Spirit Awards: Jean Dujardin Wins + Jessica Chastain & Sarah Paulson

The Artist Jean Dujardin Uggie the Dog
Jean Dujardin, Uggie the Dog in Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist

It's awards season. Your movie has been winning tons of trophies on two continents. What to do? After arriving in Los Angeles, make sure you get a police escort for your next awards ceremony. According to indieWIRE's Anne Thompson, that's what Michel Hazanavicius did this afternoon, managing to arrive at the Spirit Awards ceremony on Santa Monica beach in time to accept his Best Director Award and The Artist's Best Film Award from the hands of Ben Kingsley.

Prior to Hazanavicius' arrival from Paris – where The Artist won six Prix César du Cinéma (a.k.a. César Awards) last night – Penelope Ann Miller was the film's official representative, accepting trophies for cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman and Best Actor Jean Dujardin (who surprisingly lost the César to The Intouchables's Omar Sy).

But despite claims to the contrary, the Spirit Awards 2012 weren't all about The Artist, which actually lost the Best Screenplay Award to The Descendants. Co-written by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, and director Alexander Payne, The Descendants stars George Clooney as a father who attempts to reconnect with his offspring, including Best Supporting Actress winner Shailene Woodley. (Woodley can't repeat her Spirit Awards feat tomorrow, as she wasn't shortlisted for the Academy Awards.)

J.C. Chandor's Margin Call was the Best First Feature winner, in addition to receiving the previously announced Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble: Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, and Stanley Tucci.

The Best Documentary was Steve James' The Interrupters, which had been bypassed by the Academy's Documentary Branch in the first-round of voting, while the Best International Film was Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-nominated A Separation.

Additionally, Dee Rees' Pariah won the John Cassavetes Award for movies made under $500,000 and Christopher Plummer was the Best Supporting Actor for playing Ewan McGregor's gay father in Mike Mills' Beginners.

And finally, the Piaget Producers Award went to Take Shelter's Sophia Lin, the Someone to Watch Award to Without's Mark Jackson, and the Truer Than Fiction Award to Heather Courtney's Where the Soldiers Come From.

As for those who will inevitably complain that the Spirit Awards have gone mainstream and “academic” because of a, huh, black-and-white, French-made silent movie coming out as the top winner … Well, they need a serious reality check. But that's the price to pay if your clever, unique, innovative (and unpretentious) movie becomes the favorite of the establishment.

Jean Dujardin / Uggie / The Artist image: The Weinstein Company.

Beginners Christopher Plummer gay father
Christopher Plummer's gay father in Beginners

While researching the life of Ramon Novarro, one line that kept popping up whenever old-timers reminisced about the good old days of the silent era was, and I'm paraphrasing here, “We created a universal language that could be understood anywhere on the planet.” That might – or might not – explain how the French-made The Artist managed to win the Spirit Award for best independent American production of the year. (True, at least The Artist was shot in Los Angeles.)

Anyhow, they had faces in The Artist – great-looking ones, too – but those with the voices at the Spirit Awards ceremony held in a tent on Santa Monica beach earlier today were host Seth Rogen and disembodied (and hoarse) announcer John Waters.

Rogen, who at the Golden Globes said something or other about an erection of some kind or other (five-year-olds in attendance found that hilarious), used the Spirit Awards' podium to poke fun at several celebrities, whether or not they were in attendance. According to Movieline, targeted were Cannes Bad Boy Lars von Trier (whose Melancholia was up for Best International Film), actor and media celeb (and The Passion of the Christ director) Mel Gibson (whose The Beaver wasn't up for anything), singer Chris Brown (who may or may not have “stolen” a Florida woman's cell phone), Take Shelter's big and menacing-looking Best Actor nominee Michael Shannon, and near-Oscar ceremony 2012 producer Brett Ratner.

In reference to Ratner's anti-gay slur of a couple of months ago, Rogen explained to the crowd that “the best thing to come of awards season is we learned what a horrible bigot Brett Ratner is.” Additionally, the host told the assembled nominees that “nothing will come from this if you win!"

Best Supporting Actor winner Christopher Plummer, who plays a gay man in Mike Mills' Beginners, will likely disagree with Rogen's two statements. An award is an award, and as far as Plummer is concerned, surely the best thing to come of this awards season is his countless Best Supporting Actor citations and trophies.

“It's taken me the longest time to realize that the Spirit Awards have nothing to do with booze,” the hard-living actor remarked, at least partly referring to the fact that he has been around acting in movies – but taking home precious few trophies until late last year – for more than half a century.

In a less joyful spirit, Plummer also took the occasion to disparage The Artist's Uggie: “Cosmo was much more human than Uggie. Uggie was just a trickster – our dog had soul!"

