Los Angeles, March 7 ‘The Lost Daughter’, a psychological drama that marked the directing debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal, has been named as the best feature at the 37th Film Independent Spirit Awards.
The awards were given on Sunday. It was one of a leading three prizes that the movie about a middle-aged professor forced to grapple with her life choices earned at the ocean-side ceremony, reports variety.com.
‘Red Rocket’ actors Simon Rex and ‘Zola’ star Taylour Page earned best lead actor and actress prizes for portraying a faded porn star and a part-time stripper, respectively, a sign of the edgy projects that the Spirits were designed to highlight.
The awards aired on IFC and were handed out in a tent next to the Santa Monica Pier during a boozy ceremony that stretched on for two hours and changes.
The Spirits mostly spread the wealth. ‘Passing’ and ‘Zola’ won two prizes apiece, but no other films made repeat visits to the podium to accept statues.
“Reservation Dogs,” a comedy about four indigenous teenagers growing up in Oklahoma, was the most honoured television show, with two awards, including a prize for best new scripted series.
The awards, loser, lubricated with champagne and more profane than the Oscars or other prestigious movie honours, returned live and in-person for the first time in two years.
Designed to celebrate the best of indie moviemaking, they were handed out at a time when arthouse cinema is being challenged and reconfigured.
The theatrical business has yet to recapture its pre-pandemic popularity, with smaller movies aimed at adults, the ones the Spirits recognise, still facing an uphill battle when it comes to attracting crowds.
Hosts Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman alluded to the anemic box office results that many arthouse movies have suffered since Covid disrupted the business.
After Offerman declared that movies are back at the start of the show, Mullally told the crowd that there was no need to clap. “They’re not going to see your movies,” she said.
“They’re going to see the eighth Spider-Man for the sixth time,” Offerman joked.
At the same time, streaming services have become a home for many of the movies that were once given robust theatrical distribution, such as ‘The Lost Daughter’ or ‘Passing’, both of which debuted on Netflix.
The film and television business has also been under pressure to offer more opportunities to underrepresented creators and people of colour. That push to diversify was amplified at several points during the show.
‘Reservation Dogs’ creator Sterlin Harjo, a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, said he was inspired to make the comedy because “no one knew we were funny.” Gyllenhaal, during the first of several visits to the stage, said she had been the beneficiary of the push to “make space for different perspectives and voices” and noted that it was rare to see a film like hers that was told from a female perspective.
“As soon as I was born, I learned to speak the language of the men who were running the world around me,” she said, before noting that it might be time for others to embrace a polyglot spirit. “There can be a real pleasure in learning a language that’s not your native one.”
The vibe of the show was festive, even if the beach setting was frigid — “I think we’re all going to walk out of here with hypothermia,” quipped “Pig’s” Vanessa Block, winner of best first screenplay. But there were still vestigial reminders of the global pandemic that has upended cultural life. Guests had to provide proof of vaccination and negative Covid test results and attendees ate boxed lunches for safety reasons.
The Spirit Awards have traditionally been held on Saturday before the Oscars ceremony. However, Film Independent, the organisation behind the honours, announced that it would move the ceremony up by three weeks this year as a way of boosting its impact on the Oscars race. It’s unclear if that move will reshape the Oscar race, as there’s little overlap between nominees.
Best international film winner “Drive My Car” earned a best picture Oscar nomination and “CODA’ actor Troy Kotsur picked up a best supporting actor honor at the Indie Spirit, the same prize he is the frontrunner to receive at the Academy Awards. However, films like ‘The Power of the Dog,’ ‘Belfast’ and ‘Licorice Pizza’ that earned multiple Oscar nominations were unable to compete for Spirits as their budgets topped the cap of $22.5 million.
But the Oscars controversial decision not to air certain below-the-line prizes, such as those for editing and score, did get a few passing mentions. The Spirits take a similar approach, which seemed to surprise some recipients.
“I didn’t know this was coming during the commercial break, but I get it,” said Joi McMillon, the winner of a best editing prize for ‘Zola’.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine drew several mentions, with winners such as ‘Passing’ star Ruth Negga and presenters Kristen Stewart and Javier Bardem offering thoughts and prayers to the Ukrainian people impacted by the humanitarian crisis. Mullally and Offerman had an even more incisive message.
Mullally noted that they were hoping for “a quick and peaceful resolution” before adding, “specifically, fuck off and go home Putin.” With that the two hosts offered the Russian president one-fingered salutes.