Amid raucous jokes about Harvey Weinstein and the crazy political climate, the mood was upbeat at the 33rd Independent Spirit Awards — held in a gusty tent at the beach in Santa Monica the Saturday before the Oscars. As expected, the big winner was “Get Out,” which took home Best Feature and Best Director.
While a string of recent Spirit Award winners have gone on to repeat at the Oscars — as many pundits think “Get Out” will — the fact that “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water” were not in the running for Best Feature gave the horror thriller an open lead.
“We are at the beginning of a renaissance right now,” said writer-director Jordan Peele, who shot the $4.5 million Universal film in 23 days. “Long live the Independent Spirits, hooray!” added producer Jason Blum. Peele also thanked presenter Spike Lee: “I would not be standing here if it wasn’t for this man,” he said. “Our truths are the most important weapon we have against the lies in this world.”
Backstage, the “Get Out” team refused to speculate about their prospects at the Oscars, preferring to enjoy their wins. And only if they come up with something worthy of a sequel will that happen, added Peele.
“I have a lot of faith in this industry and our country and Greta Gerwig and Luca Guadagnino,” said Best Actor winner Timothée Chalamet, listing other luminaries in the room. “We’re going to be good, I have faith that the people being given the keys, like Dee Rees…We’re going to make the change…We’re going to keep making independent movies!” Chalamet won without having to compete against ineligible “Darkest Hour” star Gary Oldman, who is expected to take home the Oscar. “Call Me By Your Name” also won Best Cinematography.
“It feels good to be in a place where independence is so important,” said Agnes Varda, while her co-director of winning documentary “Faces Places,” JR, said he was happy to be with the real Agnes, not the cardboard cutout. They haven’t seen each other for a month. Backstage, Varda said she sent her old friend Jean-Luc Godard the DVD. “So far, no word.” Before the ceremony, the Honorary Oscar winner admitted that she did get to make most of the movies she wanted to in her half-century of making movies. “But it just took longer.”
Best Female Lead went to “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” star Frances McDormand, just as the Best Actress Oscar likely will tomorrow as well. “I get to swear,” she said. “Do you know how hard it is to not swear? This awards convention goes on for fucking forever! I am independent and I am spirited.”
Best Supporting Male went to Sam Rockwell, as is also expected on Sunday, marking a clean sweep of awards. “The independents are my family,” he said, thanking his writer-director Martin McDonagh for his script as well as his co-stars Woody Harrelson and “Frances ‘badass’ McDormand.” (He also thanked his therapist.)
Best Screenplay went to Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird,” who seemed genuinely surprised. While she’s up for four Oscars, this could be her only win.
Accepting the pre-announced Robert Altman ensemble award for “Mudbound,” director Dee Rees gave an incendiary, poetic speech that roused the room, thanking her cast, her crew and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison.
Best First Screenplay winner Emily V. Gordon (“The Big Sick,” with husband Kumail Nanjiani) had to blow-dry the bottom of her wet full-length dress, as the carpets were still wet from the weekend’s storms. “My father never cheated on my mother, that’s something we made up for movie,” she said.
“That we know of,” quipped Nanjiani.
Allison Janney’s train was sopping wet, she said, as she accepted the Best Supporting Actress award. Her speech was written on the back of her itinerary. “Cheers to ‘I, Tonya!’” she said. Best Editing went to Tatiana S. Riegel, who was the only contender in that category also nominated for an Oscar, for “I, Tonya,” her fifth feature with director Craig Gillespie.
“The Rider” director Chloe Zhao earned a standing ovation as she accepted the first-ever Bonnie Award (with a $50,000 prize) for a woman director in mid-career; she thanked presenter Ava DuVernay and Frances McDormand and all the strong women out there, her role models.
“There are no shithole nations,” said presenter Salma Hayek, who is expected to present at the Oscars with #MeToo standard bearers Ashley Judd and Annabella Sciora. Best International Film went to Chilean Oscar entry “A Fantastic Woman,” starring transgender actress Daniela Vega. The film is also favored to win the Oscar on Sunday.
The John Cassavetes award for a movie made for less than $500,000 went to “Life and Nothing More,” which beat out David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story.” Best First Feature went to popular Sundance title “Ingrid Goes West,” which was written at a coffee shop in Culver City. Casting Aubrey Plaza in the movie was their best move, said director Matt Spicer.
Hosts Nick Kroll and John Mulaney rocked the house with a raucous monologue excoriating Harvey Weinstein. Mulaney on nominee Frances McDormand: “I bet a fun way to commit suicide would be to cut in front of her and say, ‘What, lady?’”
Director Phil Lord told IndieWire that the duo workshopped it at comedy clubs for weeks. It played.