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Independent Gay Cowboys & Transgender Traveler Top Spirit Awards

Independent gay cowboys among non-heterosexual winners: Brokeback Mountain Jake Gyllenhaal Heath Ledger
Independent gay cowboys: Romantic Western Brokeback Mountain is Spirit Awards’ top pick. In Ang Lee’s well-regarded mix of the Western and romantic soap opera genres, Best Actor Spirit Award nominee Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star as two Wyoming cowpokes who, much to their own surprise, enjoy some macho-on-macho action while herding sheep. Love blossoms in the wide open spaces, but the heartless gods and bigoted social mores are not on their side. This awards season’s runaway favorites, Brokeback Mountain’s gay cowboys won two Independent Film Spirit trophies: Best Film and Best Director. Also in the cast: Best Supporting Actress nominee Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid, Linda Cardellini, and Kate Mara.

Independent gay cowboys are Spirit Awards’ top pick

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Independent gay cowboys – i.e., gay cowboys riding on a relatively low budget and without the support of the Hollywood majors – were the big winners at the 2006 Independent Film Spirit Awards.

So, how tall did the same-sex-loving cowpokes stand in the saddle?

Well, not all that tall in terms of sheer number of awards. Even so, at a ceremony held on March 4 and hosted by comedian Sarah Silverman, Ang Lee’s acclaimed (partly) 1960s-set romantic Western Brokeback Mountain – starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two “independent gay cowboys” in love – topped two top categories: Best Film and Best Director.

See further below the full list of the 2006 Independent Film Spirit Awards’ winners and nominees.

More gay characters = More Independent Film Spirit winners

From independent gay cowboys to flamboyant gay writer: Curiously, Heath Ledger lost out the Best Actor Independent Film Spirit Award to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays another troubled 1960s gay character, though one who, cowboy hat or no, could never pass for Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott: author and sometime screenwriter Truman Capote (Beat the Devil, The Innocents), the flamboyant antihero in Bennett Miller’s real-life-inspired drama Capote, about the “making of” the classic nonfiction book In Cold Blood.

Additionally, Capote earned actor-turned-screenwriter Dan Futterman (he plays Robin Williams and Nathan Lane’s son in The Birdcage) the Best Screenplay award. Not among the losers: Brokeback Mountain’s Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who failed to be shortlisted in that particular category.

Continuing with the 2006 Independent Film Spirit Awards’ non-heterosexual preferences – and here we are talking about preferences – Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman was selected as the year’s Best Actress in a U.S.-made indie for her portrayal of a pre-op (male-to-female) transsexual who becomes acquainted with her long-lost gay porn-star-to-be son (Kevin Zegers) in Duncan Tucker’s road movie Transamerica – which also earned the writer-director the Best First Screenplay award.

Los Angeles race-obsessed drama wins two trophies

Paul Haggis’ Los Angeles-based, race-obsessed drama Crash, which has been overhyped as a potential upset winner at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, won every single Independent Film Spirit Award for which it had been nominated.*

That makes it a total of two wins: Best First Film and Best Supporting Actor for Matt Dillon, who plays a racist L.A. cop with a past that – sort of like, maybe, who can tell, why the hell not – explains his demented bigotry.

The recent hype surrounding Crash surely didn’t hurt the film’s chances to take home these two trophies. After all, one should take into account the fact that – just a few weeks ago – Independent Film Spirit Award committee members didn’t deem Crash worthy of a Best Film, Best Director, or Best Screenplay nomination.

Besides, Crash was all but ignored by the Golden Globes while being mostly bypassed by North American film critics groups – though, admittedly, the all-star ensemble drama (Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, etc.) did win Best Cast at the SAG Awards.

Amy Adams & ‘Paradise Now’ + what ‘Crash’ overhype?

A couple of other notable Independent Film Spirit Award winners:

  • Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams for Junebug, which had earned her a Special Jury Prize for Acting at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.
  • Hany Abu-Assad’s Palestinian terrorism drama Paradise Now, named Best Foreign Film despite calls for boycotts by those who perceive it (whether or not they’ve actually watched it) as being too sympathetic to its lead characters.
  • Best Documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Alex Gibney’s analysis of one of the biggest and vilest corporate scandals in the history of the United States.

