Sunday, February 24, 2013

Does the Independent Spirit Still Exist?

Last night the Weinstein Company film Silver Linings Playbook took home four prizes at the Independent Spirit Awards,  Best Picture, Best Director, Lead Actress, and Screenplay.  Now I don't know about you, but I would not define Silver Linings Playbook as an "independent film."  Silver Linings Playbook comes from a well established director,   The production budget for the film was also 21 million dollars.  21 million hardly screams low budget film.

The history of the trophy's symbolic nature proves this award show is a bit different, than the wins from last night.  The original trophy for the film was "presented with acrylic glass pyramids containing suspended shoestrings representing the paltry budgets of independent films. The trophy was modified in 2006 "depicting a bird sitting atop of a pole with the shoestrings from the previous design wrapped around the pole."  The goal of this award show was to honor small budget films, their directors, and the small films, which rarely got attention from either award shows or audiences.  The award catapulted many to much more famous careers. 21 million dollars is hardly a "shoe string budget."

Silver Linings competitor Beasts of the Southern Wild is the best example a film that mainstream audiences have seen, but still fits the category of being an independent film.  The budget for this film was very small, and a few sources I have seen cite it as 1.8 million dollars.  Making any film for this amount of money is next to impossible today.  First time film maker Benh Zeitlin used the "shoe string" mentality to weave the magic of this film, and Forbes magazine cites his model as one of the most innovative ways of putting a film together.

Does it matter that Beasts is Oscar nominee, no, it is one the small films which Oscar has started to embrace.  Over the year's the Independent Spirit Awards have matched up with many films which were Best Picture nominees at the Oscars.  At the bottom is a full list of ISA winners in Best Picture.  The is only one film which won at these awards and then won Best Picture at the Oscars, and thats The Artist.

Yet I have to think/hope/wonder shouldn't this group think independently?  Pick your own winners, do not try and line up with the Oscars.  The one category where this rang through last night was with Best Actor.  John Hawkes won for The Sessions, while competing against Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper.  I am tired of these award show honoring the true independent films in the "othered" categories like Beasts only winning in Cinematography, and films like Safety Not Guaranteed, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Middle of Nowhere not making a bigger impact.  Those are the true independent films of the year.

Time for Film Independent, who puts on this award show to either own up to their Oscar correlation, and  get out of the tent in afternoon and be corporate.  Otherwise they should embrace the "spirit" of the film they are supposed to root for and be more independent minded.

Here is a list of the Best Feature Winners throughout the shows history
The Artist
Black Swan
The Wrestler
Little Miss Sunshine
Brokeback Mountain
Lost in Translation
Far From Heaven
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Gods and Monsters
The Apostle
Leaving Las Vegas
Pulp Fiction
Short Cuts
The Player
Rambling Rose
The Grifters
Sex, Lies and Videotape
Stand and Deliver
River’s Edge
After Hours

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