'Past Lives,' 'The Holdovers,' and 'American Fiction' Win Big at the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Ben Platt, Anna Kendrick, and Andrew Scott at the Spirit Awards after party at Fairmont Miramar. 

“Hope you froze your eggs, Spirit Awards,” comedian Aidy Bryant quipped as she kicked off the annual awards show, which turned 39 this year. Actors, directors, and crew members from this year’s top films gathered to celebrate independent cinema and television in a beachside tent in Santa Monica on Sunday evening. It was the season’s most free-spirited ceremony—or, as Bryant called it, “the bisexual Oscars.”

Cult favorites and quieter films won big. Celine Song of Past Lives, a story of love and longing shared by two childhood friends, took home the award for best director. Jeffrey Wright won best lead performance for his role as a frustrated author who finds unwelcome success with a stereotypically “Black” book in American Fiction. The film’s writer and director, Cord Jefferson, won best screenplay. “Our film is so independent that one morning I woke up at our hotel to find out that there had been a triple stabbing the night before in the lobby,” Jefferson said in his acceptance speech. 

CULTURED cover star Charles Melton, who sat with his May December costar Natalie Portman and director Todd Haynes, was a frequent target for Bryant. At one point, she arrived on stage sporting a fan shirt collaged with Melton’s previous roles; the camera panned to Melton wearing a similar Bryant-themed shirt. “Wait, is that a shirt of me?” the Saturday Night Live star asked excitedly. “And it features all my, uh, ‘finest’ moments? Like the screaming lady, the bonnet-clad chicken, and, of course, Ted Cruz on vacation?” Although Melton did not win for best supporting actor, May December’s writers Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik took home the award for best first screenplay. 

In the wake of the Golden Globes—whose host, comedian Jo Koy, was roundly panned—Bryant joked that “I can only hope that in this single afternoon, I will be panned, considered out of touch, sexist, and potentially be slapped.” But the audience was considerably more receptive to Bryant than to Koy, particularly her charmingly failed attempts at roasting. In an interview ahead of the ceremony, Bryant told CULTURED, “It’s not about me. It’s actually about all these people who have worked hard to put these projects together—the people who actually made these films.”

The Holdovers costars Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa left the beach with awards for best supporting actor and best breakthrough performance, respectively; the film, about a trio of misfits left behind at a boarding school over Christmas, also took home best cinematography. In television, Netflix’s Beef won best new scripted series and star Ali Wong received the award for best lead performance in a new scripted series. Many of the films honored—including Anatomy of a Fall, which received the best international film award—are also up for Oscars. The capstone of this year’s awards season will be held on March 10.