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.