Spirit Awards: Box office- & Oscar-friendly winners
The Spirit Awards aren't the Oscars, we're told. No, they aren't. But they share a lot more in common with one another than the free-spirited, it's-all-about-the-art crowd would have us believe.
Held this afternoon, Feb. 26, at Santa Monica beach, the 2011 Spirit Awards mostly went to Oscar-nominated mainstream hits and near-hits. And that's nothing new. Voted on by anyone who is a Film Independent or Independent Film Project member, previous Best Film (Independent) Spirit Award winners include Precious, The Wrestler, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Brokeback Mountain, Sideways, and Lost in Translation, all of which earned more than $40 million worldwide – several earned more than $100 million – and all but one of which were Best Picture Oscar contenders. (The exception was The Wrestler.)
'Black Swan' wins Best Film, Best Actress
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, which has taken in more than $200 million at the global box office, was this year's Best Picture. Distributed by News Corp. subsidiary Fox Searchlight, Aronofsky's psychological thriller about a ballerina way past the verge of a nervous breakdown also earned indie honors for its director, star Natalie Portman, and cinematographer Matthew Libatique.
Black Swan, Portman, Aronofsky, and Libatique have all been nominated for Academy Awards as well; Portman is the favorite in the Best Actress category.
Best Actor James Franco
Best Actor Academy Award nominee and Oscar 2011 ceremony co-host James Franco was the Best Actor Spirit Award winner for his portrayal of real-life hiker Aron Ralston, who resorted to desperate measures while trapped in a cave in 127 Hours. To date, Danny Boyle's Best Picture Oscar nominee has brought in $43 million worldwide.
Though hardly a major box office hit domestically – the $18 million production has scored a disappointing $17.61 million in the U.S. and Canada – 127 Hours has earned nearly as much as the combined worldwide box office take of the other films nominated in the Spirit Awards' Best Actor category: Greenberg, Daddy Longlegs, Rabbit Hole, and Cyrus, which together have pulled in $18.11 million globally according to Boxofficemojo.com.
Shocker: 'The King's Speech' is Best Foreign Film
The Spirit Awards' Best Foreign Film was the little-seen The King's Speech. Haven't heard of it? Perhaps that's because thus far Tom Hooper's period drama starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoffrey Rush has grossed a mere $108 million in North America, and it's up for only 12 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor.
Here's wondering how many Spirit Award voters had actually heard of – let alone seen – the other nominees in the Best Foreign Film category: Kisses, 2010 Cannes Film Festival winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Mademoiselle Chambon, and Of Gods and Men, which won the French Academy's César on Friday (Feb. 25).
More Spirit Award winners
Stuart Blumberg and co-writer/director Lisa Cholodenko were the winners for the Best Screenplay Spirit Award for their feminist, audience-friendly mix of comedy and drama, open-mindedness (when it comes to lesbian families), and politically correct bigotry (when it comes to heterosexual males with healthy sexual appetites): The Kids Are All Right, a $4 million production that took in 20.8 million domestically – more than the combined worldwide gross of the other Best Screenplay nominees: Winter's Bone, Please Give, Life During Wartime, and Rabbit Hole. (Worldwide, The Kids Are All Right has collected $29.54 million to date.)
Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop, the odds-on favorite for this year's Best Documentary Feature Oscar, was the Spirit Awards' Best Documentary.
'Winter's Bone': The Oscars possessed by the Spirit Awards
Oscar nominee John Hawkes and Oscar snubbee Dale Dickey were the Spirit Award winners for their supporting performances in Debra Granik's Winter's Bone. Dickey is the only top Spirit Award winner not in the running for an Academy Award.
Winter's Bone, I should add, is a $2 million production that has collected $6.43 million domestically (nearly $8 million worldwide). Besides, the socially conscious family drama is up for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence). Admittedly, this is one instance when the Academy has gone the way of the Spirit Awards, and not vice-versa.
'Smaller' Spirit Award winners
The Spirit Awards and the Oscars part ways in the “minor” categories, which are generally devoted to truly small, truly independent, truly lower-than-low budget films.
The Best First Film was Aaron Schneider's drama Get Low, which comes with a prestige cast: Academy Award winner Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies), Academy Award nominee Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), and Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter).
Lena Dunham won in the Best First Screenplay category for Tiny Furniture, while the previously announced Robert Altman Award went to the director, casting director, and cast of Please Give: director Nicole Holofcener; casting director Jeanne McCarthy; and performers Ann Guilbert, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Lois Smith, and Sarah Steele.
'Meek's Cutoff,' 'Littlerock': Stranded settlers and Japanese visitor
The Producers Award was given to Anish Savjani for the Kelly Reichardt-directed, Jonathan Raymond-scripted Meek's Cutoff, about stranded settlers in 1845 Oregon. Meek's Cutoff, which was screened at the Venice and New York film festivals last year, opens in the United States on April 8. The film stars Michelle Williams (one of this year's Best Actress Oscar nominees, for Blue Valentine), Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kazan, and Neal Huff.
The Someone to Watch Award went to Mike Ott for Littlerock, about two Japanese siblings (co-writer Atsuko Okatsuka and Rintaro Sawamoto), one of whom is left stranded in the titular California desert town while visiting the area's World War II internment camps for Japanese-Americans.
