Art and Experience:

“The Lost Daughter,” a psychological drama that marked the directing debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal, was named the best feature at the 37th Film Independent Spirit Awards on Sunday. It was one of a leading three prizes that the movie about a middle-aged professor forced to grapple with her life choices earned at the ocean-side ceremony.

“Red Rocket’s” Simon Rex and “Zola’s” Taylour Paige earned best lead actor and actress prizes for portraying a faded porn star and a part-time stripper, respectively, a sign of the edgy projects that the Spirits were designed to highlight. The awards aired on IFC and were handed out in a tent next to the Santa Monica Pier during a boozy ceremony that stretched on for two hours and change.

 

 

The Spirits mostly spread the wealth. “Passing” and “Zola” won two prizes apiece, but no other films made repeat visits to the podium to accept statues. “Reservation Dogs,” a comedy about four Indigenous teenagers growing up in Oklahoma, was the most honored television show, with two awards, including a prize for best new scripted series.

 

 

The awards, looser, lubricated with champagne and more profane than the Oscars or other prestigious movie honors, returned live and in-person for the first time in two years. Designed to celebrate the best of indie moviemaking (with a few select honors going to television shows), they were handed out at a time when arthouse cinema is being challenged and reconfigured. The theatrical business has yet to recapture its pre-pandemic popularity, with smaller movies aimed at adults, the ones the Spirits recognize, still facing an uphill battle when it comes to attracting crowds.

Hosts Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman alluded to the anemic box office results that many arthouse movies have suffered since COVID disrupted the business. After Offerman declared that movies are back at the start of the show, Mullally told the crowd that there was no need to clap. “They’re not going to see your movies,” she said.

“They’re going to see the eighth Spider-Man for the sixth time,” Offerman joked.

At the same time, streaming services have become a home for many of the movies that were once given robust theatrical distribution, such as “The Lost Daughter” or “Passing,” both of which debuted on Netflix.

The film and television business has also been under pressure to offer more opportunities to underrepresented creators and people of color. That push to diversify was amplified at several points during the show. “Reservation Dogs” creator Sterlin Harjo, a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, said he was inspired to make the comedy because “no one knew we were funny.” Gyllenhaal, during the first of several visits to the stage, said she had been the beneficiary of the push to “make space for different perspectives and voices” and noted that it was rare to see a film like hers that was told from a female perspective.

“As soon as I was born, I learned to speak the language of the men who were running the world around me,” she said, before noting that it might be time for others to embrace a polygot spirit. “There can be a real pleasure in learning a language that’s not your native one.”

 

 

The vibe of the show was festive, even if the beach setting was frigid — “I think we’re all going to walk out of here with hypothermia,” quipped “Pig’s” Vanessa Block, winner of best first screenplay. But there were still vestigial reminders of the global pandemic that has upended cultural life. Guests had to provide proof of vaccination and negative COVID test results and attendees ate boxed lunches for safety reasons.

The Spirit Awards have traditionally been held the Saturday before the Oscars ceremony. However, Film Independent, the organization behind the honors, announced that it would move the ceremony up by three weeks this year as a way of boosting its impact on the Oscars race. It’s unclear if that move will reshape the Oscar race, as there’s little overlap between nominees. Best international film winner “Drive My Car” earned a best picture Oscar nomination and “CODA’s” Troy Kotsur picked up a best supporting actor honor at the Indie Spirit, the same prize he is the frontrunner to receive at the Academy Awards. However, films like “The Power of the Dog,” “Belfast” and “Licorice Pizza” that earned multiple Oscar nominations were unable to compete for Spirits as their budgets topped the cap of $22.5 million. But the Oscars controversial decision not to air certain below-the-line prizes, such as those for editing and score, did get a few passing mentions. The Spirits take a similar approach, which seemed to surprise some recipients.

“I didn’t know this was coming during commercial break, but I get it,” said Joi McMillon, the winner of a best editing prize for “Zola.”

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine drew several mentions, with winners such as “Passing” star Ruth Negga and presenters Kristen Stewart and Javier Bardem offering thoughts and prayers to the Ukrainian people impacted by the humanitarian crisis. Mullally and Offerman had an even more incisive message.

Mullally noted that they were hoping for “a quick and peaceful resolution” before adding, “specifically, fuck off and go home Putin.” With that the two hosts offered the Russian president one-fingered salutes.

