All told, Rogen neither crashed-and-burned nor really stuck his neck out enough to make any lasting impression, and he pretty much disappeared after opening the show. Perhaps that’s just as well, since the audience quickly started dispersing after the show stopped for its first brief ad break, either heading out to the mobile restrooms outside, chatting up friends at other tables, or heading back to the VIP sponsor pavilions that circled the main tent.
As it was, the show rarely broke away from a bare-bones awards show format — i.e. introduce presenters, present nominees, announce winner, acceptance speech, repeat until finished. Comedy-folk duo Garfunkel and Oates (i.e. actresses Kati Micucci and Riki Lindhome, pictured) did a cute ditty about how depressing the six Best Feature nominees are. My Morning Jacket and K’Naan, meanwhile, each performed for no apparent purpose other than they said yes when asked. Patricia Clarkson toasted late indie film exec Bingham Ray, though no other “In Memoriam” montage was featured.
The most pointed, and peculiar, break in the flow of the show were the four thank-you videos played by emerging filmmakers who had won financial grant awards bestowed by one of the Indie Spirit corporate sponsors. The sentiment was certainly noble — financially encouraging artists who most need the money — so why segregate them from giving their thank you from the stage? And why force these filmmakers to shoot their thank-you’s using Nokia’s latest smartphone?
Even with things humming along at such a gotta-keep-things-moving pace, the audience often barely appeared to pay attention to what was happening on stage. Rogen’s choice joke halfway through that nominee and scary-looking-dude Michael Shannon would “murder someone in this room” sailed right over the constantly buzzing crowd. Thankfully, the double win for Margin Call – the first, the pre-announced Robert Altman Award for the full ensemble, the second, the Best First Feature award for writer-director J.C. Chandor — did bring some brief jolts of excitement. The financial thriller enjoyed a successful simultaneous release in theaters and on-demand, and represents where the world of American independent cinema resides right now far more than a lovely black-and-white ode to the old Hollywood studio system that was shot largely on the Warner Bros. backlot.
As The Artist racked up more wins, any interest that was left in the final outcome of the show rushed out of the tent like air from a puckered balloon. So thank goodness for Michelle Williams, who accepted her Best Female Lead award with a speech that cut to the heart of what the Indie Spirits should be about. With no notes, she talked about how her first Indie Spirit awards were 10 years ago, and how she wore her own clothes to that event, and cut her own hair for it. “But I still remember,” she said, “the feeling that, in this room, unlike others, that was okay, possibly even preferred.” She said she realized the tent was filled with “misfits, outcasts, loners, dreamers, delinquents, and drop-outs — just like me.” She concluded: “Thank you for supporting me and welcoming me and making me feel at home in this room and in this community, all the way back then, and now, when the only thing that I own that I’m wearing is my dignity.”