Fox Searchlight reigned over the 20th IFP Independent Spirit Awards, with “Sideways” taking a statue for every one of its six nominations and Zach Braff’s “Garden Sate” winning for best first feature.
Thomas Haden Church, who received the “Sideways” award for best supporting actor, gave an emotional acceptance speech, nonetheless noting that, “I gave my heart and soul to some unreleasable independent films in the past.”
“Four years ago, I rented a bike just to watch all of you guys come into the tent,” said Braff. “I couldn’t afford the one with all of the gears.”
The “Sideways” sweep also made for a somewhat enervating afternoon. Not only did the comedy shut out other favorites such as fellow Searchlight releases “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Kinsey,” but it also stranded lesser-known indies like “Robbing Peter” and “Brother to Brother,” both of which had multiple noms.
“Sideways” also won for director Alexander Payne, screenplay, actor and supporting actress.
With regular host John Waters bowing out this year (save for a surprise appearance to hand out the best first screenplay prize to Joshua Marston for “Maria Full of Grace”), emcee Samuel L. Jackson did his best to keep the two hours lively. However, his crisp delivery of scripted patter didn’t have the impact or entertainment value of Waters’ tart-tongued observations.
The ceremony maintained its tradition of spoofing each of the five best feature nominees in song, with mixed results. (Michael McKean along with his wife, Annette O’Toole, and McKean’s “A Mighty Wind” co-star, Jane Lynch, received raucous applause for “Kinsey,” sung to the tune of “Windy.”)
The event also provided a montage of previous nominees such as Julia Roberts, Jim Jarmusch and Jennifer Aniston, each emblazoned with the word “Lost.”
A handful of winners used their moment to alert the audience to political causes. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who won best documentary for “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” urged the audience to log on to wm3.org and learn about the ongoing plight of Damien Echols, subject of their previous doc, “West Memphis Three,” and who the directors credited with introducing them to the band.
Jem Cohen, who won the $20,000 Turning Leaf Someone to Watch Award for directors who have worked too long under the radar, read a statement describing his experience of having his footage confiscated by the FBI because he was shooting landscapes while on a moving train. Although he’s working with the ACLU, Cohen has yet to retrieve his work.
Also shut out of the afternoon was Miramax, which received only a backhanded mention from the stage. After lauding Searchlight and its president, Peter Rice, for their work on “Garden State,” Braff said, “And to Miramax Films, who split it with Peter.” With the audience still laughing at the backhanded compliment, he added, “Peter, why didn’t you buy the whole thing?”
“Sideways” — Michael London, producer.
Alexander Payne — “Sideways”
Catalina Sandino Moreno — “Maria Full of Grace”
Paul Giamatti — “Sideways”
Virginia Madsen — “Sideways”
Thomas Haden Church — “Sideways”
“Sideways” — Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, writers.
“Garden State” –Zach Braff, director; Pamela Abdy, Gary Gilbert, Dan Halsted, Richard Klubeck, producers.
“Maria Full of Grace” — Joshua Marston, writer.
Rodrigo de la Serna — “The Motorcycle Diaries”
“The Motorcycle Diaries” — Eric Gautier
“The Sea Inside” — Alejandro Amenábar, director; Spain.
“Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” — Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, directors.
“Mean Creek” — Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck and Carly Schroeder, ensemble cast.
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
“Mean Creek” — Jacob Aaron Estes, writer-director; Susan Johnson, Rick Rosenthal, Hagai Shaham, producers.
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Jem Cohen — director “Chain”
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman — “Born Into Brothels”
Gina Kwon — “Me, You and Everyone We Know,” “The Motel”