As one particular (and undoubtedly problematic) TV detective of yesteryear was fond of saying, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Well, okay then. The facts are these: the 36th Film Independent Spirit Awards are coming soon! Just not as soon as usual, thanks to Hollywood’s overall pandemic-year shift of awards season. Now, everyone’s favorite celebration of independent film — and for the first time, TV — will happen April 22, 2021 at 10:00 pm ET / 7:00 pm PT, live on IFC.
But happily for all of you prognosticators and fantasy-awards-draft wheeler-dealers, 2021 Spirit Award noms are just around the corner; coming next week in fact, on Tuesday, January 26—to be revealed in a special video announcement premiering on Fi’ website and YouTube channel.
Presenters for the (remote) event include Laverne Cox — who in her Film Independent Presents Q&A for the documentary Disclosure shouted out the Spirit Awards for its pioneering recognition of a trans performer — and (not to be outdone) past Spirit Award winners Barry Jenkins and Olivia Wilde.
Though the Thursday-evening broadcast during prime time on April 22 will be a break from our usual Saturday-afternoon live event on the Santa Monica Beach, don’t worry—we’re still deeply invested in Spirit Awards history and tradition.
To wit, here are six of our favorite Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremonies of all-time, available as part of our full-show archives on (you guessed it) YouTube. Check ‘em out below and check back—more classic shows updating this week!
Watch it for: Besides the Fuse Technical Group’s beautiful (and very chillwave) stage design and rear-projection imagery? Well, our most recent Spirit Awards was one of the most raucous ever, with returning host Aubrey Plaza somehow leading a three-ring circus full of overlapping acceptance speeches, explicative-filled Adam Sandler “thank you’s” and a musical tribute to Laura Dern’s palpable and enduring gay icon status. Not to mention: Willem Dafore, Noah Baumbach, Lulu Wang and much, much more.
Watch it for: Another atypical Spirit Awards, hosted by Eddie Izzard and taking place at downtown Los Angeles’s LA Live complex. There were plenty of high-energy moments, like Foo Fighter Dave Grohl introducing a turned-up-to-11 live performance by Best Documentary subjects Anvil, and exuberant newcomer Gabourey Sidibe taking home hardware for her Precious breakout. But our favorite was the late Lynn Shelton’s John Cassavetes Award win for Humpday.
Watch it for: Riding high at the peak of his Dwight Schruteness, Rainn Wilson was more than game in his return as host, going on a death-defying ride-along in Dennis Hopper’s convertible and yucking it up with Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman. The big winner was Juno, with Elliot Page and Diablo Cody also taking home awards for acting and screenwriting, respectively.
Watch it for: The Spirit Awards capped its first decade by celebrating one of the most memorable indie film years in history. With Quentin Tarantino and his Pulp Fiction cast members making frequent trips to the dais, this arguably marked the peak of go-go, Miramax-era Hollywood. Bullets Over Broadway and Spanking the Monkey were the day’s other big winners, with Fresh, Barcelona, Red and The Last Seduction also taking home awards.
Watch it for: The 90s’ had just barely begun, but the independent film financing-and-distribution infrastructure that would ultimately shape the decade was already in high gear by 1991, with titles such as My Own Private Idaho, Rambling Rose and An Angel at My Table claiming major trophies at the 1992 awards. Our favorite part? Francis Ford Coppola’s lengthy, passionate indie-film State of Union, which provided the ‘92 ceremony its heartfelt centerpiece.
Watch it for: This is where it all started—the very first Independent Spirit Awards ceremony (or awards luncheon, in this case) ever. Recommended for fans of luscious 1980s haircuts and aggressive indoor palm-frond decorations. Oh, also there are some damn good movies being recognized here as well, including the Coen Bros.’ debut Blood Simple and Martin Scorsese’s underrated After Hours. You’ve come a long way, baby!
Want to vote?
As always, winners are selected by Members of Film Independent. Members must be current by February 11 to receive full voting benefits, including access to nominee screeners. To join Film Independent and vote on the Spirit Awards, please visit filmindependent.org/join.
The Spirit Awards are the primary fundraiser for Film Independent’s year-round programs, which cultivate the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity and inclusion in the film industry.
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