While the 74th Academy Awards will be held Sunday at the spanking new $95 million Kodak Theater, the 17th IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards will once again entertain the hip crowd in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica. If you need further proof that the IFP dropkicks the standard awards show pomp and circumstance, look no further than emcee John Waters, returning for his second year of hosting duties.
“I’m just using it as a stepping stone to take over the Oscars,” says Waters, dryly. “Where I’ll bring back streaking and have mandatory political speeches from all winners.”
All kidding aside (for a millisecond), Waters attests that the show’s appeal comes from its laid-back atmosphere. “Certainly, it’s more irreverent,” he says. “People are nervous and they want to win, but it’s fun and hip. It happens (Saturday), the day before the Oscars. And it’s in the afternoon so you can really see what everybody looks like.”
What makes the Indie Spirit Awards the anti-Oscars? Everything from a more casual dress code (“I always wear Commes de Garcons,” says Waters) to a DIY backstage approach (Waters writes his own patter) to a selection of noms from films that can’t be easily whittled down to a logline like “Waking Life,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “L.I.E.”
“The perfect example is ‘L.I.E.,'” Waters says. “I loved it, but a feel-good movie about a child molester probably isn’t going to have much chance of getting an Oscar. And it got six Independent Spirit nominations, more than any other film.”
At the same time, Waters points out that many of the films nominated for this year’s Independent Spirit Award have been major mainstream successes like “In the Bedroom” and “Memento.”
“Even New Line’s success with ‘Lord of the Rings’; Peter Jackson’s past was making quirky, weird little movies.” Waters says. “The line is very thin these days. I mean, what is commercial, what is Oscar material? It’s all incredibly, wonderfully confusing. And I think that’s what the Spirit Awards celebrate.”
Waters shows no sign of relinquishing his role as the indie film world’s leading auteur of bad taste. On the heels of his last film “Cecil B. Demented” (2000), which railed against bland Hollywood filmmaking, he’s writing the script for “A Dirty Shame,” a comedy about concussion-sufferers who become raging sex addicts and take over a suburban community. “I find inappropriate sexual outbursts fascinating,” he says. “As long as they’re not mine.”
You can also catch him in “Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat,” splatter director Herschel Gordon Lewis’ follow-up to his original midnight movie.
“I play a pedophile priest,” Waters says. “Herschel Gordon Lewis has always been a big hero of mine. I wrote about him in my book ‘Shock Value.’ I was thrilled to work with him. To walk into a little shed and see a girl covered in fake guts and Herschel bitching about having to do a second take. It really warmed my heart.”