Spirit Awards


Most of us think we’re on the losing side, which is how the Oscar race often flips from the most critically acclaimed film of the year to the sudden and unexpected popular choice. Suddenly the loser becomes the winner and the winner goes back to being the loser. Calculating how people think of your film is the publicist’s job and every one of them knows that if you come out of Telluride with people thinking you’re the winner, your goose is mostly cooked as human nature has voters picking what they think is the underdog.  No year has been more of a heartbreaker for that myth played out than this one.

All the same, it was a delight to see Michael Keaton’s genuinely happy face when the Birdmen team took to the press room, their statuettes in hand, claiming the season as the Miss Right Now.  He looked happier than anyone I’d seen for some reason. Maybe because he thought, like everyone else did that the independent spirit was embodied most thoroughly in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which was put together on nothing but faith, stitched carefully together with a devoted team of filmmakers and actors, and that surely these voters would recognize that even if the industry could not and would not. Alas, the Spirit Awards, like the Gothams earlier in the season, picked Birdman over Boyhood.

A journalist I’d been speaking to off and on had seen Boyhood five times. She had such a personal attachment to it and was hoping it would take the top prize. The sense in the press room was that most everyone felt that way.  A crowdpleaser, though, is a crowdpleaser is a crowdpleaser and there just isn’t anything you can do about it.

2014, like 2010, has to be thought of as a year with two winners. The same way it was ludicrous to assume 2010’s Best Picture was really The King’s Speech after The Social Network had won everything else leading up to the industry votes, Boyhood can also be thought of as the film the critics and the British film industry chose, while Birdman was the favorite of the Hollywood industry.  Just like the 2010 race, I will always think of 2014 that way.

Should the Oscars choose to split the awards, like the Spirit Awards did, that would be a fair compromise, just as there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that David Fincher should have won, at the very least, Best Director in 2010.  I do not know if tonight’s awards will play out as fairly as the Spirits did. My experience tells me that delightful surprises like last year’s split are so impossibly rare you can’t depend on them. What I do know is this: the trick is not minding.

I’ve long since figured that awards should mean something more than just to represent a snapshot in time, who people were, how they defined themselves, what they defined themselves AS, what they worshipped, on whom they chose to project their dreams and aches. The most apt comparison I can think of is high school in the US. Is it simply human nature that requires that we segregate the popular people from the huddled masses?

Back in the 1980s you didn’t become a cheerleader because you were the best dancer or the most enthusiastic athletic supporter. You became a cheerleader because you represented the prettiest girls at school.  I wish I had the kind of brain that could tune out stuff like this because honestly it breaks my heart each and every time I attend any awards show. It just the same thing playing out: we like to watch the pretty people, to put ourselves beneath them, see them rewarded with statues, attach ourselves to their career plight, or their lack of recognition. Can’t someone make my brain just quiet the fuck down?

Woody Allen captures it best in Stardust Memories. He captures hungry and overly interested fans. He captures apathetic celebrities who don’t do anything near important enough to warrant such worship. He captures the hunger just to dwell among them. Mostly he captures that glossy-eyed look we humans are stricken with when gazing at those we’ve designated better than ourselves.

Yesterday at the Spirit Awards I heaved my body up atop my high heels to clack clack clack outside of the press tent to use the “facilities.” When you’re a woman, and if you choose to dress up, everything hurts all night long until you take it all off at the end of the night.  We were almost done and I was almost home where a pair of well worn Birkenstalks were calling my name.   I happened by Paul Thomas Anderson standing with his cast from Inherent Vice. There they were, a couple of feet away. Genna Malone, Catherine Waterston, Benicio Fucking Del Toro.

You think you’re above it all until you are suddenly not above it all. There were clusters of people watching them in wide-eyed amazement, as though they were seeing a newly born litter of rare snow foxes in the Antarctic.  The smell of champagne wafted out of the billowing tent, along with scattered laughter and applause. Behind the tent a crowd had gathered to watch even farther back. Beach dwellers, mostly, star gazers.  The real star of the event, the Pacific Ocean, churned in the distance, as the clouds parted to invite pointed sunbeams, setting the surface of the ocean alight with a glittery sheen.

