‘Carol’ Tops 31st Independent Spirit Awards Nominations

The first shots have been fired on this year’s awards season battleground, and The Independent Spirit Awards were responsible. The nominees for this year’s awards – which honor independent, lower budgeted cinema – are an eclectic mix of films that include stop-motion animated dramas, an original Netflix feature film and a surprisingly strong showing for the horror genre.

Industry analysts will be eager to pour over the Independent Spirit Awards nominations for clues to the upcoming Oscar nominations. It is of course important to point out that the awards given out here, and by critics associations across the country, deserve to be taken seriously on their own. These are not just a prelude to the Academy Awards. The Independent Spirit Awards are a separate entity with a distinct significance.

With that said, it does seem likely that Carol – a 1950s period drama about a lesbian romance – will be honored throughout the entire awards season. Todd Haynes’ drama picked up six nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and two nominations for Best Actress. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara will compete in the same category here, which may help clarify for Oscar voters that Mara’s performance is in a leading role, not a supporting one, as has already been debated.

Related: Interview | Todd Haynes on ‘Carol’ and the Dingy 1950s

Other major awards season contenders to make a strong showing include Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, a Netflix Original film, and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, about the investigation into the coverup of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Both films earned five nominations a piece. Spotlight has already been honored with the Robert Altman Award for best ensemble cast.

Perhaps most surprising is the presence of two independent horror movies within the major categories. It Follows, the acclaimed supernatural thriller about a sexually-transmitted haunting, is competing for Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Bone Tomahawk, a western about cannibal troglodytes, is also in competition for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, for co-star Richard Jenkins.

It seems very unlikely that we will see It Follows very often this awards season, but Bone Tomahawk has developed a cult following already amongst critics who admire its unusual characters, loquacious dialogue and disturbing third act. It is entirely possible that S. Craig Zahler’s film will continue to be a part of the conversation as awards season continues.

For now, though, we will focus on congratulating this year’s Independent Spirit Awards nominees. The complete list is below. The winners will be announced on Saturday, February 27, 2016.



Producers: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman, Dino Stamatopoulos, Rosa Tran

Beasts of No Nation

Producers: Daniel Crown, Idris Elba, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Amy Kaufman, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker


Producers: Elizabeth Karlsen, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley


Producers: Blye Pagon Faust, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Michael Sugar


Producers: Sean Baker, Karrie Cox, Marcus Cox, Darren Dean, Shih-Ching Tsou


Sean Baker, Tangerine

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation

Todd Haynes, Carol

Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

David Robert Mitchell, It Follows


Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa

Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour

Phyllis Nagy, Carol

Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight

S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk


The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Director: Marielle Heller

Producers: Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit

James White

Director: Josh Mond

Producers: Max Born, Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, Melody Roscher, Eric Schultz

Manos Sucias

Director: Josef Kubota Wladyka

Producers: Elena Greenlee, Márcia Nunes


Director: Jonas Carpignano

Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Chris Columbus, Jon Coplon, Christoph Daniel, Andrew Kortschak, John Lesher, Ryan Lough, Justin Nappi, Alain Peyrollaz, Gwyn Sannia, Marc Schmidheiny, Victor Shapiro, Ryan Zacarias

Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Director/Producer: Chloé Zhao

Producers: Mollye Asher, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Angela C. Lee, Forest Whitaker


Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Joseph Carpignano, Mediterranea

Emma Donoghue, Room

Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend


Christopher Abbott, James White

Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation

Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind

Jason Segel, The End of the Tour

Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea


Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Rooney Mara, Carol

Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl

Kitana Kiki Rodriquez, Tangerine


Kevin Corrigan, Results

Paul Dano, Love & Mercy

Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk

Michael Shannon, 99 Homes


Robin Bartlett, H.

Marin Ireland, Glass Chin

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa

Cynthia Nixon, James White

Mya Taylor, Tangerine



Directors/Producers: Lyric R. Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe

Producer: Christopher St. John

Best of Enemies

Directors/Producers: Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville

Heart of Dog

Director/Producer: Laurie Anderson

Producer: Dan Janvey

The Look of Silence

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Producer: Signe Byrge Sørensen


Directors/Producers: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Producer: Shannon Ethridge

The Russian Woodpecker

Director/Producer: Chad Gracia

Producers: Ram Devineni, Mike Lerner


Embrace the Serpent


Director: Ciro Guerra



Director: Céline Sciamma


(France, Turkey)

Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence


Director: Roy Andersson

Son of Saul


Director: László Nemes 


Beasts of No Nation, Cary Joji Fukunaga

Carol, Ed Lachman

It Follows, Michael Gioulakis

Meadlowland, Reed Morano

Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Joshua James Richards


Manos Sucias, Kristan Sprague

Heaven Knows What, Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie

It Follows, Julio C. Perez IV

Room, Nathan Nugent

Spotlight, Tom McArdle

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Best Feature Under $500,000)

Given to the best feature made for under $500,000.  Award given to the writer, director and producer.  Executive Producers are not awarded.


Writer/Director/Producer: Jennifer Phang

Writer/Producer: Jacqueline Kim

Producers: Robert Chang, Ken Jeong, Moon Molson, Theresa Navarro

Christmas, Again

Writer/Director/Producer: Charles Poekel

Heaven Knows What

Directors: Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie

Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie

Producers: Oscar Boyson, Sebastian Bear McClard


Writer/Director/Producer: Trey Edward Shults

Producers: Justin R. Chan, Chase Joliet, Wilson Smith

Out of My Hand

Writer/Director: Takeshi Fukunaga

Writer/Producer: Donari Braxton

Producer: Mike Fox


Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast


Director: Tom McCarthy

Casting Directors: Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee

Ensemble Cast: Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Neal Huff, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Jamey Sheridan, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci


The 22nd annual Someone to Watch Award, sponsored by Kiehl’s Since 1851, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Kiehl’s Since 1851.

God Bless the Child

Directors: Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck 

King Jack

Director: Felix Thompson

Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Director: Chloé Zhao


The 19th annual Producers Award, sponsored by Piaget, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.

Darren Dean

Mel Eslyn

Rebecca Green and Laura D. Smith


The 21st annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition.  The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

 Among the Believers

Directors: Mohammed Ali Naqvi and Hemal Trivedi


Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

A Woman Like Me

Directors: Elizabeth Giamatti and Alex Sichel

Top Photo: The Weinstein Company

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.


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