'Black Swan' Wins Film Indie's Spirit Award: Also Darren Aronofsky, James Franco, Natalie Portman, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey

SANTA MONICA UPDATED: The always loose Film Independent Spirit Award winners were presented this afternoon by the non-profit arts organization that produces the Los Angeles Film Festival. Comedian Joel McHale served as host of the 26th annual event and was very funny. He did a taped bit fretting about hosting in his dressing room with appearances first by John Waters and then Banksy (in a hoodie) who was then revealed to be Alex Trebek. Then during his monologue which was, frankly, as filthy as it was truthful), he said to a huge laugh, “2010 in independent cinema will go down in cinematic history as The Year Of Cunnilingus. Blue Valentine, Greenberg, Black Swan, Kids Are All Right — what do they have in common? They are all about eating lunch down at the ‘Y’. Blow jobs are the domain of major studio films.” He also made fun of the filmmakers and their films, like congratulating Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours director Danny Boyle for “going from making the most harrowing infomercial ever for India tourism to the most harrowing Mountain Dew commercial ever.” Like predicting that Jesse Eisenberg would be “Murdered by Michael Cera”. And referring to Best Feature presenters Don Cheadle and Uma Thurman as “the Fart Police” (whatever that means).

Best Feature included many Academy Award nominees like 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter’s Bone. Announced ahead of time was that Please Give was selected for the Robert Altman Award, which is given to one film’s director, casting director, and ensemble cast. The Spirit Awards returned to the beach for this year’s ceremony after last year’s flop of a show in Downtown Los Angeles. The awards air exclusively tonight on IFC at 10:00 PM ET/PT. But that also meant a plethora of patience-testing commercial breaks during the live show. (Coverage by Deadline awards columnist Pete Hammond and freelancer Diane Haithman):

2011 Film Independent Spirit Award Winners

Best Feature: Black Swan, Producers: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Brian Oliver

Analyzes Deadline’s Pete Hammond: “Interesting choice. I thought it might be a Winter’s Bone crowd. But the prospect of an indie movie making as much as it had was probably irresistable to the indie
community. The 4 other noms didn’t come close to making collectively what Black Swan did.”

Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan

Dissed Aronofsky in his acceptance speech: “Producer Brian Oliver and his company made a really terrible deal to get this movie made. People said they would never make money on it and now they are fucking rich.” Backstage, he was asked why theatergoers forked over so much moolah to see his film: “I’ve got no fuckin’ idea. But it’s really exciting. The word that keeps coming back to me is ‘fun’ — people are having fun seeing it.”

Best Female Lead: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Natalie made a funny in her acceptance speech: “We had the bond company on set for two months on a 2 1/2-month shoot. The ballerinas were wondering, ‘When am I gonna get paid?'”

Best Male Lead: James Franco, 127 Hours

This award was presented very early in the show, even before Best Supporting Male, perhaps because Franco has to get back to his Oscars hosting rehearsals. James said in his acceptance speech, “I just went through film school and just finished my thesis film, so this means a
lot. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”

Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone

Best Supporting Female: Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone

Best Screenplay: Kids Are All Right, Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko

Highlight of their acceptance speeches was when Stuart Blumberg said:
“There’s one thing we have wanted to do for years” — and then he and Lisa Cholodenko locked lips in a passionate embrace…

Best Foreign Film: The King’s Speech (United Kingdom): Director: Tom Hooper

This was the only Spirit Awards category that Oscar frontrunner was eligible. Said Tom Hooper in his acceptance speech:  “This was a true independent film.” Backstage, Hooper elaborated: “It will always be about thanking the people who helped you go on the journey. It was very tough to get it made. People were not lining up to finance The King’s Speech.” He said he hasn’t read the predictions that film will sweep the Academy Awards on Sunday. And he only knows if The Royal Family have seen it because of news reports. but he was well versed on the film’s recent MPAA news. “I understand  the MPAA said that, if we drop the audio of the ‘fucks’ out, they were willing to release it as PG-13. I’ll see that version on Monday and I can comment better then. I’m really very unhappy that kids have been discouraged from seeing it.”

Best Documentary: Exit Through Gift Shop, Director: Banksy

No sign of Banksy although this wpuld be the place for him! But France’s Thierry Guetta accepted the award for the reclusive performance artist / graffiti painter who made the film. “I had a speech but forgot it at the hotel. I would like to give this to Banksy. If you have a dream, just do it. Where I come from even a plane could not take you there. But this is real. It’s all real… I love everyone.”

John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for under $500,000): Daddy Longlegs, Writer/Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Producers: Casey Neistat, Tom Scott

The director slipped and fell flat on his back onstage. But that didn’t stop him from going on and on for his acceptance speech…

Best First Feature: Get Low, Director: Aaron Schneider, Producers: David Gundlach, Dean Zanuck

Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, Black Swan

Libatique said he’s “a happy man” and said about his Spirit, “This is my Academy Award.” He went on to explain that the digital vs film argument over Black Swan “is blown out of proportion. The one thing is that, with digital, a lot of people who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to make films are making films.” About the experience of making the film, “I  didn’t get enough hugs and kisses [from Natalie Portman]. It’s work. I have fun after the fact. It’s heavy lifting otherwise. We just worked hard, put our heads together, and tried to make a good film.”

Best First Screenplay: Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham

    1. Ronald Bronstein – Daddy Longlegs
      Aaron Eckhart – Rabbit Hole
      John C. Reilly – Cyrus
      Ben Stiller – Greenberg

    2. Ronald Bronstein for Go Get Some Rosemary (2009)

      Aaron Eckhart for Rabbit Hole (2010)

      John C. Reilly for Cyrus (2010/I)

      Ben Stiller for Greenberg (2010)

      I was wondering how Franco won this one. Firth wasn’t nominated.

    3. The other Best Male Leads to answer the question were Ronald Bronstein, Aaron Eckhart, John C. Reilly and Ben Stiller and the winner was James Franco.

  1. “Tiny Furniture” for screenplay? Yikes. To me, the film felt like it was improvised by a bunch of bored, meta art school dropouts.

  2. Not Another Studio Film!

    Black Swan was produced and distributed by Fox. When are the Spirit Awards going to stop pandering to the studios? Lower budget doesn’t mean independent. “Fox” Searchlight doesn’t mean independent. Black Swan is Rurpert’s film.

    A true independent film is produced and financed outside of the studios. That’s what makes it “independent” of the studios. The problem for Film Independent: True independents can’t afford tables at the Spirit Awards so… better include the studios.

    1. Black Swan was most definitely NOT produced by Fox. The Filmmakers and Roeg Sutherland busted their asses to get the money for this movie until the 11th hour and Searchlight distributed.

    2. Yes, I totally agree. And this little exec schmooze club of Dawn Hudson’s has been perpetrating this scam for years. The same nonsense happened over another non-indie too, SIDEWAYS–another Fox financed and released film. And the same problem surrounded the wonderful GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK–produced by, ahem, the late “Warner Independent” (the most oxymoronic moniker Hollywood ever conjured up).

      IMHO, FIND/FilmIndependent/IFPwest really does little to help true indie filmmakers. Only rarely have their seminars contained genuinely helpful information–the most notorious being the “Producers Series” of yore, where I heard outright mis-information given to hopefuls.

      Maybe Project Involve, if your skin isn’t lily white, might provide some genuine assistance. But if you’re a true Indie trying to make “commercial” movies, forget it–that is, unless you’re doing a documentary on the sex life of gay female paraplegic Eskimos in iron lungs.

      The dues-paying members of FIND should be allowed to vote on the organization’s officers. Otherwise, it will forever remain a social club for a handful of art film elite and the (fewer & fewer) distribution execs who cater to them.

      Too bad it didn’t rain on the beach today.

    This ISNT her first screenplay. IT WAS BASICALLY A DOCUMENTARY. And oh, IT WASN’T GOOD.

  4. I am SO HAPPY for Dale Dickey!!! She has gone way too unrecognized in the role of a lifetime for her. She stole every moment she was on-screen with her performance. YAY! (No, I’m not related to her. I just thought she was fantastic.)

  5. Add my cheers for Dale Dickey and John Hawkes and to the winners from Blasck Swan..not thrilled by the other winners…and strongly agree with the poster that BS is not an indie film but another product of the big corporation of Rupert Murdoch…no one will take Film Independent’s awards seriously until they re-write the award qualifications to keep out the big corporate films…Corporate products are not indie art!

  6. You have career best performances by Michelle Williams, Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, and a career making one by Jennifer Lawrence and these moron voters give every single award to Portman. Just group think. Just get rid of these awards if the voters are gonna be such zombies. Why is it necassary to have so many awards? We already know whose gonna win tomorrow. Save the money and mail them the awards.

