Chinese-American film “The Farewell” delivered a rebuke to its Oscars snub at the Spirit Awards on Saturday, as South Korea’s “Parasite” added a final burst of momentum to its much-hyped Academy Award challenge.
The awards, held on a beach outside Los Angeles a day before the Oscars, honor films with smaller budgets, and are often held up as an antidote to the Academy’s more mainstream — and less diverse — tastes.
“The Farewell,” about a family that reunites to visit a grandmother in China who doesn’t know she’s dying, won best picture, having missed out on any Oscars nominations.
Lulu Wang, the film’s director, told AFP that “so many people said nobody is going to want to see the film (because) it’s not Chinese enough, it’s not American enough.”
“For people to just see it as a family story, as a universal story, that’s really meaningful.”
Wang was one of several acclaimed female directors who failed to win Oscars recognition, but said she was not surprised by her omission.
“When you win an award it is given to you by a group of your peers. When I look at the Academy, and the makeup of the voting body of the Academy, they are not my peers,” she said.
“That is the biggest problem. If my peers were represented in the Academy voting body then they would be voting for films that represent their lives and their stories.
“That’s always how it is. So I’m not surprised by any of it.”
Academy membership is 84 per cent white and 68 per cent male.
In the Spirit Awards’ biggest shock, Jennifer Lopez missed out on best-supporting actress for her turn as a wily stripper in “Hustlers” to Zhao Shuzhen, who plays the grandmother in “The Farewell.”
Zhao was, however, unable to travel from China due to the novel coronavirus outbreak gripping the country.
Meanwhile “Parasite,” a rare crossover foreign language success that could become the first non-English film to win best picture at the Oscars in Hollywood on Sunday, won best international film.
Director Bong Joon-ho said subtitles were no barrier for his dark comedy because its message about widening class inequality would resonate with “people living on Mars.”
“I didn’t create this film to make a grand contribution to international cinema,” said Bong.
“The deeper you delve into what surrounds you, what is near you, the more universal and broader the story can become,” he told journalists backstage.
Brothers Josh and Benny Safdie won best director for their frenetic, anxiety-ridden thriller “Uncut Gems,” about a compulsive New York jeweler whose gambling addiction lands him in ever-deepening trouble.
The film’s star and audience favorite Adam Sandler won best actor, poking fun at his “quote-unquote snub” at the Oscars, saying: “Let all those feather-haired douchebag… (actors) get their Oscars tomorrow night.”
Olivia Wilde, whose female-focused teen comedy “Booksmart” won best first feature, said she hoped the win could “inspire more ladies to get out there and direct.”
“The Film Independent Spirit Awards is so much cooler than the Oscars — it’s the daytime, we’re on the beach, we recognize female directors,” joked host Aubrey Plaza as the show opened in Santa Monica.
Noah Baumbach won best screenplay for divorce tearjerker “Marriage Story,” which is also in the race for best picture at the Oscars — as is his partner Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women.”
“Even though she made a movie too expensive for the Spirit Awards, she’s no less independent than anyone here,” Baumbach said.
Renee Zellweger further cemented her Oscar frontrunner status by winning best actress for “Judy.”
Best documentary went to “American Factory,” the first film from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, about a US rust belt factory reopened by a Chinese billionaire.
“Even though it’s sort of sponsored by the Obamas, a lot of Republicans and people living in rural areas are watching it in the privacy of their homes,” director Julia Reichert told AFP, citing Netflix data.
“They might not tell their friends. But it’s really happening. So that’s really cool. We’ve got to get to those people because we’re in an election year.”
The full list of nominations for the 2020 Independent Spirit Awards are listed below.
A HIDDEN LIFE
THE FAREWELL (Winner)
Robert Eggers – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Alma Har’el – HONEY BOY
Julius Onah – LUCE
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS (Winner)
Lorene Scafaria – HUSTLERS
Best First Feature
THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
SEE YOU YESTERDAY
Best Female Lead
Karen Allen – COLEWELL
Hong Chau – DRIVEWAYS
Elisabeth Moss – HER SMELL
Mary Kay Place – DIANE
Alfre Woodard – CLEMENCY
Renée Zellweger – JUDY (Winner)
Best Male Lead
Chris Galust – GIVE ME LIBERTY
Kelvin Harrison Jr. – LUCE
Robert Pattinson – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Adam Sandler – UNCUT GEMS (Winner)
Matthias Schoenaerts – THE MUSTANG
Best Supporting Female
Jennifer Lopez – HUSTLERS
Taylor Russell – WAVES
Zhao Shuzhen – THE FAREWELL (Winner)
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer – GIVE ME LIBERTY
Octavia Spencer – LUCE
Best Supporting Male
Willem Dafoe – THE LIGHTHOUSE (Winner)
Noah Jupe – HONEY BOY
Shia Labeouf – HONEY BOY
Jonathan Majors – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Wendell Pierce – BURNING CANE
Noah Baumbach – MARRIAGE STORY (Winner)
Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder – TO DUST
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
Chinonye Chukwu – CLEMENCY
Tarell Alvin Mccraney – HIGH FLYING BIRD
Best First Screenplay
Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol – SEE YOU YESTERDAY (Winner)
Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen – DRIVEWAYS
Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy – BLOW THE MAN DOWN
Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe – GREENER GRASS
James Montague, Craig W. Sanger – THE VAST OF NIGHT
Todd Banhazl – HUSTLERS
Jarin Blaschke – THE LIGHTHOUSE (Winner)
Natasha Braier – HONEY BOY
Chananun Chotrungroj – THE THIRD WIFE
Pawel Pogorzelski – MIDSOMMAR
Julie Béziau – THE THIRD WIFE
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie – UNCUT GEMS (Winner)
Tyler L. Cook – SWORD OF TRUST
Louise Ford – THE LIGHTHOUSE
Kirill Mikhanovsky – GIVE ME LIBERTY
John Cassavetes Award
GIVE ME LIBERTY (Winner)
WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY
Robert Altman Award
AMERICAN FACTORY (Winner)
ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS
Best International Film
INVISIBLE LIFE, Brazil
LES MISERABLES, France
PARASITE, South Korea (Winner)
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, France
THE SOUVENIR, United Kingdom
Piaget Producers Award
Someone to Watch Award
Rashaad Ernesto Green – PREMATURE
Ash Mayfair – THE THIRD WIFE
Joe Talbot – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Truer Than Fiction Award
Khalik Allah – BLACK MOTHER
Davy Rothbart – 17 BLOCKS
Nadia Shihab – JADDOLAND (Winner)
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside – AMÉRICA
Annual Bonnie Award
Kelly Reichardt (Winner)