With the SAG Awards happening last week and the Oscars bringing an end to awards season later this month (sorry Grammys, you’re not part of awards season), it’s time to take a few hours and celebrate—as co-host Megan Mullally put it in the opening monologue with her husband Nick Offerman—“movies that begin with the A24 logo” at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. (The ceremony also celebrates TV shows that nobody has ever seen, as later noted by Offerman.)
The Independent Spirit Awards are like the Oscars but cool and low-key, and they’re even less mainstream than the show that had to introduce Twitter voting to seem like it wasn’t out of touch with modern movie fans. Then again, the buzz around CODA (which also cleaned up at the SAG Awards) is simply inescapable, and the first award of the night (or afternoon, rather) went to Troy Kotsur for Best Supporting Male.
The John Cassavetes Award, which goes to the best film made for under $500,000 (something you’d definitely never see at the Oscars), went to Shiva Baby, which the announcer pointed out was made for only around $200,000. Best Documentary went to Summer Of Soul, another buzzy film that probably has some good odds at the Academy Awards. Questlove got a little choked up onstage when he highlighted the work of all the other filmmakers in his category.
Offerman and Mullally continued having fun with comedy bits throughout the night (though Simon Rex didn’t seem to be totally on board with the running joke about his penis), but one elaborate Zola musical number had to be cut at the last minute, resulting in Nick Offerman confidently marching onstage in sparkly red shorts and fishnets. (There was no Zola musical number, that was the joke, but Offerman put on a good show anyway.)
It wasn’t much of a “comedy bit,” but they also took a moment to invite the crowd in attendance to give Vladimir Putin the middle finger, which they wouldn’t even be able to show on a mainstream ceremony. There was also a pre-taped sketch where Offerman and Mullally played white folk musicians who were mistakenly booked for the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was mostly funny for the fact that it would never make any sense to anyone in any other context. Such is the appeal of the Independent Spirit Awards.
Pig and 7 Days won the awards for Best First Screenplay and Best First Feature respectively. Daveed Diggs and his very cool/colorful suit presented Best Screenplay, which went to Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Lost Daughter. Gyllenhaal also later won Best Director, which was presented by Chloé Zhao (no mention of Eternals, not at this show, though the announcer did note that Gyllenhaal, “of course,” was in The Dark Knight).
Andrew Garfield gave the show’s prestigious Robert Altman Award, which covers particularly powerful performances from an ensemble cast, to Fran Kranz’s Mass. Things got a little heavy there, given the subject matter of Mass, but Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn came back to put things on track with a goofy bit that was based around Odenkirk not being able to tell the difference between TV and real life, and Seehorn not wanting to correct him because of his recent heart attack. It was cute. (They presented Best New Scripted Series to Reservation Dogs.)
The TV categories for the Independent Spirit Awards are still relatively new, so Fresh stars Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones took the stage to explain what makes a TV show “indie” enough for the Independent Spirit Awards, and the conclusion they came up with is basically... it just has to be new and interesting? Not super clear, but they did give the Best Male Performance In A New Scripted Series award to Lee Jung-Jae from Squid Game.
Really, if the Independent Spirit awards wanted to sell the value of “indie TV,” their presenters did a good job of it: After the “what makes TV indie?” riff that Stan and Edgar-Jones did, Hannah Einbinder and Sam Richardson had a great little comedy routine where she’d say some generic awards show stuff and then he would chime in with the exact same thing but worded slightly differently—much to her increasing frustration. (They gave Best Female Performance In A New Scripted Series to Thuso Mbedu from The Underground Railroad, a frustratingly rare bit of awards acknowledgement for the groundbreaking show.)
Continuing the TV fun, Taika Waititi presented Reservation Dogs with Best Ensemble Cast in an extremely high-energy monologue that hit on the absurdity of him giving himself an award (he’s a writer and co-creator of the show). He also pointed out the fact that, since the Independent Spirit Awards were being held in a tent, that means all of them were technically camping and should get over themselves. After saying his piece, though, he stepped aside and let the ensemble speak, giving them a chance to celebrate how much good Reservation Dogs is doing for representation.
Things started to get a little more serious when the movie categories came back, with an always-welcome Michelle Yeoh presenting Best Female Lead to Zola star Taylour Paige, but Paige—who immediately began crying when she won—reminding us that it’s not just the TV categories that are fun, it’s the whole casually positive atmosphere of the Spirit Awards.
Kristen Stewart, honorary chair of the awards, got the memo: Before presenting Best Male Lead, she noted that she’s made a ton of indie movies before but never got a chance to be at the Independent Spirit Awards (apparently, she concluded, you have to make “a really good one”). The award went to Simon Rex for Red Rocket, which (like Underground Railroad) hasn’t gotten nearly enough awards attention, and in his speech he said that the film really embodied the “independent spirit” because it was really “a glorified student film.”
In the end, it was Maggie Gyllenhaal’s night, with The Lost Daughter ultimately winning Best Feature. It’s up for a few Oscars, but the only one that lines up with its Independent Spirit wins is Best Adapted Screenplay, which means this can only translate to so much Oscar gold. But hey, who needs the Oscars when you’ve got that Film Independent Spirit?
You can see the full list of winners over at this link.