At one point, Jared Leto popped his tent in the press tent, with that ubiquitous playful look on his face, he said “Hi everyone! You miss me?” He laughed, tickled at the whole thing like he always is. Leto seems to note the surreal circus that it is and he just has a great time. I remember how funny he was last year to the press people. That jacket, that hat.

Later, Bennett Miller wandered into the press room after Foxcatcher had earned some kind of tribute award. Why, I have no idea. Perhaps to honor Megan Ellison, who uses her wealth to promote and build independent film.  “I don’t know what I’m doing here,” he said. He wasn’t required to talk to the press – but he stood there anyway.  A reporter in the front row asked a question which I didn’t hear. It was something about Steve Carell.  “I’m sorry,” Miller said. “But I’ve heard that question too many times.”  The reporters chuckled a little but then it got uncomfortably quiet as it sometimes does when anyone goes off script.  “I’m happy when people talk about the movie, when it means something to them,” he said but dashed out as soon as he was given the opportunity.

I don’t think anyone thinks any of this means anything. You can’t, right? It is a way to arrange and categorize who we are. We rank members of our species based on wealth, good looks and popularity. That is what awards shows are usually about.  Though this one was especially funny because of its hosts, Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen who seemed to be the only ones willing to poke fun at Birdman.

When Justin Simien won for Dear White People he took the moment to encourage other filmmakers to have their voices heard to become “part of the culture.” A brave and ballsy soul, he is. Here’s to hoping he keeps kicking down doors the same way Ava DuVernay has.  Clearly, the Spirit Awards were not going to do an about-face and suddenly reward Selma. Remember, people want to be on the winning side so once one thing starts winning, well, it usually can’t be stopped. All other priorities rescinded.

“So why do you do it if you hate it so much,” I always get asked.  I want to answer that with “It’s hard out there for a pimp.” But instead I usually say that I feel that what I do is worthwhile. There are enough people who report on the awards and there are plenty of fans — most people love to hate them, or certainly how they turn out. I know that I’m lucky. I’ve worked hard to be allowed a ticket to the show.   Hate is much too strong a word, though. How can you hate something that is barely there in the first place? I don’t have to hate the work to hate the final outcome of the season. And when I think about hating the season I’m just going to remember Michael Keaton’s happy face. That Julianne Moore is finally winning what she should have won ages ago. That Patricia Arquette always takes a moment to talk about what matters and is one of the few actresses who isn’t starving herself to be on the red carpet so that the ordinary among us can look at the extraordinary and not feel so much like we’re on the “other train.” It’s the little things.


The Spirit Awards are becoming part of the awards consensus overall. Part of that is that anyone can join. So you’re kind of looking at a hipsters People’s Choice. The DGA is mostly an “anyone can join” establishment now so it, too, is a version of the People’s Choice.  The industry is just a cluster of the same kinds of people who all live and work in the entertainment business, which makes up much of the population of Los Angeles.

The last awards show of the season is waiting for me in a couple of hours. Until then, Oscarwatchers, until then.

spirit winners 3

In a couple of hours the 30th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards will commence. Sasha will be there live-tweeting the festivities. Now’s a good time to take another look at the Spirit Award nominees, after the cut, and think about how much better they feel than the Oscar nominees?


“Boyhood”, Richard Linklater

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”

Justin Simien, “Dear White People”

“CitizenFour”, Director-producer: Laura Poitras

INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)
“Ida” (Poland) Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
“Nightcrawler”, Director: Dan Gilroy

“Land Ho!” Writers-directors: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens

Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”

Tom Cross, “Whiplash”

Chris Ohlson,


Predict the Spirit Awards here

This year, there isn’t a lot of distinction between the Spirit Awards and the Oscars. This, because the industry mostly turned its back on big studio fare earmarked for the Oscar race, from the mixed to poorly reviewed Unbroken, Interstellar, and Into the Woods to the well reviewed Gone Girl, Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler. They mostly stuck to the independents, making this one of the weirdest Oscar races I’ve ever seen.

Essentially, you’re looking at another Birdman and Boyhood showdown, with Selma the likely upset in the major categories.  The Spirit Awards do tend to vote for more popular films than you’d think they would, as they went for Silver Linings Playbook over Beasts of the Southern Wild, for instance.  Last year they went for 12 Years a Slave, which many believed meant it wouldn’t then go on to win the Best Picture Oscar. There is less and less difference between the two these days because Oscar voters are stubborn about evolving the way the big budget film industry is.

