Spirit Awards Nominations: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’, ‘Minari’, ‘Nomadland’ & ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Lead Field

Anthony D'Alessandro
·8 min read

It was a bit of a wait, thanks to the pandemic, but the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations for the 2020-21 season finally were announced today, with A24’s First Cow, Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, A24’s Minari, Focus Features’ Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Searchlight’s Nomadland taking the five slots in the Best Feature category.

Among movies, Never Rarely Sometimes Always led all Spirit nominees with seven, followed by Minari (six), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Nomadland (five each) and Miss Juneteenth (four).

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This year’s Spirits includes five new TV categories: Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series, Best New Scripted Series, Best Female Performance in a Scripted Series, Best Male Performance in a Scripted Series and Best Ensemble Cast in a Scripted Series. Leading the TV section were Apple TV+ dramedy Little America and Netflix’s drama Unorthodox (three each) and HBO’s I May Destroy You (two).

As we told you last week, this year’s edition will break its longstanding tradition of taking place live on the Santa Monica beach on the Saturday afternoon before Sunday’s Oscars. Instead, the ceremony will air live at 7 p.m. PT Thursday, April 22 — on IFC, as always. Back in June, Film Independent had set the show for April 24.

Netflix came up big this year with 16 noms, nine more than last year, but that’s counting the streamer’s TV noms. Netflix pics recognized included Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Crip Camp, The Disciple, Dick Johnson Is Dead, The Forty-Year Old Version, The Half of It, The White Tiger and series Immigration Nation, Never Have I Ever and Unorthodox.

The major studios’ classic labels rallied back after coming up short at the 2019-20 Spirit Award noms. Focus had the second-biggest noms count with 10 this year, propelled by seven for Eliza Hittman’s pregnancy drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always and three for the Carey Mulligan dark comedy Promising Young Woman. Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics each had five nominations. Searchlight’s tally was composed of Nomadland‘s noms, while Sony Pictures Classics received one nom for French Exit and two each for Nine Days and I Carry You With Me.

A24, which led all Spirit noms for the 2019-20 awards season with 18, ranked third this year with nine — six for Minari and three for First Cow. HBO ranked fourth with seven, boosted by its TV noms. Amazon also counted five nominations.

Note that at the Independent Spirit Awards, movies made for a budget of $22.5 million or lower are eligible. When the industry wonders why a notable indie pic hasn’t made the list, Quite often it’s because it falls outside the budget threshold, meaning it’s not a snub. For example, this year, Netflix movies that aren’t eligible include The Trial of the Chicago 7, Da 5 Bloods, Mank, The Midnight Sky, The Prom and Hillbilly Elegy.

‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’: Read The Screenplay For Eliza Hittman’s Abortion Drama That Topped The Spirit Awards Nominations

Last year’s Best Feature was A24’s The Farewell, with Benny and Josh Safdie taking home Best Director for A24’s Uncut Gems. Adam Sandler won Best Male Lead for Uncut Gems, and Renee Zellweger Best Female Lead for Roadside Attractions’ Judy. Parasite, which took Oscars’ top prize, was only eligible for and won in the Spirits’ International Film category. The Bong Joon Ho movie went on to win an Oscar in that category as well, along, with Boon for Best Director and Boon and Han Jin-won’s Original Screenplay; a major breakthrough for a foreign film at the Oscars.

Olivia Wilde, Laverne Cox and Barry Jenkins announced today’s Spirit nominations.

Here is the full list of nominees for the 36th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards:

BEST FEATURE
First Cow
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Nomadland

BEST FIRST FEATURE
I Carry You With Me
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Miss Juneteenth
Nine Days
Sound of Metal

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Nicole Beharie, Miss Juneteenth
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Julia Garner, The Assistant
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

BEST MALE LEAD
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Adarsh Gourav, The White Tiger
Rob Morgan, Bull
Steven Yeun, Minari

BEST DIRECTOR
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Kelly Reichardt, First Cow
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Collective
Director/Producer: Alexander Nanau
Producers: Hanka Kastelicová, Bernard Michaux, Bianca Oana

Crip Camp
Directors/Producers: Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham
Producer: Sara Bolder

Dick Johnson is Dead
Director/Producer: Kirsten Johnson
Producers: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness

The Mole Agent
Director: Maite Alberdi
Producer: Marcela Santibáñez

Time
Director/Producer: Garrett Bradley
Producers: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Colman Domingo, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Orion Lee, First Cow
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Benedict Wong, Nine Days

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Alexis Chikaeze, Miss Juneteenth
Yeri Han, Minari
Valerie Mahaffey,French Exit
Talia Ryder, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

