'Silver Linings Playbook' (Nearly) Sweeps Spirit Awards: But Is It a True Indie?

Silver Linings Playbook tops Spirit Awards 2013 – as expected

As expected, Silver Linings Playbook was the big winner at the 2013 Spirit Awards, though the David O. Russell-directed comedy drama about mental illness, family issues, and blossoming romance failed to make a clean sweep. Distributed by the awards-savvy Weinstein Company, Silver Linings Playbook won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (also Russell), and Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence). [Photo: Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence.]

However, the Best Actor Spirit Award went to John Hawkes for The Sessions, instead of Silver Linings Playbook's Bradley Cooper. Another The Sessions winner was Helen Hunt in the Best Supporting Actress category. The Best Supporting Actor was Matthew McConaughey for Steven Soderbergh's sleeper hit Magic Mike, featuring McConaughey, Channing Tatum, and Matt Bomer as strippers of various sizes and shapes.

Of the aforementioned Spirit Award winners, John Hawkes and Matthew McConaughey are the only two not in the running for the Academy Awards tomorrow evening. Silver Linings Playbook, for its part, is up for eight Oscars – and it has grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office.

And needless to say, Spirit Awards voters – i.e., Film Independent members – are no different than voters in other organizations. In other words: generally speaking, the movies and actors with the biggest buzz, best-known faces, and widest distribution are the ones that end up taking home the American indie world's trophies in the top categories.

Other 2013 Spirit Award winners

The other 2013 Spirit Award winners were Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere, recipient of the John Cassavetes Award for a movie made under $500,000; Derek Connolly, winner of the Best First Screenplay Award for Safety Not Guaranteed; and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallfower, chosen as the Best First Feature Film.

Also, Best Cinematography for Beasts of the Southern Wild (Ben Richardson); Best Documentary for Kirby Dick's The Invisible War; Best International Film for Michael Haneke's Amour; the Piaget Producers Award for Stones in the Sun's Mynette Louie; the Someone to Watch Award to Gimme the Loot's director Adam Leon; and the Truer Than Fiction Award to Peter Nicks' The Waiting Room.

Additionally, as previously announced, Starlet received the Robert Altman Award for its director, Sean Baker; casting director, Julia Kim; and ensemble cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, and James Ransone.

Silver Linings Playbook independent enough?

And finally, I should point out that some have grumbled that Silver Linings Playbook shouldn't have qualified as an independent film – even though it actually is one. At (officially) $21 million, the film's budget is slightly above the Spirit Awards' $20 million limit, but that cut-off line and other eligibility rules have been stretched and/or bent time and again in the last two decades, depending on the whims of the Spirit Awards' nominating committee and, in all probability, on the determination of the submitting companies.

Last year, for instance, Michel Hazanavicius' French-made (but Los Angeles-set) The Artist won the Best Picture Spirit Award, which is nominally reserved for American independent movies. The Artist, by the way, was also a Weinstein Company release in the United States.

Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence photo: The Weinstein Company.

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