The Independent Spirit Awards are held inside a tent, during the day, with bottles of tequila at everyone's table. That's right, many of the Academy Award nominees spend the day before the Oscars getting day drunk. Now that's the indie spirit!
This year's hosts were Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell, indicating that IFC was specifically aiming for that very specific indie niche of Portlandia fans who also contributed to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter movie. And to kick off the show, they did a pretty good riff on Birdman and Whiplash, with some healthy Boyhood jokes thrown into the mix. Bill Hader and Miles Teller were there to provide some tempo assists. And it's an extra-fitting opening because—before the telecast, in that very circus tent—the first two awards were given to both Birdman (for cinematography) and Whiplash (for editing).
Ultimately, the Independent Spirit Awards are a fun show, but they don't really move the needle for the Oscars. There isn't a huge overlap with the Academy Award voting branch (members of Los Angeles' Film Independent comprise the largest voting block for the awards; Film Independent is a non-profit that presents the Los Angeles Film Festival and special screenings at LACMA, in addition to giving away indie filmmaking grants). Most of their awards went to the actors that are expected to win tomorrow at the Academy Awards: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood, J.K. Simmons for Whiplash, and Julianne Moore for Still Alice.
Michael Keaton won Best Actor for Birdman, but his biggest Oscar competition, Eddie Redmayne of The Theory of Everything was ineligible for an Indie Spirit, because one of the rules of the Spirit Awards is that majority of the film's funding has to be American. The Theory of Everything was a British production.
However, this is the only star-studded award shows where the filmmakers of Dear White People and Nightcrawler got to go up and accept a trophy. So that definitely means something in our book! The full competitive winners list is below.
Best Feature Film: Birdman
Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Best Male Lead: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Best Female Lead: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Male Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Female Actor: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Best First Screenplay: Justin Simien, Dear White People
Best First Feature: Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Film Editing: Whiplash
Best International Film: Ida
Best Documentary: Citizenfour
John Cassavettes Award (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000): Land Ho!
Paul Thomas Anderson won a special award for Inherent Vice (which cost more to make than the $20 million budget threshold for the actual awards). Despite costing $40 million, it apparently still smelt of Indie Spirit. The filmmaker warned the audience to not fly with American Airlines (who sponsored the show) because "they will fucking lose your luggage." Maybe Spirit Airlines should host next year?
Bennet Miller, director of Foxcatcher, also won an indie-distinction award (meaning: we also wanted to award this something but it cost too much), and read the following statement from PTA:
“I said some bad things, I feel bad, I was trying to exhibit my independent spirit, and I thought if I wore a flannel shirt and said a bad word, you would love me more. My apologies to American Airlines. It was actually United.”
Auteur buddies! Smell the big indie spirit!