* Update: As it turned out, the Crash overhype wasn’t exactly “overhype” after all. To just about everyone’s surprise, Paul Haggis’ drama – not Brokeback Mountain – was the year’s Best Picture Academy Award winner.

From independent gay cowboys to pre-op transgender travelers: See below the list of this year’s Independent Film Spirit Award winners and nominees.

Transamerica Kevin Zegers Felicity Huffman: Spirit Awards' clear LGBT preferencesTransamerica with Kevin Zegers and Felicity Huffman. Among the gay (or part-gay) characters found at this year’s Independent Film Spirit Awards were the cowboys of Brokeback Mountain, the author/researcher of Capote, and the young blond-to-be porn-star-in-the-making of Transamerica, who travels from New York City to Los Angeles (for the most part) accompanied by his long-lost father, a pre-op transgender woman. Kevin Zegers plays the enterprising young man; Felicity Huffman is his concerned but understanding parent. Transmerica won two trophies: Best Actress (Huffman) and Best First Screenplay (for writer-director Duncan Tucker).

Independent Film Spirit Awards: Winners & nominees

Best Film
* Brokeback MountainProd.: Diana Ossana & James Schamus.
CapoteProd.: Caroline Baron, William Vince & Michael Ohoven.
Good Night and Good Luck.Prod.: Grant Heslov.
The Squid and the WhaleProd.: Wes Anderson, Peter Newman, Charles Corwin & Clara Markowicz.
The Three Burials of Melquiades EstradaProd.: Michael Fitzgerald, Tommy Lee Jones, Luc Besson & Pierre-Ange Le Pogan.

Best Foreign Film
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu / Moartea domnului Lazarescu (Romania) – Director: Cristi Puiu.
Duck Season / Temporada de patos (Mexico) – Director: Fernando Eimbcke.
Head-On / Gegen die Wand (Germany / Turkey) – Director: Fatih Akin.
* Paradise Now (Palestine / The Netherlands / Germany / France) – Director: Hany Abu-Assad.
Tony Takitani (Japan) – Director: Jun Ichikawa.

Best Director
Gregg Araki, Mysterious Skin.
Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale.
George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck.
Rodrigo García, Nine Lives.
* Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain.

Best Actress
* Felicity Huffman, Transamerica.
Dina Korzun, Forty Shades of Blue.
Laura Linney, The Squid and the Whale.
S. Epatha Merkerson, Lackawanna Blues.
Cyndi Williams, Room.

Best Actor
Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale.
* Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote.
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow.
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain.
David Strathairn, Good Night and Good Luck.

Best Supporting Actress
* Amy Adams, Junebug.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Happy Endings.
Allison Janney, Our Very Own.
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain.
Robin Wright Penn, Nine Lives.

Best Supporting Actor
Firdous Bamji, The War Within.
* Matt Dillon, Crash.
Jesse Eisenberg, The Squid and the Whale.
Barry Pepper, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.
Jeffrey Wright, Broken Flowers.

Best Screenplay
Ayad Akhtar, Joseph Castelo & Tom Glynn, The War Within.
Guillermo Arriaga, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.
Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale.
* Dan Futterman, Capote.
Rodrigo García, Nine Lives.

Best First Feature
* CrashDirector: Paul Haggis. Prod.: Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco & Paul Haggis.
Lackawanna BluesDirector: George C. Wolfe. Prod.: Nellie Nugiel.
Me and You and Everyone We KnowDirector: Miranda July. Prod.: Gina Kwon.
ThumbsuckerDirector: Mike Mills. Prod.: Anthony Bregman & Bob Stephenson.
TransamericaDirector: Duncan Tucker. Prod.: Sebastian Dungan, Linda Moran & Rene Bastian.

