These are just a few of the many accolades Zhao has received during this long award season, including the TIFF Ebert Director Award last September. Two of the film’s other nominees for Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars also won multiple awards: Darius Marder’s “Sound of Metal” won Best Actor (Riz Ahmed) and Best First Feature. Paul Raci also won the award for Best Supporting Actor for “Sound of Metal,” and expressed his thanks by combining speech and American sign language. Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” won the trophies for Best Actress (Carey Mulligan) and Best Screenplay. All of the nominated films had budgets under $ 22.5 million.
Mulligan’s victory suggests she could star in the Oscar for Best Actress, which so far has been the toughest race to predict, with Andra Day winning the Golden Globe for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday “; Viola Davis winning the SAG Award for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; and Frances McDormand winning the BAFTA for “Nomadland” in the same category. Consolidating its status as a favorite is also Yuh-Jung Youn, who received the Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a stage thief in Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari”.
Chung was the only male nominee in the Best Director category, where he, Zhao and Fennell were joined by fellow nominees Eliza Hittman (“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”) and Kelly Reichardt (“First Cow”). Another acclaimed filmmaker, Regina King, received the Robert Altman Award for her directorial debut, “One Night in Miami …” with casting director Kimberly Hardin and Kingsley Ben-Adir cast members Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge and Eli Goree.
For the first time, TV shows were eligible in five Spirit Awards categories, leading to Michaela Coel’s highly regarded HBO show “I May Destroy You” winning Best New Scripted Series and the best ensemble cast in a new scripted series. Maria Schrader’s Netflix series “Unorthodox” also won two awards for its stars Shira Haas and Amit Rahav.