Spirit Awards Sun 3.2.2014

The Most Memorable Moments from the Spirit Awards

Alright, alright, alright. The McConassaince is in full force, people. When 2014’s Film Independent Spirit Award winner for Best Male Lead took the stage to pick up his golden bird (for his portrayal of a homophobic rodeo cowboy who contracts HIV in Dallas Buyer’s Club), Matthew McConaughey gave a goose-bump-inducing speech exalting independent film. And the fact that he delivered it to the soundtrack of a torrential downpour beating against the tent made it even more theatrical.

“…What is it that I love about making independent films?,” McConaughey began, “…Some people are making them because they want to inaugurate themselves into the filmmaking business. Other times you make an independent film because it’s over there on this feeder road. It’s not an autobon film. It’s not a freeway. It’s not even an I 35. It’s a feeder road. Sometimes it’s gravel. Sometimes it’s blacktop. Sometimes it’s dirt. But that’s the subject matter that independent films take upon themselves. So what do you gotta have when you don’t have enough money, when you don’t have enough time? You’ve gotta have a lot of people that are completely obsessed with just telling that story, because you’re all walking the same proverbial plank and you know there’s not a safety net.  And there’s a freedom that comes with that, where you’re forced to get creative just because you don’t have the time and you don’t have the money… There’s not time to be overly considerate. You have to do all the consideration in pre-production because when we show up, we don’t have time to ask each other, ‘hey, what’s this scene about?’ Now there’s a freedom that comes with that.”

“I’ve been in independent films where they get one take, and I remember the first time that happened,” McConaughey continued, “I was like, ‘oh shit, one take?’ But then it all of a sudden hit me, wait a minute, there’s a freedom in that, because we’ve only got one take, so let it rip.”

Here, a few more of the show’s most memorable moments.

In his opening monologue host Patton Oswalt bowed to “the indiest of independents” John Waters, resplendent in clashing plaid in the audience. Oswalt pointed out that this is the 50th anniversary of John Waters’ first movie, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, which he made in 1964, as a gay 18-year-old in suburban Baltimore. “It’s about an interracial wedding that he shot on the roof of his parents’ garage,  and the wedding was presided over by a Ku Klux Klansman. So the next time you’re working on a script or a movie and go ‘Are we going too far?’ Just think back 50 years ago, think of John Waters, and man the fuck up!” Patton pronounced, “You should always go too far!”

Best Actor nominee, 77-year-old Bruce Dern got fed up twice with Oswalt’s old age jokes (ie. “I want to talk to you later about how Nebraska came together. Not the film, the state.“) The first time, Bruce flipped him the bird. The second time, Dern spared himself the barrage by removing his hearing aide.

Best Supporting Actor winner Jared Leto’s acceptance speech was a mix of hilarious and heartfelt. After thanking a crazy range of people including Wayne Gretzy, Dr. Seuss and “my future ex-wife (“Lupita, I’m thinking about you”), he dedicated his award to the LGBT community.

Best First Feature winner Ryan Coogler delivered a sobering reminder of the rampant police brutality against African-Americans. His film Fruitvale Station recounts the true story of Oscar Grant, who was fatally shot in the back by a cop on New Years Eve. “There are thousands of Oscar Grants,” said Coogler, siting Jonathan Ferrell, a young black man gunned down by a cop last year when he sought help after being hurt in a car crash. “One officer tazed him and another officer shot him ten times in the chest. When I hear stories like that, I think ‘ if Jonathan Ferrell looked like Mathew McConaughey he’d still be alive,’” Coogler said. “When you hear of law enforcement gunning down someone who didn’t have a gun, they look like me. I’m thankful I can work in a medium where I can share these stories.”

Tears! Best Screenplay winner John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) got choked up.

12 Years a Slave Director Steve McQueen was so elated by Lupita Nyong’o’s Best Supporting Female win, his embrace lifted her off the floor, and he carried her to the stage. “Growing up in Kenya,” she said, clutching her award, “I didn’t understand the difference between independent film and not independent film.” In college, she said she realized “independent film is when stuff really happens and it matters.”

The backup singers owned the spotlight at last.  The trio from 20 Feet From Stardom gave an electrifying performance before winning the Best Documentary Award. Darlene Love summed up her life lessons in two syllables: “Dream big.”

Pamela Miller / Website & Grants Manager – Reporting by Tony Ferranti / Intern Blogger