Beale Street gets well-deserved adulation at 2019 Indie Spirit Awards


Taking place in Santa Monica, California, the 2019 Independent Spirit Awards took something of a more grounded approach to awards season than the Academy. Although inevitably overshadowed by tonight’s Oscars, they represent an important outlet and awards in recognition of some of the more offbeat films of the year. Happily, I can confirm that those mentioned have been some of my favorites to watch and review this year, proving that independent cinema is equally as valid as the popcorn flicks dominating the big screen and the red carpet.

If Beale Street Could Talk was awarded Best Feature and Best Director — Barry Jenkins using his time to instead deflect the attention away from him ‘with so much going on in the world’ and called for more female filmmakers. His film also picked up Best Supporting Actress for Regina King. whose name has also been put forward for an Oscar at tonight’s ceremony. Bo Burnham’s passion project Eighth Grade went away with Best Screenplay, but in other aspects didn’t come away with the fanfare one might expect. Still, awards are rarely a perfect indicator of how the public sees films, and all its word-of-mouth hype certainly adds up to a significant heap of praise for Burnham.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? received due praise, with Richard E. Grant winning Best Supporting Actor. Based on the true story of jaded author Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), the biopic portrays two ostensibly unlikeable characters who learn to work together to lucrative ends, finding friendship and camaraderie despite the curveballs life throws at them. Grant’s character Jack Hock is diagnosed with HIV and the actor described his role as a ‘homage to men wiped out by that disease’. The only real crossover with the Academy is recognized in this achievement, alongside Glenn Close’s Best Actress win for her performance in The Wife — the actress has high hopes for Oscar glory tonight, but arguably her dog Pip stole the show during the Spirit Awards.

Despite multiple nominations, I’m sad to report that We The Animals lost out throughout the proceedings. The story of a mixed-race family in the US is a moving coming-of-age tale exploring queer identities, but the film was, unfortunately, was snubbed in this year’s ceremony. A shame, when its performances were brilliant and the poetic editing and cinematography made Jeremiah Zagar’s film something quite special. Other worthy films up for awards and nominations included First Reformed (Amanda Seyfried collected this on behalf of the absentee Ethan Hawke), Sorry To Bother You (the underrated movie inexplicably overlooked by the Academy) and Thoroughbreds (a bone-chilling thriller which I wish everyone could see — it’s stunning).

With all the love they’ve been getting from critics and fans, I’m slightly surprised that Roma and The Favourite would both have a place at a comparatively lower-key awards ceremony like the Spirit Awards, yet here they are. Roma took away Best International Film, while The Favourite only walked away with a single nomination (and am I allowed to say that I think it was really pretty overrated?). Still, I doubt Yorgos Lanthimos’ ego will have been too badly bruised given the phenomenal line-up this film has at the Academy and it will be entertaining to see these two spar. Out of this entire category, I rather would have liked the South Korean Burning to have earned top honors, but that’s for the Film Independent’s 6200 members to decide.

The full list of winners and nominees are as follows:

Best Feature

Eighth Grade
First Reformed
If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
You Were Never Really Here

Best Director

Debra Granik, Leave No Trace
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Tamara Jenkins, Private Life
Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here
Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best First Feature

Sorry to Bother You
The Tale
We the Animals

Best Female Lead

Glenn Close, The Wife
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Regina Hall, Support the Girls
Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline
Carey Mulligan, Wildlife

Best Male Lead

John Cho, Searching
Daveed Diggs, Blindspotting
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Christian Malheiros, Sócrates
Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here

Best Supporting Female

Kayli Carter, Private Life
Tyne Daly, A Bread Factory
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk  
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Leave No Trace
J. Smith-Cameron, Nancy

Best Supporting Male

Raúl Castillo, We the Animals
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Josh Hamilton, Eighth Grade
John David Washington, Monsters and Men

Best Screenplay

Richard Glatzer (Writer/Story By), Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Wash Westmoreland, Colette
Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Tamara Jenkins, Private Life
Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You
Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best First Screenplay

Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Christina Choe, Nancy
Cory Finley, Thoroughbreds
Jennifer Fox, The Tale
Quinn Shephard (Writer/Story By) and Laurie Shephard (Story By), Blame

Best Cinematography

Ashley Connor, Madeline’s Madeline
Diego Garcia, Wildlife
Benjamin Loeb, Mandy
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Suspiria
Zak Mulligan, We the Animals

Best Editing

Joe Bini, You Were Never Really Here
Keiko Deguchi, Brian A. Kates & Jeremiah Zagar, We The Animals
Luke Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Chris Gill & Julian Hart, American Animals
Anne Fabini, Alex Hall and Gary Levy, The Tale
Nick Houy, Mid90s

John Cassavetes Award

(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000.)
A Bread Factory
En el Séptimo Día
Never Goin’ Back
Thunder Road

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


Best International Film

Burning (South Korea)
The Favourite (United Kingdom)
Happy as Lazzaro (Italy)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

Best Documentary

Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
On Her Shoulders

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Piaget Producers Award

Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams
Gabrielle Nadig
Shrihari Sathe

Someone To Watch Award

Alex Moratto, Sócrates
Ioana Uricaru, Lemonade
Jeremiah Zagar, We The Animals

Truer Than Fiction Award

Alexandria Bombach, On Her Shoulders
Bing Liu, Minding the Gap
RaMell Ross, Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Annual Bonnie Award

Debra Granik
Tamara Jenkins
Karyn Kusama

Sian Francis Cox
Sian is Flixist’s UK Editor and has written for sites including Escapist Magazine, Destructoid, and Film Enthusiast.