— LOS ANGELES - On Friday night, Film Independent held its 25th Spirit Awards ceremony. My intent was to send a flurry of Twitter updates, but Twitter had other plans, apparently. So here's a rundown of what you missed if you weren't watching the live and uncut broadcast on IFC.
The big winner: “Precious.” The film won best picture, Mo'Nique (legs still unshaven) won for best supporting female lead, and Gabourey Sidibe won for best female lead. Because Mo'Nique has won the lion's share of the “Precious” accolades this season, I must admit it was refreshing to hear Sidibe speak.
Unlike some actors, Sidibe sounds nothing like her character; she's got a girlish voice with enough edge to wonder if she's not up to something mischievous, and while accepting her award she told a story about the film that inspired her to begin acting. “My mom used to pay me $2 a day to go to school. I saved up my money for a week to see ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse,’ and that was the first time I thought, ‘Wow, I could do that.’”
The tent where the awards were held (this year at LA Live) was full of star power: Elton John, Robert Duvall, Ed Helms, Will Arnett, Colin Farrell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lenny Kravitz, to name just a few. But, one of the best parts of the night was being feet away from Jeff Bridges and T Bone Burnett for a performance of “Fallin' and Flyin’,” one of the songs from “Crazy Heart.”
At no other awards show could such a thing happen — sure, you could watch a band play, but here, you realized, this is the real deal. Seeing Bridges perform the song, remembering what it was like to see him in the film, and then watching him accept a Spirit award for best male lead was a remarkably unique experience.
Also unique: the opportunity to be seated at the table adjacent to Roger and Chaz Ebert. The Chaz and Roger Ebert “Truer than fiction award” is awarded to a director of a non-fiction feature and includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded from the Chaz and Roger Ebert Foundation.
Bill Ross and Turner Ross were recipients of the award, but the real winner was Roger Ebert. Wearing his wedding ring on his middle finger, after losing weight, writing notes to his wife throughout the show because he no longer has a voice, but being so damn happy to be a part of not just an event, but an industry — it's no wonder everyone under that tent gave him a standing ovation. It's one that I feel fortunate to have been a part of.