For years, the Spirit Awards have proven to be a mere popularity contest, awarding its best feature prize to the biggest box-office earner. I would like to report that this year's awards were different, but alas, the big victory of "Silver Linings Playbook" over the weekend once again offers evidence that the Spirits' main categories have little to do with independent film. "Silver Linings" has earned more than $100 million at the U.S. box office. ("Moonrise Kingdom," another nominee, falls a far second with $45 million.)
This is a familiar complaint of mine, one that I've leveled every year since 2006, in a post I wrote titled, "Why the Spirit Awards Suck," which criticized the indie awards event mainly for giving into glossy pressures and doing nothing to distinguish itself from its big brother AMPAS's Oscar ceremony the following day. "My apologies to everyone who enjoyed themselves at Saturday's Spirit Awards, but the event has officially proven itself to be a self-congratulatory waste of indie spirit and totally irrelevant on a larger scale," I wrote. "Everyone knows that the most talked-about movies that emerge from the Spirits are the same big studio-indie productions that go on the following night to win Oscars."
"Silver Linings" might not be a big winner at the Oscars, but it's still far and away the biggest and most star-studded crowdpleaser of this year's Spirit nominees.
Just one year, I'd like to see a truly indie film win the Spirit Award for Best Film. Personally, I don't think "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is the best movie of the year, but come on, "Beasts" should be the film that wins Film Independent's biggest laurel of the year. And when it didn't, it just makes the Spirits mean that much less to the community that it supports.