Independent Spirit Awards Continue ‘Nomadland’ Winning Streak

Meanwhile, Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) won lead acting trophies.,


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Three years ago, as she accepted a best-actress trophy for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” at the Independent Spirit Awards, Frances McDormand mentioned all the people she hoped to work with next. Then she peered at someone in the audience. “Chloe?” she said.

Few knew it then, but she was singling out the director Chloe Zhao, who had been celebrated earlier at the ceremony for her second film, “The Rider.” At that time, McDormand had just met with Zhao about directing a small independent feature McDormand planned to produce and star in. And on Thursday night, the film they made together, “Nomadland,” won top honors at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards.

That continues the gentle road drama’s juggernaut journey through awards season, where it has taken nearly every major award available, including top honors from the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and the Golden Globes. It enters the Oscars on Sunday as the decided favorite.

Zhao also won the Independent Spirit Award for best director, becoming the fourth woman ever to do so. If she wins at the Oscars, as she’s expected to, she will become only the second woman to take that trophy since “The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow in 2010.

Some other Oscar favorites also triumphed at the Independent Spirit Awards. Supporting-actress front-runner Yuh-Jung Youn won for “Minari,” while “Promising Young Woman” filmmaker Emerald Fennell picked up another award for her screenplay.

But some perpetually on-the-verge contenders finally got a high-profile victory here, including Carey Mulligan, who won the best-actress award for “Promising Young Woman” and dedicated it to the British actress Helen McCrory, who died this month. That Oscar category remains wide open: McDormand won the BAFTA award, Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) won the SAG award, and Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) won the Golden Globe.

“Sound of Metal” star Riz Ahmed triumphed in the best-actor category, where he was up against actor Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), who died last year. Ahmed’s costar Paul Raci earned a win in the supporting-actor category. That’s a major victory for Raci, a 72-year-old actor who had been working as a court interpreter for the deaf for decades before he found his breakthrough role.

“I’ve been a day player for thirty years here in Hollywood,” Raci said in his acceptance speech, “and I have one little piece of advice I can give to all of you people who are struggling here: Don’t quit your day job. I never did. I still have it, too!”

The ceremony was held virtually and hosted by comedian Melissa Villasenor. For a full list of winners, click here.

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