'The Artist' triumphs at 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Posted by · 4:32 pm · February 25th, 2012

I was really irritated sitting there in the tent on the beach in Santa Monica this year watching the Independent Spirit Awards unfold.

Things started out great, though. Seth Rogen’s opening monologue killed, even though a number of the people in there apparently weren’t equipped to grasp the humor. I was happy to see Christopher Plummer, however expected, take yet another supporting actor trophy for his performance in “Beginners.”

Even though I called it, I was nevertheless stoked for Will Reiser surprising with a win in the Best First Screenplay category for “50/50.” And even though I’d have much preferred seeing Jessica Chastain get the good will, it was hard not to be happy for Shailene Woodley, who won Best Supporting Female after she was snubbed by the Academy. Then things took a different turn. “The Artist” just started winning everything. Everyone just bowed down. Couldn’t we have this one moment of solace away from that steamroller? Apparently not.

But I really hit the ceiling when Michael Shannon was unceremoniously snubbed in favor of Jean Dujardin in the Best Male Lead category. Are you kidding me? If Shannon can’t win at the Indie Spirits for the year’s single greatest performance, what does he have to do? Indeed, “Take Shelter” went home empty-handed after leading the nominations field along with “The Artist.” Ugh.

First commercial break I could, I moseyed over and made sure he knew I thought that was bullshit. “You haven’t gotten your proper due this year,” I told him. His “Take Shelter” co-star, Chastain, interjected: “I agree. It’s the best performance of the year.”

I love Shannon for legitimately not caring but it really rubbed me wrong. Earlier in the afternoon I was talking to him and “Goodbye, Solo” star Souléymane Sy Savané, and Savané couldn’t stop gushing about the performance. Indeed, I think Shannon is a guy his fellow actors really respect and admire, and much like Viola Davis, I imagine he’ll work his way through the industry for a bit until one day, it’ll just be time. And inarguable, at that.

Anyway, tomorrow’s sure-fire Best Picture winner ran the table, pretty much: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead and Best Cinematography. Most of the principals, however, were en route from France after having a big night at the César Awards yesterday. Penelope Ann Miller kept accepting honors on its behalf until the Best Director prize was finally presented. The only award it lost was Best Screenplay, which went (just as painfully) to “The Descendants.”

And yet, odd as it sounds, I think this kind of recognition is probably “The Artist”‘s most richly deserved of the year. It is nothing if not a fiercely independent enterprise that found a wonderful Godfather in Harvey Weinstein, like so many films so many years ago. Alas, amid the season’s flurry, this just feels like chafing.

Meanwhile, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” lost yet another Best First Feature award to “Margin Call,” while Michelle Williams yanked the Best Actress prize away from Elizabeth Olsen.

I had to get out of there. Fast. And so I did. We all deal with off years, seasons where the flow of things just couldn’t be more outside your own personal take on things. For me, that’s 2011 in a nutshell. But I guess I can’t argue with John Cassavetes Award winner Dee Rees: “Any Saturday where you get to wear a sparkly hoodie and have two whiskeys before noon is fucking awesome.” Well, I guess I wasn’t wearing a sparkly hoodie. But still.

Check out the full list of Independent Spirit Award winners below. And once more, before tomorrow’s big show, remember to look back at all the ups and downs of the 2011-2012 film awards season via The Circuit.

Best Feature: “The Artist”

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Best Male Lead: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”

Best Female Lead: Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”

Best Supporting Male: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

Best Supporting Female: Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Best First Feature: “Margin Call”

Best First Screenplay: “50/50”

Best Cinematography: “The Artist”

Best International Film: “A Separation”

Best Documentary: “The Interrupters”

Robert Altman Award: “Margin Call”

John Cassavetes Award: “Pariah”

Piaget Producers Award: “Take Shelter”

Someone to Watch Award: Mark Jackson, “Without”

Truer Than Fiction Award: “Where Soldiers Come From”

If you want to watch this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards, they’ll be aired on the IFC Channel at 10pm ET/PT. (Though don’t expect to hear Rogen’s oft-tweeted joke about Elizabeth Olsen — “I can’t believe she was the accident.” — as it was edited from the broadcast. Aw, take a joke, guys.)

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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