‘Past Lives,’ ‘May December’ and ‘American Fiction’ lead Spirit Award nominations

Natalie Portman (L) and Julianne Moore in Netflix’s “May December.”(Photo from Netflix)

Celine Song’s “Past Lives,” Todd Haynes’ “May December” and Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” got a leading five nominations, including best feature, from the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Natalie Morales and Joel Kim Booster announced the nominees Dec. 5 on a YouTube livestream.

Song’s quietly romantic film, starring Greta Lee and Teo Yoo as childhood friends who reconnect later in life, earned nominations for her direction, script and for both actors. “May December,” about an actress preparing to play a Mary Kay Letourneau-like role got nods for Natalie Portman, Charles Melton and screenwriter Samy Burch. MGM’s “American Fiction,” featuring Jeffrey Wright as a frustrated novelist, got recognition for Wright, Erika Alexander and Sterling K. Brown. Jefferson was nominated for his script but not for his direction, however.

It was a good morning for A24. In addition to the nominations for “Past Lives,” the indie film company received 11 overall for “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” “Earth Mama” and “The Zone of Interest.” Kelly Reichardt’s “Showing Up” was also named winner of the Robert Altman Award, which is given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast. Michelle Williams plays a small-time sculptor in the film, leading an ensemble that includes André Benjamin, Hong Chau, Judd Hirsch and Amanda Plummer.

Directing nominees were: Andrew Haigh (“All of Us Strangers”); Ira Sachs (“Passages”); William Oldroyd (“Eileen”); and Haynes and Song.

“Passages” and “All of Us Strangers,” nuanced portraits of gay relationships, were also nominated for best feature, as was “We Grown Now.”

The Spirit Awards limit eligibility to productions with budgets of $30 million or less, meaning films like “Oppenheimer,” “Maestro” and “Poor Things” did not qualify for nominations. The organization also switched to gender neutral acting awards in 2022.

Lead performance nominees include Wright, Lee, Yoo, Portman, Jessica Chastain (“Memory”), Trace Lysette (“Monica”), Judy Reyes (“Birth/Rebirth”), Andrew Scott (“All of Us Strangers”), Franz Rogowski (“Passages”) and Teyana Taylor (“A Thousand and One”).

Supporting performance nods went to Noah Galvin (“Theater Camp”), Anne Hathaway (“Eileen”), Glenn Howerton (“BlackBerry”), Marin Ireland (“Eileen”), Catalina Saavedra (“Rotting in the Sun”) and Ben Whishaw (“Passages”), in addition to the aforementioned Melton, Randolph, Brown and Alexander.

NFL veteran Marshawn Lynch was also nominated for his breakthrough performance in the wild high school comedy “Bottoms.”

Films nominated for best international film include both Sandra Hüller films, Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” and Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest,” from Poland, as well as Denmark/Iceland’s “Godland,” Nigeria’s “Mama Wata” and Mexico’s “Tótem.”

Last year’s big winner was “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which accepted seven awards including best feature, best director and acting prizes for Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan — categories in which it would go on to win Oscars.

Josh Welsh, the president of Film Independent, said the spirit awards look for films and shows that, “demonstrate the uniqueness of vision, original, provocative subject matter, economy of means and diversity, both on screen and off.”

The Spirit Awards also recognize television series. The nominees include “Jury Duty,” for best series and best ensemble cast, “Beef” for series, Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, and “The Last of Us” which got acting nods for Bella Ramsey, Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman. Billie Eilish was also nominated for “Swarm.”

Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Aidy Bryant is hosting the show, which will take place on Feb. 25 in Santa Monica, California. The awards will be streamed live on IMDb and Film Independent’s YouTube channels.

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