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Do the Spirit Awards Still Suck?

Do the Spirit Awards Still Suck?

In 2006, I wrote a post called “Why the Spirit Awards Suck,” which criticized the indie awards event mainly for giving into glossy pressures and doing nothing to distinguish itself from its big brother AMPAS’s Oscar ceremony the following day. “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,” I wrote. “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.”

And so it was again this year, with “The Artist” sweeping the big prizes at the Film Independent fundraiser and awards show. At the Spirits, indie spirit may count, but the most populist crowdpleaser always wins the day.

I know that the organization does a lot to support independent artists and needs money to float those worthy programs, but the Spirit Awards needs to do more to raise the profile of the American independent filmmakers that FIND cultivates and champions year round. And how does “The Artist” qualify as an American production, anyway? Oh, well, that’s a different story.

I’m not the first to say it, but if the Spirit Awards really mattered, this year’s big winners would have been “Take Shelter,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Beginners” and not the mainstreain studio-indie hybrids like “The Descendents,” “Margin Call,” and “My Week With Marilyn.” As it is, the Spirits are just Hollywood lite. And that’s the last thing independent film should be.

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While we're committing heresy, common as this one is, it might be worth looking more carefully at what FIND is actually doing the rest of year, and committing a real one. How good ARE those programs the Awards ceremony is supposed to finance? What talents has FIND discovered? Does the FIND staff have proven competence in evaluating non-commercial material? Or is just the same privileged people, with one foot in the industry and one foot out, promoting the kind of stuff Hollywood people feel virtuous about but can't make or don't want to bother making?


Agreed. ISA is just another award – bore…and totally meaningless,
except for the dress-up.

Marc Stevens

Mr. Kaufman you are right on the money. There is nothing indie about the spirt awards anymore. The Sundance Channel shows reality show garbage. My local arthouse closed and I am in general bummed about the whole situation. :)


I agree, Drive deserved to win.


Totally support this awesome post. If from the perspective of today's Spirit Awards, maybe the results are less important than the whole course which reflects its difference from something which is like Oscar. Take Shelter and MMMM deserve winning at least something for sure.

Steven Flores

You know something, I'm tired of The Artist winning awards. I like the film, I think it's really good but there's about 15 movies in my still-unfinished list of the best films of 2011 that I think were much better.

It's not exciting when a film that becomes all of these award front-runners winning and then winning again. I liked it when there was more diversity and such. The Indie Spirit Awards used to be fun but it's now just another awards show where I'm yawning these days. We have the current hot indie star there wearing quirky clothes or someone we hadn't seen in a while and we're like "is that…?"

It's not fun anymore. I like award seasons more when you had no idea what will win and it has an anything goes mentality. Besides, I really, really, really hope The Tree of Life pulls off an upset and piss everyone off. It is the best film of 2011.

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