NEW YORK (AP) – The 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards showered nominations on Bo Burnham’s coming-of-age tale “Eighth Grade,” Lynne Ramsay’s existentialist thriller “You Were Never Really Here” and Paul Schrader’s religious drama “First Reformed” in nominees announced Friday .
Each scored four nods including best picture. Also nominated for best picture: Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Debra Granik’s father-daughter tale “Leave No Trace.”
With many of this year’s major Oscar contenders being bigger-budget studio releases like “A Star Is Born” and “Black Panther,” the Spirits threw their support behind a more idiosyncratic array of independent films from both veteran and first-time filmmakers. The leading nominee was a directorial debut that has collected all of $66,000 at the box office: Jeremiah Zagar’s “We the Animals.” The film, a lushly poetic story of three biracial brothers, received a leading five nominations including best first feature and the “someone to watch” award.
Doled out the day before the Academy Awards, the Spirits honor independent film, selecting from nominees with budgets under $20 million. Two other Academy Awards favorites – Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” – weren’t eligible for the Spirits’ main categories, but were nominated for best international feature.
That left plenty of room for films like Tamara Jenkins’ “Private Life” (three nods, including best director and best screenplay for Jenkins), Paul Dano’s directorial debut “Wildlife” (three nods, including best actress for Carey Mulligan) and Jennifer Fox’s childhood sexual abuse chronicle “The Tale” (three nods, including best first feature) to find attention.
Selection committees went especially for “Eighth Grade,” including a best actress nomination for its 15-year-old star, Elsie Fisher, and a supporting actor nom for her fictional father, Josh Hamilton. Joaquin Phoenix, the unhinged hit-man of “You Were Never Really Here,” was nominated for best actor, along with John Chu (“Searching”), Daveed Diggs (“Blindspotting”), Christian Malheiros (“Socrates”) and Ethan Hawke of “First Reformed.”
Alongside Mulligan and Fisher, the nominees for best actress were: Glenn Close (“The Wife”), Toni Collette (“Hereditary”), Regina Hall (“Support the Girls”) and Helena Howard (“Madeline’s Madeline”).
The Spirits’ Robert Altman Award, an ensemble prize given to a film’s director, cast and casting director, will go to Luca Guadagnino’s horror remake “Suspiria.” The Spirits will also, for a second time, give the Bonnie Award (and a $50,000 grant) to a mid-career female director. This year’s nominees are Granik, Jenkins and Karyn Kusama (“Destroyer”).
Gemma Chan and Molly Shannon announced the nominations, which were streamed online, in a press conference from the W Hotel in Hollywood on Friday.
After four straight years of matching best picture winners with the Oscars (“Moonlight,” ”Spotlight,” ”Birdman,” ”12 Years a Slave”), the Spirit Awards last year deviated by choosing Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” for its top award.
The Spirits, presented by the non-profit arts organization Film Independent, will be broadcast live on IFC on February 23.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP