The floor was so wet presenters and winner slipped getting on the stage and the food served was arguably the worst it’s ever been, but there was a lot to enjoy at the 2018 Independent Spirit Awards Saturday afternoon. The mammoth Film Independent membership found a way to spread the wealth so almost every major film went home with one award and a diverse group of presenters remained true to the show’s progressive roots.
Here are some quick thoughts and the best and worst of the ceremony from someone who enjoyed the show in that cold tent in Santa Monica, CA.
Best: Opening Monologue
Hosts Nick Kroll and John Mulaney had a lot to live up to. Last year they delivered arguably the best opening monologue in the then 32-year history of the Spirit Awards. And, needless to say, 2017 and the first two months of 2018 gave them a wealth of material. The monologue went 11 minutes and they skewered key figures accused of sexual harassment such as Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen. Oh, and they just didn’t go for a dig here or there they often eviscerated them. Kroll told a funny anecdote about how genuinely gross Ratner was to work with constantly scratching his balls and Mulaney recalled a meeting where Weinstein told him his tombstone would say “Project Runway” to which the comedian deadpanned, “Aww, you don’t have to worry anymore Harvey. It’s not going to say ‘Project Runway.’ It’s going to say ‘XXL Unmarked Grave.'” They talented duo were also able to easily improv on the spot. Noticing Timothée Chalamet‘s highly questionable attire Kroll zinged, “Hey Timothée thanks for taking a break from the gas station to come over here for the awards” which got one of the biggest laughs of the night. They were sharp, political and funny. And, like last year, they made Jimmy Kimmel’s Oscar writers through a bunch of material in the trash can.
Worst: Kumail Nanjiani and Lil Rel Howery
The eventual Indie Spirit First Screenplay winner and the “Get Out” breakout star, Nanjiani and Howery, were tasked with presenting the Best First Feature honor, a prize that eventually went to “Ingrid Goes West.” The problem was they had a comedy bit they had planned on doing but the teleprompter screwed up. Instead of just giving up on it, Nanjiani had a dialogue with the teleprompter operator about moving the script forward and then backward and then forward. It clearly was a mix up because co-host Kroll eventually came out on stage to try and wrap it up and Nanjiani still kept going seemingly unhappy with the moment the operator was returning the script to. Eventually Nanjiani just gave up and they announced the nominees. It was crazy awkward and the fact it happened almost immediately after the fantastic opening was something of an emotional letdown.
Worst: Kristen Wiig’s Fay Fontaine Bit
In theory, this should have been a slam dunk. Kristen Wiig appeared as Fay Fontaine, a fictional 110-year-old former Spirit winner (she took an award in 1987) who was there to introduce a series of presenters with Mulaney and Kroll by her side. And, at first it certainly made you smile, but the bit was so long you wondered when it would end and it honestly didn’t provoke that many laughs from the audience (certainly not in the area of the tent this writer was sitting). Wiig then pulled out an old “SNL” trick of bringing her character into the background of other performers (in this case presenters) who were unaware of what she was doing. Needless to say, that didn’t sit will with one of the aforementioned presenters.
— GIPHY (@GIPHY) March 3, 2018
Worst: Elizabeth Olsen’s reaction to Kristen Wiig’s Fay Fontaine Bit
Clearly, Olsen was upset she was being held backstage while her co-stars and crew from “Ingrid Goes West” took Best First Feature immediately before she was scheduled to present. She might have been more annoyed realizing that Wiig’s comedy was so long she easily could have been on stage to accept and then have enough time to get backstage with co-presenter, Robert Pattinson. Instead, she made it abundantly clear that “Fay Fontaine” introducing her as the Scarlet Witch and Pattinson as a Vampire wasn’t funny in her eyes (even if it was accurate) and that she didn’t get what was going on when Wiig was being led around behind her on stage. Olsen even noted nobody had told them this was going to happen beforehand (yikes). She was clearly rattled and it just showed she didn’t have any sense of humor about what was going on. Worse off was Pattinson who stood there almost silently clearly aware Olsen was pissed and not wanting to make the situation any stranger than it already was.
Best: Greta Gerwig gets some Indie industry love
Yes, “Lady Bird” took Best Picture – Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes and Best Film from the New York Film Critics Circle, among other accolades, but the past six weeks have found Gerwig or her film losing at one event or another. The film lost the SAG ensemble honor and at a few below-the-line guild events. Gerwig lost personally at the WGA Awards, PGA Awards, DGA Awards and BAFTA Awards. That’s the way the game is played during awards season, but her win for Best Screenplay at the Spirits gave her a win she likely won’t get Sunday at the Oscars. And she was clearly shocked to win expecting Jordan Peele or Martin McDonagh too instead. Thankfully, as she’s demonstrated throughout the season, she was a genuine ray of light during her acceptance speech.