ifc-2008.JPGJuno won. All the winners below:

First, some background: this year’s 23 Annual IFC Spirit Awards, hosted by The Office‘s Rainn Wilson who has a small role in Juno, was the first event event to honor independent film exclusively and is the premier awards event for the independent film community. It bills itself as a celebration of the spirited pioneers who bring a unique vision to filmmaking. I know it as Oscar weekends’s most self-consciously cool event. juno_galleryposter.jpgAlong with being a great party, the Spirit Awards ceremony brings together the top talent from independent film and Hollywood inside a beachfront tent in Santa Monica. Film Independent, which puts on the awards as well as the LA Film Festival, is the largest non-profit membership organization for independent filmmakers, nurturing the careers of independent filmmakers, building the audience for independent films, and increasing diversity in the film industry. Film Independent provides its members with more than 250 annual events and screenings, along with professional advice, educational programs, affordable camera and equipment rentals, and discounts to hundreds of industry-related businesses. Film Independent also offers Filmmaker Labs, giving filmmakers the opportunity to develop their projects, and Project:Involve, a mentorship and job placement program that pairs filmmakers from culturally diverse communities with film industry professionals.

aboutrainpicture.jpgHost Rainn Wilson comes out and does his monologue. He was actually fairly funny.

He notes that indies aren’t made for Middile America “where people eat carbs and don’t understand your movies”.

He acknowledges that some indies like Fox Searchlight’s Juno can make gobs of money and some can be “completely obscure and you’ve never even heard of them like every other movie we’re honoring today”.

He gives a shout-out to indie stalwarts like Steve Buscemi, Mike White and Philip Seymour Hoffman. “it’s weird to be the best-looking guy in the room,” Wilson quips. “Does The Hoff look mad?” (Hoff makes mad face…)

“Cate Blanchett is here. When I was standing next to her at the urinal…”

“We won’t be honoring today No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood because the they were considered too light-hearted.”

thesavages_galleryposter2.jpg“This year’s Spirit Awards are totally green. Every aspect of the show is environmentally conscious. Of course years ago you would have called an awards show held in a tent on astroturf cheap. Today you call it green.”

“I’m recycling a joke from last year’s host Sarah Silverman.” Naturally it had the word “vagina” in it…

“In honor of this show’s zero waste policy, Sienna Miller has generously offered to finish everyone’s drinks tonight.”

Wilson says the entire broadcast is being fueled by a generator. Then he unveils Ed Begley Jr behind a curtain rapidly pedalling a bicycle and looking exhausted.

Rainn acknowledged that he’s “just a sitcom guy, not a hardcore indie badass like Parker Posey”. So he said the IFC gave him a mentor so he could earn his indie stripes through an Indie Film Initiation Ritual.” Then a filmed piece starts and who shows up as the mentor but Dennis Hopper, who forces Wilson to go on a joyride in a baby blue Mustang convertible. Every indie cliche is shown. Rainn must soak up liquor, cross-dress in lipstick, high heels, a tube top and a mini-skirt and then prostitute himself, swallow a baggie of drugs, be threatened by a knife to his throat, get gagged and tied to a chair, enjoy an ice cream cone, get hit in the balls by Illeana Douglas, barf on the Venice boardwalk, then get a tattoo, “Hopper’s Bitch.” When the movie ends, Wilson asks the audience to “give it up for the original gangsta of cinema, D Hop.”

talktome_posterbig.jpgAfter the hazing ritual, Rainn suddenly looks and acts all Tarantino and introduces the “the first motherfuckers, Felicity Huffman and Forrest Whitaker” to hand out this afternoon’s awards.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Talk To Me (Focus Features)

He was working and didn’t show.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY: Diablo Cody, Juno (Fox Searchlight)

Of course, she comes onstage. Was there ever any doubt that she’d win or she’d accept it? All red dress, cleavage and tattoos, Diablo surprisingly (or maybe not) gives an incredibly boring speech. Then she thanks everyone on the movie “who introduced me to this motherfucker,” raising her award high.

BEST FIRST FEATURE: The Lookout (Miramax). Director Scott Frank, Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Laurence Mark, Walter Parkes

Scott Frank’s acceptance speech is warm and heartfelt even with his voice shaking from nervousness. After all, it took him 12 years to get this movie made. “At 47 years old, it’s great to win an award for a first time anything. And strange that the movies you truly care about take forever and take a torturous route to production, but the movies you don’t give a shit about have an easy road.”

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (The Weinstein Co)

thelookoutposter.jpgA very pregnant Cate gives heartfelt praise to director Todd Haynes and “the ultimate post-modern ensemble cast and one of the most beautiful spririts of all, Heath Ledger. This is for him.”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (given to the best feature made for under $500,000): August Evening, Writer/Director Chris Eska; Producers: Connie Hill, Jason Wehling.

Says Eska, “I’ve never considered myself a political filmmaker, but if people watch this film and come away with a different opinion of how they should treat immigrants in this country, that would make me very happy.” And after his thank-yous, he adds, “I’d like to thank my agent, but I don’t have one. But maybe that’ll change after this.”

BEST FOREIGN FILM: Once – Ireland (Fox Searchlight), Director John Carney

Geez, I was sure Israel’s A Band’s Visit would win, especially since it was disqualified for the Academy Awards (and shouldn’t have been). But Once was delightful. Carney was charming. He noted how his “little film was made for $100,000 in Dublin, and we didn’t have any money or food. I guess that’s independent filmmaking. So to be honored like this is amazing.” He noted “We’d be selling this movie out of the boot of our car if it weren’t for Fox Searchlight.”

