For the third year in a row, New York-based distributor A24 led at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Award nominations counting a total 12 noms versus last year’s 17. A24’s nom count this year doubled up on Amazon Studios, Netflix and The Orchard which all tied for six. Annapurna Pictures followed with five noms: Three for Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk (best feature, director, and supporting female Regina King and two for their Boots Riley Sundance pick-up Sorry to Bother You (five).
A24 scored four noms a piece for Eighth Grade and First Reformed, two for Hereditary, and then a nom each for Mid90s and Never Goin’ Back.
Meanwhile, The Orchard’s We The Animals from director Jeremiah Zager counted the most for any feature with a total of five including best editing, best cinematography, best first feature, Someone to Watch award, and best supporting male. The pic, which made its world premiere at Sundance, follows three boys as they grow from their childhood which has contended with their parents’ volatile love which unmakes the family many times over. The pic was overlooked in the best feature category.
What was impressive here at the Spirit Award noms this morning were the comebacks and surprises: A number of pics whose hope seemed lost amid festival faves like Fox Searchlight’s The Favorite and Netflix’s Roma, came roaring back. Specifically, Amazon’s Lynne Ramsey crime noir You Were Never Really Here starring Joaquin Phoenix. The movie made its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, disappeared at the box office last April with $2.5M and scored four hot noms for best feature, best director, best male lead Phoenix and best editing. This at a time when Amazon has been pushing Beautiful Boy, Suspiria (which did get the ensemble Robert Altman award and best cinematography nod) and Cold War.
Ditto for A24’s First Reformed from Paul Schrader which star Ethan Hawke as a small congregation priest in upstate New York who grapples with mounting despair and a tormented past. The pic opened last May and made $3.4M. Carey Mulligan thrusts herself into the best actress race this season with her first big key nom at the Spirits for Paul Dano’s Wildlife which also notched best first feature and best cinematography. Also Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace from Bleecker Street,her first feature since 2010’s Winter’s Bone, came up with noms in the best feature, director and supporting female category for Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie.
No surprise here in regards to best feature noms: Annapurna’s If Beale Street Could Talk and A24’s Eighth Grade. Beale Street is Jenkins’ first film since his surprise 2017 Oscar best picture win for Moonlight (which was preceded the day before by an Independent Spirit best feature win as well as four other wins for best director, editing, cinematography, and screenplay). Eighth Grade, which marks the directorial feature debut of comedian Bo Burnham, has been banging its awards season drum well before festival season. The pic, which has grossed $13.5M at the domestic box office, also had noms for female lead (Elsie Fisher),screenplay and best supporting male Josh Hamilton.
Largely coming up short here this morning in prime above the line categories: Major studio classic labels. Focus Features received only three noms for best doc (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?), best supporting actor (Adam Driver in BlackKklansman), and screenplay (Thoroughbreds). Fox Searchlight only received three best screenplay and supporting male (Richard E. Grant) for Can You Ever Forgive Me? with Spirit Award voters completely overlooking Melissa McCarthy’s more dramatic turn as journalist-turned-manuscript thief Lee Israel. Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite was completely relegated to the international film slot due to the fact that it’s a UK production with international producer and writers. Sony Pictures Classics, which counted 13 last year propelled by Call Me By Your Name, only had one nom in the best lead female category for Glenn Close’s turn in The Wife.
Interestingly enough all the studio classic labels were beat in nom counts by Netflix which counts six. Even though the majority of them are not for Netflix fall festival awards season pushes Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 22 July etc (and that could have a lot to do with the budgets of these movies), the streaming company, which has been making noise with its pre-home theatrical releases, earned three noms for the Tamara Jenkins’ Paul Giamatti-Kathryn Hahn drama Private Life (director, screenplay and supporting female Kayli Carter),Sandi Tan’s indie road movie doc Shirkers, the Italian movie Happy as Lazzaro and Roma in the international pic slots.
A big snub? Nicole Kidman in Destroyer, a film in which she transforms herself into a worn, beat-up LAPD detective. The pic was shot around LA and cost under $10M. C’mon, Indie Spirits. Also what about director Spike Lee and star John David Washington for BlackKkKlansman?
The Spirit award noms were announced this morning by Gemma Chan and Molly Shannon at the W Hotel in Hollywood. Microbudget films, all the way up to pics that cost around $20M are eligible.
The awards in recent years have generally been a predictor of what’s to come the following day at the Oscars with best picture wins lining up between AMPAS and Film Independent for Moonlight in 2017, 2016’s Spotlight, 2015’s Birdman and 2014’s 12 Years A Slave. However, last year that wasn’t the case with the Spirits going for Get Out while the Oscars went for The Shape of Water (the Fox Searchlight release wasn’t eligible for the Spirit Awards due to the fact that its production cost exceeded the minimum echelon allowed by the org). If some are wondering why Netflix’s highly praised Alfonso Cuaron epic Roma isn’t in the best feature category, it’s because it was only eligible in the international film slot. The movie is Mexico’s official foreign film Oscar entry this season. Four hundred films were in consideration for this year’s noms.
The 2019 Spirit Awards will take place north of the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday, Feb. 23, and will be broadcast live on IFC.
You can watch the recap here:
Below are the categories being announced this morning which will fill out in a matter of minutes:
If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
You Were Never Really Here
Sorry to Bother You
We the Animals
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Glenn Close, The Wife
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Regina Hall, Support the Girls
Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline
Carey Mulligan, Wildlife
BEST MALE LEAD
John Cho, Searching
Daveed Diggs, Blindspotting
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Christian Malheiros, Socrates
Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here
Debra Granik, Leave No Trace
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Tamara Jenkins, Private Life
Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
On Her Shoulders
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Raúl Castillo, We the Animals
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Josh Hamilton, Eighth Grade
John David Washington, Monsters and Men
Richard Glatzer (Writer/Story By), Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Wash Westmoreland, Colette
Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Tamara Jenkins, Private Life
Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Christina Choe, Nancy
Cory Finley, Thoroughbreds
Jennifer Fox, The Tale
Quinn Shephard (Writer/Story By) and Laurie Shephard (Story By), Blame
Joe Bini, You Were Never Really Here
Keiko Deguchi, Brian A. Kates & Jeremiah Zagar, We the Animals
Luke Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Chris Gill & Julian Hart, American Animals
Anne Fabini, Alex Hall and Gary Levy, The Tale
Nick Houy, Mid90s
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
Burning (South Korea)
The Favourite (United Kingdom)
Happy as Lazzaro (Italy)
A Bread Factory
En el Septimo Dia
Never Goin’ Back
Kayli Carter, PRIVATE LIFE
Tyne Daly, A BREAD FACTORY
Regina King, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
J. Smith-Cameron, NANCY
Ashley Connor, Madeline’s Madeline
Diego Garcia, Wildlife
Benjamin Loeb, Mandy
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Suspiria
Zak Mulligan, We the Animals
PRODUCERS AWARD – The 22nd annual Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 25th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Director of Sócrates
Director of Lemonade
Director of We the Animals
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 24th annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Director of On Her Shoulders
Director of Minding the Gap
Director of Hale County This Morning, This Evening