Coming-of-age parable We the Animals led the pack of indie movies tipped for Oscars glory as the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations kicked off Hollywood’s annual prize-giving season on Friday.
The dreamlike drama — based on the novel of the same name by Justin Torres — follows brothers Manny, Joel and Jonah as they make their way through childhood, pushing against the roller-coaster love of their parents.
The film was nominated in five categories, including best first feature, cinematography, editing and supporting actor for Raul Castillo and the “someone to watch” award for director Jeremiah Zagar.
Comedy Eighth Grade, religious drama First Reformed and brutal crime thriller You Were Never Really Here followed with four nominations each, including a nod for each for best feature.
Horror remake Suspiria was selected to receive the Robert Altman Award, which is bestowed upon one film’s director, casting director and cast.
The nominations were announced in Hollywood by British actress Gemma Chan, who starred in breakout summer romcom Crazy Rich Asians, and Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon, a previous winner.
“This year’s nominees reflect the bold originality that is the heart of independent film,” said Film Independent President Josh Welsh.
“At a time when huge tentpole franchises threaten to dominate our film culture, this year’s films and filmmakers offer something completely different — something vital, uncompromising, and needed.”
The Spirit Awards are seen as an strong indicator of the independent movies that could be winners on Oscars night.
Five of the last seven best feature winners have gone on to best picture glory at the Academy Awards, including Moonlight, Spotlight and Birdman.
Although the prize-giving precludes major studio releases, big names are always among the nominees.
Glenn Close (The Wife), Toni Collette (Hereditary) and Carey Mulligan (Wildlife) will be duking it out for best lead actress this time around.
The men’s equivalent race features John Cho (Searching), Ethan Hawke (First Reformed) and Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here) while Adam Driver (BLACKkKLANSMAN) and Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) are in the running for best supporting actor.
The winners, selected by Film Independent members, will be announced at the Spirit Awards on February 23 — the day before the Oscars.