Most of our readers by a very wide margin think Boyhood will prevail. That was the thinking at the Gothams as well when the first really weird thing about the year happened when Birdman won there.  I have a feeling it’s going to be Birdman, myself.  I just think it’s the kind of movie that crowd is going to like best.  But it’s a toss-up, truly. I hope I am wrong because if they pass up a chance to award Richard Linklater I just don’t know how I will cope with that.

Spirit award voters aren’t critics and they aren’t industry professionals as much as they are MOVIE FANS. That can sometimes translate to “most popular” wins the day.  If it were me I’d vote for Selma and Ava DuVernay without thinking twice about it. I just don’t know how this group will go – if they did reward Selma that would be the bigger news story the next day.


“Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
“Boyhood” — Predicted winner
“Love Is Strange”

Damien Chazelle “Whiplash”
Ava DuVernay “Selma”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Richard Linklater “Boyhood”, Predicted winner
David Zellner “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”

Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski “Big Eyes”
J.C. Chandor “A Most Violent Year”
Dan Gilroy “Nightcrawler” – Predicted winner
Jim Jarmusch “Only Lovers Left Alive”
Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias “Love Is Strange”

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
“Dear White People” Director-producer: Justin Simien
“Nightcrawler” Director: Dan Gilroy — Predicted winner, Stone, AwardsDaily readers
“Obvious Child” Director: Gillian Robespierre
“She’s Lost Control” Director-producer: Anja Marquardt

Marion Cotillard “The Immigrant”
Rinko Kikuchi “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”
Julianne Moore “Still Alice” – Predicted winner, Stone, AwardsDaily readers
Jenny Slate “Obvious Child”
Tilda Swinton “Only Lovers Left Alive”

André Benjamin “Jimi: All Is by My Side”
Jake Gyllenhaal “Nightcrawler”
Michael Keaton “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Predicted winner Stone
John Lithgow “Love Is Strange”
David Oyelowo “Selma”

Patricia Arquette “Boyhood” — Predicted winner
Jessica Chastain “A Most Violent Year”
Carmen Ejogo “Selma”
Andrea Suarez Paz “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors”
Emma Stone “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Riz Ahmed “Nightcrawler”
Ethan Hawke Boyhood
Alfred Molina “Love Is Strange”
Edward Norton “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
J.K. Simmons Whiplash — predicted winner

Darius Khondji “The Immigrant”
Emmanuel Lubezki “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” — Predicted winner
Sean Porter “It Felt Like Love”
Lyle Vincent “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
Bradford Young “Selma”

Sandra Adair “Boyhood” — Predicted winner
Tom Cross “Whiplash”
John Gilroy “Nightcrawler”
Ron Patane “A Most Violent Year”
Adam Wingard “The Guest”

DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)
“20,000 Days on Earth” Directors: Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard
“CitizenFour” Director-producer: Laura Poitras – predicted winner
“Stray Dog” Director: Debra Granik
“The Salt of the Earth” Directors: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders
“Virunga” Director-producer: Orlando von Einsiedel

INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)
“Force Majeure” (Sweden) Director: Ruben Östlund
“Ida” (Poland) Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
“Leviathan (Russia) Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Mommy (Canada) Director: Xavier Dolan
Norte, the End of History (Philippines) Director: Lav Diaz
Under the Skin (United Kingdom) Director: Jonathan Glazer – predicted winner


Craig Kennedy gives his “Should Wins” instead of predictions, because: idealist

Pic: Selma
Director: DuVernay – Selma
Screenplay: Jarmusch – Only Lovers Left Alive
First Feature: Amirpour – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
First Screenplay: Simien – Dear White People
Cassavetes: Blue Ruin
Female Lead: Swinton – Only Lovers Left Alive
Male Lead: Oyelowo – Selma
Female Supporting: Arquette – Boyhood
Male Supporting: Norton – Birdman
Cinematography: Khondji – The Immigrant
Editing: Cross – Whiplash
Doc: Stray Dog
International: Ida


Ryan Adams shows us the choices he chose on his his actual ballot, because he ponied up the $99 to become a voting member this year, because “Spirit award voters aren’t critics and they aren’t industry professionals as much as they are MOVIE FANS.” …also, for the nice packet of screeners. [- says Ryan Adams]


Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Justin Simien, “Dear White People”

“Blue Ruin”

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Alfred Molina, “Love Is Strange”

Lyle Vincent, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”

Sandra Adair, “Boyhood”

DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)

INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)
“Force Majeure”


We’ll be posting our predictions a bit later but wanted to give you a crack at the predictions contest. The winner received a $100 gift card to Amazon.com.

