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Indie Spirits: Precious Sweeps, Izzard and LA Live Fizzle

by Anne Thompson
March 6, 2010 5:24 AM
5 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

Take the Independent Spirits back to the beach!

I had a miserable time. I was happy for the folks behind Precious, which swept with six awards, because, as director Lee Daniels said at the end of the night, "Kathryn Bigelow is not here tonight. I am!" (The Hurt Locker was nommed last year.) The high point of the night: an amazing silent emotional exchange between Daniels and Mo'Nique.

Thompson on Hollywood

See indieWIRE for a complete list of winners. UPDATE: Shawn Levy and A.J. Schnack didn't like the show either.

Thompson on Hollywood

I wasn't able to take my sunny beach-side pictures of the indie gang because it was dark on the roof top at LA Live, a monstrously large modern complex near LA's Staples Center. On a Friday night, many people had to escape early from work, navigating heavy traffic heading downtown--I had spectacularly bad luck, hitting an accident bottleneck on the Santa Monica Freeway--and some folks were tired. (In fact, three grown men--Scott Cooper, Lee Daniels and Geoffrey Fletcher-- broke down and cried during the course of the evening.) There was competition too: many Spirits attendees blew off the noisily ordinary after-party across the street at Club Nokia in favor of Ari Emanuel's WME and/or Bryan Lourd's CAA pre-Oscar fetes.

Thompson on Hollywood

The tent was bigger, squeezing in more tables, which meant that the back of the house was farther away from the stage. Guests watched six huge video screens instead. The usual sense of intimate community was completely lost, especially under the harsh, unflattering bright lights. Host Eddie Izzard phoned it in. "Tonight is about love and envy...We have shame and fear here tonight." Izzard's off-hand twisted philosophy did not play. When Spirits honorary co-chair Ben Stiller arrived at the end of the show, he was welcomed as a refreshing pro who had done his homework to deliver a good sketch--and plenty of laughs. John Waters killed --as always--when he described the movie he wants to make: Son of Precious. Bring it on! UPDATE: Melena Ryzik grabbed him on the red carpet.

Thompson on Hollywood

This is yet another awards show that seems to have forgotten its primary mission in exchange for a bigger outside-the-tent audience.

Thompson on Hollywood

The two musical acts played great. Anvil rocked and had obviously won the affection of the crowd, because Sacha Gervasi's Anvil! The Story of Anvil also won for best documentary--over Oscar contenders Which Way Home and Food, Inc (Oscar frontrunner The Cove wasn't nominated). I wish Jeff Bridges and T-Bone Burnett's Crazy Heart band could perform at the Oscars, too. Along with wins for Bridges (who seemed a tad looped) and Crazy Heart (for first feature), I applauded Lynn Shelton collecting the John Cassavetes Award for Humpday (best feature made for under $500,000). Bridges thanked Lloyd Catlin, his stand in of 60 years, and said: "Crazy Heart is so dear to me, it's really a gem of an independent film."

Thompson on Hollywood

I loved the indie citations: Gabourey Sidibe mentioned Welcome to the Dollhouse, Cooper cited Matewan and Tender Mercies, while Woody Harrelson, who barely made it into the tent in time to pick up his supporting actor prize for The Messenger, lauded John Cassavetes. These people remembered what the 25th anniversary should have been about: applauding their indie roots.

5 Comments

  • RoyBatty | March 7, 2010 4:43 AMReply

    I believe you meant to say his stand in for 40 years. Then again, it was a Hollywood family - perhaps they have standins for baby pictures, first steps, the obligatory pony shot...

  • lizriz | March 7, 2010 3:27 AMReply

    The viewing party for Spirit Voters blew, too. Sigh. :(

  • Michelle | March 6, 2010 7:44 AMReply

    I missed the irreverence! The "tribute songs", like when Taraji Henson serenaded "Ballast" last year, are usually funny. Instead we got a painfully awkward sketch with Dawn Hudson, followed by her actual speech. Why was that necessary? And as much as I have loved Eddie Izzard for over a decade, his you-Americans-don't-know-your-own-history shtick was ill-placed. I was relieved not to see Rainn Wilson in his underwear again, but people are not kidding when they say Ben Stiller saved the evening. The guy live-blogging the show on Twitter (@SpiritAwards) was more entertaining than anything scripted on the show. BACK TO THE BEACH!! And to Saturday!!

  • Mark Rabinowitz | March 6, 2010 6:50 AMReply

    While I wasn't there, I too think the move from the beach was a bad play. Some of the things that made the Spirit Awards special were:

    The setting-the beach in Santa Monica wasn't always warm but dammit, it's the beach!

    Daytime-Getting to the tent at about 11:30am, starting to drink at 11:35am, mingling with the "community," that was great. Taking a break to wander outside for a smoke and an appletini poured out of an ice sculpture AND a trip to the loo while Mike Leigh is doing the A-Z of independent filmmaking ("Is he really only on H?"). All of that and even if you went to the after party, you were often done with your day by 5pm.

    Saturday-No traffic or end of the work week fatigue.

    This year looked and sounded like just another Hollywood party, which is a pity.

  • Cotty | March 6, 2010 6:21 AMReply

    Sadly all too right. How many years have I been coming to the Spirit Awards? This was the worst since that dreadful time in Hollywood, which raised the cry, "Back to the Beach!"

    I understand that in tough times independent film-makers and the orgs that support them have to make deals to survive (there were a lot more tables to sell than at the beach and the LA LIVE folks paid for a lot of the infrastructure), but the experience was a drag. I was back at Table 426 with the lights glaring into my eyes and the folks on stage a mere dot on the horizon. (I did pull a half gallon of Jameson's from the table centerpiece and stick it in my bag when leaving, which will comfort me in the months to come.)

    If the beach is too expensive, and maybe it is, then a different roots-y idea please next year because this Spirit Awards damaged the brand of FIND and discouraged everyone I talked to.

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