Due to the Oscars completely overshadowing the awards season, I was clueless that an awards ceremony dedicated to independent filmmakers even existed. In fact, I desperately wanted to pitch this exact idea to whoever would listen. Oftentimes, The Academy chooses films that fit their agenda, and overlooks the filmmakers who are perhaps telling the most distinct and authentic stories. To my delightful surprise, (yet disappointment for missing it my entire life), the Indie Spirit Awards was founded in 1984, and this past weekend marked its 34th ceremony.
When I realized that Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza was given the opportunity to host, I instantly knew that this would be a much more enjoyable ride than the Academy Awards. From Plaza’s deadpan humor to her unapologetic awkwardness, she’s always been incredibly human–a stark comparison to how robotic most hosts at the more mainstream awards ceremonies appear.
After watching Plaza’s opening monologue, I appreciated the fact that the ceremony doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also truly values independent content. “Tidying Up or Roma? Either way, I’m going to watch someone clean up a bunch of shit, so who cares,” said Plaza.
She even pointed out the irony that BlacKkKlansman’s Adam Driver, the “white savior” cop, was the only nominee. “Congratulations, Adam. I’m sure you’ll do the white thing,” she said, as the camera zoomed in on a highly uncomfortable Adam. Profanity, Bohemian Rhapsody burns, and jokes that don’t seem so scripted that they’re cringey are allowed at the Indie Spirit Awards, and it’s highly refreshing.
Although it was snubbed at the Oscars, Barry Jenkins’ heartfelt film If Beale Street Could Talk won Best Feature, and Jenkins was also honored with the Best Director award. In an extraordinary weekend for Regina King, the talented actress won for Best Supporting Actress at both the Indie Spirit Awards and the Oscars.
In my personal favorite part of the ceremony, Boots Riley’s masterpiece Sorry to Bother You finally received its due. It isn’t surprising that the film received no Oscar nominations, and Riley previously told IndieWire that because there was no campaign surrounding the film, it basically didn’t stand a chance.
“The largest factor as to why we didn’t get nominated is that we didn’t actually run a campaign that aimed to get a nomination for Screenplay or Song,” Riley said. “We didn’t buy For Your Consideration ads in the trade magazines and we didn’t service the whole academy with screeners. Without that, its perceived that you don’t have a chance, or enough buzz.”
Being expected to spend a hefty amount of revenue on campaigns just for Oscar consideration proves that it’s more of a popularity and status game, and much less about the art. Thankfully, Sorry to Bother You triumphed at this year’s Indie Spirit Awards, and took home the award for Best First Feature.
But The Oscars Had A Few Memorable Moments, Too
Despite the entire agenda behind the Oscars, this year’s Academy Awards heavily honored minorities, four years after the viral #OscarsSoWhite.
Spike Lee took home his first-ever Oscar, winning Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman. Peter Ramsey (Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse) became the first Black director to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
And of course, the praised Black Panther made history in multiple ways. Nominated for a total of seven Oscars, it’s the first Marvel film to ever win an Oscar. Ruth E. Carter became the first African-American woman to win in the Best Costume Design category for Black Panther. Shortly after, Hannah Beachler took home her first Oscar for Best Production Design. Not only was Beachler the first woman of color to win, but she was also the first to be nominated.
But Black Panther didn’t win Best Picture. Rather, the controversial Green Book took home one of the highest honors, which has been referred to as a white savior film that fails to accurately depict the true story of Dr. Don Shirley.
At times, it felt as though everyone was speaking Spanish at this year’s Oscars, which was extremely satisfying in Trump’s America. Multiple acceptance speeches, particularly for Roma, were given in Spanish. Javier Bardem even slammed the border wall in Spanish. “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent,” he said.
Although the Oscars has evidently became more diverse, women filmmakers still aren’t being recognized. Zero women were nominated for Best Director this year, and there weren’t any female-directed films in the Best Picture category.
There’s clearly been improvement overall, but personally, I’ll continue to be unimpressed with the Oscars until it’s less about money and more about the artistry behind these films. In an alternate reality, this notion could possibly occur. But in this reality, I’ll continue to watch the Indie Spirit Awards where smaller filmmakers are given their chance to shine, and eccentric films like Sorry to Bother You aren’t left out of the party.