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Spirit Award nominations prove A24’s indie film dominance, led by ‘Uncut Gems’ and ‘The Lighthouse’

Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems.”
Adam Sandler was nominated as best male lead for “Uncut Gems.”
(A24)

After years of seeming to play in tandem with potential Oscar nominees, Thursday’s Spirit Award nominations followed their more recent trend of spotlighting films on the fringes of awards season. While there were a handful of potential Academy Award nominees sprinkled throughout — and the attention could certainly give a few contenders a boost — the full list spreads the love among a broad and diverse array of titles.

The day’s big winner was distributor A24, with 18 nominations for the Film Independent-backed awards and led all competitors for the fourth year in a row. Neon, Netflix and Amazon also had strong showings, while more established specialized distributors such as Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Focus Features each picked up only a few scattered nominations.

A24’s “Uncut Gems” and “The Lighthouse” each had five nominations. A dizzying drama starring Adam Sandler in an emphatic performance as a gambling-addicted jewelry merchant in New York City’s diamond district, “Uncut Gems” captured nominations for feature, director (for brothers Josh and Benny Safdie), screenplay, male lead for Sandler and editing. “The Lighthouse,” a propulsive, exacting, black and white historical tale about two lighthouse keepers going mad while stranded on an island, is in contention for director Robert Eggers, male lead Robert Pattinson, supporting male Willem Dafoe, cinematography and editing.

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Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in “The Lighthouse.”
(A24)

Amazon’s “Honey Boy,” based on the troubled show-biz childhood of actor Shia LaBeouf, took in four nominations, being recognized for Alma Har’el for director, Noah Jupe and LaBeouf both in the supporting male category and cinematography.

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In one of the biggest surprises of the day, Music Box Films’ “Give Me Liberty” also landed four nominations. A careening, madcap tale set in Milwaukee, the Sundance-launched film was recognized for the low-budget John Cassavetes Award, male lead Chris Galust, supporting female Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, and editing.

The budget cap for Spirit Awards consideration was lifted this year from $20 million to $22.5 million, which paved the way for STX’s crime drama “Hustlers” to receive three nominations. The film drew nominations for director Lorene Scafaria, supporting female Jennifer Lopez and cinematography.

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Jennifer Lopez, left, and Constance Wu star in “Hustlers.”
(STXfilms)

Neon’s “Luce” and “Clemency,” which both premiered in competition at Sundance in January, each received three nominations. “Luce” was recognized for director Julius Onah, male lead Kelvin Harrison Jr. and supporting female Octavia Spencer. “Clemency” received nominations for feature, female lead Alfre Woodard and screenplay.

Netflix’s “Marriage Story” also received three nominations, for feature, screenplay for Noah Baumbach and the Robert Altman Award for ensemble cast, which also recognizes the filmmaker and casting director. By Spirit Award rules, receiving the Altman award means that leads Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson and supporting performers Laura Dern, Ray Liotta and Alan Alda were out of consideration in their respective categories.

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Among other A24 titles, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” received three nominations, “The Farewell” received two nominations, and “Midsommar” and “Waves” landed one nomination apiece.

Focus Features’ spring success “The Mustang” drew two nominations, as did a number of other smaller titles including “Diane,” “Burning Cane” and the yet-to-be-released “Driveways” and “Colewell” (both eligible because of film festival exposure).

Annapurna earned only a single nomination, for “Booksmart,” directed by Olivia Wilde, for first feature. Fox Searchlight’s “A Hidden Life,” directed by Terrence Malick, also earned the studio’s one nomination, for best feature.

While Spirit Awards eligibility is often a guessing game based on reported budgets, titles conspicuously absent from this year’s nominations include Focus Features’ “Harriet,” Fox Searchlight’s “Jojo Rabbit,” Universal’s “Queen & Slim” and Roadside Attractions’ “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” one of the year’s only indie releases to top $20 million at the box office.

