In about 90 minutes I’ll be driving over to that same beach-adjacent parking lot in Santa Monica for the good old Film Independent Spirit Awards. Same red carpet, same crowds, same parking passes, same security goons, same massive circus tent. The best part is the schmooze time (11 am to 1 pm) before everything starts. In my drinking days I used to enjoy my champagne during this period and get happily buzzed. Not “half in the bag” but…you know, “happy.” At noon! Thank God those days are over.
For years and years the weather in Santa Monica was perfect on Spirit Awards day — warm and balmy, no breeze or not too breezy, radiant blue sky. But last year it was chilly and blustery and faintly miserable. It was like the Southern California Weather Demon was saying “I left you alone for so many years in the past but not today….today I’m going to put you through it, Spirit Awards!” Being inside the main tent was okay but if you were in the rear press tent it was like “where’s my overcoat?” I felt like Jack London looking to build a fire. The almost-gale-strength winds assaulted the heavy plastic material covering the tent entrances. The gusts blew napkins into the air and destroyed women’s carefully coiffed hair styles.
Please, God…please spare me an experience like that today. Either way the Spirits will air tonight on IFC at 10 pm Pacific/Eastern and 9 pm Central.
Former SNL headliner Andy Samberg, who’s looking to be the next Paul Rudd or Adam Sandler or Bill Murray or whomever, is the emcee.
The Spirit Awards are basically the Indie Oscars, of course, but the definition of what specifically constitutes a Spirit-worthy indie film has become more liberal and/or less precise in recent years. I forget what the budgetary limit for Best Feature contenders is now but I remember the days when it was $15 million. Now it’s…what is it? $25 million? Higher?
From last year’s report: “The 2012 Spirit Awards did the wrong thing today by giving four awards to the Big Oscar Inevitable known as The Artist — Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography. The worst kowtow was giving Jean Dujardin its Best Actor prize instead of, say, A Better Life‘s Damien Bichir or Take Shelter‘s Michael Shannon. It wasn’t an indie thing to do — it was a ‘we want to be the Oscars too!‘ thing. Extremely bad form, dark day, etc.”
But the dominant Spirit Award qualifier, as always, is having the right attitude, a certain unpretentious or hands-on “fuck it, we’ll do it this way instead” approach to filmmaking. Being willing and able to scrimp and cut corners whenever necessary, to occasionally pick out your own wardrobe and do your own makeup in a gas station bathroom, and…I don’t know, having the improvisational fuck-all nerve and spontaneity and irreverence of spirit to quietly pantomine “what the fuck just happened?” when an 85 year-old actress wins a BAFTA award? Serious Spirit-minded people don’t walk around frowning and seething and spitting bile and getting their knickers in a twist.
Best Feature nominees: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Bernie, Keep the Lights On (which I haven’t even seen), Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook. I’ll be happy if Beasts of the Southern Wild or Bernie or SLP wins. Prediction: Beasts of the Southern Wild.
I know that if I see Richard Linklater there I’m going to tell him how knocked out I was by Before Midnight, which will definitely be a Spiit Award nominee this time next year in several categories.
Best Director: Wes Anderson, Benh Zeitlin, Ira Sachs (Keep The LIghts On), David O. Russell, Julia Loktev (The Loneliest Planet). Prediction: Zeitlin or Russell.