Good for a chilly day at the beach but little else, The Independent Spirit Awards may have a positive effect on the careers of the winners but in the broader scheme of things they are meaningless and forgettable. A major reason for this is their lack of consistency in the nominating process and a lack of respect toward the very people they are nominating. There are way too many categories, because they don’t trust themselves, and the nominating comittee has questionable taste.

Here are some examples:

The biggest joke of the Awards is the Robert Altman Award (poor Bob!) given to a director, casting director and ensemble cast. This year the unfortunate recipient is “Mass”  – a few years ago it was “Marriage Story” so Oscar nominees Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson and Oscar winner Laura Dern were removed from the competition. It’s nice that a CASTING director gets some recognition but “Robert Altman” is a sneaky, backhanded way to exclude a bunch of actors from the competitive categories to open up more spots so that people no one has heard and no one cares about can get in the back door. It’s shameless maneuvering by the Spirits and I am bringing them to task!, So, this year poor Anne Dowd (does she ever get a break?), poor Martha Plimpton, poor Reed Birney and poor Jason Isaacs have to go to this vapid ceremony and do their best ensemble acting since, well, “Mass”, pretending to be overjoyed to get this stab-in-the-back award that excludes them from the competitive categories that they might otherwise have won (again, Dowd must feel particularly aggrieved). It also robs them of any kind of Spirit-generated buzz on the long trail to Oscar.

Showering a film with nominations and then neglecting the leading actor who IS the film is what really shows up the Spirits for what they are – disposable.

This year, both Olivia Coleman’s haunting performance in  “The Lost Daughter”: and Tessa Thompson’s unforgettable work in  “Passing” were neglected in favor of a bunch of actresses that most people have never heard of and probably will never will. How did this happen and how can you take these awards seriously?

Ditto for Joaquin Phoenix who is the sole reason for seeing “C’mon, C’mon”. How can you nominate this movie for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay and ignore the actor whose character is the film’s raison d’etre. Yes, there was the “Sideways” Oscar debacle in 2004 when the Academy nominated everyone EXCEPT Paul Giamatti and the NYFCC fiasco in 2003 when they showered “Far from Heaven” with awards in every major category EXCEPT Best Actress for Julianne Moore (the winner was Diane Lane for “Unfaithful”). Unfortunately, at the Spirits, it happens almost every year..

Then there are the questionable decisions that are all made in the name of bad taste. This year they demured on Rebecca Hall’s exquisite “Passing” and, instead, went for the execrable “Zola” in which a major character does the entire movie in verbal “blackface”! Let’s just say #StayWoke.

More on the Independent Spirits when the winners are announced in 2022,

Here is the full list of Spirit nominees

Best Feature:

“A Chiara”
“C’mon C’mon”
“The Lost Daughter”
“The Novice”

Best Director

Janicza Bravo, “Zola”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter”
Lauren Hadaway, “The Novice”
Mike Mills, “C’mon C’mon”
Ninja Thyberg, “Pleasure”

Best Male Lead

Clifton Collins Jr., “Jockey”
Frankie Faison, “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain”
Michael Greyeyes, “Wild Indian”
Udo Kier, “Swan Song”
Simon Rex, “Red Rocket”

Best Female Lead

Isabelle Fuhrman, “The Novice”
Brittany S. Hall, “Test Pattern”
Patti Harrison, “Together Together”
Taylour Paige, “Zola”
Kali Reis, “Catch the Fair One”

Best Supporting Female

Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
Amy Forsyth, “The Novice”
Ruth Negga, “Passing”
Revika Reustle, “Pleasure”
Suzanna Son, “Red Rocket”

Best Supporting Male

Colman Domingo, “Zola”
Meeko Gattuso, “Queen of Glory”
Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
Will Patton, “Sweet Thing”
Chaske Spencer, “Wild Indian”

Best Screenplay

Nikole Beckwith, “Together Together”
Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris, “Zola”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter”
Mike Mills, “C’mon C’mon”
Todd Stephens, “Swan Song”

Best First Screenplay

Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr., “Wild Indian ”
Matt Fifer; Story by Sheldon D. Brown, “Cicada”
Shatara Michelle Ford, “Test Pattern ”
Fran Kranz, “Mass”
Michael Sarnoski; Story by Vanessa Block, Michael Sarnoski, “Pig”

Best First Feature

“7 Days”
“Queen of Glory”

“Test Pattern”
“Wild Indian”

John Cassavettes Award (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000)

“Shiva Baby”
“Sweet Thing”
“This is Not a War Story”

Best Cinematography

“A Chiara”
“Blue Bayou”
“The Humans”



Best Documentary

“In The Same Breath”
“Summer of Soul”

Best Editing

“A Chiara”
“The Nowhere Inn”
“The Novice”
“The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain”

Robert Altman Award (Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)

Best Film

Best International Film

“Compartment No. 6”
“Drive My Car”
“Parallel Mothers”

“Petite Maman”
“Prayers for the Stolen”

Producers Award (Honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films.)

Brad Becker-Parton
Pin-Chun Liu
Lizzie Shapiro

Someone to Watch Award

Alex Camilleri, “Luzzu”
Michael Sarnoski, “Pig”
Gillian Wallace Horvat, “I Blame Society”

The Truer Than Fiction Award” (Presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition.)

Angelo Madsen Minax, “North By Current”
Jessica Beshir, “Faya Dayi”
Debbie Lum, “Try Harder!”

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Voted on by hundreds of actors, most of whom are too busy waiting tables to see movies at all, and, if they do, their choice is EXTREMELY limited. Limited mainly to Friday night at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. Anything even remotely off the beaten track will not be seen or even heard of. Hence the hideousness of what is listed below. End of discussion. Movies only.

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