nikkioscarnf.jpgLive from Santa Monica, the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards, with comedian Sarah Silverman hosting, was not as lively nor as funny nor as nutty nor as hoochie-mama as in past years… even with Sharon Stone presenting. What a shame.

Fox Searchlight's Little Miss Sunshine

WRAP-UP: Little Miss Sunshine won Best Feature and Best Director and Best Supporting Male and Best First Screenplay. Half Nelson won Best Female and Best Male. The Road to Guantanamo Bay won Best Documentary. Pan’s Labyrinth won Best Cinematography. Quinceanera won the John Cassavetes Award. Sweet Land won Best First Feature. Thank You For Smoking won Best Screenplay. Friends With Money won Best Supporting Female. The Lives Of Others (Germany) won Best Foreign Film. For all the winners, see below:

LIVE-BLOGGING: Sarah Silverman intros with a filmed piece. She says this year she hasn’t seen any of the movies so she can remain impartial, referring to Pan’s Labyrinth, “What’s a labryrinth? Speak English.” Does a riff about how studios won’t fork over money for pics with a “talking vagina” so that’s why they go indie. Pretty lame intro, in my opinion. Sorry, but she ISN’T funny even when she uses various anatomical references and swear words. Going to be a long two hours.

Now Sarah is addressing the audience “live from a tent. The porn awards were in a buildings…” Goes into a riff about indie film awards vs. adult film awards. Praises the crowd of indie filmmakers present. “If a bomb went off, there would be nobody left to make a documentary about it.”

halfnelsona.jpgAbout Little Miss Sunshine she says, “I have a joke for this. It starts with, ‘The last time I was in a van with five strangers…” and it ends with “…crack a window.’”

Uh-oh, Silverman has just gone way over the line. Referring to a German movie that’s nominated, she’s just made a joke about raping Ann Frank. (That’s a favorite subject for Silverman, who clearly was too lazy to prepare any new stuff for the awards show. Like she actually had something better to do.) Nervous scattered laughter. Same when she says, “Go easy on the political statements. ‘Oooh, there’s a genocide in Darfur. What the fuck is a Darfur? My feeling is, if Steven Spielberg hasn’t made a movie about it, we don’t need to worry about it.” This is the best punchline she could come up with?

Now the awards are starting to be given out:

Best Supporting Male: Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine). “If my mother was here this very moment, she would be thinking, “Is he going to have something to fall back on, like a teacher’s license.” About the pic, he says it “was the most cohesive, loving, most wonderful production I’ve ever been involved in.” Nice, short and sweet acceptance speech. This bodes well for his Oscar chances. I’d say Arkin the frontrunner…

Best First Screenplay: Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine). He thanks the Spirit Awards for having this category because it rewards screenwriters who aren’t recognized yet.

Best Supporting Female: Frances McDormand (Friends With Money). Frances isn’t there to accept. “Frances says I should just sit in my seat and say, ‘The bitch didn’t come.’” But I think she can do no wrong, so no one else probably had a chance in this category.

First political humor by a presenter: ABC ’s TV series Ugly Betty star America Ferrera is asked about her name. “Well, America is supposed to be the land of the free. but at least we will be in 2008.”

Best First Feature: Sweet Land. Director: Ali Selim Producers: Alan Cumming, James Bigham, Ali Selim. Cumming sais “it’s so much nicer to be getting an award as a producer than an actor. Sometimes as an actor, you do things just for money so you can feel passionate about other things.” he praised Selim as “this is the next great American filmmaker. Selim said, “I live in Minnesota where we say things, like, ‘I don’t really care what happens. It’s an honor just to be nominated.’ But at the risk of losing my state residency, I’m loving this. Also I have a confession to make, this isn’t my first film: it’s actually my 112th. They’ve all been playing in my head.” Then he wound up by thanking audiences “willing to drive to that one theater where independent film is showing.” Very classy acceptance speech and clearly very heartfelt. Kudos, Selim.

John Cassavetes Award: Quinceanera. Writer/Directors: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Producer: Anne Clements. Westmoreland said: “Receiving the John Cassavetes Award from Angelica Huston — this day is going into the diary. being nominated in this category “meant we didnt have to go up against Little Miss Sunshine.” Winning, he says, is “like a Cinderella story, and we’re still waiting for midnight.” Nice. This was just a wonderful movie, very much in keeping with Cassavetes’ spirit.

Why in the world is a Brit, Minnie Driver, singing a country music song about Pan’s Labyrinth? Oh, I get it, this is supposed to be comedy. As if… Even she can’t get through the song without breaking into giggles. Oy, this could be a career killer. But she gets a lot of applause for making a fool of herself…

Plug to TV viewers to join Film Independent. http://www.filmindependent.org/.

IFC Media Lab Short Film Contest Winner: Independence. By David Rocca.

Dennis Hopper sums up independent film this way: “What the fuck was that about?” Hopper says he told David Lynch when cast in Blue Velvet: Don’t you worry about me playing Frank Booth. Because I am Frank Booth. That was David’s worst nightmare.” Talks about Laura Dern and David Lynch working together on three films together and they’re each other’s muse: “When they collaborate, they push each other to take risks creatively, sexually and psychologically.” Cool clips reminding us how good Dern is in Lynch’s movies.

dernlynch.jpgDern and Lynch are presented with a Special Distinction Award. Dern comes to podium, but Lynch “doing something in Paris” so absent. Dern says: it’s been “the immeasurable honor working alongside the genius of my dear friend David Lynch for 20 years now. It has been just an incredible inspiration and education. Probably the greatest lesson he’s given me is the necessity of an artist staying true to own voice.”

Then, Laura jokes, “David did ask me to come up and read you a haiku. But, in keeping with my own voice, I ain’t reading the haiku.

