My Thoughts On…The Independent Spirit Nominations

With the list being slim, a handful of films make up an eclectic group of nominees.

By Sean Blanford

The list of nominees for the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards was announced today, and there are several films that garnered a fair amount of recognition. Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always leads the pack with seven total nominations, with Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari coming in with six. Ten films total have three or more nominations, and while festival favorites like Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, and Sound of Metal are included in that list, there were plenty of potential surprises to be had. Here are some of the big winners from this year’s nominations.

Best Feature

Looking at the group of five nominees for Best Feature, four of these films were in my personal top ten, with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom being one I really liked but was on the outside of my top twenty. Any of the five films could come away with the top prize, with none being a clear frontrunner. The five nominees are:
First Cow
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Male Lead/Supporting

I can speak with confidence on three of the five nominations for Best Male Lead, as Riz Ahmed (The Sound of Metal), Steven Yeun (Minari), and Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) being three obvious selections, all of which have a great chance of winning. I am excited to see the other two nominees, Rob Morgan (Bull) and Adarsh Gourav (The White Tiger), and with Bull getting three total nominations, this is one to watch.

For Supporting Male, two actors from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Colman Domingo and Glynn Turman) nabbed nominations, and could potentially split the vote. Joining them are Orion Lee (First Cow), Paul Raci (The Sound of Metal), and Benedict Wong (Nine Days).

Female Lead/Supporting

Six deserving women are nominated for Best Female Lead, and while Frances McDormand (Nomadland) is the early odds on favorite, don’t rule out Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) or Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). Never Rarely Sometimes Always lead Sindey Flanigan joins Julia Garner (The Assistant) and Nicole Beharie (Miss Juneteenth) rounds out the field.

For Supporting Female, it will be hard to deny the prize to Minari’s Yun-jung Youn, but another joining her is co-star Yeri Han, as well as Alexis Chikaeze (Miss Juneteenth), Talia Ryder (Never Rarely Sometimes Always), and a surprising nomination for Valerie Mahaffey (French Exit), taking a spot potentially from someone like Olivia Cooke (The Sound of Metal).


Here is hoping the Academy of Arts and Sciences are taking note because if you truly are looking at inclusion and diversity with your nomination processes, look no further than this group of nominees for Best Director. Four of the five nominees are women, with the soul male being Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. I am not jaded in thinking that stalwarts like David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin won’t take away from this list, here is hoping that a few of these make the cut. The five nominees for Best Director are
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Kelly Reichardt, First Cow
Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

The Best of the Rest

Here are some of the other stories to look out for in the rest of the categories:
1.) Miss Juneteenth has four total nominations and could be the frontrunner for both Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay.
2.) There is a strong three-way battle for best screenplay between Minari, Promising Young Woman, and Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
3.) Best Documentary is a very strong field, with nominees including Crip Camp, Dick Johnson is Dead, Collective, Time, and The Mole Agent.

The 2021 Independent Spirit Awards take place on Thursday, April 22nd.

Author: Sean Blanford

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