Sometimes a film, no matter how small the budget or unsettling the subject matter, is like a steam engine roaring down the tracks, and you'd best be getting out of its way.
It's been easy to forget that Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire was a wee little indie drama, considering all the big-time accolades it has earned, but the heart-wrenching film was cut down to size Friday, winning a leading five winged statues, including Best Feature, at the 25th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards.
"Look at all these precious motherf--kers!" Best Director winner Lee Daniels ("Kathryn Bigelow's not here tonight—I am!!") exclaimed as the cast—including Best Lead Actress winner Gabourey Sidibe and the unstoppable force that is Best Supporting Female Mo'Nique—filed onstage to share in the night's top honor.
And did we mention that this year's honorary Spirit Awards Chairman Ben Stiller brought three creatively named porn stars with him to perform a little improv as he anounced the winner?
Let's hear it for award shows that air on premium cable networks!
"It has wings, yay!" Sidibe, no longer a newcomer, said, kicking off one of her signature giddy acceptance speeches. "I'm kind of a dork," she warned, before telling everyone how she saved up to go see Welcome to the Dollhouse at an indie movie theater when she was a kid.
"I guess you could say that is where my independent spirit was born," she said. "Now I am officially corny!"
But while Sidibe is a long-shot to take home Oscar gold on Sunday, Best Lead Actor winner Jeff Bridges resembled Seabiscuit heading into his penultimate lap, sensing that the biggest victory is just around the bend.
The Crazy Heart star wasn't going to be able to top what Mickey Rourke offered up last year, but his Dudeness took his sweet time thanking all the creative types who worked on the film, his stand-in on at least 60 films, his siblings, his parents and last, but never least, his wife, Sue.
"This is really going to tie the room together, baby!" Bridges said, hoisting his statue. Crazy Heart was also named Best First Feature for director Scott Cooper.
A Serious Man, the Coen brothers' latest Best Picture Oscar nominee, was a two-time winner as well, scoring Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins and the Robert Altman Award for its ensemble cast.
Rounding out the major acting wins was Woody Harrelson, at the only place he could avoid the studio-mandated Christoph Waltz brigade, who was named Best Supporting Male for his role as a veteran member of the Army's Casualty Notification Team in The Messenger.
"I wasn't expecting this," said the Cheers goofball turned dramatic force to be reckoned with. "I guess everybody says that, but I genuinely wasn't."
"I don't know how you distinguish one performance from another," he continued. "It's never felt right to me to declare a winner...Of course, now it feels a little more right."
The Spirit Awards are usually held on the beach in the afternoon on the day before the Oscars, but this year were relegated to downtown Los Angeles. But as always, they served as a relaxed, boozy Oscar dress rehearsal for some, and for others a relaxed, boozy chance at a $25,000 grant that will help both make another film and pay next month's rent.
And for most, the experience falls somewhere in between, and the ceremony has become a second home for likes of the Coens (absent but nominated), John Waters and Philip Seymour Hoffman (perennial presenters). and 14-time Spirit Award winner David Spade (seriously, that's how he was introduced).
As usual, it didn't take long for the big and bigger stars in the audience to get acclimated to the unique atmosphere the Spirit Awards resides in.
Host Eddie Izzard, clad simply in jeans and a black blazer and sporting his usual touch of eyeliner, came onstage to big applause, only to demand a do-over because of what he deemed a lackluster reception.
"OK, sorry, that wasn't quite good enough, I'll come in again," he scoffed. "I want to hear a loud round of applause…I'm f--king serious."
Izzard's main running joke of the night began when he lambasted "you Americans" for believing in God (and seriously, where else would he be allowed to say that without having to apologize profusely on The View the following week?).
"All right, I talked to God—he apologizes for not existing," he offered the audience later.
The award for Best Foreign Film went to An Education, which hailed from the U.K. and France and is a long-long-shot Best Picture Oscar nominee, and Anvil! The Story of Anvil, about a now middle-aged metal band's ride to not-quite-stardom, was named Best Documentary.
Here's the complete list of winners from the 25th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards:
Best Feature: Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Best Director: Lee Daniels, Precious
Best Male Lead: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Female Lead: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Best Supporting Male: Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Best Supporting Female: Mo'Nique, Precious
Best First Feature: Crazy Heart
Best Screenplay: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, (500) Days of Summer
Best First Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Best Cinematography: A Serious Man
Robert Altman Award: A Serious Man
Best Documentary: Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Best Foreign Film: An Education
John Cassavetes Award: Humpday
Acura Someone to Watch Award: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Easier With Practice
Chaz & Roger Ebert: Truer Than Fiction Award: Bill Ross and Turner Ross, 45365
Piaget Producers Award: Karin Chien, The Exploding Girl, Santa Mesa
(Originally published March 5, 2010, at 10:30 p.m. PST)
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