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