Last year’s winner of the top feature prize, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” was not nominated for the Oscar for best picture. Likewise, male lead winner Ethan Hawke was not nominated for an Academy Award. Female lead winner Glenn Close and supporting male winner Richard E. Grant were at least nominated for Oscars. Supporting female winner Regina King did go on to win the Oscar in the same category as well.

The complete list of nominations:

Marriage Story .jpg
“Marriage Story”
(Wilson Webb/Netflix)

BEST FEATURE

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“Clemency”

“The Farewell”

“A Hidden Life”

“Marriage Story”

“Uncut Gems”

BEST FIRST FEATURE

“Booksmart”

“The Climb”

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“Diane”

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

“The Mustang”

“See You Yesterday”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

“Burning Cane”

“Colewell”

“Give Me Liberty”

“Premature”

“Wild Nights With Emily”

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(L-R)- Tim Roth, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Naomi Watts in “Luce.”
(Neon)

BEST DIRECTOR

Robert Eggers, “The Lighthouse”

Alma Har’el, “Honey Boy”

Julius Onah, “Luce”

Josh and Benny Safdie, “Uncut Gems”

Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”

BEST SCREENPLAY

“Clemency”

“High Flying Bird”

“Marriage Story”

“To Dust”

“Uncut Gems”

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

“Blow the Man Down”

“Driveways”

“Greener Grass”

“See You Yesterday”

“The Vast of Night”

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD

“Marriage Story”

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Karen Allen, “Colewell”

Hong Chau, “Driveways”

Elisabeth Moss, “Her Smell”

Mary Kay Place, “Diane”

Alfre Woodard, “Clemency”

Renée Zellweger, “Judy”

Alfre Woodard and Alex Castillo in the movie “Clemency.”
Alfre Woodard in “Clemency.”
(Eric Branco/Neon)

BEST MALE LEAD

Chris Galust, “Give Me Liberty”

Kelvin Harrison Jr., “Luce”

Robert Pattinson, “The Lighthouse”

Adam Sandler, “Uncut Gems”

Matthias Schoenaerts, “The Mustang”

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”

Taylor Russell, “Waves”

Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, “Give Me Liberty”

Octavia Spencer, “Luce”

Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Willem Dafoe, “The Lighthouse”

Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”

Shia LaBeouf, “Honey Boy”

Jonathan Majors, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Wendell Pierce, “Burning Cane”

HONEY BOY
Noah Jupe and Shia LaBeouf in “Honey Boy.”
(Amazon)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Honey Boy”

“Hustlers”

“The Lighthouse”

“Midsommar”

“The Third Wife”

BEST EDITING

“Give Me Liberty”

“The Lighthouse”

“Sword of Trust”

“The Third Wife”

“Uncut Gems”

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

“Invisible Life” (Brazil)

“Les Miserables” (France)

“Parasite” (South Korea)

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (France)

“Retablo” (Peru)

“The Souvenir” (United Kingdom)

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“American Factory”

“Apollo 11"

“For Sama”

“Honeyland”

“Island of the Hungry Ghosts”

Director Marielle Heller
Director Marielle Heller
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

BONNIE AWARD
(recognizes a mid-career female director)

Marielle Heller

Kelly Reichardt

Lulu Wang

PRODUCERS AWARD
(honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films)

Mollye Asher

Krista Parris

Ryan Zacarias

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
(recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition)

Rashaad Ernesto Green
Director of “Premature”

Ash Mayfair
Director of “The Third Wife”

Joe Talbot
Director of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Jimmie Fails stars as Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors as Montgomery Allen in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
Jimmie Fails stars as Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors as Montgomery Allen in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
(Laila Bahman / A24)

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
(presented to an emerging director of nonfiction features who has not yet received significant recognition)

Khalik Allah
Director of “Black Mother”

Davy Rothbart
Director of “17 Blocks”

Nadia Shihab
Director of “Jaddoland”

Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside
Director of “América”


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