Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Independent Spirit Awards 2019: 'Beale Street' comes out on top ahead of the Oscars

Independent Spirit Awards have a history of predicting the Academy Awards' big winners

It was the final awards ceremony ahead of the Academy Awards on February 24, and at the 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards it was If Beale Street Could Talk that came out on top.

Two years after his Moonlight triumphed on the eve of the Oscars, Barry Jenkins's adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk took home best film, best director and best supporting female for Regina King.

Click though the gallery above to see all of the stars arriving at the 2019 Independent Spirit Awards.

2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Photo Room - Santa Monica, California, U.S., February 23, 2019 - Regina King holds her Best Supporting Female award for 'If Beale Street Could Talk' alongside Barry Jenkins, with his Best Director and Best Feature awards for the same film, as they pose backstage. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Regina King holds her Best Supporting Female award alongside Barry Jenkins, with his Best Director and Best Feature awards for 'If Beale Street Could Talk'. Reuters

The Spirit Awards, always a casual, ocean-side preamble to Sunday's Academy Awards, featured a few things the Oscars don't have: a host (actress Aubrey Plaza) and female filmmaker nominees, including Tamara Jenkins (Private Life), Debra Granik (Leave No Trace) and Lynne Ramsey (You Were Never Really Here).

In her opening monologue, Plaza tweaked the Oscars: "The network's first choice was no one, but they were already booked for tomorrow."

Focus on female filmmakers

But as much as the afternoon belonged to women, Jenkins' lyrical period drama emerged the biggest winner two years after his Moonlight won at the Spirits and (despite a touch of trouble with the envelopes) at the Oscars. Given his fellow nominees, even Jenkins was sheepish about it.

"I'm not gonna lie, man," said Jenkins accepting the directing award. "I didn't want to win this."

Jenkins used his speech to instead largely urge more movies to be made with female directors and specifically credited the Scottish filmmaker Ramsey — who encouraged Jenkins as a film student — for inspiration. "This award has your DNA in it," Jenkins said.

Leave No Trace and You Were Never Really Here won other awards, though. You Were Never Really Here won for its editing. Granik was honored with the Spirits' second annual Bonnie Award, a grant for mid-career female directors. The audience gave her a standing ovation.

"I wasn't expecting such a love bomb," said a clearly moved Granik.

Debra Granik accepts the Bonnie award at the 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Debra Granik accepts the Bonnie award at the 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards. AP

A day before many expect her to finally win her first Academy Award, best female lead went to Glenn Close for her performance in The Wife. Close was accompanied everywhere by her loyal white Havanese dog Pip: on the awards' blue carpet, on stage with her, and backstage speaking to reporters. While Close accepted her award, Pip rolled on his back alongside her.

"I hope you don't mind Pippy came up here with me," said Close. "He's my date."

This year's Spirits included fewer Oscar contenders than usual, which meant a chance, as Plaza said, for the Spirits to get back to their roots and honor "the movies that are too good to be seen."

Awards season draws to a close

Their best-picture winner has often predicted Oscar-winners, including Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman and 12 Years a Slave. But last year Jordan Peele's Get Out took the Spirits' top honor before Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water won at the Academy Awards. This year, Beale Street is nominated for three Oscars but not best picture.

King, though, is the front-runner for best supporting actress. "If you haven't seen it, go see it," said King of Beale Street before chuckling. "I'm still promoting."

The Spirit Awards limit nominees to films with budgets of $20 million and under, eliminating bigger budget contenders like Black Panther and A Star Is Born. They also focus on American movies, limiting Oscar nominees like Roma and The Favourite to the best international film category — which Alfonso Cuaron's Roma won.

2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Show - Santa Monica, California, U.S., February 23, 2019 - Alfonso Cuaron of Mexico, director of the film 'Roma,' accepts the Best International Film award. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Alfonso Cuaron accepts the Best International Film award for 'Roma'. Reuters

Cuaron, whose film is favored to become the first foreign language film to win best picture on Sunday, said he believes cinema is growing more diverse, "and that will make this category irrelevant."

A night of performances

Plaza led a profane, sarcastic and often very funny ceremony that was broadcast live on IFC. The show featured a show-stopping song-and-dance performance by performer Shangela who turned the night's top nominees, like Paul Schrader's anguished religious drama First Reformed, into a disco medley. "If Beale Street Could Talk, what would she say?" sang Shangela while Jenkins doubled over in laughter.

2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Show - Santa Monica, California, U.S., February 23, 2019 - Aubrey Plaza reacts at the end of the show. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Aubrey Plaza presenting the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Reuters

Plaza also brought in her old Parks and Recreation co-star Jim O'Heir for a spoof on Andy King, the infamously dedicated producer featured in the Netflix Fyre Festival documentary, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.

Ethan Hawke won best male lead for First Reformed, an award collected for the absent actor by his co-star, Amanda Seyfried.

Marielle Heller's Can You Ever Forgive Me? took awards for both Richard E Grant's supporting performance and best screenplay for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Witty. Holofcener called up Heller to join them on stage.

Best first feature went to Boots Riley's madcap political satirical Sorry to Bother You. In his acceptance speech, Riley, a longtime musician making his directorial debut, spoke out against U.S. involvement in Venezuela. He said film is growing more socially conscious.

"There are real movements out there happening on the streets," said Riley. "Rightly so, film is responding to that."

Other awards included best documentary for the Oscar-snubbed Fred Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?; best first screenplay went to the comedian-turned-director Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade; Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria won the Robert Altman ensemble award and best cinematography; and the micro-budget En El Septimo Dia won the Spirits' John Cassavetes Award, which honors movies made for less than $500,000.

Updated: February 24, 2019 10:43 AM

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