Pregnancy and profanity were the big themes this year at Hollywood's pre-Oscar apertif, the Independent Spirit Awards. An undeniably expecting Angelina Jolie attended with Brad Pitt, as did an even more teeming with child Cate Blanchett, while pregnant-teen comedy Juno took home best feature film, best actress for star Ellen Page and best first screenplay for Diablo Cody.
"Greetings indie weirdos," host Rainn Wilson said to open the show. "Here come the first motherf-----s to present the first motherf-----g award." At the chronically casual Spirit Awards, celebs wear jeans, snack on popcorn on the blue (yes, blue) carpet, duck into porta-potties parked on the sand, and usually wrap up all their low-budget revelry by dark. But this year, as a party-starved Hollywood convened under a leaky tent on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., the annual frolic over independent film seemed especially, well, spirited. With quirky low-budget movies like Juno and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly well represented in the Oscar nominations, the Spirit Awards didn't need to fulfill its usual role of lauding under-acknowledged indies. Instead it became a place to let your hair down after three months of writers' strikeimposed solemnity.
Anyone worried that onetime stripper and blogger Cody is losing her edge with all this positive attention can relax. Cody gripped her trophy during her acceptance speech and thanked Page for "introducing me to this motherf----r." Page returned the love in her speech, if a bit more demurely, saying that Cody " created a teenage female lead I feel like we've never seen before." While most Spirit Award winners are usually little known, Juno is a commercial hit, approaching $130 million at the domestic box office. Wilson, who plays a convenience store clerk in the film, noted that Juno had managed to avoid the obscure fate of "every single other movie we're honoring today."
X-rated language aside, there was a lot more banter you won't be hearing at the Academy Awards. Apparently, Hollywood has a big man-crush on the night's honorary chair, Javier Bardem. Wilson, Diving Bell director Julian Schnabel and Dustin Hoffman all copped to it. Hoffman even claimed to have created a love child with Bardem Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sharing a bed, the good-natured Spanish actor from No Country For Old Men remarked, would be a good way to work on his English.
As they usually do, the Spirits offered more diversity than the Oscars, which has only one black acting nominee this year (Ruby Dee, for American Gangster). The Spirit Awards' Best Supporting Male category had three African Americans (Chiwetel Ejiofor, for Talk To Me; Marcus Carl Franklin, for I'm Not There; and Kene Holliday, for Great World of Sound), one Indian (Irfan Khan, for The Namesake) and one under-appreciated Caucasian comic in a dramatic role (Steve Zahn, in Rescue Dawn). Eljiofor won.
Other winners included The Savages, Tamara Jenkins' sibling drama, with Philip Seymour Hoffman taking best actor and Jenkins best screenplay. "A lot of people in this room didn't want to finance this movie," Jenkins noted, enjoying a bit of schadenfreude. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly also got kudos, with Schnabel taking the director award and his cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, also winning. Kaminski, accustomed to tonier parties as Steven Spielberg's cinematographer, sought to wave off the low-budget crowd. "All of the offers I'm getting to work for $3,000 a week," Kaminski said. "I can't do that."
The only breaks in the day's jollity were the wins for Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, which co-starred the recently deceased Heath Ledger. Blanchett, who took home best supporting actress honors, remembered Ledger as one of the most "beautiful independent spirits of all."