UPDATED WITH ALL WINNERS AND REACTIONS: The 29th annual Independent Spirit Awards ended up more like a cast party for Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years A Slave, which won five of the seven categories for which it was nominated today — including Best Feature and Best Director for Steve McQueen. The strong showing for the slave drama gives the pic plenty of momentum headed into tomorrow night’s Oscars, the marquee event in a long awards season in which 12 Years has been one of many films ebbing and flowing buzz-wise along with Warner Bros’ Gravity ahead of what’s being called one of the more wide-open Academy Awards in a long while.
Dede Gardner, a producer on the pic with her Plan B partner Brad Pitt, thanked the many people involved in making the movie (including Pitt for “getting the movie made when he said he would”). She also thanked the descendants of the film’s subject Solomon Northup. “It’s a reminder to care-take our freedom,” she said.
With most of the big studio pics in the Oscar Best Picture race sitting it out today with the focus on indie fare under a tent on the beach in mostly rain-free Santa Monica, it allowed others to shine. Dallas Buyers’ Club‘s acting duo of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won Best Male Lead and Supporting Male, respectively. Cate Blanchett continued her hot streak winning Best Lead Female for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, making her a solid favorite to win tomorrow night. Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Female for 12 Years. That pic rounded out its wins with a Best Screenplay nod for John Ridley and Best Cinematography for Sean Bobbitt.
The Weinstein Company also had a good day during the ceremony, hosted by Patton Oswalt. Best Documentary went to the distrib’s 20 Feet From Stardom, whose subjects performed today, and Best First Feature went to writer-director Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station, which started its fruitful awards-season at Sundance 2012 when TWC acquired it for $2 million.
Oswalt presided over one of the most memorable parts of the show, when a black drone flew in and delivered the scroll announcing Nyong’o's win. Later, after Blue Is The Warmest Color won Best International Film, Oswalt came back out onstage covered in blood. ”Don’t touch the drone,” he quipped.
The weather, such an issue during the blustery and wet 2011 Spirit Awards, held for most of the day, with rain beginning to fall just as Blanchett reached backstage after her acceptance speech. ”There’s a storm coming,” she said to the press. “It was nice knowing you all in case we’re swept away.”
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The Spirit Awards will be shown tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on IFC. But here’s how the day went down, with on-scene coverage by Deadline’s Pete Hammond, Dominic Patten and Anthony D’Alessandro and contributor Diane Haithman.
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