March 1, 2014

OSCARLAND: Independent Spirit Awards

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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And the winners were… 12 Years A Slave, Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o…

Hey, wait a minute.  Aren’t the Oscars tomorrow night?

There was a time when the Independent Spirit Awards were genuinely, you know… independent.  Films like Leaving Las Vegas, The Apostle, Gods and Monsters, Election and Memento won Best Film.  Performers like Derek Luke, Tom Wilkinson, Shareeka Epps and Catalina Sandino Moreno were honored.  But over the past decade or so, as the Oscars have gravitated toward lower-budgeted winners and the Spirit Awards have become more star-conscious, all that really stand between one set of awards and the other are more casual outfits and a maximum budget limit.  (This year, Gravity and American Hustle went over that limit, so 12 Years director Steve McQueen took Alfonso Cuaron’s likely Sunday prize.)  The complete list of winners is here.

The Spirits were once also known for being a freewheeling, frequently drunken party, taking place in the afternoon in a tent on the Santa Monica beach and aired live on cable TV back when that was a frontier.  Now they’re pretaped and edited, and this year’s proceedings were livened up only by a few f-words, an epic acceptance saga from McConaughey (Leto was apparently even more longwinded–host Patton Oswalt even joked about it later in the broadcast–but his speech was edited down before air) and when Blanchett pointedly wondered why there were more Best Actor nominees than there were for Best Actress.

Think of the Spirits as now the final dress rehearsal before the Big Event.  Which is now less than 24 hours away…


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."