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. Case in point: "Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," Bennett Miller's "Capote," Paul Haggis' "Crash," and Duncan Tucker's "Transamerica," all nominated for multiple awards at tomorrow's Oscars, dominated the Spirit Awards this afternoon," reported indieWIRE.
Providing 50% of the annual budget for Film Independent (FIND), the Spirits are a moneymaking machine for the new organization that broke off from the IFP. Sure, FIND's Dawn Hudson can talk all she wants about their added categories for best film made under $500,000 and best first film and best first screenplay, but 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. (The IFP's Gotham Awards are hardly better, with their amorphous guidelines that allow just about any film with "singular vision" eligible for the competition.)
Of course, both organizations provide resources for indie filmmakers year around, but these glitzy fundraisers that give token prizes and whose big-winners are all but foregone conclusions (since the awards are determined by FIND's L.A. membership, who are equally prone to be seduced by awards campaigns, box office numbers, etc) betray an indie sensibility. If FIND really cares about recognizing "Me and You and Everyone We Know" and "The Squid and the Whale", they should either lower their obscenely high budget cap of $20 million (how many indie filmmakers do you know that can package a $19 million movie?) or simply curate a more indie-reflected group of nominees.
I don't doubt that for those attending the Spirits (I've never been), it's all relaxed good-fun, a great place to see friends, network, create bonds within the indie community and get free stuff, etc., but as for distinguishing itself from the Oscars and reflecting a true independent spirit, the Spirits miss the point.