When the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards nominations were announced at the end of January, Focus Features’ abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always seemed like it was picking up some awards season heat when it led the Spirit Awards field with seven nominations, more than any other film, including nods for best feature and best director.
But the acclaimed movie wasn’t nominated for the Oscars and just days before the Academy Awards, the quiet film about a 17-year-old girl seeking medical assistance after an unwanted pregnancy, didn’t win a single Independent Spirit Award. Also shut out by the Spirit Awards, after not landing any Oscar nominations, were four-time nominee Miss Juneteenth, three-time nominees First Cow and The Assistant, and double nominees I Carry You With Me and Nine Days.
Also shut out was five-time nominee Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, whose stars Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis lost the best actor and actress awards at the Spirit Awards to their fellow Spirit Awards (and Oscar) nominees Riz Ahmed and Carey Mulligan, respectively. Davis won the SAG Award for best actress and if she wins the Oscar, she would be only the second Black woman to receive that award, after Halle Berry in 2002. The late Boseman, who died in August after a secret battle with colon cancer, won a number of predecessor awards, including best actor prizes from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Critics Choice Awards.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom scored a couple of shout-outs in Melissa Villaseñor’s monologue, with the host quipping that the Netflix movie lost to One Night in Miami for “best film that sounds like porn but isn’t.”
“Better luck next time, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” she said, in a moment of unintended foreshadowing.
Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari was nominated for six awards but only won one: best supporting actress for Youn Yuh-jung.
For the first time this year, the Spirit Awards recognized television, and while multiple nominees Unorthodox and I May Destroy You won awards, three-time nominee Little America was shut out.