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‘Election’ wins 3 IFP Spirit awards

'Malkovich,' 'Boys' also honored

The 15th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, held Saturday under a sprawling tent near the Santa Monica beach, hailed Paramount Pictures and MTV Films’ “Election” with three of the top awards.

The satire nabbed awards for feature, director (Alexander Payne) and screenplay (Payne and Jim Taylor).

USA Films’ “Being John Malkovich” and Fox Searchlight’s “Boys Don’t Cry” walked away with two awards each, while Artisan’s “The Blair Witch Project,” Sony Pictures Classics’ “Run Lola Run,” Disney’s “The Straight Story,” Miramax’s “Happy, Texas,” Fine Line Features’ “Tumbleweeds” and USA Films’ “The Three Seasons” were honored with one award each.

One of the afternoon’s highlights came when the male lead award was presented to Richard Farnsworth for his performance in “The Straight Story.”

Farnsworth, who is nearing 80 and awaiting hip replacement surgery, hobbled onto the stage to a standing ovation. “I hope this sets some sort of a trend for some of us older folk,” he said.

Writer Buck Henry, a presenter, joked that at least none of the Indie Spirit Awards were stolen.

Lively mistress of ceremonies Jennifer Tilly, who joked that she was the selection committee’s ninth choice to host, enchanted in her sing-song voice, “But I am still filled with the indie spirit!”

James Schamus, whose company Good Machine has been behind such films as “The Ice Storm” and “Ride With the Devil” (both of which Schamus adapted from novels), delivered a serious-minded keynote address that most of the audience seemed disinterested in hearing.

Schamus noted that more and more of the so-called indies are looking more and more like corporations. He questioned the value of the Independent Spirit Awards altogether and suggested doing away with the IFP. He also noted that Bain Capital, which owns Artisan, is a $7 billion dollar company, and pleaded that “we go back to our beginnings.”

“It’s not about sources of financing, it’s about spirit and personal artistic expression — auteurism,” said Payne upon winning one of his two awards.Continuing the theme of defining what makes indie pics different from studio films, Quentin Tarantino, who presented an award along with Harvey Keitel, asked the camera operators filming the event to turn their cameras onto the audience. “This is independent film,” he said, as cameras panned the audience. “You are indie film!”

Still, the afternoon left some audience members headed toward the “Boys Don’t Cry,” BAFTA and Entertainment Weekly parties wondering why “Election,” a Paramount Pictures’ release, was considered a indie film while DreamWorks’ “American Beauty” was not.

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