Best Documentary
* Enron: The Smartest Guys in the RoomDirector: Alex Gibney.
Grizzly ManDirector: Werner Herzog.
La SierraDirector: Scott Dalton & Margarita Martinez.
RománticoDirector: Mark Becker.
Sir! No Sir!Director: David Zeiger.

Best First Screenplay
Kenneth Hanes, Fixing Frank.
Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know.
Angus MacLachlan, Junebug.
Sabina Murray, The Beautiful Country.
* Duncan Tucker, Transamerica.

Best Cinematography
* Robert Elswit, Good Night and Good Luck.
John Foster, Keane.
Adam Kimmel, Capote.
Chris Menges, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.
Harris Savides, Last Days.

John Cassavetes Award (for the best feature made for under $500,000)
BrickDir. / Scr.: Rian Johnson. Prod.: Ram Bergman & Mark G. Mathis.
* ConventioneersDirector: Mora Stephens. Prod.: Joel Viertel. Screenplay: Mora Stephens & Joel Viertel.
JellysmokeDir. / Scr. / Prod.: Mark Banning.
The Puffy ChairDirector: Jay Duplass. Prod.: Mark Duplass. Screenplay: Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass.
RoomDir. / Scr.: Kyle Henry. Prod.: Jesse Scolaro, Allen Bain & Darren Goldberg.

Truer Than Fiction Award
* Occupation: Dreamland – Garrett Scott & Ian Olds.
Our Brand Is Crisis – Rachel Boynton.
Romántico – Mark Becker.
Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela – Thomas Allen Harris.

Someone to Watch Award
* Cavite – Ian Gamazon & Neill Dela Llana.
Police Beat – Robinson Devor.
The Puffy Chair – Jay Duplass.

Producer Award
* Caroline Baron, Capote & Monsoon Wedding.
Ram Bergman, Brick & Conversations with Other Women.
Mike S. Ryan, Junebug & Palindromes.

Heartlift Lifting de corazón Pep Munné Mariana Anghileri: Eliseo Subiela award winnerHeartlift with Pep Munné and Mariana Anghileri. The Best Film winner at this year’s Miami Film Festival, Eliseo Subiela’s Heartlift centers on a romantic triangle: a married plastic surgeon (Pep Munné), his distraught wife (María Barranco), and his youthful new assistant/romantic interest (Mariana Anghileri). One of Argentina’s foremost filmmakers of the late 20th century, Eliseo Subiela also directed the unusual Man Facing Southeast and the perplexing The Dark Side of the Heart.

Miami Film Festival: Wim Wenders tribute & socially conscious fare

From the Spirit Awards’ independent gay cowboys to the winners at three U.S.-based movie festivals: Miami, SXSW, and Tiburon, California.

This year’s Miami Film Festival, which ran March 2–12, opened with Eliseo Subiela’s Argentinian-Spanish co-production Heartlift / Lifting de corazón, starring Pep Munné, Mariana Anghileri, and María Barranco.

Festival highlights included a series of socially conscious films – e.g., Abdelatif Kechiche’s Games of Love and Chance / L’Esquive, winner of last year’s Prix César; Joop van Wijk’s Echoes of War – and a tribute to German filmmaker Wim Wenders featuring European Film Award nominee Don’t Come Knocking, a U.S.-set drama starring Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange.

Miami’s Best Film winner was Santiago Tabernero’s Life in Color / Vida y color, which takes place in a Spanish village in the mid-1970s, during the last months of General Francisco Franco’s life. Junio Valverde (The Devil’s Backone) plays a 13-year-old who, much like the country where he lives, undergoes dramatic and lasting changes. Also in the cast: Silvia Abascal, Joan Dalmau, Nadia de Santiago, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Ana Wagener, and Carmen Machi.

SXSW & Tiburon film festivals

Based in Austin, Texas, the 2006 SXSW Film Festival ran March 10–19. This year’s Best Film winner was Andy Robin and Gregg Kavet’s New Hampshire-set Live Free or Die, about a deluded gangster wannabe (Aaron Stanford) who uses a dim-witted friend (Paul Schneider) to make his mobster dreams come true.

