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The virtually held 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards gave Chloé Zhao’s NOMADLAND extra momentum as it heads into Oscar weekend while Carey Mulligan proudly dedicates her Promising Young Woman win to the recently passed Peaky Blinders star, Helen McCrory.
Nomadland, which is the frontrunner to take home the Best Picture prize at the Oscars, won the Spirit Award for Best Picture, Best Director (Chloé Zhao), Best Editing, and Best Cinematography. Producers Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, and Chloé Zhao claimed the prize with the Best Picture win while Zhao also walked away with an award for her directing and editing duties. Joshua James Richards, winning for his cinematography, added that award to his mantle. In response to the Best Pictures win, Asher said “In our film, Bob Wells says to [McDormand’s] Fern that you’ve come to the right place to connect with your tribe, your community, and Independent Film, you are our community.”
For her role in Promising Young Woman, Carey Mulligan won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female lead but it was her acceptance speech that stole the show when she ended it on a very heartfelt note with a dedication to the recently passed actress Helen McCrory. Mulligan said, “She was a true independent spirit and actress that I have looked up to, and will continue to look up to for the rest of my career, Helen McCrory, so thank you to her for everything she gave us.” McCrory sadly passed away on April 16 at the age of 52 after a long battle with cancer. As for other wins for Promising Young Woman, the film picked up the Screenplay prize for writer-director Emerald Fennell. This is an award I hope it wins at the Oscars because I think its competition in the other categories is too stiff at this point and it’s a film that deserves at least one major win. Truly was my favorite film to come out last year.
In the Best Actor field, Riz Ahmed took home the top prize for his top-notch performance in Amazon Studios’ Sound of Metal. The film also earned another two wins with Paul Raci claiming the prize for Best Supporting Actor and director Darius Marder taking home the Best First Feature award. Raci signed throughout his acceptance speech last night and offered up the best advice of the night when he signed “Don’t quit your day job, I never did, I still have it too.” The journeyman actor has had quite the road to this moment and getting here has been truly inspirational to watch. Lastly, for her turn in Minari which has made her a frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actress category, Yuh-jung Youn was given the prize by the Spirit Awards for her scene-stealing supporting performance in the film.
The Spirit Awards aren’t necessarily a true barometer for the Oscars but their picks for Best Picture were in line with the Academy’s between 2013-2016. The films that won during that period were 12 Years a Slave, Birdman, Spotlight, and Moonlight. It’s possible that a film like Minari could pull an upset at the Oscars but given that Nomadland has been the darling of this award’s season, I think these Spirit wins only increases its chances for Oscar glory.
Did YOUR favorites win at last night’s Film Independent Spirit Awards? You can check out the full winner’s list below!
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
(The Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition)
Director of Farewell Amor
BEST MALE LEAD
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
(The Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films)
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
BEST NEW NON-SCRIPTED OR DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Executive Producers: Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, Christian Thompson
Co-Executive Producers: Andrey Alistratov, Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, Lauren Haber
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Writer/Director: Merawi Gerima
Joshua James Richards, Nomadland
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
QUO VADIS, AIDA? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Director: Jasmila Å½bani?
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
I MAY DESTROY YOU
Cast: Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu, Weruche Opia, Stephen Wight
BEST MALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Amit Rahav, Unorthodox
BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Shira Haas, Unorthodox
BEST NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
I MAY DESTROY YOU
Creator/Executive Producer: Michaela Coel
Executive Producers: Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
Director: Regina King
Casting Directors: Kimberly R. Hardin
Ensemble Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Directors/Producers: Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham
Producer: Sara Bolder
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Director of Pier Kids
BEST FIRST FEATURE
SOUND OF METAL
Director: Darius Marder
Producers: Bill Benz, Kathy Benz, Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Andy Siara, Palm Springs
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari