‘Birdman’ and ‘Boyhood’ Split Top Independent Spirit Awards


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, Michael Keaton and a producer, John Lesher.”/>
From “Birdman,” Emma Stone, left, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Michael Keaton and a producer, John Lesher.Credit Adrian Sanchez Gonzalez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The weird thing about the Film Independent Spirit Awards is that they’re genuinely kind of fun. Unlike other awards shows, which can skew stuffy, tedious, forced or odd, there’s a sort of devil-may-care frisson in the air. This is partly because of its locale – a giant tent on the beach here — partly because of the fact that Oscar voting has closed and the awards are a mere 24 hours away (hallelujah!), and partly because of the still scrappy and, yes, independent spirit of it all.

Sure these indie awards may be sponsored by big corporate players like American Airlines, to name one, but that didn’t stop the presenters Kristen Wiig and Zach Galifianakis from poking fun at the clear incongruency of it all, or Paul Thomas Anderson from telling the audience not to fly American Airlines “because they will” — expletive – “lose your luggage.” (Bennett Miller would later urge people to avoid United for the same reason.)

So, lighthearted fun, a palate cleanser of sorts where honesty with a knife twist prevailed. Accepting the best supporting actress award for her performance in “Boyhood,” Patricia Arquette noted slyly, “I’ve made a lot of independent films and I’ve never been invited to this party before.”

One of the hosts, Kristen Bell, introduced the film “Whiplash” by saying it “made jazz interesting for people who aren’t on heroin.” Her co-host, Fred Armisen, pulled off a witty yet not egregiously offensive joke about Alzheimer’s while describing Julianne Moore’s role in “Still Alice.”

The director of “Ida,” Pawel Pawlikowski, said, while accepting the best foreign film award, “thank you, my competitors, for losing this.”

One of the biggest rounds of applause went to Justin Simien, who won best first screenplay for “Dear White People.” “I really should’ve written an acceptance speech,” he said. “Instead I was staring at Oprah. Thank you for letting me be creepy back there.” He went on to elicit whoops after saying the win “means a lot to me because it feels like I do belong to the culture.”

“If you feel you do not belong in the culture, please tell your story, because we need to see the world through your eyes,” he said.

As for the rest of the night, the acting wins yielded no surprises: Ms. Moore, J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Ms. Arquette, natch. Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) won for best actor, and took a smart jab at the weirdness of talking about oneself all season long. “I think we’d all be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to Narcissus,” he said.

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Jared Leto (and his jacket) at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.Credit Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Meanwhile, in what may be another foreshadowing of Oscar night, Richard Linklater took home best director and “Birdman” took home best picture, with its director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, speaking about vibrating with connection or something and wore a hoodie.

The biggest scene-stealer of the night, however, was Jared Leto’s jacket.

How It Came to Be ‘Birdman’s’ Night


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Alejandro G. Iñárritu backstage at the Dolby Theater.Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Well, there you go. With the Academy Awards, sometimes you just never know. Or, rather you do, if you know where to look.

The victory lap for “Birdman” at the Oscars on Sunday night, scooping best picture and director, presumably away from “Boyhood,” made sense to people well versed in the Academy’s ways. The organization often is deaf, even resistant, to the inclinations of critics, many of whom crowned “Boyhood” the year’s best. Entertainment Weekly’s January cover story anointing the film as “this year’s Oscar front-runner” probably didn’t help the film’s cause (or, since we’re on the topic, a not-so-flattering piece in The New York Times the weekend voting opened).

“Birdman” had so many elements for actors and below-the-line craftspeople to chew on: the ballyhooed long shots, which won the cinematographer an Oscar; the actors having to work with clockwork precision; the storyline itself. Seasoned Oscar watchers said they knew it was over for “Boyhood” when “Whiplash” took the editing award: the Academy’s respect for how Richard Linklater’s film was sewn together by the editor would have to be paramount in order for the picture to win. There was some surprise that Mr. Linklater didn’t collect best director, but as others have noted, the Directors Guild Award – which went this year to Alejandro G. Iñárritu – is often the bellwether of where that Oscar will land.