    1. Career-best for Portman too, though I’d have been equally happy if any of the others–particularly Williams–had won. I thought Lawrence would get this one.

    2. and Annette Bening, Wife of Mr. Hollywood Warren Beatty, and Nicole Kidman- with her huge endorsement deals and former Mrs. Tom Cruise status, are independent?

      Give me a break. Dont hate on Natalie Portman, she’s smart, very talented, gave an incredible performance and is a dignified, well bred human being off stage. She deserves this award.

      1. Portman deserves it and Oscar and especially more than that shrill-voiced overactress Bening. I`m just concerend that Indie Spirit Award may be a kiss of death cause many winning actors didn`t repeat the feat at the Oscars (Murray – Penn won, Rourke – Penn won,etc).

  7. Joel McHale joke about Black Swan: “that movie where the girl from “That 70s Show” eats out Luke Skywalker’s mom” hahaha!

      1. Ah, no. Anakin slept with Padme/Queen Amidala and had Luke and Leia. That makes Portman Luke’s mom …

        Funny joke.

        Portman’s banged two 70’s Show people now, with Kutcher in No Strings attached.

        She just needs to hit it and get it with Donna and Eric now, possibly in a 3-way.

  8. Still don’t understand why they needed the endless commercial breaks during the show since it wasn’t telecast live — it was a disaster with everyone walking around and talking… it never quieted down even when people were speaking onstage. Couldn’t they just run the show live and then insert commercials in time for the 10 pm telecast?

  9. 1/2 way thru this show, worst awards show ever. this is a mess and a huge bore. I’ve always loved it in the past but something is definitely wrong besides the venue being cold. It’s awful…..

  10. I stopped watching after 20 minutes, came back later for about another ten, but it was too painful to watch.

    First and foremost, TOO MANY COMMERCIALS! Holy crap, what was the deal with that? At first, i couldn’t understand the decision not to air the program live, but when you delay it like they did, you can drop in all sorts of commercials (even though they had that black guy on stage at the piano singing about all the sponsors so that they wouldn’t have commercials). It seems telling/ironic/sad that the people who pride themselves are being “independent” have to bend over when it comes to taking in the advertisement money.

    Secondly, yes, McHale was funny, to a point. You had the 5-minute opening bit with him and then easily another 7-8 for his inconsistent monologue. So, for the first time that I can recall, two awards (cinematography and first screenplay) were presented prior to the show. WTF? The whole purpose of this ceremony is to give out awards, but now FIND decides that lame comedy material takes precedence over actual awards. That’s really sad.

    Finally, can we be independent without being consistently crass? It seems like every year there is just this shock factor on stage as the presenters raise the bar lower and lower.

    Just a long way of saying that I’m done watching the ceremony. DHD gives me everything I need to know.

  11. Independent film in the US, a dubious distinction before, is now an illusion. Too many theaters have closed – there are not enough screens and the new media is not profitable yet.

  12. First time I did not watch the whole show. I’m disgusted with the IFC network since they started with showing commercials during the films. The show last night was awful couldn’t stomach more than 20 minutes. And what’s the deal with Portman winnning on a mainstream film? Jennifer Lawrence or Michelle Williams should have gotten this one. What a shame. I don’t give a hoot about her being a decent human being. So what! This is an acting award.

  13. What’s so independent about this year’s Spirit honorees? It seems to be the same list as the Academy Awards. Personally I think they’re just lower budget studio films masquerading as independent films. There seems to be a lack of true independent cinema in this country.

  14. It is probably important to point out that, while this event is typically very interesting and engaging, the stage was wet and the floor (under all of the electronics connected for those in attendance) was wet. Natalie Portman, pregnant, mentioned how dangerous the venue was, as did many others. The tent areas were without power at one point due to water issues, it was terribly unsafe, unfortunately.

  15. I volunteered for Spirit this year for the first time. Everyone busted their asses for weeks/months and it was terrible heartbreaking to see how poorly this show turned out. There was no soul to it whatsoever. To squeeze in the commercial breaks, they cut out the fun stuff. The venue seemed too huge for the intimate feel it usually has. The lighting and camera angles were very poor. It was freezing in that tent, everyone looked miserable. It’s a huge let down.

  16. Brian Oliver the smartest and most low key guy in Hollywood. Plus a ton of integrity, deserves everything he’s earned.

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