By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 26, 2011 at 2:42AM
It's back to the beach in Santa Monica (amid threats of rain) for the 26th edition of the Independent Spirit Awards, which are voted on by some 5000 members of Film Independent, and take place the Saturday before the Oscars. It won't be hard for first-time host Joel McHale (The Soup, Spy Kids 4, see video below) to improve on last year's Eddie Izzard, who phoned in his duties without seeming to have much sense of the smart indies in the room during 2010's one-off move downtown to LA Live. Former R-rated hosts John Waters, Sarah Silverman and Rainn Wilson honed in on the right vibe for this crowd. Here's the list of presenters.
I'll be live-blogging the show from inside the tent, while TOH's Sophia Savage grabs sound-bites from the winners in the interview room and indieWIRE posts winners and backstage coverage as well.
After negative feedback from the Spirits' 25th anniversary foray downtown, Film Independent chief Dawn Hudson returned the awards show to Saturday afternoon at the beach. "That super-casual beach setting can't be replicated," she admits. "That ocean is so tied to the Spirit Awards. It's hard to manufacture that casualness in another setting."
The Spirits will stream the blue carpet live starting at 11:30 AM before the 2 PM awards show, but the IFC broadcast won't go on until 10 PM. While all the tweet and blog updates during the day will reveal the winners, Hudson hopes that they advance buzz will spur folks to watch the content of the unedited tape-delayed show (for the first time with commercials). "How to tweet Mickey Rourke's acceptance speech?" she says. "You have to watch that." The show will boast comedy skits but no song performances this year.
The show's new executive producer Audrey Morrissey suggested McHale, who started as a stand-up and is moving into movie roles. "Whoa! OK! Great idea!" was the universal response, says Hudson. "Everyone crumpled their lists."
Here's the list of nominations, indieWIRE's walk-up to the Spirits and predicters poll. Hudson admits that she had never confronted a six-nominee deadlock before; she tried hard to convince the nominations committee not to list six best actress candidates, but they refused to break the stand-off. After she called FIlm Independent president Bill Condon, they agreed to let the six go through.
Oscar-nominees 127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, Winter's Bone and Black Swan should all walk away with wins--as well as Lena Dunham's micro-budget fest fave, Tiny Furniture. Whatever happens Oscar night, Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman are favored to win for Black Swan, John Hawkes is the frontrunner for Supporting Actor for Winter's Bone, Banksy's Exit to the Gift Shop could take home Best Documentary; and Oscar co-host and nominee James Franco is the favorite for Best Actor for 127 Hours--but is unlikely to be able to get away from Oscar rehearsals to accept his prize. UPDATE: Word is he plans to attend.