For years, the Film Independent Spirit Awards seemed content to parrot the Oscars as it awarded Best Feature to “The Artist,” “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “Birdman.” However, the 2020 nominees show the Spirit Awards’ 50-person nominating committee favoring the underdog, with A24 scoring a stunning cache of 18 nominations over seven films. According to Film Independent president Josh Welsh, 45% of the directing and writing Spirit nominees are women, and 30% are people of color.
The highest-profile Oscar contender nominated today was Netflix’s “Marriage Story.” By giving screenwriting (but not directing) nominee Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama the Robert Altman Ensemble Award, his high-wattage cast — Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Julie Hagerty, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta — while “winners,” became ineligible for acting nominations and removed from the competitive fray (and, its attendant buzz and boosts). Thus, the movie boasts just three nominations. (The rest of the Netflix fall slate, from “The Irishman” to “The Laundromat,” exceeded the Spirits’ $22.5 million budget cap.)
Leading the pack were fall hit “The Lighthouse” and upcoming “Uncut Gems,” with five nominations each. While Willem Dafoe is a likely Supporting Actor Oscar nominee, Robert Pattinson and Adam Sandler are fighting for slots in a cutthroat Best Actor field.
Neon landed 10 nominations for six films, including Sundance Grand Jury Dramatic prize-winner “Clemency,” for Best Feature, Screenplay and Female Lead Alfre Woodard; the movie opens December 27. Among the other Best Actress nominees, only Renee Zellweger, nabbing the solo nod for “Judy,” will also factor in the Oscar race.
Best Feature nominee “The Farewell” received nominations for Best Feature and Best Supporting Female Zhao Shuzhen, but oddly Lulu Wang was snubbed for both script and directing; leading lady Awkwafina also failed to land a nod.
Another supporting female nomination went to Taylor Russell, a long-shot newcomer grabbing strong reviews with “Waves.” Meanwhile, her costar Kelvin Harrison, Jr. scored a Best Actor nod for a different film, Neon’s less-seen “Luce,” along with Octavia Spencer and the director Julius Onah.
Among the Best Feature contenders, Terrence Malick’s festival hit “A Hidden Life” got some much-needed attention, while Fox Searchlight’s other World War II awards entry, Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” winner of the Toronto People’s Choice Award, was ineligible due to its New Zealand origins. However, it was eligible for foreign film, which may have been confusing to the selection committees.
Amazon landed eight nominations, led by sleeper box-office hit “Honey Boy,” which scored four nods, for director Alma Har’el, Cinematography, and Shia LaBeouf and Noah Jupe, who are inexplicably both Supporting Males. (Who’s the lead?) Snubbed was awards hopeful “The Report,” starring Adam Driver and Annette Bening.
Not usually a factor at the Spirits, distributor STX scored three nominations for surprise hit and critics favorite “Hustlers,” for Cinematography, director Lorene Scafaria, and Supporting Female Jennifer Lopez, who is gaining ground in the Oscar race.
In the foreign feature race, “Parasite” (South Korea), “Retablo” (Peru), “Les Miserables” (France), and “Invisible Life” (Brazil) gained a boost. Also nominated were Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (France) and Joanna Hogg’s UK feature “The Souvenir,” but they are not eligible for the Oscars.
Four of the documentary contenders are the usual awards suspects: Neon’s “Apollo 11” and “Honeyland,” PBS’ “For Sama,” and Netflix’s “American Factory,” as well as Gabrielle Brady’s lesser-known entry “Island of the Hungry Ghosts” (Sentient Art Film).
Last year “If Beale Street Could Talk” won Best Feature, and Best Supporting Female winner Regina King took home the Oscar the next day. The year before, “Get Out” won Best Feature and writer-director Jordan Peele took home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. So while the Spirits are not entirely predictive, their nominations spotlight deserving films and build awards momentum.
The nominees for the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Award Nominations are listed below. Film Independent members vote for the Spirit Awards, which are presented on the Saturday before the Oscars — this year, February 8, 2020.
A HIDDEN LIFE
Robert Eggers – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Alma Har’el – HONEY BOY
Julius Onah – LUCE
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
Lorene Scafaria – HUSTLERS
Best First Feature
THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
SEE YOU YESTERDAY
Best Female Lead
Karen Allen – COLEWELL
Hong Chau – DRIVEWAYS
Elisabeth Moss – HER SMELL
Mary Kay Place – DIANE
Alfre Woodard – CLEMENCY
Renée Zellweger – JUDY
Best Male Lead
Chris Galust – GIVE ME LIBERTY
Kelvin Harrison Jr. – LUCE
Robert Pattinson – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Adam Sandler – UNCUT GEMS
Matthias Schoenaerts – THE MUSTANG
Best Supporting Female
Jennifer Lopez – HUSTLERS
Taylor Russell – WAVES
Zhao Shuzhen – THE FAREWELL
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer – GIVE ME LIBERTY
Octavia Spencer – LUCE
Best Supporting Male
Willem Dafoe – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Noah Jupe – HONEY BOY
Shia Labeouf – HONEY BOY
Jonathan Majors – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Wendell Pierce – BURNING CANE
Noah Baumbach – MARRIAGE STORY
Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder – TO DUST
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
Chinonye Chukwu – CLEMENCY
Tarell Alvin Mccraney – HIGH FLYING BIRD
Best First Screenplay
Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol – SEE YOU YESTERDAY
Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen – DRIVEWAYS
Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy – BLOW THE MAN DOWN
Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe – GREENER GRASS
James Montague, Craig W. Sanger – THE VAST OF NIGHT
Todd Banhazl – HUSTLERS
Jarin Blaschke – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Natasha Braier – HONEY BOY
Chananun Chotrungroj – THE THIRD WIFE
Pawel Pogorzelski – MIDSOMMAR
Julie Béziau – THE THIRD WIFE
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
Tyler L. Cook – SWORD OF TRUST
Louise Ford – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Kirill Mikhanovsky – GIVE ME LIBERTY
John Cassavetes Award
GIVE ME LIBERTY
WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY
Robert Altman Award
ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS
Best International Film
INVISIBLE LIFE, Brazil
LES MISERABLES, France
PARASITE, South Korea
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, France
THE SOUVENIR, United Kingdom
Piaget Producers Award
Someone to Watch Award
Rashaad Ernesto Green – PREMATURE
Ash Mayfair – THE THIRD WIFE
Joe Talbot – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Truer Than Fiction Award
Khalik Allah – BLACK MOTHER
Davy Rothbart – 17 BLOCKS
Nadia Shihab – JADDOLAND
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside – AMÉRICA
Annual Bonnie Award