I'm not sure if having a soul makes a dog more human (or if it should be the other way around); either way, Plummer apparently doesn't want to give his soul any rest in the foreseeable future. The 82-year-old Plummer affirmed that he'll keep on working as “I can croak at any moment; you've got to keep going.” Stephen Frears' Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, in which he plays John Marshall Harlan is currently in the pre-production stages. 

Beginners photo: Andrew Tepper / Focus Features.

Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain, a Spirit Award nominee for Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter, with ceremony sponsor Jameson Irish Whiskey prior to the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony at Santa Monica Pier on Feb. 25, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. Jessica Chastain just now walked the Oscar 2012 red carpet; she's a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Tate Taylor's sleeper hit The Help. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images For Jameson Irish Whiskey)

Chastain was a critics' favorite in late 2011, winning numerous awards for her performances in The Help and Take Shelter, in addition to Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, in which she plays opposite Brad Pitt, and Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus, co-starring Fiennes, Gerard Butler, and Vanessa Redgrave. Two of Chastain's other 2011 releases were Texas Killing Fields and The Debt.

Earlier this year, Chastain shared the SAG Award for Best Cast with fellow The Help cast members Ahna O'Reilly, Mike Vogel, Mary Steenburgen, Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, and Chris Lowell. Spencer is the expected winner of the 2012 Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

As a third-year Premier Sponsor of the Spirit Awards ceremony, Jameson Irish Whiskey welcomed guests on the red carpet, as well as at their Jameson Backstage Lounge. Jameson also provides $40,000 “FIND Your Audience” grant to aspiring film-makers.

Sarah Paulson
Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson with Film Independent Spirit Awards sponsor Jameson Irish Whiskey prior to the Spirit Awards ceremony at Santa Monica Pier on Feb. 25, 2012, in Santa Monica, California. In addition to its Spirit Awards sponsorship, Jameson also provides $40,000 “FIND Your Audience” grant to aspiring film-makers. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images For Jameson Irish Whiskey)

Sarah Paulson wasn't nominated for the Spirit Awards (or for the Academy Awards), but she was one of the Martha Marcy May Marlene cast members shortlisted by the Gotham Awards. Her fellow nominated peers were Elizabeth Olsen, Maria Dizzia, Brady Corbet, John Hawkes, Julia Garner, Louisa Krause, Hugh Dancy, and Christopher Abbott. Sean Durkin was the film's director. Paulson's upcoming films are Fairhaven, The Time Being, and Mud.

Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke is seen with Jameson in the photo above, prior to the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony that took place at Santa Monica Pier on Feb. 25, 2012, in Santa Monica, California. Jameson Irish Whiskey was for the third year in a row a Premier Sponsor of the Spirit Awards ceremony. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images For Jameson Irish Whiskey)

Ethan Hawke was a Best Screenplay Spirit Award nominee for Before Sunset, co-written with Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater. In early 1982, Hawke was a Best Supporting Actor nominee for Training Day, playing opposite eventual Best Actor winner Denzel Washington. Curiously, Hawke's role in the film was as big – or actually bigger – than Washington's. Hawke's upcoming movies include Total Recall, Sinister, and Vigilandia.

Ben Kingsley Terrence Howard
Terrence Howard, Ben Kingsley

Terrence Howard and Ben Kingsley visit the Jameson Irish Whiskey tent at the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards at Santa Monica Pier on Feb. 25, in Santa Monica, California. Kingsley was the Best Picture presenter. The winner, needless to say, was Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Jameson Irish Whiskey)

The other Best Film nominees were Jonathan Levine's 50/50, which earned Will Reiser the Best Screenplay Award; Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive; Mike Mills' Beginners, which earned Christopher Plummer the Best Supporting Actor Spirit Award; Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter, which stars Michael Shannon – the butt of host Seth Rogen's jokes; and Alexander Payne's The Descendants, starring George Clooney – who wasn't even nominated for the Best Actor Spirit Award.

Ben Kingsley won a Best Actor Academy Award for Richard Attenborough's biopic/epic Gandhi (1982). He was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Bugsy and Sexy Beast, and as Best Actor for House of Sand and Fog. Terrence Howard was a Best Actor nominee for Craig Brewer's Hustle & Flow (2005).

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2 Comments to Spirit Awards: Jean Dujardin Wins + Jessica Chastain & Sarah Paulson

  1. mark


  2. Film Activist

    I willingly went to see this movie, although I didn't want to. My wife dragged me to it. I was more than pleasantly surprised. It was a masterpiece, a true work of art. I ended up liking it more than she did. I HIGHLY recommend this movie to everyone, it was fantastic.