Live Report from the 25th Film Independent Spirit Awards

Once again, it’s time for the yearly pre-Oscars award ceremony honoring the best in independent film – the 25th Film Independent Spirit Awards. This year, instead of the Santa Monica Beach, it’s going on in primetime on IFC from downtown Los Angeles in the L.A. Convention Center, and I’m here in the press room waiting for tonight’s show to start. It will be hosted by the incomparable Eddie Izzard, who is currently shouting at the celebrities to find their seats. “The uncensored and unpredictable award show alternative,” the announcer says, opening the show. I’ll be continually updating this post throughout the night as things go down.

Here are all the Independent Spirit Award nominations.

Wow. Izzard opens with profanity and “I’d like to start by saying there is no God.” This is indeed uncensored. Claiming the Declaration of Independence was about indie films and the first film ever was a Ben Franklin porno. Izzard is the man when it comes to weirdo historical comedy riffs, but he’s not a guy who gets raucous laughter – it’s usually more thoughtful.

Colin Farrell and Rosario Dawson present the first award for Best Supporting Male, offering the suggestion of potential nudity later in the show – we’ll see if anyone gets randy later on. Nominees are Jermaine Clement (Gentlemen Broncos), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles), Raymond McKinnon (That Evening Sun) and Christopher Plummer (The Last Station). Academy Award nominee Harrelson takes the prize, and gives the standard line of “it never felt right to make artists compete, but it feels a little more right now.” He thanks his co-star Ben Foster, his wife and kids and he praises John Cassavetes as one of the fathers of independent film – and one of the awards tonight is named for him.

Emile Hirsch and Regina King present Best First Feature. Nominees are A Single Man, Crazy Heart, Easier With Practice, Paranormal Activity and The Messenger. No surprise, Crazy Heart takes it, and Robert Duvall gives all credit to director Scott Cooper.

Ho boy, Ken Jeong. Joking about being 80 and still having to quote The Hangover to fans. Starting off with MySpace users selecting favorite speeches from previous award shows which will be shown throughout the night, beginning with Paul Giamatti riffing on the “Best Male” award.

Jason Bateman and Vera Farmiga presenting Best First Screenplay. Nominees are Cold Souls, Crazy Heart, Amreeka, Precious and A Single Man. The winner is Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious, and he gives an emotional speech about his late father who taught him about photography, desperately hoping he’s thanked everybody he needed to thank.

Duvall is back on stage to present “Falling and Flying” from Crazy Heart, as performed by Jeff Bridges himself. The guy needs to go on tour. The Dude abides.

Pierce Brosnan and Marisa Tomei are on to present Best Supporting Female: Nominees are Dina Korzun (Cold Souls), Mo’Nique (Precious), Samantha Morton (The Messenger), Nathalie Press (Fifty Dead Men Walking), Mia Wasikowska (That Evening Sun). Once again, no surprise that Oscar favorite Mo’Nique takes it home. She calls Gabourey Sidibe a “gift to the universe.”

The next classic Spirit moment is Felicity Huffman telling a story about an angry key grip saying the movie he’s struggling with better win some “f-ing awards.”

Izzard is talking about the five Best Feature nominees, and they tell us “Crazy Heart is next door and will be in the press room soon.” Is someone going to bring in a DVD? I’m not sure what that means.

Apparently it means Scott Cooper, director of Best First Feature for directing Crazy Heart, and producers and Mr. Duvall. Cooper says its reception was never expected, and that he’s very excited for Oscar Sunday, predicting “Mo’Nique, maybe? Maggie maybe? Jeff, I hope!” He’s secretive about his next project. His advice for other filmmakers is “don’t give up, and give your screenplay to Robert Duvall.” Duvall then jokes he can now get his dream job of directing a high school play.

Now Geoffrey Fletcher’s coming up for Best Screenplay (Precious). He says he’s not feeling any Oscar pressure because it hasn’t fully set in that he’s even been nominated. He can’t believe how different his life is now than it was a year ago. His goal with adapting a book written from the perspective of a semi-literate character was making it a cinematic, accessible experience. Falling in love with his character was difficult because of how much they had to put her through. Its visual style came from his love of old French and Italian films. He’s superstitious about Oscar predictions, but he says “just look to my right.” That’s where Mo’Nique is standing, ready to come up to the mic next. He’s honored to be associated with her performance and to even know her, and she went above and beyond his best hopes for the movie. Fletcher just hopes his mother has a good time on Sunday.

