The Film Independent Spirit Awards are usually held in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, but for the first time in its existence, it was viewed virtually in a Zoom-like setting with break-out rooms imitating private tents for attendees to mingle before and after the show. Chloé Zhao‘s “Nomadland” affirmed its frontrunner status moving into this Sunday’s Oscar telecast when it received top honors during last night’s presentation. Zhao’s acclaimed drama earned the most accolades of the night, winning Best Feature, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.
These are just a few of the numerous honors Zhao has received during this extended awards season, which included the TIFF Ebert Director Award last September. Two of the film’s fellow Best Picture nominees at the 2021 Oscars also took home multiple awards: Darius Marder’s “Sound of Metal” won Best Actor (Riz Ahmed) and Best First Feature. Paul Raci also won Best Supporting Actor for “Sound of Metal,” and communicated his thanks with a combination of speech and American Sign Language. Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” took home trophies for Best Actress (Carey Mulligan) and Best Screenplay. All nominated films had budgets under $22.5 million.
Mulligan’s win suggests she may be the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar, which up till now has been the hardest race to predict, with Andra Day winning the Golden Globe for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday“; Viola Davis winning the SAG Award for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom“; and Frances McDormand winning the BAFTA for “Nomadland” in the same category. Also cementing her frontrunner status is Yuh-Jung Youn, who received the Best Supporting Actress Spirit Award for her scene-stealing role in Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari.”
Chung was the only man nominated in the Best Director category, where he, Zhao and Fennell were joined by fellow nominees Eliza Hittman (“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”) and Kelly Reichardt (“First Cow“). Another acclaimed female filmmaker, Regina King, received the Robert Altman Award for her directorial debut, “One Night in Miami…” along with her casting director Kimberly Hardin and cast members Kingsley Ben-Adir, Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge and Eli Goree.
For the first time, television shows were eligible in five Spirit Awards categories, which enabled Michaela Coel’s hugely praised HBO show, “I May Destroy You,” to win Best New Scripted Series and Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series. Maria Schrader’s Netflix series “Unorthodox” also won two awards for its stars Shira Haas and Amit Rahav.
“Saturday Night Live” cast member Melissa Villaseñor hosted the ceremony and delivered spot-on impressions of such fellow comedians as Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Sarah Silverman and Owen Wilson. In fact, her performance was so good throughout the virtual show that it served as a showcase for her talent, and prompted hope among viewers of her role on SNL being expanded.
Here is the complete list of winners…
Best Feature: “Nomadland”
Best Director: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”
Best Male Lead: Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Best Female Lead: Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”
Best Supporting Male: Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”
Best Supporting Female: Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari”
Best Screenplay: “Promising Young Woman”
Best Documentary: “Crip Camp”
Best International Film: “Quo Vadis, Aida?”
Best Cinematography: Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”
Best Editing: “Nomadland”
Best First Feature: “Sound of Metal”
Best First Screenplay: Andy Siara, “Palm Springs”
Robert Altman Award: “One Night in Miami”
John Cassavetes Award: “Residue”
Piaget Producers Award: Gerry Kim
Truer Than Fiction Award: Elegance Bratton, “Pier Kids”
Someone to Watch Award: Ekwa Msangi “Farewell Amor”
Best New Scripted Series: “I May Destroy You”
Best Male Performance in a New Scripted Series: Amit Rahav, “Unorthodox”
Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series: Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series: “I May Destroy You”
Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series: “Immigration Nation”
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