Even during its most conventionally Hollywood-ish moments, yesterday’s 34th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards veered off book into the realm of the enjoyably unpredictable. Glenn Close, winning for The Wife (an outcome widely expected to repeat itself at the Oscars) stepped up to the podium, but so too did her Havanese puppy, Pip, a very good boy, first jumping around, then settling in for the speech. We may see some animal antics tonight at the Academy Awards—the hostless show remains a huge question mark—but they won’t be as charming. It's impossible.
You always hear jokes about the drafty, unheated tent on the Santa Monica Pier where the Spirits take place (it’s like going camping with nervous celebrities and an army of publicists), but this year’s guests enjoyed a warm, sunny day—a snap from Los Angeles’s recent briskness. BlacKkKlansman’s Adam Driver and Richard E. Grant of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, nominated for supporting awards at both the Spirits and the Oscars, chatted tableside about campaigning, the light at the end of the tunnel visible. Hosted by a vicious, on-brand Aubrey Plaza, the show zipped through its running time in less than three hours, yet still found room for an unforgettable drag medley by Shangela. (“I will be your First Reformed!”).
The more the Spirits leaned into their edginess, the better everything flowed. It was an awards show that honored such wild, unruly films as Suspiria, Sorry to Bother You (whose director, Boots Riley, warned the crowd about CIA intervention in Venezuela) and Lynne Ramsay’s excoriating thriller You Were Never Really Here. Snubbed by the Oscars, Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade concluded its awards run with a win for Best First Screenplay. All around were reminders of an Academy Awards that might have been: Hereditary’s Toni Collette and Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher competing for Best Female Lead (both served as presenters too); First Reformed’s Ethan Hawke triumphing as the Spirits’ Best Actor.
Leave No Trace director Debra Granik received the Spirits’ second annual Bonnie Award honoring an established female director, and the idea of #MeToo inclusiveness was never far from mind. Refreshingly, three women competed for Best Director—Granik, Ramsay and Private Life’s Tamara Jenkins—and when If Beale Street Could Talk’s Barry Jenkins ultimately prevailed (he seemed a touch embarrassed), he generously threw the attention back to the many women who enabled his dream. His film also won Best Feature.
Roma, not nominated for Best Feature, claimed Best International Film and writer-director Alfonso Cuarón stressed the diversity that could one day make such foreign-language categories obsolete. A day before the Oscars and with Roma on the brink of potentially setting into motion a major industry upheaval, the mood was uncertain—but the Spirits were willing.
Here’s a full list of winners and nominees:
WINNER: If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
You Were Never Really Here
Best Female Lead
WINNER: Glenn Close, The Wife
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Regina Hall, Support the Girls
Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline
Best Supporting Female
Kayli Carter, Private Life
Tyne Daly, A Bread Factory
WINNER: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Leave No Trace
J. Smith-Cameron, Nancy
Best Supporting Male
Raúl Castillo, We the Animals
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
WINNER: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Josh Hamilton, Eighth Grade
John David Washington, Monsters and Men
Debra Granik, Leave No Trace
WINNER: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Tamara Jenkins, Private Life
Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
WINNER: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sorry to Bother You
Robert Altman Award
Best First Screenplay
WINNER: Eighth Grade
We the Animals
WINNER: You Were Never Really Here
WINNER: Debra Granik
John Cassavetes Award
A Bread Factory
WINNER: En el Septimo Dia
Never Goin’ Back
We the Animals
Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams
WINNER: Shrihari Sathe
Someone to Watch Award
WINNER: Alex Moratto, dir., Sócrates
Ioana Uricaru, dir., Lemonade
Jeremiah Zagar, dir., We the Animals
Truer Than Fiction Award
Alexandria Bombach, dir., On Her Shoulders
WINNER: Bing Liu, dir., Minding the Gap
RaMell Ross, dir., Hale County This Morning, This Evening