Now it’s Mo’Nique time, and she joins the crowd in a round of “woos!” What stands out for her this award season was the Directors Guild screening, and an “Asian brother” was there, saying he was Mary Jones to his brother and his sister, and he was crying. She also hasn’t prepared a speech for Sunday, because she thinks the universe would say “you got a lot of nerve!” The moment Lee Daniels said “cut,” Mary Jones was left on the floor, and she could have fun. She’s rooting for everybody, including the reporter who asked who she’s rooting for. She’s laughing again about Lisa Cortez having all of Mary Jones’ crazy clothes in her real life closet. Someone’s asking her about the Vanity Fair Young Hollywood cover full of skinny white actresses. She just turns it around and says “what do you think about it?” She wanted everyone to believe those characters are real, and not people acting, because they wanted people to walk away thinking ‘this is real, this is not Hollywood.’ The ending was beautiful, because even though Precious had so many horrible problems, she walked away with her head held high. It helped her not to judge anybody – just love through it and not judging. No prejudice without asking questions. Treat people how you want to be treated, and god bless us.

She’s got Oscar locked. You know it.

So, after all the press room action, I’ve lost track of the show. A Serious Man, winner of the Robert Altman Award, which is given to the director, the casting director and the whole ensemble cast. Michael Stuhlbarg thanks everybody, reading from a script to accept the award on behalf of the Coen Brothers, singing the praises of Altman and comparing the Coens to him.

Lynn Shelton is here, having won the John Cassavetes Award for directing, writing and producing Humpday. She jokes that she’s angry she didn’t win a cash award this year, but she says the cash from her prize last year helped finance the film she’s just won with tonight, then jokes that if she really needed to, she could melt the award down and sell it. She’s really rooting for Kathryn Bigelow to win the Oscar, because she thinks The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2009, not just because she’s a woman.

Kyle Patrick Alvarez, director of Easier With Practice, won the “Someone To Watch” award, as presented by John Waters. Alvarez claims to be hallucinating by being on stage with all the cool people here. Then the Producers Award goes to Karin Chien of The Exploding Girl.

The cast of A Serious Man is here in the press room while Roger Ebert is being applauded on the show. Richard Kind loves that his blocky blue trophy is a much blunter instrument than the winged award, so he’s thrilled to have it. The whole point of the movie was to create a world to draw you in without big-name actors. Kind says the Coens knew that the appeal of the movie was limited, like many independent movies are. They kept the budget down, they wrote a script with their vision, and because they have Hollywood power, they can make a movie like this when they want, and that’s why they’re independent. Obviously, they’re rooting for A Serious Man for Best Picture. Kind jokes that he kept his cyst from the movie. Sari Wagner thinks the 60s were a stinky time and she couldn’t wait to get rid of her polyester. Michael Stuhlbarg is going to be representing the movie at the Oscars while the rest of the gang will be at home watching, and he just wants to spread a lot of love.

Kyle Patrick Alvarez is back here, horribly embarrassed about his speech, in which he forgot to thank Brian Geraghty for his performance carrying Easier With Practice. The crew of the film is still handing all the theatrical release work by themselves, and he’s trying not to get cynical about the whole process. He’s hoping the award will bring attention to the DVD release in a month. Alvarez’s next project is from an author who is not dead and no one has ever made a movie from his work before, and it’s his dream project, but he couldn’t talk about it anymore because the deal isn’t done.

Bill Ross & Turner Ross, winners of the Truer Than Fiction award for 45365, a former Fancast Movie of the Week during its run on our own site, so you can read all about it there.

Ye gods, Anvil is loud. They’re playing across the way on the big stage and we can’t hear much of anything. Yikes.

Karin Chien of The Exploding Girl is here, and her next project is about two girls who fall in love with each other, and one of them turns into a werewolf as an expression of her love and sexuality. Should we expect butt-sniffing?

500 Days of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, winners of the Best Screenplay award, say their favorite response is “I loved the movie, it reminded me of the worst experience of my life.” The script came from Scott getting dumped and wanting to do something with everything he had to say about it other than an angry diary entry. Meeting with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marc Webb, they instantly started sharing relationship war story. They recommend getting your heart broken because good things come from it. Apparently, the girl that inspired it was also a Facebook friend, but he has been defriended by her, so he doesn’t know if she’s seen the movie, but he’s guessing she didn’t like it.

David Spade is presenting Best Foreign Film for some reason. He’s so not excited about anything. He jokes that the overseas title of 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag is “This F-ing Movie Sucks.” That’s amusing. An Education wins.

The Best Documentary Award winner is here in the press room, Sacha Gervasi for Anvil: The Story of Anvil. The whole band is here. ROCK. They hope the award will get them a better gig in Prague. Watching Anvil play to 55,000 people at Giants Stadium was the biggest moment, so this award was a surprise. He thinks they’ve won just by exposing Anvil to so many new people. He feels a sense of completion now. It worked. The best part is watching an audience say “oh my god, these guys can f-ing play!” When asked about a reality show, he says “well, we considered it, but then we thought ‘what a stupid idea.'” He’s not surprised at not getting an Oscar nomination – four minutes into the movie, one of the guys plays guitar with a ‘marital aid,’ so he’s sure they lost the Academy voters at that point. The independent spirit of the band matches perfectly with these awards.

