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Nov 24, 4:25 PM EST

'Carol,' 'Beasts of No Nation' lead Independent Spirit nods

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The 1950s-set romance "Carol" starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara collected the most nominations Tuesday for the 31st Film Independent Spirit Awards.

The Todd Haynes-directed film picked up six nods in categories including best feature, director and lead actress for both Mara and Blanchett.

"Beasts of No Nation," a fictional drama about a child soldier, received five nominations including best feature, best cinematography and best director for Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Idris Elba also picked up a supporting acting nomination for the film - the first original feature from Netflix.

Oscar hopefuls are sprinkled throughout each category of the awards recognizing achievements in independent film.

Films receiving four nominations each, including beat feature, were "Anomalisa," a dark, animated love story; "Spotlight," about The Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the abuses of the Catholic Church; and "Tangerine," about sex workers in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve.

"Spotlight" was also selected for the Robert Altman Award for its excellent ensemble cast.

Sean Baker's "Tangerine" scored acting nominations for its transgender stars Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (lead) and Mya Taylor (supporting).

Jennifer Jason Leigh was recognized in the supporting female category for her vocal performance in "Anomolisa."

While diversity in choices prevailed in most categories, the nominees for best director were all males - Fukunaga, Haynes, Baker ("Tangerine"), Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman ("Anomalisa"), Tom McCarthy ("Spotlight") and David Robert Mitchell ("It Follows").

Two women - Marielle Heller ("The Diary of a Teenage Girl") and Chloé Zhao ("Songs My Brothers Taught Me") - were, however, both recognized for their direction in the best first feature category.

Heller also received a best first screenplay nomination for the coming-of-age story and actress Bel Powley was recognized for her leading performance.

In the past, the Spirit Awards have tended to include some eventual Oscar nominees and winners. Last year, Indie Spirit winners mimicked the Oscar winners in categories such as best feature ("Birdman"), actress (Julianne Moore for "Still Alice"), and supporting actor (J.K. Simmons for "Whiplash").

This year, many of the Spirit acting categories reflect a less mainstream lineup.

Nominees for male lead include Jason Segel ("The End of the Tour"), Ben Mendelsohn ("Mississippi Grind"), Christopher Abbott ("James White"), Abraham Attah ("Beasts of No Nation), and Koudous Seihon ("Mediterranea").

Brie Larson, expected to be a front-runner for the best actress Oscar for her performance as a mother held captive in "Room," got a best female lead nomination. "Room" also picked up a best first screenplay for Emma Donoghue as well but didn't get a best feature nod.

The star-studded "Spotlight" also missed out on individual acting nominations.

This year's 362 film submissions were judged on such guidelines as uniqueness of vision, originality of subject matter, economy of means, and percentage of financing from independent sources.

Nominations are chosen by members of Film Independent, which include critics, filmmakers, actors, festival programmers, past winners and nominees, and members of Film Independent's board of directors.

Winners will be revealed at a ceremony Feb. 27, airing live on IFC from Santa Monica. The Academy Awards are presented the next day.


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