JC Chandor, director, All is Lost

The Spirit Awards are a vital part of the awards race now, much more so than they were a decade ago. But because independent film is one of the only avenues for interesting, non-generic Hollywood films, the Spirit Awards are becoming a big event unto themselves. As Oscar continues to adhere to their tradition of rewarding safe, crowd pleasing entertainment, the Spirit Awards are freer in how they choose, what they reward and whether those wins ultimately mean something without the added label of “Oscar.” The interesting thing about it is that now they do.  Being a Spirit Award winner holds more cache apart from Oscar, similar to the Golden Globes.  The Spirit Award voters aren’t industry insiders nor are they film critics; they are a mixture of all of the above.

The nominating committee are:

Experts in the field. Three nominating committees are made up of members of the film community – one each for American Narrative films, Documentary films and International Narrative films. Committees may include film critics, film programmers, actors, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, past nominees and winners, and members of Film Independent’s Board of Directors. There are three additional committees for our Piaget Producers, Someone to Watch and Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction grant awards. For these Awards, three nominees, including the winner, will be selected by a committee of experts in the field.

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Independent Spirit Awards Winners

Best Film: Silver Linings Playbook
Best Director: David O. Russell, Silver Linings
Best Cinematography: Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Male Lead: John Hawkes, The Sessions
Best Female Lead: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings
Cassavetes Award: Middle of Nowhere
Best Screenplay: David O. Russell, Silver Linings
Best International Film: Amour
Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Best Supporting Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
Best First Feature: Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
First Screenplay: Derek Connolly, Safety not Guaranteed
Best Documentary: The Invisible War

beasts wild

It’s widely believed and often proven that winning an Independent Spirit Award the day before the Academy Awards is the kiss of death for nominees on Oscar Night.   In a year as topsy-turvy as this, it remains to be seen whether that conventional wisdom will hold true again this weekend.  Sasha, Craig and I didn’t talk with each other in advance about how each of us were leaning and our conflicting instincts have caused us to split off in 3 different directions. You can find our predictions after the cut, as well as a complete list of the Spirit Awards nominees so you can get your own guesses on record in the comments.

The Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast on IFC at 10 p.m. ET and 2 hours later on the West Coast at 10 p.m. PT — since they still don’t have a handle on this whole concept of how “we all have the internet now.”  Doesn’t much matter since the ceremony itself will be held earlier in the day beginning on the red carpet around noon.

Our predictions after the cut.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild
Keep the Lights On
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook

Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
Julia Loktev, The Loneliest Planet
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks
Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

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Best Feature:
Take Shelter
The Artist
The Descendants

Best Director category:
Mike Mills (Beginners)
Nicholas W Refn ( Drive)
Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)

Robert Altman Award for one film’s director, casting director and ensemble: Margin Call

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More after the cut

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Best Picture: Black Swan
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor: James Franco, 127 Hours
Best Supporting Actress: Dale Dickey, Winters Bone
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Best Screenplay: The Kids Are All Right
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best Foreign Film: The King’s Speech
Best First Feature: Get Low
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture
Truer Than Fiction Award: Marwencol, Jeff Malmberg
Someone to Watch Award: Mike Ott, Littlerock
Producers Award: Anish Savjani, Meek’s Cutoff
Robert Altman Award (ensemble): Please Give
Cassavetes Award: Daddy Longlegs

(thanks for the assist, Beth!)

winters bone hawkes

7 nominations for Winter’s Bone, 5 nominations for The Kids Are All Right, 4 nominations for Greenberg, Rabbit Hole & Black Swan


  • 127 HOURS


  • DANNY BOYLE – 127 Hours
  • LISA CHOLODENKO – The Kids Are All Right
  • DEBRA GRANIK – Winter‚Äôs Bone

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