Lone Scherfig, director of An Education is here, and she’s determined to have a good time at the Oscars, and has high expectations for The Hurt Locker. She’s totally chuffed that her little film could even get this far. She finds Carey Mulligan shouldn’t be compared to other actresses, because no one can bring what she brings. She handles her talent very well. It’s so abstract to try and talk about who is the “best actress.” She can’t compare her to Meryl Streep, wondering what Streep was like when she was Mulligan’s age. She says Carey enjoys things more and more, because while all the attention has taking place, she’s shot four or five films since An Education. She gets a good balance between work and crazy award attention.

Downtime, and we get to watch Jeff Bridges preview his Oscar speech, thanking Bob Duvall, T-Bone Burnett and the late musician Stephen Bruton, to whom the film is dedicated. He’s blanking on his thank-you list, but he jokingly scolds people for thinking he’ll forget his wife. And he claims the award “is really going to tie the room together, baby.” Hot damn, The Dude abides!

Jeremy Renner and Jodie Foster present the Best Director award to Lee Daniels for Precious. He opens with “Kathryn Bigelow’s not here tonight. I am!” He was a juror last year at these awards, and during every bathroom break, he was editing Precious. Going down the list, he doesn’t say anything to Mo’Nique, but just cries with her for a moment. He says he loves Mariah Carey, then jokes that he loves Lenny Kravitz, too, but then adds “but it ain’t like that.”

Ben Stiller is now out to present Best Picture, cracking wise about his big-budget nature and having no reason to be here, but hey, here comes Jeff Bridges to the press room! No more listening to Ben!

He starts off with all the people he forgot to than and didn’t have time to thank. He’s not counting any chickens as far as Oscar nominations, but it’s always nice to get the nod from your peers. He’s asked about Tron: Legacy, and he says there’s not always much difference between big-budget films and indie films, and he says some of the big movies feel like a student film – a lot of improvisation, the scripts aren’t always finished. The passion of the filmmaker is what’s important. He touts the success of the wonderful film Once as a case in point about passion. He loves his cowboy boots, which were made for him for Wild Bill.

And we’re back to the show, and Precious has won Best Picture, as most people expected, and now we get another encore from Anvil. Metal on Metal, baby. Rock the hell out. I’m still loitering to see if Lee Daniels and the Precious crew will come swinging back into the press room or not.

We’ve got Gary Magness and Sarah Siegel-Magness, producers for Precious, who joked on stage by thanking Lee Daniels for letting a couple of white people into his story. She’s doing the diplomatic thing and not naming who she’s rooting for at the Oscars. They’re next film is a children’s movie based on the Judy Moody books, and maybe Gabby and Mo’Nique could play parts in it as well. They got through all the hard parts of filming Precious by knowing the story needed to be told.

Now we’ve got Gabbie Sidibe, Lee Daniels and Geoffrey Fletcher, along with Mariah Carey, who is wearing an incredibly cleavagey dress as usual. Daniels has won already, and he’s over the moon for the Oscars. He thought Sin Nombre was going to win this award, and he’d love to win the Oscar, but they’ve already won just by being acknowledged. All the directors deserve to win. Gabby jokes that she usually is pissed off that there isn’t a new Simpsons episode during the Oscars, but this year she’ll be paying attention. Next for her is “world domination!” Lee says “Spoken like Mariah!” and Gabby responds that Mariah gives her all her bad ideas. She says she hugged Mo’Nique after every harsh scene between them, because they’re both so loving and different from their characters. Mariah says Lee took pride in humiliating her, jokingly. Dressing down and looking harsh was horrible for her, as she says she has a hard time being in specific lights because she’s trained from music videos to know how she needs to be lit to look her best. Her friend Brett Ratner apparently said Lee put her through “Mariah Carey hell.” But it was all for the best.

Gabbie has the highest-pitched giggle you’ve ever heard.

So, after all this, Precious wound up winning Best Feature, Best Director, Best Female Lead, Best Suppoting Female and Best First Screenplay. Well done. Crazy Heart took Best Male Lead and Best First Feature, 500 Days of Summer took Best Screenplay, Anvil: The Story of Anvil grabbed Best Documentary, An Education took Best Foreign Film, The Messenger won Best Supporting Male, A Serious Man won Best Cinematography and Humpday won the Cassavetes Award. There’s your Independent Spirit Awards for 2010. Thank you, good night, and don’t forget to tip your wait staff.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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