Hasan Minhaj, Ayo Edebiri, Michelle Yeoh

Mar 18, 2023

SANTA MONICA – The festivities outside the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards were, well, festive. Last year was the event’s in-person return after a 2021 virtual ceremony and 12 months later there seemed to be significantly more people enjoying the annual opportunity for film industry schmoozing and, um, day drinking. Then the ceremony began and it was, as expected, the “Everything Everywhere All At Once” show.
READ MORE: Complete list of 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards winners and nominees
At this point, the A24 powerhouse is easily on its way to capturing the Best Picture Oscar after taking major honors from guild precursors the DGA, SAG, and the PGA. At the Spirits, its seven wins were one for the record books. “Moonlight”? “Frago”? “Stand and Deliver”? Sorry, those films could only win six. And you’d likely be shocked how few wins classics such as “Pulp Fiction,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain” took home comparably (granted, there were fewer awards handed out overall at a few of those ceremonies). Has it been a less competitive year? Or was “Everything Everywhere” simply beloved by the voting Film Independent membership? Maybe it was a little bit of both.
Overall, the only real drama ended up in the television categories where the usually steadfast Spirits rule “whichever project/performance was seen by the biggest audience” still came into play. Whether this pundit predicted it or not (cough, 15 out of 17 correct) there was still genuine tension in every television category but Best New Scripted Series which easily went to “The Bear.” Following a big win at the PGA, a key SAG award win, and, now, this Spirit Award, that FX streaming hit is setting itself up to be an Emmy Award season force in the months ahead.
The show itself was something of a mixed bag, however. It might not have completely killed if you were watching the live stream, but host Hasan Mihaj’s monologue played very well in the room. His multiple digs at Deadline were basically what everyone in Hollywood has wanted to say out loud regarding the trade outlet for the past decade. And his jab at the IFC network for dropping a broadcast of the Spirit Awards to instead play the 2008 Will Ferrell comedy “Semi-Pro” at the same time was something of a masterstroke (as was having nominees Quinta Brunson and Mo Amer participate in a bit where they were watching that movie or scrolling through IMDB at their tables).
However, despite a lack of commercials Minhaj only did one other bit during the telecast. At one point in the show, he went into the audience in hopes of having some famous faces produce “out there” goofy thumbnails to get people’s attention when scrolling YouTube. The problem was he went to Cate Blanchett who was absolutely not having it. The Spirit and Oscar nominee literally crawled under the table in order to avoid participating. When Minhaj tried to recruit “TAR” director Todd Field, he did the same thing. Minhaj’s last hopes were presenter Marissa Tomei and nominee Regina Hall who also followed Blanchett and Field under the table. It was super funny, but it appeared Minhaj was shocked at how the talent got out of it.
As the ceremony went on and “Everything, Everywhere” kept winning (even co-director Daniel Scheinert was like “This is too much”), the show could have used a bit more Minhaj. The show producers also didn’t benefit from the fact many of the funnier presenters including beloved former host Aubrey Plaza, Jenny Slate (simply killing it this awards season), and “Bad Sisters” creator and star Sharon Horgan popped up during the first half of the event. Sheryl Lee Ralph was a welcome addition later on, but having “The White Lotus” stars Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò return to the stage three different times to give out three different awards simply didn’t work (one segment would have been preferable).
The Spirit Awards also have a reputation for winners giving memorable speeches. Despite no time limit due to the lack of commercials, only four really popped. Ayo Edebiri was both poignant and funny when accepting her Best Supporting in a Scripted Series honor, Truer Than Fiction winner Reid Davenport evoked a spontaneous standing ovation for noting that it’s time to let impaired people have a larger role in the industry, and Nathan Fielder was his usually humorous self picking up Best New Nonscripted or Documentary Series for “The Rehearsal” while also thanking Film Independent President Josh Welsh for very detailed items in the boxed lunch. Michelle Yeoh could barely hold back her emotions after taking the Lead Performance trophy.
There was also a lack of, well, anything else. We’ll assume budget was an issue without a television partner, but this was the ceremony that featured the Gay Men’s Chorus serenading Laura Dern just three years ago and was known for some of the better-filmed parody bits that other awards shows aspired to. Maybe Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video will find a way to stream the 39th ceremony to a larger audience next year and bring some of that creative flair back to the tent (should see start a petition?).
Perhaps the only truly disappointing aspect of the show was during the Best Feature acceptance. “Everything Everywhere” producer Jonathan Wang gave a succinct tribute to A24 for changing independent film and a significant number of attendees were already heading out of the tent. That certainly wasn’t something Film Independent could control, although the length of the ceremony probably needs to be revisited even without commercial breaks. Then again, Edebiri and Ralph both remarked how much it meant to them that the room was full of people who “look like me and feel like me” and “that is change.” And for any awards organization, that sort of legacy is something to celebrate.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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