Earnest congrats to the winners of the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards, and particularly to the Best Actor and Best Actress winners — Sound of Metal‘s Riz Ahmed and Promising Young Woman‘s Carey Mulligan. And an especially supportive back-pat for emcee Melissa Villasenor — smart material performed for a smattering of miked stage hands, amusing skits (Owen Wilson runs into a testy Frances McDormand)…unqualified HE approval.

And “sorry but tough shit” condolences for the multi-category-nominated Never Rarely Sometimes Always (seven noms including Best feature and Best Director), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Miss Juneteenth, First Cow and The Assistant. Each of these films had gathered a certain amount of earlybird award-season heat, and then it all just melted away.

Why did Never Rarely vaporize so completely? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s an Indiewire movie — an understated, praised-to-the-heavens, Eric Kohn and David Ehrlich-approved Sundance flick, except even indie-world veterans don’t necessarily park their cars in the Ehrlich-Kohn garage.

Same deal with First Cow…totally stamped and sanctified by Kohn-Ehrlich, and where is it now? I’m telling you that Kohn-Ehrlich is an entirely separate planet…an entirely different solar system.

2020 “friendo” comment about Never Rarely: “Sidney Flanigan‘s profound ambivalence about what she’s about to go through, her deep desire not to do it, because there is in fact a live human in there…this element is literally the only drama in the film. That’s what’s so hilarious about the woke film-critic-industrial-annoyance-complex not getting it. What do they think the movie is about? If their left-wing boilerplate interpretation were accurate, it might as well be a movie about two teenagers hopping a bus to go to New York City to pay $500 in unpaid parking tickets.”

Best Feature: Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures) / HE reaction: No shit?

Best Director: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures) / HE reaction: Ditto.

Best Screenplay: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) / HE reaction: Respectfully disapproved because of the last-minute, pull-the-rug-out Bo Burnham character abandonment by way of a twist.

Best First Feature: Sound of Metal (Darius Marder, Amazon Studios) / HE reaction: Total approval.

Best First Screenplay: Andy Siara, Palm Springs (Neon/Hulu) / HE reaction: Are they fucking kidding us? Am unsubtle, unfunny, second-rate, hand-me-down Groundhog Day?

John Cassavetes Award (for best feature made under $500,000): Residue / Writer/Director: Merawi Gerima.

Best Supporting Female: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari (A24) / HE reaction: Plucky grandma burns the barn down…terrific.

Best Supporting Male: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) / HE reaction: Total approval.

Best Female Lead: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) / HE reaction: Total approval — here’s hoping her winner’s karma will continue into Oscar night. Added bonus: Variety‘s Clayton Davis might be proved wrong!

Best Male Lead: Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) / HE reaction: Full respect, total approval…if only Riz had a chance on Oscar night!

Robert Altman Award: One Night in Miami… (Amazon Studios, Regina King) / HE reaction: Due respect but it feels like a play…nay, it is a play.