Chloe Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’ won best feature at the 36th Independent Spirit Awards in a ceremony that turned the annual beach soiree into a virtual, mostly pre-taped event, and, possibly, an Oscar preview.
The Spirits, usually held in a giant tent on the Southern California coast, have sometimes been a laidback dress rehearsal for the Academy Awards.
‘Moonlight,’ ‘Birdman’ and ‘12 Years a Slave’ all won at the Spirits before taking best picture at the Oscars the next day, though top winners ‘The Farewell’ won the Spirits’ top prize in 2020 have diverged the last few years. But many of the same contenders overlapped this year, including ‘Minari,’ ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’ `Promising Young Woman’ and `Sound of Metal.’
And ‘Nomadland’ has been on a steady march to the Oscars.
The film’s Spirit win follows others at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the producers guild and the directors guild. Zhao also won best director Thursday at the Spirits, an honour she’s heavily favoured to win at the Academy Awards.
It was a fitting victory for Zhao’s modest drama about rootlessness and community in the American West. Three years earlier on the day of the Spirit Awards, Zhao and Frances McDormand first met to discuss the project.
Most of the other Oscar nominees went home with Spirit awards, too. Yuh-Jung Youn, the Academy Awards favourite, won best supporting female actor for ‘Minari’ Paul Raci, the 72-year-old veteran working actor who’s soaked up his moment in the sun, won best supporting male actor for ‘Sound of Metal.’ Emerald Fennell, the writer-director, of ‘Promising Young Woman,’ took best screenplay.
In one twist, best male lead actor went to Riz Ahmed for his performance in ‘Sound of Metal’ _ an award that has usually gone this year to the late Chadwick Boseman for his final performance in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.’
Carey Mulligan (‘Promising Young Woman’) took best lead female actor in the category that’s perhaps most up for grabs at the Academy Awards. Previous awards have been split between Viola Davis (‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’), McDormand and Mulligan.