2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards, take a look! - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards, take a look!

Thirty-five years after it first began as the “Friends of Independents” awards in the back of a West Hollywood restaurant, the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards kicked off February 8 at its more established longtime home on the beach in Santa Monica. 

Inside its giant white tent at the base of the Santa Monica Pier, the Spirit Awards honored the best independent films produced for under $22.5M—but only after guests and members of the press (including yours truly) had been treated to not one, not two, but three open bars, including one stocked with Bulleit Frontier Whiskey’s incredible collection of 1980s arcade games.

Continuing from her Judy-themed pre-taped opening sketch, returning host and Spirit Award alum Aubrey Plaza (Best First FeatureIngrid Goes West) delivered a no-holds-barred monologue via a Garland-inspired musical rendition of “Get Happy.” In a year when the Oscars have been skewered for snubbing female directors and other nominees of color, Plaza launched several jabs at the Academy—at one point wondering why there aren’t any sister directing duos à la Uncut Gems’ Safdie Brothers. “You’d think this town would love to pay two women one salary,” she joked—complete with an IRL rimshot from her onstage drummer.

The studio that brought us The FarewellUncut Gems and The Lighthouse—A24—had the most nominations coming into the show, with a whopping 18 nods. The first award of the afternoon went to one of its titles when Spirit Award veteran (Best Supporting Male, Shadow of the Vampire) Willem Dafoe scored the Best Supporting Male prize for his role as an unhinged “wickie” in Robert Egger’s black-and-white fantasy/horror/comedy The Lighthouse. Dafoe emphasized the collaborative nature of the craft. “It takes two to tango. He’s not here, but I share this with Rob Pattinson [a Best Male Lead for the film].”

This year’s John Cassavetes Award—which rewards the best feature made for under $500,000—went to Film Independent Fast Track alum Give Me Liberty, a comedic satire based on writer/director/editor Kirill Mikhanovsky’s own experience as a van driver for people with disabilities. Taking questions in the press tent following, Mikhanovsky shared words that all aspiring filmmakers should take to heart: “Something we don’t talk about is daring to fail. Ultimately, filmmaking is about confronting obstacles and making them your allies.”
In a refreshing take on the budgetary constraints facing most small indie films, the Russian-born filmmaker thinks the end result was actually better for it: “Maybe if we had more money, better conditions and more options to choose from, we wouldn’t have been where we needed to be.”
Veteran actor Nicolas Cage took to the stage to present the Robert Altman award to the director, casting director and ensemble cast of Marriage Story (thereby making its actors ineligible for the acting categories.) “Over the years, I’ve played my part in a number of marriage stories,” he joked, quipping, “You like that, huh?” as the audience chuckled. “Marriage Story contains the hard-won wisdom and emotional truth for anyone considering a divorce.” The award was accepted by writer/director Noah Baumbach along with the film’s casting director, Francine Maisler, who used her speech to plug—at his request—her son’s Twitch channel.

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