But it was clearly the night for “Birdman” – to the great joy of the folks at New Regency and Fox Searchlight, who were behind last year’s winner, too, “12 Years a Slave.” “Birdman” even won best original screenplay, a surprise, since Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” had a story line that was at once more sweeping and more delicate, and collected a Writers Guild Award. Yet every film that had been nominated for best picture collected some kind of award, a nice outcome.

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Alexandre Desplat with his prize.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And, hurrah, Alexandre Desplat finally won an Oscar for best original soundtrack, for his yodeler-laced compositions for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” this after getting nominated eight times. (Mind you, two of those nominations were from this year; even he was worried they’d cancel each other out.)

It’s good to note, for those still mourning the losses of “Boyhood,” that a small independent film about the passing of time wouldn’t have had a chance in many other years, something Mr. Linklater noted on the red carpet.

“I think if ‘Birdman’ and ‘Boyhood’ are duking it out,” he said, “that’s pretty amazing.”

At the Governors Ball, Winners and Even a Happy Also-Ran


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Emma Stone, Lego Oscar in hand, embracing the Oscar-winning Julianne Moore.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

One of the perks of being on the West Coast for an awards show is that it’s beholden to East Coast time. Which means when things finally wrap up after dragging on for far too long, it’s only, like, 9 p.m. Delighted to have a first awards season behind her, and having endured a surprise red carpet rainfall (the tent sprang massive leaks), the Bagger was torn between a determination to head home, stat – what else is there to say to people after three months of nonstop talking about the same thing, for heaven’s sakes? — and wanting to let off some steam.

So, it was on to the Governors Ball, which is in a red-velvet-lined ballroom in the same complex as the Dolby Theater and involved cutting through a chilly and puddly outdoor mall, gown trailing a snail-like wet streak. Waiters passed by with mini chicken pot pies, caviar and crème-fraîche-daubed baked potatoes, and smoked-salmon toasts cut into Oscar shapes.

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At the ball the Lonely Island guys, left, who performed “Everything Is Awesome” on the telecast, met up with Common, a best-song Oscar winner, and Questlove, right.Credit Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The winners and a few also-rans were there: Ethan Hawke split early, giving a curt “hello.” Patricia Arquette was huddled around a table with her people – her daughter, her sister Rosanna, and her boyfriend, the artist Eric White. Felicity Jones, glorious in her Alexander McQueen dress (no, the Bagger, in the spirit of #AskHerMore, didn’t ask what she was wearing – the Bagger just happened to overhear) was toting one of the Lego Oscars that had been floating around the show. Laura Dern, who walked the red carpet earlier with her father, Bruce Dern (they did the same for his Oscar nomination last year), was there with her two children. “Don’t you think your mom is the best actress ever?” an enthusiast asked her son. “Um, yeah,” the pretty-much-cornered kid replied.

The presence of the higher octane belles and beaux of the ball was signaled by a scrum of people and camera operators. One such crowd formed at the back of the ballroom as the night’s big winner, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, arrived with his family and writers and producers.

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Eddie Radmayne with his wife, Hannah Bagshawe, at the Governors Ball.Credit Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Eddie Redmayne zipped by, heading to get his statue engraved; so did Julianne Moore, dancing a little to the live music — led by will.i.am yet evocative of easy listening – arm-in-arm with her husband, Bart Freundlich. Michael Keaton was floating around, too. “I wish you had won,” Mr. Keaton was told by a passer-by. “So do I!” he replied. Yet if disappointment ran deep, it didn’t show.

Others were off to the très exclusive Vanity Fair party in Beverly Hills, but not the Bagger (they didn’t extend an invite), who hopped into a limo with a few Fox executives on their way to the Fox Searchlight party. The studio, whose films won eight Oscars on Sunday, celebrated in a West Hollywood bar-restaurant and had all the dancing and merrymaking one would expect from a celebration of winners.

But back to the limo waiting area of the Oscars, which is a scene in itself: valets read the numbers of arriving rides through a megaphone to match car with customer, like an auctioneer. There are chaises and heat lamps and cappuccinos served from a gleaming four-foot-high machine.

Mr. Iñárritu asked the Bagger if she would mind snapping a photo of him and his wife and two children, which she did, to the auteur’s apparent satisfaction.