BEST MALE LEAD: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages (Fox Searchlight)

imnotthereposter.jpgThe Hoff, scruffy starter beard and all, got quite Zen. He was “really surprised. The real honest truth is this is one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. But what happened is it’s hard to let the film go. I never had that trouble. I run from them. But not on this film. I have three siblings and I feel like I gained two sisters, Laura Linney, who’s sublime, and Tamara Jenkins. And I truly feel when I’m around them, I feel the same comfort I feel when I’m around my sisters.” Nice. He signed off by saying, I’m going to kick Rainn Wilson’s ass.” As if.

My gawd, what a day Fox Searchlight is having. Remember when these awards used to be Harvey Weinstein’s exclusively? Sure, Peter Rice will eventually take over Murdoch’s Pico Blvd kingdom. But for now he’s kicking ass. Of course, I’m not sure which is better: Fox Searchlight’s ability to pick movies or its relentless marketing department. Both are killer. And I don’t say this lightly because you know I sorta hate every exec in Hollywood.

What the hell is John Waters wearing?

Those “The Whitest Kids U’ Know” or whatever-their-name-is who have a new show on IFC thought they were being soooo cutting edge by calling everyone in indie films fat and self-satisfied. And by warning them that next year Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is going to rock their world. This is comedy?

BEST SCREENPLAY: Tamara Jenkins, The Savages (Fox Searchlight)

Jenkins was floored. “This really means a lot to me.” But I loved her agent story. “When I gave it to Bart Walker, I was filled with shame because it was 215 extremely long pages. And Bart went, ‘No, no, this is great. We can do a miniseries with HBO.’ ” How trenchant when Tamara noted about her script that “many people in this room wouldn’t finance it.”

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Dan Klores, Crazy Love

once_posterbig.jpgJeez, Dan Klores is one of the biggest PR flacks in NYC and even America, and he reps all the big magazines. I’m not dissing the film here, just its maker. Because including Klores in this category is kinda unfair. He lifts his pinkie and gets great press and attention. The other documentary makers can’t even get a word written about their pics. There should be a separate documentary category for rich and powerful white guys who decide they want to become auteur filmmakers when they have their midlife crisis.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHYJanusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (Miramax) 

This was the BEST speech of the day. Of course, Janusz won since he’s the best cinematographer working today. (OK, you can argue with me in the comments.) So there is Kaminski onstage complaining because the producers could only pay him $3,000 a week. (Kinda funny when you realize that Kathy Kennedy and Julian Schnabel are multi- multi-millionaires…) Gripes Janusz: “I’m getting all these offers to work for first time directors. I can’t do that. I can’t do that!”  

I appreciated the not-at-all-crass homage to Heath Ledger who chose to do so many wonderful indie pics and truly wanted to make that world home and kept resisting the pressure from all his businesspeople pushing him to go mainstream and be a Movie Star.

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD: Given to one film’s director, casting director and its ensemble cast: I’m Not There. Director Todd Haynes, Casting Director Laura Rosenthal, Ensemble Cast: Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger.

thedivingbellandthebutterfly_galleryposter.jpgThis award was previously announced. Lots-o-speechifying which were prepared well in advance, thus rendering them useless for my purposes here. Haynes on Heath: “We all loved him so dearly for giving of himself less like an actor than a creative partner.” Haynes notes that Ledger never got to direct the script he had just begun circulating.

The skits showing Rainn Wilson going on auditions for the Best Features are definitely worth viewing online (where they’ll inevitably end up when the show ends…) 

Rainn introduces Javier Bardem with unctuous praise and then admits, “I want to fuck him so hard.” And Javier replies, “We’ve got a deal.” Someone call TMZ.

BEST DIRECTOR: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (Miramax)

This is a favorite film of mine, so I’m OK with the rich painter guy getting it. Said Schnabel: “I thought it was definitely going to Jason Reitman because he got the biggest applause. This is yours, Jason. Come up here.” (Jason doesn’t…) “The nice thing about this is that everybody wins here. The idea that it’s an independent spirit is a good thing. Everybody that worked with me on any of the movies that I’ve made worked for free basically, and that is very encouraging to a director.” Schnabel went on: “There are so many people in this room that I admire that I don’t know. I”m a movie fan… This is a nice community of people who’ve been very very generous to me, and I appreciate that. Thank you.”

BEST FEMALE LEAD: Ellen Page, Juno (Fox Searchlight)

juno3.jpgHardly a surprise. Page said, “This is so so special. But this is pretty much all Diablo Cody’s fault because she made one of the best screenplays I’ve ever read. And Jason Reitman who I do absolutely adore and trusted me to play this girl.” She looked about to cry but held it together. Her thank you was short, sweet, not cloying.

Dustin Hoffman gave out the Best Feature award. “One thing I’d like to get off my chest is that I did fuck Javier Bardem — and Philip Seymour Hoffman is the product of our union…. I hope you understand I meant that metaphorically.” Dustin looked into the audience. “Seymour, where are you, son? Take a bow, son.” Then Hoffman sees some Stars of David illuminated off stage and comments, “The Jews don’t only run Hollywood, they run the Independent Spirit Awards. And I don’t mean that metaphorically.”

BEST FEATURE: Juno (Fox Searchlight)

Two years in a row for Fox Searchlight. Just change the name of the award. The filmmakers called it “a love fest all the way through. It started with the script.” Besides Diablo, Jason Reitman properly praised to the hilt as well as “acting giant” Ellen Page.

Show ends with Rainn Wilson and Philip Seymour Hoffman wrestling on the ground.