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Oscars Shmoskers - The Independent Spirit Awards Is Where Its At
by Thom Fowler

Every year, just before the Academy Awards, the most important American cinema awards ceremony takes place. Bigger than the New York Film Circle Awards, The Golden Globes, The Screen Actors Guild Awards or even the Online Film Critics Awards, The Independent Spirit Awards honors the best of the truly independent.

The Independent Spirit Awards started out in humble beginnings nine years ago in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica where it is still held today. The vibe is something like the MTV Film Awards, but respectable. This is an important awards ceremony for the most creative, status-quo shattering people in American cinema (with a nod to one lone foreigner).

This years ceremony was again hosted by John Waters.

Todd Hayne's FAR FROM HEAVEN garnered a whopping FIVE awards and Michael Moore can add an Independent Spirit Award to his Oscar, his Golden Globe and his Online Film Critics Award for Best Documentary, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE.

Without any fanfare whatsoever, here are the winners.

Best Feature
Far From Heaven
Producers: Jody Patton and Christine Vachon
Focus Features

Best Director
Todd Haynes
Far From Heaven
Focus Features
[First-time filmmakers are not eligible for this category]

Best Screenplay
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Mike White
The Good Girl

Best First Feature
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Director: Peter Care

Best First Screenplay
Erin Cressida Wilson
Lions Gate Films

John Cassavetes Award for the Best Feature made for Under $500,000
Personal Velocity
Writer/Director: Rebecca Miller
Producers: Lemore Syvan, Alexis Alexanian, and Gary Winick
United Artists

Best Debut Performance for Actors making their first appearance in a feature film
Nia Vardalos
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
IFC Films

Best Supporting Female
Emily Mortimer
Lovely & Amazing
Lions Gate Films

Best Supporting Male
Dennis Quaid
Far From Heaven
Focus Features

Best Female Lead
Julianne Moore
Far From Heaven
Focus Features

Best Male Lead
Derek Luke
Antwone Fisher
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Best Cinematographer
Edward Lachman
Far From Heaven
Focus Features

Best Foreign Film
Y Tu Mamá También
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
IFC Films

Best Documentary
Bowling for Columbine
Director: Michael Moore
United Artists

The ceremony attracts an impressive array of Hollywoods lights (in spite of the focus on "independent film"). Brad Pitt came to the ceremony to cheer on his wife, Jennifer Aniston, one of the leads in THE GOOD GIRL. And Daniel Day-Lewis was in attendance to cheer on HIS wife, Rebecca Miller, director of PERSONAL VELOCITY.

Christina Ricci, Jennifer Tilly, Halle Berry, William H. Macy and the Gyllenhals were among the presenters.

The Independent Spirit Awards are presented by the Independent Film Project Los Angeles (IFP/LA). The non-profit organization supports independent film making through educational opportunities for members, equipment rentals and professional mentoring and by promoting independent film to build audiences through the IFP Los Angeles Film Festival and through the nationally televised Independent Spirit Awards.

This year Roger Ebert took some time out of his hectic Oscar schedule to focus on the Independent Spirit Awards. He charmingly described 'independent' as, "In Hollywood, you have Boy Meets Girl. In independent film, you have Girl Destroy's Man's Life. In Hollywood, you have Good Cop versus Bad Cop. In independent film you have Conflicted Cop versus Conflicted Cop."

Ah yes, grey areas. We love grey areas. And you will learn to love grey areas too. May the quality independents continue to find their way into Landmark Theatres, or some comparable indie/art film house near you.

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originally posted: 03/24/03 18:05:17
last updated: 01/04/04 12:08:57
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