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.
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.