Best actor Mickey Rourke and Best Picture The Wrestler were the big winners today at Film Independent’s Spirit Awards along with Best Actress Melissa Leo for Frozen River, Best Supporting Actor James Franco for Milk, and Best Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona which also won Best Screenplay for its director Woody Allen. As usual this awards season, Mickey delighted the crowd with expletive-laden humility accepting his award, not just dedicating it to his Chihuahua who died six days earlier, but also to the Santa Monica police department for “giving me a bed to sleep in 10 years ago” when Rourke was at the worst of his self-destructive period personally and professionally. “I feel like we should just stop the show after Mickey because, who could follow that, really?” said Tom McCarthy when he went onstage to accept his Best Director honor for The Visitor right after.

The show by the Santa Monica beach spotlighted its usual irreverence and Hollywood’s hottest talent. But it also suffered this year. Too many of the nominations among movies that cost less than $20 million came from the specialty film divisions of the major studios (so it’s not really a level indie playing field). Too many are also up for Oscars honors, making the two ceremonies indistinguishable (except that Spirit winners make refreshingly honest acceptance speeches). And the Spirit Awards have become such a whorefest of corporate sponsorship that it’s losing its street cred. Not to mention host Steve Coogan’s stand-up bombed. OK, some of you disagree with me on the latter. Though not about the laugh riot that was Teri Hatcher, whose singing and dancing was just a train wreck. But the undisputed hit of the luncheon was the skit spoofing anger management candidate Christian Bale and bearded con artist Joaquin Phoenix. Steve Coogan and Frank Coraci should take it on the road…

Best Feature, The Wrestler
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin

Best Director, Tom McCarthy The Visitor (Overture Films)

Best Screenplay, Woody Allen – Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)

Best First Feature, Synecdoche, New York (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Sidney Kimmel

Best First Screenplay , Dustin Black Lance – Milk (Focus Features)

John Cassavetes Award (For the Best Feature made for under $500,000)
In Search of a Midnight Kiss (IFC Films)
Writer/Director: Alex Holdridge
Producers: Seth Caplan, Scoot McNairy

Best Supporting Female:  Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)

Best Supporting Male, James Franco – Milk (Focus Features)

Best Female Lead, Melissa Leo – Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Male Lead, Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Cinematography, Maryse Alberti – The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Foreign Film, The Class (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Laurent Cantet

Best Documentary, Man On Wire (Magnolia Pictures)
James Marsh

Robert Altman Award
Synecdoche, New York (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Casting director: Jeanne McCarthy
Ensemble cast members: Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, and Michelle Williams.

Piaget Producers Award which honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality independent films
Heather Rae, producer of Frozen River and Ibid

Acura Someone To Watch Award for a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition
Lynn Shelton, director of My Effortless Brilliance

LaCoste Truer Than Fiction Award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant attention
Margaret Brown, director of The Order of Myths

2009 FILM INDEPENDENT’S SPIRIT AWARD WINNERS BY DISTRIBUTOR
FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES 4
SONY PICTURES CLASSICS 3
THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY 2
FOCUS FEATURES 1
IFC FILMS 1
MAGNOLIA PICTURES 1
OVERTURE FILMS 1