Season is truly and officially underway with the first major announcement of nominees. Yes, technically the Golden Globe nods came out first with their release yesterday, but here’s the thing – I don’t give a fuck!

The ceremony itself is cancelled, and just looking at the list it’s the same bullshit they always do, where unreleased movies and those with average-at-best reviews nonetheless cleared the checks used to bribe the membership of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and as such they’re up for a so-called prestigious award that no one will see. And once again, Netflix films are disproportionately represented because their business model leaves extra cash available that’s not needed for the mass marketing campaigns that the studios use. The only difference between this year and every other is that there are a few more token nominees for minority-led movies to make the appearance that representation suddenly matters to them.

So for this year, I’m taking a pass on the whole affair. It won’t be broadcast, the entire enterprise has been shamed, and honestly it’ll feel good to not have to pretend Hollywood’s biggest star-fucker party is somehow worth a shit. I’m just not going to cover it.

Instead, we can redirect attention to something actually worthy of it, the Independent Spirit Awards, honoring the risk-takers and barrier-breakers of cinema, mostly separate from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Awards Season. This year’s class features quite a few films that got widespread release and attention, so if you want to take a crack at clearing the field, there’s a half-decent chance you could make it happen.

As ever, I will include relevant review links and release data for everything I can find if you’re interested in seeing any of these films. The Spirits are typically the first to name their slate of nominees and nearly the last to hand out the hardware, doing so a day or two before the Oscars. This time around the awards will be presented on March 6, three weeks before the Academy has their say, I’m guessing in hopes that the results might influence some voters undecided about their Oscar picks.

The nominees for the 37th Independent Spirit Awards are:

Best Feature
A Chiara – debuted at Cannes, U.S. release pending
C’mon C’mon – in theatres now
The Lost Daughter – limited theatres 12/17, Netflix on 12/31
The Novice – in limited release now
Zola – Showtime with subscription, available to rent or buy on other VOD services

Best First Feature
7 Days – debuted at Tribeca, full release pending
Holler – VOD purchase
Queen of Glory – debuted at Tribeca, full release pending
Test Pattern – Starz or VOD rental
Wild Indian – Starz or VOD rental

John Cassavetes Award
Cryptozoo – VOD rental
Jockey – in theatres 12/29
Shiva Baby – HBOMax
Sweet Thing – VOD rental
This is Not a War Story – HBOMax

Best Director
Janicza Bravo – Zola
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Lauren Hadaway – The Novice
Mike Mills – C’mon C’mon
Ninja Thyberg – Pleasure – debuted at Sundance, U.S. release pending

Best Screenplay
Nikole Beckwith – Together Together – VOD rental
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris – Zola
Mike Mills – C’mon C’mon
Todd Stephens – Swan Song – VOD rental and virtual cinemas

Best First Screenplay
Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr. – Wild Indian
Shatara Michelle Ford – Test Pattern
Fran Kranz – Mass – in limited release now
Matt Fifer, Sheldon D. Brown – Cicada – VOD rental
Michael Sarnoski, Vanessa Block – Pig – Hulu

Best Female Lead
Isabelle Fuhrman – The Novice
Brittany S. Hall – Test Pattern
Patti Harrison – Together Together
Taylour Paige – Zola
Kali Reis – Catch the Fair One – in theatres 2/11/22

Best Male Lead
Clifton Collins, Jr. – Jockey
Frankie Faison – The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain – HBOMax
Michael Greyeyes – Wild Indian
Udo Kier – Swan Song
Simon Rex – Red Rocket – in theatres now

Best Documentary
Ascension – Paramount+
Flee – in limited release now
In the Same Breath – HBOMax
Procession – Netflix
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) – Hulu

Best Supporting Female
Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter
Amy Forsythe – The Novice
Ruth Negga – Passing – Netflix
Revika Reustle – Pleasure
Suzanna Son – Red Rocket

Best Supporting Male
Colman Domingo – Zola
Meeko Gattuso – Queen of Glory
Troy Kotsur – CODA – AppleTV
Will Patton – Sweet Thing
Chaske Spencer – Wild Indian

Best International Film
Compartment No. 6 – Finland/Russia – in limited release now
Drive My Car – Japan – in limited release now
Parallel Mothers – Spain – in theatres 12/24
Pebbles – India – debuted at Rotterdam, U.S. release pending
Petite Maman – France – debuted at Berlin, U.S. release pending
Prayers for the Stolen – Mexico – Netflix

Best Editing
Affonso Conçalves – A Chiara
Ali Greer – The Nowhere Inn – VOD purchase
Joi McMillon – Zola
Enrico Natale – The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain
Lauren Hadaway, Nathan Nugent – The Novice

Best Cinematography
Lol Crawley – The Humans – Showtime
Tim Curtin – A Chiara
Edu Grau – Passing
Ante Cheng, Matthew Chuang – Blue Bayou – limited release and VOD purchase
Ari Wegner – Zola

Robert Altman Award
Mass

Producers Award
Brad Becker-Parton
Pin-Chun Liu
Lizzie Shapiro

Someone to Watch Award
Alex Camilleri – Luzzu – limited release and virtual cinema
Michael Sarnoski – Pig
Gillian Wallace Horvat – I Blame Society – VOD rental

Truer Than Fiction Award
Jessica Beshir – Faya Dayi – in limited release now
Debbie Lum – Try Harder! – in limited release now
Angelo Madsen Minax – North By Current – PBS

***

The biggest surprise for me, obviously, is that Zola leads all nominees. This is a film that I initially dismissed in in the June edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable,” because it was a story about strippers based on a Twitter chain, which is about the shallowest of source materials imaginable. However, the film did get some pretty positive reviews, and was named to a few “Best of” lists at the midway point of the year, so apparently I misjudged it. It wouldn’t be the first time. Along similar lines, between Zola, Red Rocket, and Pleasure, we’ve got a plethora of nominations for movies about pornography and sex workers. Interesting.

On the flip side, I am quite dispirited that my favorite indies this year are barely represented. Only two nominations each for Swan Song, Pig, and Together Together, only one for Shiva Baby, and but three for C’mon C’mon. Within that, I am truly flabbergasted – literally my gast is flabbered – that Nicolas Cage and Rachel Sennott were not nominated for their utterly game-changing performances.

Finally, I will be interested to see if The Lost Daughter and The Novice live up to their respective hypes. Both are getting serious attention from the different award bodies, and it’s rare for true indies to get late-year releases to compete with the big boys, so I will be especially intrigued to see how they stack up, particularly Isabelle Fuhrman, who to this point I only knew as Esther from Orphan and Clove from The Hunger Games, and she was still a kid in both of those films.

Keep it locked on the blog for more coverage as we go. After weeks of prep, we are now fully immersed in Awards Season (seriously, fuck you, Globes!), and that means we’re creeping ever closer to the full-on Blitz!

Join the conversation in the comments below! How many of these films have you seen? How many do you plan to see? How many have you even heard of? Let me know!

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