Just hours after a drenching rain storm, comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney returned as co-hosts of the 33rd annual Film Independent Spirit Awards, held (as always!) in a temporary tent on the beach just steps away from the Santa Monica pier.
This year’s monologue traded last year’s political jabs for vitriolic digs at several former giants of the entertainment industry crushed by recent sexual harassment accusations. Mulaney recounted a story of his first meeting with Harvey Weinstein in 2015, wherein the once-powerful producer groused about Weinstein TV taking up too much of his time.
Quoting the disgraced mogul, Mulaney said: “’No one’s gonna remember my movies, forget Pulp Fiction. My tombstone’s gonna say Project Runway.’” Mulaney’s retort: “Aw, you don’t gotta worry anymore, Harvey. It’s not gonna say Project Runway. It’s gonna say ‘XXL unmarked grave.’”
Poking fun at the famous scene in Call Me By Your Name where Timothée Chalamet’s character Elio gets to know a peach a little too well, Kroll pretended to check with IFC censors: “We just need to know from IFC, are we allowed to say ‘cum peach’?”
A quick cut to the audience saw Chalamet giggling hard, with Name co-star Armie Hammer FaceTiming into the show—shirtless!—on his iPhone.
The first award of the event went to Allison Janney, who won Best Supporting Female for her role as Tonya Harding’s abusive, chain-smoking mother in I, Tonya. Janney expressed her gratitude to the film’s producers.
“They had the scrappiness and the audacity to say yes—yes, we can shoot 256 scenes in 32 days! Yes, we can do hair and makeup spanning 20 years of looks with prosthetics! Cheers to I, Tonya, I love you guys.”
This year’s John Cassavetes Award, which awards the best feature made for under $500,000, went to Florida-set drama Life and Nothing More. Shot entirely with a cast of non-professional actors, the film is Spanish director Antonio Méndez Esparza’s second film—and first Spirit Award win.
Sponsored by American Airlines, the Bonnie Award comes with a $50,000 grant in recognition of a mid-career female director. The inaugural honor went to Chinese-American director Chloé Zhao for her Western drama The Rider, making its way to theaters April 13. Earlier this year, all five Spirit Awards Grants were awarded, including the very first Seattle Story Award sponsored by Visit Seattle. Winner Matty Brown’s short film, funded by the award and inspired by the independent spirit of Seattle, is available now.
Salma Hayek Pinault (a Best Female Lead nominee for Beatriz At Dinner) and Jason Clarke (Robert Altman Award ensemble winner for Mudbound) had the honor of awarding the Best International Film prize to Chilean director Sebastián Lelio for the transgender drama, A Fantastic Woman.
In his acceptance speed, he wished for more terrific films in the years to come. “In Spanish,’inspiration’ comes from ‘in spirit.’ So I wish you all a lot of inspiration to keep making audacious films.”
Husband-and-wife team Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani won Best First Screenplay for The Big Sick, which tells the real life story of how they met—with one big exception. To clear her father’s name, Emily made sure to tell the audience that her dad never cheated on her mom.
“That was made up for the movie,” she said. Nanjiani in turn quipped, “…that we know of.” Immediately after, he sheepishly peered at his wife, uttering, “I messed up already,” which drew a big laugh from the crowd.
The team behind Mudbound (Director: Dee Rees; Casting Directors: Billy Hopkins, Ashley Ingram; and the ensemble cast) nabbed the Robert Altman Award for ensemble cast. Director Rees’ lengthy, masterfully crafted acceptance speech paid tribute to many on her team.
“We know that cinema lies in absorbing electrifying performances by committed actors that make audience feel, that make them think, that make them observe themselves in the world around them in a more expansive way, like Rob Morgan’s intelligent, deliberate, emotionally exquisite performance of Hap Jackson.”
Instead of the usual In Memoriam segment, the hosts fashioned a Non-Memoriam segment beseeching this year’s filmmakers not to betray their independent roots. “We’re about to lose many people in this room. Not to death, but to big blockbuster films,” said Mulaney.
Performing as Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club, Andy Samberg appeared to perform a spoof rendition of “Don’t You Forget about Me,” singing: “Tim-o… tay Chal-a-may/if you stay indie, we’ll pronounce it the pretentious way. Jordan and Kumail don’t go/and fall for the seductive dancing of the studios. Don’t you forget about us…”
Continuing her sweep during this awards season, Greta Gerwig won Best Screenplay for Lady Bird. After thanking Saoirse Ronan and everyone else involved, she thanked her parents for always watching the plays she and her siblings put on in the living room growing up.
Awarding the Best Supporting Male prize to Sam Rockwell for his role as a racist cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, presenter Chalamet gave the award on one knee, as when a Knight presents a sword to the King. Rockwell thanked his co-stars for forcing him to up his game.
“Frances ‘Badass’ McDormand, you’re the greatest sparring partner I could ask for. Thank you for pushing me to be my best…and that goes the same for Woody Harrelson.” He also thanked some of the directors who gave him a chance early on in his career, like Alex Rockwell, George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh.
Chalamet was visibly surprised when he won the Best Male Lead prize over his fellow nominees and admitted he was trying to take it all in. “I have a lot of faith in this industry, I have a lot of faith in our country. I have faith in Greta Gerwig [who also directed him in Lady Bird], Luca Guadagnino and Jordan Peele. We’re gonna be good, we’re gonna be fine.”
Frances McDormand won her third Spirit Award, for Best Female Lead as the bitter mother seeking justice for her dead daughter in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (the first two were for Fargo and Friends with Money). She was excited to finally be allowed to curse at an awards ceremony without being bleeped, since this is being broadcast on IFC. “Do you know how hard it’s been not to swear the last couple of months? Because this awards convention goes on for fucking forever.”
Get Out scored two of the night’s most coveted awards for director Jordan Peele—Best Director and Best Feature. Peele cracked the audience up as soon as he got onto the stage. “I’m so honored to be receiving this award at this Wakandan Laundromat,” a reference to the set design of the stage.
“This project didn’t start as a statement, it began as me wanting to make a film in my favorite genre. And I sat down and I would smoke a little bit of weed and try and write a mind-bending horror, my favorite genre, and at some point I just followed the truth…Thank you, everybody in this room: our truths are the most powerful weapon we have against the lies in this world. So keep doing what we’re doing.”
Later, when he was on stage for his Best Feature speech, he added: “It’s clear to everybody in this room and across the world that we’re at the beginning of a renaissance right now. The same stories that independent filmmakers have been telling for years are honored, recognized and celebrated.” One of his producers also yelled, “Long live the independent spirit! Hooray!”
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The Film Independent Spirit Awards are sponsored by Premier Sponsors American Airlines, AT&T, IFC and the Jeep brand; Principal Sponsors Piaget and Visit Seattle; and Supporting Sponsor Truly Spiked & Sparkling. Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is the Official Spirit. FIJI Water is the Official Water. Landmark Vineyards is the Official Wine. Lindt is the Official Confectioner. Getty Images is the Official Photographer.