Sunday, February 24, 2013

What the Oscars Used to Be Is Very Spirited

THE 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony was so much fun last night. It was relaxed in a relaxed setting.

The awards recognize excellence in independent filmmaking. These are low-budget films that mostly get made by hook or crook and other by-the-seat-of-your-pants means. There was a realness about the show.

Here are films that most Americans have not and will not see. They are worthy films with strong and offbeat storylines. Most are not shown in metroplexia because the people who make such decisions don't believe the films will draw large enough audiences to make a profit at the mega mall. God forbid if a film doesn't make a gazillion dollars regardless of how good it is!

These films live in an alternate universe from the mega-budget blockbusters and studio pet projects. Of course, there is always some crossover. A few of them make it to the bigger awards list, especially the Academy Awards. Films such as “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Silver Linings Playbook” have been enjoying buzz over these last few weeks. Both films fared well at the “Independent Spirit Awards,” which aired on cable channel IFC at 10 EST.

Others such as “Bernie” and “Middle of Nowhere” have not, but they get deserved recognition in the milieu of the “Independent Spirit Awards.” (See video above of award-winning “Middle of Nowhere.”)

Watching the show last night brought to mind how the Oscars used to be. “The 85th Annual Academy Awards” ceremony arrives at 8:30 EST tonight on ABC after much hype. Hours before the show, prognosticators will be holding forth about how many statuettes “Lincoln” and "Argo" will take home or whether underdogs such as “Beasts” and “Playbook” can steal any thunder. On most pre-Oscar shows, the conversation will be an instant critique of what the ladies are wearing and about which designer threads they are wearing.

The producers of "Silver Linings Playbook" accept the Best Feature prize at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Photo by Yours Truly.

This has not always been the case for the “Academy Awards.” To get a flavor of its former self, one only need view the "Independent Spirit Awards”; the show re-airs at 2:15 p.m. today on IFC. The latter is what the former secretly wants to be (again) and should be. A trip back to the future, if you will.

At the “Independent Spirit Awards" show, obnoxious music is not shoo-ing winners off of the stage; they are not rendered mute if they insist on finishing their acceptance speeches. Another wonderful aspect of this awards show is that it is genuinely funny. Last night was no exception. One doesn’t get the impression that an army of writers had spent months coming up with those lines. It is hard to imagine that a scribe put the words “I am sick as a dog” in Salma Hayeks’s mouth. Or wrote the tasty little diss by host Andy Samberg that invoked the name of Michael Jordan.

Next year, the “Oscars” will be like the “Independent Spirit Awards!” Unlikely, but one can hope. Too much dough to be made, especially considering that the Chinese are tuning in this year en masse. The "Spirit Awards" won’t change, though. Do tune in this afternoon.

Later, try to content yourself with the overhyped, rigorously staged, marginally entertaining spectacle that is the “Academy Awards.” Because you gotta watch, even though you know afterward you will wonder why you bothered.

Visit to learn more about the “Film Independent Spirit Awards”; visit to learn more about the “Academy Awards.” Rx

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