Independent Spirit Awards announce 2021 nominees

Tim Balk, New York Daily News
·2 min read

The Independent Spirit Awards, which cast their eyes on the brightest stars of indie filmmaking, on Tuesday announced a slate of 2021 nominees that included a posthumous recognition of Chadwick Boseman.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a teen pregnancy drama, scored seven nominations, leading the field for the 36th annual edition of the awards.

The awards are scheduled to be dished out on April 22. Typically serving as a daytime warm-up ahead of the more prestigious Academy Awards, the Spirit Awards are set to move to a 10 p.m. time slot this spring with broadcasts provided by IFC and AMC+. The Oscars are scheduled for April 28.

Film Independent, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that supports innovation in indie cinema, produces the awards show.

“Even though we’re all still stuck at home, the time has arrived: Let’s come together and celebrate all the great work of 2020,” Josh Welsh, the president of Film Independent, said in presentation published on YouTube on Tuesday.

Olivia Wilde, Barry Jenkins and Laverne Cox presented the nominees.

The class stands out for its diversity. In the category for best director — an area of the film world all too often ruled by men throughout movie history — four of the five selections were women. Welsh said two-thirds of the members of the nomination committee were women, and 63% were people of color.

Boseman, who died in August at 43 following a four-year battle with colon cancer, was nominated in the best male lead category for his performance as the talented trumpeter Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

The flick, which also starred Viola Davis, earned five nominations, including one for best feature. Davis notched a nomination in the best female lead category.

Also vying for best feature: The slow-moving frontier tale “First Cow,” the exploration of the American dream “Minari” and the Frances McDormand-powered recession-era yarn “Nomadland.” (McDormand got a nod in the best female lead category.) “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” rounded out the category.

The awards show did not have to contend with the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, because it fell in early February, weeks before the spread of the virus send the U.S. economy screeching to a halt. “The Farewell” captured best feature last year.

The pandemic has proved a vexing obstacle for the film industry, freezing film sets and emptying cinemas. Large theater chains face a financial abyss, and some local movie houses have closed their doors permanently.

In the nomination presentation, Welsh said that 2020 “obviously was hell on earth, but one glorious lifeline these past few months has been the ability to watch so many great films and shows.”

“This year’s Spirit Award nominees inspired us, connected us and have been a source of urgently needed light in some pretty dark times,” he said.