‘Uncut Gems,’ ‘Marriage Story’ Score 2019 Film Independent Spirit Award Nominations

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Photo Source: Courtesy of A24

For a glimpse into which of the year’s indie films will be part of the proverbial awards conversation, look to Film Independent. With the Nov. 21 announcement of their Spirit Award nominees, presented at The LINE Los Angeles by actors Zazie Beetz and Natasha Lyonne, the arts non-profit organization has again singled out the best performances and low-budget projects of 2019.

All will compete for the honor of becoming a Spirit Award winner at the 35th annual ceremony Feb. 8, 2020, the day before the Academy Awards, on the beach in Santa Monica, California. The Spirit Awards recognize artist-driven and highly original filmmaking; to be eligible, films must be made for less than $22.5 million. Nominated for the best feature award are five of this year’s buzziest and most acclaimed contenders: Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” (from Fox Searchlight Pictures), Chinonye Chukwu’s “Clemency” (Neon), Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” (A24), Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” (Netflix), and Benny and Josh Safdie’s “Uncut Gems” (A24). 

“Marriage Story,” also nominated in the best screenplay category, will receive this year’s Robert Altman Award. Given each year to one film’s helmers and ensemble, the honor was created in 2008 in recognition of legendary director Robert Altman, known for casting cohesive ensembles on screen. Baumbach, his casting directors Douglas Aibel and Francine Maisler, and cast members Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, and Merritt Wever, will collectively be awarded.

The nominees for the third annual Bonnie Award, recognizing and providing a grant to one mid-career female director each year, are Marielle Heller, Kelly Reichardt, and Wang. The nominees for the 23rd Producers Award, awarding a grant to an emerging indie producer, are Mollye Asher, Krista Parris, and Ryan Zacarias.

“The Film Independent Spirit Awards celebrate the best films of the year—films characterized by creative independence and original, provocative subject matter, as well as diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision,” said Film Independent president Josh Welsh in a statement. “At a time when the film business is undergoing such change and challenges, it’s important to loudly celebrate the work itself—the films!—and to recognize 2019 as a year of bold, audacious and accomplished filmmaking. That’s what the Spirit Awards are all about.” 

READ: Everything You’d Ever Need to Know About the Film Independent Spirit Awards

“The Lighthouse” and “Uncut Gems” tallied the most Spirit Award nominations, with five each. Both are from indie distributor A24, which came away with a leading 18 nods. Recognized in the leading actor categories are Karen Allen for “Colewell,” Hong Chau for “Driveways,” Elisabeth Moss for “Her Smell,” Mary Kay Place for “Diane,” Alfre Woodard for “Clemency,” Renée Zellweger for “Judy,” Chris Galust for “Give Me Liberty,” Kelvin Harrison Jr. for “Luce,” Robert Pattinson for “The Lighthouse,” Matthias Schoenaerts for “The Mustang,” and Adam Sandler for “Uncut Gems.” Although many of last year’s big winners, including Glenn Close, Ethan Hawke, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Eighth Grade,” and “Suspiria,” did not score Oscars, Spirit Award recognition has in recent years corresponded more significantly with the Academy’s choices.

This year the Spirit Awards Nominating Committees, comprised of filmmakers and industry professionals, whittled down the nominees from 430 submissions. Winners will be selected by members of Film Independent—which is accepting new eligible voters through Dec. 5! For a full list of nominees and more on the organization, visit www.filmindependent.org/spirit-awards.

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