Freewheeling show keeps indie cred

“Black Swan” showed plenty of heat at a chilly Spirit Awards, dominating Saturday’s freewheeling ceremonies by winning best picture, actress for Natalie Portman and director for Darren Aronofsky.

Fox Searchlight’s dark ballet thriller topped “127 Hours,” “Greenberg,” “The Kids Are All Right” and “Winter’s Bone” for picture at the indie-focused event. It also won the cinematography award for Matthew Libatique.

The other acting awards went to actor James Franco for “127 Hours” and the “Winter’s Bone” duo of Dale Dickey and John Hawkes for the supporting trophies — provoking the most positive responses from the audience.

The 26th edition of the Spirits marked a return to the ceremony’s usual Santa Monica beach location after a one-time switch last year to the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles on a Friday night. Though sunshine prevailed Saturday, strong winds rattled the tent, and many attendees warmed up with the help of large bottles of Jameson’s whisky on each table.

“This is the coldest fucking awards show ever,” declared presenter Rainn Wilson.

Portman, who had to take off her parka to accept her award, noted that “Swan” had succeeded despite considerable obstacles.

“We had the bond company on set for two months on a 2 1/2-month shoot,” she said. “The ballerinas were wondering, ‘When am I gonna get paid?’”

Aronofsky’s acceptance included a long list of actors who have given him “fearless performances,” concluding with Portman. He also thanked producer Brian Oliver of Cross Creek for funding the film, which is nearing $230 million in worldwide grosses.

“People said they would never make money on it, and now they are fucking rich,” the director added.

Portman topped all the other actresses contending for an Oscar — Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Williams — along with Greta Gerwig.

Franco was the only Spirits nominee also up for an Oscar in the category. He topped Ronald Bronstein for “Daddy Longlegs,” Aaron Eckhart for “Rabbit Hole,” John C. Reilly for “Cyrus” and Ben Stiller for “Greenberg.”

The Oscar co-host noted that he had recently completed his thesis film and declared, “Independent film is something that’s a very big part of my life.”Dickey gave a long list of thank-yous, giving special notice to the people in Missouri where “Bone” was shot.

Despite the cold and multiple breaks for the telecast that aired Saturday night, the ceremonies remained upbeat and relaxed, with Joel McHale emceeing following a brief video of himself stuck in the dressing room under a small boulder, encountering a hooded figure he presumed to be Banksy of “Exit Through the Gift Shop” but who turned out to be Alex Trebek.

“I immersed myself in independent film through a grueling 10-minute Google search,” he told the audience.

Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg won the screenplay trophy for “The Kids Are All Right.” Blumberg joked that they began work on the script seven years ago “when we were a couple of lesbians with a hope and a dream.”

The duo concluded their acceptance with a showy onstage kiss.

Eligibility for the awards, conducted by Film Independent, is limited to U.S. films made for under $20 million. “The King’s Speech” won the foreign film trophy — the only category in which it was eligible.

“Speech” director Tom Hooper accepted and noted that the pic hadn’t been on an easy road.

“People were not lining up to support a film like this,” he said.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” took the documentary award with Thierry Guetta, the artist and filmmaker known as Mr. Brainwash, accepting on behalf of the mysterious Banksy in a rambling speech.

“I had a speech but forgot it at the hotel,” he said. “If you have a dream, just do it.”

“Get Low” won the first feature prize for director Aaron Schneider and producers David Gundlach and Dean Zanuck. Lena Dunham won the first screenplay award for “Tiny Furniture.”

“As trite as it sounds, it’s all about writing something essential,” Dunham said backstage. “I feel like a doofus when it comes to advice.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more