March 01, 2014 6:21pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Independent Spirit Awards Effectively Oscars Rehearsal, Only With Flowing Booze (Analysis)
The 29th annual Independent Spirit Awards, which were voted upon and presented by Film Independent, were held this afternoon in a tent by the beach in Santa Monica as the rain poured down outside. Every year, the Spirit Awards -- which were hosted this year by Patton Oswalt, to lukewarm reviews in the room -- bring together the best and brightest of the indie film community on the day before the Academy Awards. The ceremony is always lots of fun -- what's better than day drinking? -- but it is decidedly not known for picking winners who go on to win again on Sunday.
Indeed, over the past 28 years, only two winners of the Spirit Awards' top prize, best feature, have gone on to win the best picture Oscar: Platoon (1986) and The Artist (2011). Only 14 of the 108 performances that have been rewarded with Spirit Awards were subsequently recognized with Oscars. And only six Spirit Award-winning screenplays went on to win in either of the Academy's two screenplay categories. Moreover, in the 13 years in which there has been a Spirit Award for best documentary, only three of its winners went on to Oscar glory.
This year, however, could prove to be an historic exception to that rule, as virtually all of the frontrunners for the major-category Oscars took home prizes. (The Spirit Awards' and Academy Awards' four acting winners have never matched perfectly, but many oddsmakers, including this one, believe that will change this year.)
12 Years a Slave won best feature. Dallas Buyers Club's Matthew McConaughey won best actor. (Last year's best supporting actor Spirit Award winner for Magic Mike, he was also on stage to present an award and later to accept the Robert Altman Award with his collaborators from Jeff Nichols' Mud.) Blue Jasmine's Cate Blanchett won best actress. Dallas Buyers' Jared Leto won best supporting actor and gave an epic acceptance speech. 12 Years' Lupita Nyong'o won best supporting actress and received a standing ovation. 12 Years' John Ridley won best screenplay (he'll be competing in the best adapted screenplay category tomorrow night). And 20 Feet from Stardom won best documentary (three of its subjects also performed "Lean on Me" during the show).
Best director went to 12 Years' Steve McQueen -- however Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron, the Oscar frontrunner in that category, and his film, which is considered a 50/50 shot to beat 12 Years a Slave for the best picture Oscar, were ineligible for recognition today because the Spirit Awards only consider films that cost $20 million or, at the discretion of the Spirit Awards nominating committee, a little bit more. (For instance, last year's best feature winner, Silver Linings Playbook, cost $22 million.)
Interestingly, best first feature went to Fruitvale Station, which was completely snubbed by the Academy (28-year-old writer/director Ryan Coogler received a standing-O for his moving acceptance speech); best cinematography went to 12 Years a Slave lenser Sean Bobbitt, who also was not Oscar-nominated, over Inside Llewyn Davis' Bruno Delbonnel, who was; and best international film went to France's Blue Is the Warmest Color, which was not eligible for the best foreign language film Oscar, over Italy's The Great Beauty and Denmark's The Hunt, which are nominated for it.
Nebraska scribe Bob Nelson, who is nominated for the best original screenplay Oscar, won best first screenplay. Meanwhile, best editing went to Nat Sanders for the magnificent Short Term 12, which was completely -- and criminally -- snubbed by the Academy. And the John Cassavetes Award, which goes to the best film that cost less than $250,000, was awarded to This Is Martin Bonner, which cost just $42,000, according to its exuberant writer/director Chad Hartigan.