Photo Credit: Getty
On Saturday, the 32nd Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards helped celebrate the end of the film awards season in its endearingly loose and casual fashion by the beach in Santa Monica, California. Traditionally held the day before the Oscars, the filmmakers and stars braved the chilly temperatures—a freezing 58 degrees at showtime!—to celebrate bigger-budget indies and other films that otherwise would have slipped under the radar. Political jokes and Moonlight were the afternoon’s biggest winners—a possible precursor to Sunday night’s Academy Awards.
With Gary Clark Jr. and his ensemble serving as the ceremony’s house band, hosts Nick Kroll and John Mulaney kicked things off by promptly skewering President Donald J. Trump and his administration. Mulaney quoted one of President Trump’s favorite catchphrases when characterizing this year’s’ nominees—including Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight— as “Sad!” Kroll chimed in with his take on strategist Steve Bannon: “The only reason he got that job is because he’s so hot… he looks like if Nick Offerman drowned.” The political jokes didn’t stop there, and the audience didn’t seem to mind a bit. One of the biggest laughs followed this Mulaney zinger: “If this room leaned any further to the left, we would topple into the Pacific Ocean.”
But politics aside, Moonlight dominated the afternoon, winning six awards for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Script, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Ensemble. Actress Janelle Monae summed up the importance of the ensemble film backstage saying, “Gay or straight, black or white, man or woman, we all deserve to have our stories told.”
In the acting categories, there was more of a distribution of wealth: Casey Affleck won for Manchester by the Sea, while Isabelle Huppert took home the trophy for her role in Elle. Ben Foster won Best Supporting Male for Hell or High Water and Molly Shannon won Best Supporting Female for her role as a cancer-stricken mother in Other People.
Photo Credit: Christine Ziemba
Shannon won over the audience (and backstage) with a heartfelt speech and her “in the moment” Superstar move from Saturday Night Live. She talked backstage about the one line that hooked her from director Chris Kelly’s script. Jesse Plemons’ character says that he’d like to take his mom around the world because he knows she’s dying. Her character responds with, “You don’t have to do that, I get to see my whole world at dinner tonight.”
The full list of winners follows:
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Best Screenplay: Barry Jenkins, with story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
Best First Feature:
The Witch (directed by Robert Eggers)
Best First Screenplay: Robert Eggers, The Witch
Best Male Lead: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Best Female Lead: Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Best Supporting Male: Ben Foster, Hell or High Water
Best Supporting Female: Molly Shannon, Other People
O.J.: Made in America (directed by Ezra Edelman)
Best International Film:
Toni Erdmann (directed by Maren Ade)
Best Cinematography: James Laxton, Moonlight
Best Editing: Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders, Moonlight
John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Under $500,000): Andrew Ahn, Spa Night
Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble):
Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award: Anna Rose Holmer (director of The Fits)
Piaget Producers Award: Jordana Mollick, winner of a $25,000 unrestricted grant
Truer Than Fiction Award: Nanfu Wang, director of Hooligan Sparrow, includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.