BEST SCREENPLAY

Mike Makowsky, Bad Education
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Alice Wu, The Half Of It
Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Kitty Green, The Assistant
Noah Hutton, Lapsis
Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth
Andy Siara, Palm Springs
James Sweeney, Straight Up

BEST EDITING:
Andy Canny, The Invisible Man
Scott Cummings, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Merawi Gerima, Residue
Enat Sidi, I Carry You With Me
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Jay Keitel, She Dies Tomorrow
Shabier Kirchner, Bull
Michael Latham, The Assistant
Hélène Louvart, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Joshua James Richards, Nomadland

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
Bacurau
Brazil
Directors: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho

The Disciple
India
Director: Chaitanya Tamhane

Night of the Kings
Ivory Coast
Director: Philippe Lacôte

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time
Hungary
Director: Lili Horvát

Quo Vadis, Aida?
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Director: Jasmila Žbanić

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast

One Night in Miami…
Director: Regina King
Casting Directors: Kimberly R. Hardin
Ensemble Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Given to the best feature made for under $500,000 (Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)

The Killing of Two Lovers
Writer/Director/Producer: Robert Machoian
Producers: Scott Christopherson, Clayne Crawford

La Leyenda Negra
Writer/Director: Patricia Vidal Delgado
Producers: Alicia Herder, Marcel Perez

Lingua Franca
Writer/Director/Producer: Isabel Sandoval
Producers: Darlene Catly Malimas, Jhett Tolentino, Carlo Velayo

Residue
Writer/Director: Merawi Gerima

Saint Frances
Director/Producer: Alex Thompson
Writer: Kelly O’Sullivan
Producers: James Choi, Pierce Cravens, Ian Keiser, Eddie Linker, Raphael Nash, Roger Welp

PRODUCERS AWARD
The Producers Award, now in its 24th year, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films.

Kara Durrett
Lucas Joaquin
Gerry Kim

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
The Someone to Watch Award, now in its 27th year, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition.

David Midell
Director of The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain

Ekwa Msangi
Director of Farewell Amor

Annie Silverstein
Director of Bull

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
The Truer Than Fiction Award, now in its 26th year, is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition.

Cecilia Aldarondo
Director of Landfall

Elegance Bratton
Director of Pier Kids

Elizabeth Lo
Director of Stray

Check out this morning’s announcement below:

TV CATEGORIES

BEST NEW NON-SCRIPTED OR DOCUMENTARY SERIES (Award given to the Creator, Executive Producer, Co-Executive Producer)

Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children
Executive Producers: Jeff Dupre, Joshua Bennett, Sam Pollard, Maro Chermayeff, John Legend, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius

City So Real
Produced by: Zak Piper, Steve James
Executive Producers: Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Alex Kotlowitz, Gordon Quinn, Betsy Steinberg, Jolene Pinder

Immigration Nation
Executive Producers: Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, Christian Thompson
Co-Executive Producers: Andrey Alistratov, Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, Lauren Haber

Love Fraud
Executive Producers: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing, Amy Goodman Kass, Vinnie Malhotra, Jihan Robinson, Michael Bloom, Maria Zuckerman

We’re Here
Creators/Executive Producers: Stephen Warren, Johnnie Ingram
Executive Producers: Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Peter LoGreco
Co-Executive Producers: Erin Haglund, Sabrina Mar

BEST NEW SCRIPTED SERIES (Award given to the Creator, Executive Producer, Co-Executive Producer)

I May Destroy You
Creator/Executive Producer: Michaela Coel
Executive Producers: Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni

Little America
Executive Producers: Lee Eisenberg, Joshuah Bearman, Joshua Davis, Arthur Spector, Alan Yang, Siân Heder, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon

Small Axe
Executive Producers: Tracey Scoffield, David Tanner, Steve McQueen

A Teacher
Creator/Executive Producer: Hanna Fidell
Executive Producers: Michael Costigan, Kate Mara, Louise Shore, Jason Bateman, Danny Brocklehurst
Co-Executive Producer: Daniel Pipski

Unorthodox
Creator/Executive Producer: Anna Winger
Creator: Alexa Karolinski
Executive Producer: Henning Kamm

BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Elle Fanning, The Great
Shira Haas, Unorthodox
Abby McEnany, Work in Progress
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Never Have I Ever
Jordan Kristine Seamón, We Are Who We Are

BEST MALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Conphidance, Little America
Adam Ali, Little America
Nicco Annan, P-Valley
Amit Rahav, Unorthodox
Harold Torres, Zero, Zero, Zero

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES

I May Destroy You
Ensemble Cast: Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu, Wruche Opia, Stephen Wight

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