See all the winners below.

Best Feature

“The Lost Daughter”

“A Chiara”
“C’mon C’mon”
“The Novice”
“Zola”

Best Male Lead

Simon Rex, “Red Rocket”

Clifton Collins Jr., “Jockey”
Frankie Faison, “Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain”
Michael Greyeyes, “Wild Indian”
Udo Kier, “Swan Song”

Best International Film

“Drive My Car”

“Compartment No. 6”
“Parallel Mothers”
“Pebbles”
“Petite Maman”
“Prayers for the Stolen”

Best Female Lead

Taylour Paige, “Zola”

Isabelle Fuhrman, “The Novice”
Brittany S. Hall, “Test Pattern”
Patti Harrison, “Together Together”
Kali Reis, “Catch the Fair One”

Best Director

Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter”

Janicza Bravo, “Zola”
Lauren Hadaway, “The Novice”
Mike Mills, “C’mon C’mon”
Ninja Thyberg, “Pleasure”

Best Cinematography

Passing (Eduard Grau)

“A Chiara” (Tim Curtin)
“Blue Bayou” (Matthew Chuang and Ante Cheng)
“The Humans” (Lol Crawley)
“Zola” (Ari Wegner)

Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series

Reservation Dogs — Paulina Alexis, Funny Bone, Lane Factor, Devery Jacobs, Zahn McClarnon, Lil Mike, Sarah Podemski and D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai

Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series

Thuso Mbedu, “The Underground Railroad”

Anjana Vasan, “We Are Lady Parts”
Jana Schmieding, “Rutherford Falls”
Jasmine Cephas Jones, “Blindspotting”
Deborah Ayorinde, “THEM: Covenant”

Best Male Performance in a New Scripted Series

Lee Jung-jae, “Squid Game”

Olly Alexander, “It’s a Sin”
Michael Greyeyes, “Rutherford Falls”
Murray Bartlett, “The White Lotus”
Ashley Thomas, “THEM: Covenant”

Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series

“Black and Missing”

“The Choe Show”
“The Lady and The Dale”
“Nuclear Family”
“Philly D.A.”

Best New Scripted Series

“Reservation Dogs”

“Blindspotting”
“It’s a Sin”
“The Underground Railroad”
“We Are Lady Parts”

Best Supporting Female

Ruth Negga, “Passing”

Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
Amy Forsyth, “The Novice”
Revika Reustle, “Pleasure”
Suzanna Son, “Red Rocket”

Best Screenplay

Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter”

Nikole Beckwith, “Together Together”
Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris, “Zola”
Mike Mills, “C’mon C’mon”
Todd Stephens, “Swan Song”

Best Editing

“Zola” (Joi McMillon)

“A Chiara” (Affonso Gonçalves)
“The Nowhere Inn” (Ali Greer)
“The Novice” (Nathan Nugent and Lauren Hadaway)
“The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain” (Enrico Natale)

Best First Feature

“7 Days”

“Holler”
“Queen of Glory”
“Test Pattern”
“Wild Indian”

Best First Screenplay

Michael Sarnoski; Story by Vanessa Block, Michael Sarnoski, “Pig”

 

 

Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr., “Wild Indian ”
Matt Fifer; Story by Sheldon D. Brown, “Cicada”
Shatara Michelle Ford, “Test Pattern ”
Fran Kranz, “Mass”

Best Documentary

“Summer of Soul”

“Ascension”
“Flee”
“In The Same Breath”
“Procession”

John Cassavetes Award (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000)

“Shiva Baby”

“Cryptozoo”
“Jockey”
“Sweet Thing”
“This is Not a War Story”

Best Supporting Male

Troy Kotsur, “CODA”

Colman Domingo, “Zola”
Meeko Gattuso, “Queen of Glory”
Will Patton, “Sweet Thing”
Chaske Spencer, “Wild Indian”

Producers Award

Lizzie Shapiro

Brad Becker-Parton
Pin-Chun Liu

Someone to Watch Award

Alex Camilleri, “Luzzu”

Michael Sarnoski, “Pig”
Gillian Wallace Horvat, “I Blame Society”

“The Truer Than Fiction Award”

Jessica Beshir, “Faya Dayi”

Angelo Madsen Minax, “North By Current”
Jessica Beshir, “Faya Dayi”
Debbie Lum, “Try Harder!”

Source: Variety