At Northern California’s Tiburon Film Festival, held between March 9–17, the Best Film winner was Li Shaohong’s Chinese drama Stolen Life, the tale of a young woman (Xun Zhou) whose new life in the big city turns sour after she meets a sweet-talking delivery guy (Wu Jun). Last year, Stolen Life, which may or may not have run into trouble with Chinese authorities, received top honors at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Tiburon’s Best Documentary was Wayne Coles-Janess’ Australian-Iraqi co-production In the Shadow of the Palms – Iraq, which, according to the festival’s website, is “the only documentary filmed in Iraq prior to, during and after ‘liberation.’”

Tiburon also featured tributes to veteran filmmakers Paul Mazursky (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, An Unmarried Woman) and Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins).

See below a partial list of winners at the Miami, SXSW, and Tiburon festivals.

Miami Film Festival winners

Ibero-American Cinema – Dramatic: Life in Color (Spain).

Special Grand Jury Mention: 7 Virgins / 7 Vírgenes (Spain), dir.: Alberto Rodríguez & Lower City/ Cidade Baixa (Brazil), dir.: Sérgio Machado.

World Cinema Competition – Dramatic (tie): Accused / Anklaget (Denmark), dir.: Jacob Thuesen, & Burnt Out / Sauf le respect que je vous dois (France), dir.: Fabienne Godet.

World & Ibero-American Cinema – Documentary: In the Pit / En el hoyo (Mexico), dir.: Juan Carlos Rulfo.

FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Prize: The Master / Mistrz (Poland), dir.: Piotr Trzaskalski.

Audience Award for World Dramatic Feature: Accused.

Audience Award for Ibero-American Dramatic Feature: Angels of the Sun / Anjos do sol (Brazil), dir.: Rudi Lagemann.

Audience Award for World & Ibero-American Documentary Feature: The Refugee All Stars (Guinea / Sierra Leone / USA), dir.: Zach Niles & Banker White.

SXSW Film Festival winners

Best Film: Live Free or Die, dir.: Andy Robin & Gregg Kavet.

Best Documentary: Jam, dir.: Mark Woollen.

Special Jury Award: Maxed Out, dir.: James D. Scurlock.

Special Jury Prize – Outstanding Ensemble Cast: Americanese, dir.: Eric Byler.

Special Jury Prize – Outstanding Visual Achievement: Inner Circle Line, dir.: Eunhee Cho.

Best Short: Hiro, dir.: Matthew Swanson.

Best Animated Short: The Wraith of Cobble Hill, dir.:. Adam Parrish King.

Audience Award for Best Film: Americanese.

Audience Award for Best Documentary: Darkon, dir.: Andrew Neel & Luke Meyer.

Tiburon Film Festival winners

Best Film: Stolen Life (China).

Best Director: Vladan Nikolic, Love (USA / Yugoslavia).

Best Actress: Marzia Tedeschi, For Bread Alone / Il Pane nudo (Italy / Algeria / Morocco).

Best Actor: Monty Lapica, Self Medicated (USA).

Best Documentary: In the Shadow of the Palms – Iraq, dir.: Wayne Coles-Janess (Australia / Iraq).

Best Short: Before Dawn, dir.: Balint Kenyeres (Hungary).

Best Animation: The Legend of the Scarecrow, dir.: Marco Besas (Spain).

Federico Fellini Award: Karim Quelhadj, Parabola (Belgium).

Orson Welles Award: Jeff Morris, You Did What? (USA).

Audience Award: The Breakup Artist, dir.: Vincent Rubino (USA).

Independent Film Spirit Awards website.

Image of “independent gay cowboys” Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain: Focus Features.

Kevin Zegers and Felicity Huffman Transamerica image: The Weinstein Company / IFC Films.

Pep Munné and Mariana Anghileri Heartlift image: Gaia Films / Pachamama Cine.

“Independent Gay Cowboys & Transgender Traveler Top Spirit Awards + What Oscar Overhype?” last updated in August 2019.

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