About Lynch’s latest, Inland Empire, Dern says Lynch “wanted to experiement” so he ”grabbed a simple Sony P150 camcorder, and off we went for the last three years. It was self-made, self-shot, self-financed, and self-distributed. He even went on Hollywood Blvd. with a cow on a leash and self-promoted this film. And it has been an extraordinary thing to be around that true brave independent passion.” Then she praised “nonconformity.”

Best Foreign Film: The Lives Of Others (Germany). Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. he said that backstage, media were asking him what independent film means: “It means that you follow your own voice and don’t bow to committee decisions. The simple way to get that done is just downscale the budget. I downscaled to about $2 million, and that was a sum people felt safe to entrust me with, and they wouldn’t have to send killer teams if I lost that entirely.”

ThinkFilm's Half Nelson Silverman jokes the next presenter is a big movie star. “She even flew here on a big private jet, and she lives next door in Culver City.”

Best Female Lead: Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson). Felicity gets the name wrong and calls her “Shakira”. Epps says: “I can breath now. Half Nelson was my first movie, and I loved it. It was the best time I ever had.”

Taylor Dayne sings like a Las Vegas lounge act, ”Screwed Up Family”, the send-up song for Little Miss Sunshine.

Sharon Stone presenting now. Seems somewhat lucid, for a change. Wow, the writers for this show are truly bad. These mini-speeches by the presenters are just awful. Cuba Gooding Jr. seems to agree because he tells the audience he refused to read what had been written for him. Good move, Cuba.

IFC/Acura Someone To Watch Award: Julia Loktev (Day Night Day Night). Loktev says: “$50,000 for an independent filmmmaker like me is huge. Huge. HUGE!” She notes that her lead actor answered a flyer from the Coney Island boardwalk. “It was kismet.”

Axium Truer Than Fiction Award: Adele Horn (The Tailenders). Horn says: “This was literally made in my bedroom with many, many friends giving their brains, support and love.”

Axium Producers Award: Howard Gertler and Tim Perell (Shortbus and Pizza)

robert_altman.jpgSilverman introduces the two presenters to talk about the late Robert Altman — his M.A.S.H. actors Sally Kellerman and Elliot Gould: “She played ‘Hot Lips’. And he has Jew lips.” Kellerman reveals that during the shower scene when she had to be filmed undressed, “Bob had someone standing behind the camera naked.” Then a nicely edited package of Altman clips and interviews. Christopher Guest, Annie McDowell, some of the actors on stage adding anecdotes about him. Says John C. Reilly: “Whenever we parted ways, Bob would always to me, ‘I’ll see you in the next reel.’ We should all be so lucky.”

Established a new Robert Altman Award For Lifetime Achievement: Lily Tomlin. Lily is rambling, and Robert Downey Jr. tells her that “Bob would have enjoyed this very much.”

Neil Patrick Harris sings about a “schmo with a gun” as parody song for American Gun.

Picturehouse's Pan's Labyrinth Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth). he says: “I grew up in independent films in Mexico learning to express your mind. Despite all the pressures and the obstacles, I kept the story to preserve the integrity to work in creative freedon. to all those who believe in the pwoer of this movie and who amde possible its creation, everybody did its job this time the movie came acrsos sand was seen and recognized. for the vision and the genius of guillermo del toro.

Illeana Douglas: “I have good news: we’re not singing.” Good to see I;’m not the only person hating these stupid songs. Then she says that, after the show, “There’s going to be a drawing to decide who’s making next year’s Truman Capote movie.”

Best Documentary: The Road To Guantanamo. Directors: Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross. ”If we won it, we were told to say that this award is dedicated to the nearly 400 people who are still in Guantanamo Bay today.”

Silverman says, “Guantanano Bay? It’s really Guantanamo Gay. Does she honestly think this is funny stuff? Audience is groaning.

John Waters says “I wouldn’t mind if Samuel L. Jackson chains me to a radiator.” Presenting the screenplay award, he says to see if a movie drags in the middle and, if so, “it’s permissable to shout out ‘edit’ in a crowded theater.”

Roadside Attractions' The Road to GuantanamoBest Screenplay: Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking). Dumb move by writer not to be here, so Aaron Eckhart accepts. “I dont know who Jason would like to thank.”

Tobey Maguire gives out Best Director award.

Best Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine). Well this isn’t exactlu a surprise, now is it? Dayton says: “I can only hope that filmmakers who are out there having trouble can gain some hope with what has happened to us and this movie. We were dead in the studio system. They had given up on this. Thankfully, the people in the independent world stuck with us.”

Best Male Lead: Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson). Again, this was also expected. Gosling says: “Whoosh… Forest called me last night and asked if I would win for him tonight. He says it’s exhausting winning. I wouldn’t know. He better win tomorrow, because I have a lot of money on it.’ He points out his mother in the audience. “Thanks, Mom. Forceps. I hope it’s worth it. I dont see how that’s possible. Thank you for my life.” About the filmmakers, he says, “I’ve been trying to make a movie like this for a long time. Thank you for letting me be part of it. Thanks for letting me get nominated for all this stuff.” And finally, to his team, he says: I know you had to grease a few people. You guys have never made any money off of me. You never will. But you seem OK with that.”

Best Feature: Little Miss Sunshine. Producers: Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa. This was a foregone conclusion. “What a crazy insane journey this has been. We are completely humbled.” They thank Arndt. “He rolled up his sleeve. He helped us push the van.” They thank the directors. Many of us have long felt that this Spririt Award is the highest honor in America for film today, and I must say never more so than today. Quote Jerry Garcia: “What a long, strange journey this has been.” last producer wearing bizarre burn orange velvet jacket while all the others are in black: “I’m the one who didn’t get the memo about the dress code.”

Silverman says good night. At last.

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.