‘Carol,’ ‘Spotlight,’ And ‘Beasts Of No Nation’ Dominate Independent Spirit Nominations

Like the Academy Awards’ cooler younger brother, the Independent Spirit Awards recognize the year’s finest achievements from films not released within the major studio system. The ceremony is decidedly more casual; it takes place on the beach, everyone wears shades, no fewer than three celebrities will show up drunk and/or under the influence of recreational substances. It’s a good time, and films that almost assuredly won’t receive any love come Oscar time get their chance in the spotlight.

Speaking of spotlights: The Independent Spirits unveiled their slate of nominees for the 31st annual ceremony, and Spotlight was among the films to seriously clean up on nods this year. The trenchant journalism procedural scored five nominations, including Best Feature, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. That ties it with Netflix’s Cary Fukunaga joint Beasts of No Nation, which earned a Best Actor nod for rookie Abraham Attah and a richly deserved Supporting Actor spot for Idris Elba as the film’s ruthless warlord. Both films, however, trail Carol‘s whopping six nominations. Todd Haynes’ lovingly wrought lesbian romance leads the Best Feature race, but most intriguingly, it also garnered Best Actress nominations for both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. The Independent Spirits have historically exerted little influence on later awards programs, but this does add another intriguing dimension to the question of how the Weinstein Company, which has been positioning Mara in the Supporting Actress category, will pursue Blanchett and Mara’s awards campaigns.

A pair of dark horses also made out surprisingly well. Sean Baker’s raw-as-hell L.A. story Tangerine raked in four nominations, the crown jewel being an unexpected Best Feature nod. The same goes for Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion puppet marvel Anomalisa, which also earned its creators a dual Best Director nomination. Both of these films have earned their stripes and then some, and so it’s gratifying to see them get some recognition before studio horses dominate awards conversations.

The full list of nominees has been reproduced below.

Best Feature
Beasts of No Nation

Best Director
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows
Sean Baker, Tangerine
Todd Haynes, Carol
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight

Best First Screenplay
Emma Donoghue, Room
Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Best First Feature
James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brothers Taught Me
The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Best Female Lead
Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Brie Larson, Room
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine
Rooney Mara, Carol

Best Male Lead
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Christopher Abbott, James White
Jason Segal, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Supporting Female
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Mya Taylor, Tangerine
Robin Bartlett, H.

Best Supporting Male
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Kevin Corrigan, Results
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk

Best Documentary
Best of Enemies
Heat of a Dog
The Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker

Best Cinematography
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Ed Lachman, Carol
Joshua James Richards, Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Michael Gioulakis, It Follows
Reed Morano, Meadowland

Best Editing
Julo C. Perez IV, It Follows
Kristan Sprague, Manos Sucias
Nathan Nugent, Room
Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie, Heaven Knows What
Tom McArdle, Spotlight

Best International Film
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul

John Cassavetes Award (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000)
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award

Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
Chloe Zhao, Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Felix Thompson, King Jack
Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, God Bless the Child

Piaget Producers Award
Darren Dean
Mel Eslyn
Rebecca Green & Laura D. Smith

Truer Than Fiction
Alex Sichel and Elizabeth Giamatti, A Woman Like Me
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Incorruptible
Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, Among the Believers