The Independent Spirit Awards, which (as you might surmise) recognize achievement in smaller, independent filmmaking, were handed out Saturday, with “Get Out” winning best feature, Timothy Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”) named best male lead, Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards …”) winning female lead and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards …”) and Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) taking home the supporting Spiritos, or whatever they call the Spirit Award.
Held under a tent — a giant tent — in Santa Monica, the Spirit Awards are a relatively casual affair, with hipster hosts (this year it was Nick Kroll and John Mulaney), attendees in casual-chic clothing, and language and humor that veers from PG-13 into the occasional hard-R moment.
There’s such a casual atmosphere at the Spirit Awards, one year I was seated next to (NAME DROP ALERT!) Halle Berry. At the lead table, the equivalent of the front row.
In the 90-year history of the Academy Awards, I’m fairly certain they’ve never seated a movie critic next to an Oscar winner. If the Academy Awards get to a 900th annual ceremony, they’ll still never seat a movie critic next to an Oscar winner.
As expected, the hosts (and some of the presenters) didn’t shy away from talking sexual harassment scandals and politics.
Kroll told an anecdote about director Brett Ratner’s gross behavior on a movie set. Mulaney said Harvey Weinstein’s tombstone will read, “XXL Unmarked Grave.” The hosts critiqued the apologies crafted by Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and Mario Batali. Presenting the award for best international film, Salma Hayek said the honor has never been given to a film from a bleep-hole country, “because there are no [bleep]-hole countries.”
No doubt Jimmy Kimmel will broach the subject in his opening monologue at the Oscars. I fully expect a few of the presenters and/or winners to talk about the #MeToo movement, or the ongoing debates about gun control — or perhaps just take a general swipe at a president who just other day tweeted about “Alex Baldwin” and even called Meryl Streep “one of the most overrated actors in Hollywood” after she criticized him at the Golden Globes.
Well. Streep DOES have the all-time record for the most Oscar losses. Sure, she’s got the three wins, but what about the 17 losses? Heck, she’s going to lose again tomorrow, which will make a dozen and a half LOSER nights for Streep.
(Note: I’m KIDDING. I kinda feel like I have to say that in this day and age.)
I’m often asked how I feel about celebrities becoming Social Justice Warriors on awards nights. Is it an appropriate forum? Isn’t it true a lot of people watch these types of shows to get away from all the political talk for an evening, and just watch pretty people all dressed up and handing out shiny trophies to one another?
I get that, I really do. And there are times when I’ve been covering awards show (in person or from the sofa) and I’ve rolled my eyes at some of the speechifying, e.g., when Richard Gere urged us all to close our eyes and send good thoughts, and maybe that would help China see the light and free the people of Tibet.
However. Just because you’re an actor or a director or a writer doesn’t mean you’ve surrendered your right to express yourself — via social media and on talk shows and, yes, when you’re accepting an award. A number of industry figures are deeply committed to various causes, donating not just enormous sums of money but a great deal of time. They educate themselves. They lend their star power to hearings and meetings that wouldn’t otherwise merit any media coverage at all. They show up. They march and they organize.
Can all the trolls who mock Hollywood say the same about themselves?
In my own little corner of the world, when I express a political opinion or discuss news issues, I’m often told, “Stick to movies.” That’s the line. I’ve heard that line not dozens of times, but hundreds of times.
By that same “logic,” whoever is telling me to “stick to movies” should stick to whatever their profession might be. If you’re a lawyer, stick to the law. If you’re a firefighter, stick to commenting only about firefighting. If you’re a teacher, restrict your comments only to the field of education.
Of course, it would be ridiculous for me to suggest such a thing, right?
I get that some people don’t want football players or actors or singers to do anything but play football, act and sing. But I’m actually hoping some of Hollywood’s finest speak their minds Sunday, whether it’s on the red carpet or onstage.
Whether we agree with what they’re saying or it makes our blood boil, isn’t it great to live in a country where entertainers (and journalists and everybody else) can speak their minds and not have to worry about the government locking them up or making them disappear?