‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ Tops Spirit Awards Noms

The teen abortion drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” landed a leading seven nominations, Chadwick Boseman was posthumously nominated and women dominated the best director category in the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations announced Tuesday.

The 36th annual Spirit Awards, like most awards shows during the pandemic, are adjusting to the difficult circumstances. Tuesday’s nominees were announced virtually, with taped messages from Olivia Wilde, Laverne Cox and Barry Jenkins — who was joined by his dog, Chauncey Wang-Jenkins. The awards, usually held in a massive tent on the Santa Monica, California, beach the day before the Oscars, have been postponed to a primetime broadcast on IFC on April 22, three days before the Academy Awards.

“2020 was obviously hell on earth but one glorious lifeline these past few months has been the ability to watch so many great films and shows,” said Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent, in the presentation streamed on YouTube.

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Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a Pennsylvania’s teen’s odyssey in getting an abortion, racked up nominations for best feature film, best director and best female lead for Sidney Flanigan. It was followed closely by Lee Isaac Chung’s Korean immigrant family drama “Minari,” with six nominations including best feature film, best director, best male lead for Steven Yeun and supporting nods for Yeri Han and Yuh-jung Youn. Chloe Zhoe’s “Nomadland,” starring Frances McDormand, scored five nods, including best feature, best director and best female lead for McDormand.

The other nominees for best feature were Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” (also up for best director and best supporting male for Orion Lee) and George C. Wolfe’s August Wilson adaptation “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Viola Davis and Boseman, the two stars of “Ma Rainey,” were also nominated, as was Glynn Turman.

Those five films have been regularly celebrated in a pandemic-marred awards season that has accelerated lately with the American Film Institute’s picks for the best 10 films of 2020, and the National Board Review nominations, coming later Tuesday. “Nomadland” took top honors at the Gotham Awards earlier this month.

At the Spirits, the preeminent indie film soiree, nominees are limited to films made for less than $22.5 million. Last year, Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” won best feature, while Adam Sandler (“Uncut Gems”) and Renee Zellweger (“Judy”) took the top acting awards. This year, Netflix led all studios with 16 nominations.

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Four out of five nominees for directing were women: Reichardt, Zhao, Hittman and Emerald Fennell, for “Promising Young Woman.” Overall, 42% of nominees were women and 37% were people of colour.

Carey Mulligan, star of Fennell’s revenge drama, was among the nominees for best female lead, along with Davis, Flanigan, McDormand and Nicole Beharie (“Juneteenth”). In the best male lead category, Yeun and Boseman were joined by Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Adarsh Gourav (“White Tiger”) and Rob Morgan (“Bull”).

The Spirits’ Robert Altman Award, an honour for a film’s ensemble, will go to Regina King’s feature film directorial debut “One Night in Miami…,” a fictional account of a 1960s meeting of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown.

The nominees for best documentary are: “Collective,” “Crip Camp,” “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” “Time” and “The Mole Agent.” Up for best international film are: “Bacurau,” “The Disciple,” “Night of the Kings,” “Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time” and “Quo Vadis, Aida?”

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