On the Beach: Backstage at the IFP Spirit AwardsBy Paul Zimmerman
Posted 03/04/04 18:38:40
DATELINE: SANTA MONICA FEBRUARY 28th -- NOON
Welcome to the annual IFP (Independent Film Project) Independent Spirit Awards held annually on the Saturday afternoon before the Oscars. This year the IFP has much to crow about (they led the fight against the screener ban) and much to live down to (the increased security and shuffling of the press).
By mid show IFP head Dawn Hudson takes the stage and after mentioning the screener ban getting lifted she welcomes all to those who “aren’t afraid of an awards show without a five second delay.” And crow she should. Indeed, indies were strong in 2003 but just what made an indie an indie to the IFP nominating board is cause for debate. No one would argue say Raising Victor Vargas or The Station Agent are triumphs of story over budget limitations but what are House of Sand and Fog and Lost in Translation doing slumming along?
This sort of no-you-aren’t yes-I-am what is an indie debate has been going on for at least five years. At one point an unofficial $10 million cap was put on the films in consideration but controversy erupted when Woody Allen’s $22 million Bullets Over Broadway was in the running several years ago. Now Hudson explains the figure is NOT official but if it was it would be around 15 or 16 million. Which explains Sand and Fog at $15 million but not 21 Grams at more than $20 million. Indeed the nominating committee of Special Dozen seems to have tossed up their hands as 21 Grams gets a Special Distinction Award. Huh? “What the hell is that?” blurts out a studio intern sitting to my left in the press tent.
And so it goes. I think Buck Henry put it best when he told me “Indie films are like pornography, I’m not really sure what it is, but I know it when I see it.” By now Spirit dwellers have come to expect certain things each year. Waters delivering a hilarious opening speech (which he insists on writing himself), goofy musical “parody” sung by the likes of Kyra Sedgewick and heartfelt acceptance speeches (Charlize Theron manages to actually sound surprised picking up her umpteenth statue for her startling portrait of Aileen Wuornos in Monster).
For the humor record here’s a sampling of the sing-a-long lyrics:
Shattered Glass (sung to the tune of Mr. Ed)
A source is a source
Of course, of course
A journalist talks to a source, of course
That is, of course, unless the source
Is a source for Stephen Glass
Needless to say Billy Crystal doesn’t have to worry losing work no how tired and lame his Oscar bits get. While the speeches roll by effortlessly one longs for past glories like when Ally Sheedy spent more than seven minutes having a combo thank-a-thon / mental breakdown when she accepted Best Female Lead for High Art. Instead we get tasteful, heartfelt thank-yous and in one moment of spontaneity when In America director Jim Sheridan accepts the Best Cinematography Award for an absent Declan Quinn he turns it into a sing-a-long for In America star Sarah Bolger who’s celebrating her 13th birthday. Shielding her face with a program the scene stealing Bolger does one thing no one else does today, she shows modesty and humility.
The big winner of the day is Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (which sweeps the top three awards Best Male Lead, Best Director and Best Screenplay) with Monster and The Station Agent also fairing well.
And when all is said and done you’ve got to like this Rebels Without a Pause gang where Joey “Pants” and Jennifer Tilly get (at least ONE day of the year) to act like the two most popular kids in high school. And just so we leave on an indie note Waters closes the show by yelling, “Next time you see a movie and they show a commercial boo!” Yeah, that’s the Spirit.
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