The John Cassavetes Award, “given to the best feature made for under $500,000,” went to Benny and Josh Safdie's Go Get Some Rosemary / Daddy Longlegs, which is not a remake of the old Fred Astaire-Leslie Caron musical or the old, old silent film starring Mary Pickford. This Daddy Longlegs is about a divorced man (Ronald Bronstein) who goes on a carefree trip with his two sons.
And last but not least, Jeff Malmberg won the Truer than Fiction Award for his documentary Marwencol, about a brain-damaged man who, as a form of physical and emotional therapy, creates a miniature World War II-era town in his backyard.
2011 Spirit Awards: Paul Rudd crotch grabbed, Eva Mendes breast grabbed – and a few movie winners
The 2011 Spirit Awards ceremony will be shown – absurdly, not live – on the IFC channel tonight, Feb. 26, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. Actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the proceedings earlier today at Santa Monica Beach.
Winners in the various categories include Best Film Black Swan, Best Foreign Film The King's Speech, Best Documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, Best Actress Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Best Actor James Franco (127 Hours), and Best Director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan).
Also: Best Supporting Actor John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Best Supporting Actress Dale Dickey (Winter's Bone), Best First Feature Get Low, Best Cinematography for Black Swan (Matthew Libatique), and Best Screenplay for The Kids Are All Right (Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko).
More: Best First Screenplay for Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham), John Cassavetes Award winner Go Get Some Rosemary / Daddy Longlegs, Robert Altman Award winner Please Give, Truer Than Fiction Award winner Marwencol, Someone to Watch Award winner Littlerock (Mike Ott), and Producers Award winner Meek's Cutoff (Anish Savjani).
Spirit Awards presenters
Presenters included Will Arnett, Don Cheadle, David Cross, Vera Farmiga, Naomi Watts, James Franco, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, Greta Gerwig, Josh Hutcherson, Jeremy Renner, Anna Kendrick, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, and Diego Luna.
Also: Ewan McGregor, Eva Mendes, Sandra Oh, Josh Radnor, Craig Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Jesse Eisenberg, Zoe Saldana, Ben Stiller, Uma Thurman, Kerry Washington, Mia Wasikowska, John Waters, Terrence Howard, Jamie Foxx, and Rainn Wilson.
According to the Spirit Awards' press release, among the ceremony highlights were:
- Joel McHale “getting caught in a 127 Hours situation” with only John Waters, Banksy, and Winter's Bone's Dale Dickey to help him out.
- This year's Best Feature nominees stacked up against porn and the big studios. (We all know who the losers are.)
- The “Catch the Spirit Awards” version of a dead people montage.
Some may disagree, opting to classify as “ceremony highlights” the following:
- Ben Stiller talking about embattled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
- A grab-for-all featuring Paul Rudd grabbing Eva Mendes' breast and then having his crotch grabbed by Rosario Dawson.
Natalie Portman: Spirit Awards Best Actress winner
A quite visibly pregnant Natalie Portman arrives at the 2011 Spirit Awards held at Santa Monica beach on Saturday, Feb. 26. Portman won Best Actress for her portrayal of an unbalanced ballerina in Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller Black Swan, also featuring Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, and Portman's companion Benjamin Millepied.
Her fellow nominees were:
- Nicole Kidman for John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole.
- Annette Bening for Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right.
- Greta Gerwig for Noah Baumbach's Greenberg.
- Jennifer Lawrence for Debra Granik's Winter's Bone.
- Michelle Williams for Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine.
Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Annette Bening, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michelle Williams are also vying for this year's Best Actress Oscar. Portman is the odds-on favorite. The Oscar ceremony is taking place this evening, Feb. 27, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
Natalie Portman Spirit Awards photo: Gregorio T. Binuya / Everett Collection.
Nicole Kidman: Best Actress nominee
Sporting a tight-fitting red dress, Nicole Kidman was one of the Best Actress nominees at the 2011 Spirit Awards. Kidman plays a bereaved mother in John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole. Aaron Eckhart and two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest (Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets Over Broadway) co-star.
As mentioned above, Natalie Portman was the eventual – and expected – Best Actress Spirit Award winner. Also as mentioned above, Nicole Kidman is in the running for the Best Actress Academy Award.
Kidman has been previously nominated for two Academy Awards, winning once:
- Moulin Rouge! (2001).
Dir.: Baz Luhrmann.
Cast: Nicole Kidman. Ewan McGregor. Jim Broadbent. John Leguizamo. Kylie Minogue. Richard Roxburgh.
- The Hours (2002).
Dir.: Stephen Daldry.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Nicole Kidman. Julianne Moore. Ed Harris. Jeff Daniels. Claire Danes. Toni Collette. Allison Janney. John C. Reilly. Stephen Dillane. Miranda Richardson. Margo Martindale. Eileen Atkins. Jack Rovello. Christian Coulson. Michael Culkin. Lyndsey Marshal. Daniel Brocklebank.
Nicole Kidman Spirit Awards photo: Gregorio T. Binuya / Everett Collection.
Image of Rosario Dawson grabbing Paul Rudd's crotch while Rudd attempts to grab Eva Mendes' breast: Rick Wilking / Reuters.
Image of Spirit Awards' Best Actress Natalie Portman in Black Swan: Niko Tavernise / Fox Searchlight.
Michelle Williams Meek's Cutoff image: Oscilloscope Pictures.
Image of Josh Hutcherson in the Spirit Awards' Best Screenplay winner The Kids Are All Right: Focus Features.
Spirit Awards website.