12 Years a Slave: Spirit Awards








12 Years a Slave has dominated the Independent Spirit Awards, winning best feature and four other awards including director for Steve McQueen, supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o, screenplay for John Ridley.

Matthew McConaughey won the best actor trophy as an activist for “Dallas Buyers Club” and Cate Blanchett took the best actress award for her portrayal of the neurotic title character in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” at the event Saturday afternoon in Santa Monica.

McConaughey began his acceptance with a thank you, followed by his trademark “All right, all right, all right.”

“There’s not time to be overly considerate…and there’s a freedom that comes with that… [Sometimes] we’ve only got one take, so let it rip,” he added.

He freely admitted that the film was “good medicine” but noted it was also entertaining, he said, hands behind his back.  “Just keep livin,” he said, meaning it.

Blanchett gave a quick nod to Allen, who some speculated could hurt her chances at the Oscars due to his familial scandal and acknowledged an aircraft passing overhead. “That’s the drone come to pick me up,” she joked, with the best exit of the afternoon.

“12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen won the best director award and dedicated the award to Solomon Northup, whose life and book was the basis for the searing historical drama.

“Michael Fassbender is a genius. Nothing he wouldn’t do, nothing he can’t do,” McQueen said, also giving thanks to Chiwetel Ejiofor, calling him the “soul” of the film.

McQueen, in his usual square spectacles, thanked “Mr. Brad Pitt” and gave a node to indie legend John Cassavetes.

Lupita Nyong’o won the best supporting actress award for her emotional portrayal of the slave Patsy in “12 Years a Slave” while Jared Leto took the best supporting actor award for his memorable portrayal of transgender AIDS patient Rayon in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

In her acceptance, a composed Nyong’o said breathlessly that she had not been aware initially of the distinction of independent films but then said she realized, “Independent film is where stuff actually happens.”

Nyong’o noted that it was her birthday and concluded her speech by thanking her mother for supporting her choice to become an actress.

An ebullient Leto cracked up the crowd with a massive thank-you list, including home-made burritos and “all the women I’ve been with and all the women who think they’ve been with me,” makers of vegan butter, people who make size 12 heels, the seven billion people on the planet. He also said he’s going to do “an opposite McConaissance and just do romantic comedies.”

Leto concluded on a serious note by dedicating the award to the 36 million that have died of AIDS and the 35 million living with AIDS.

John Ridley took the screenplay trophy for “12 Years a Slave.” He delivered an emotional acceptance speech, near tears as he said he had not fully realized the impact of the film until he saw it at the Toronto Film Festival.

Ridley gave a shout out to Julie Delpy, a co-nominee for “Before Midnight.”

“12 Years” also took the cinematography award for Sean Bobittt.

“Nebraska” screenwriter Bob Nelson won the Spirit Award for first screenplay in the first award given out, who said he wanted to not thank his wife and is so glad to be “the oldest recipient of best first screenplay.” In jest, he also thanked former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Will Forte for losing three pounds to play his role.

The 29th edition of Film Independent’s Spirit Awards started Saturday with Angie networking with Brad Weston, head of New Regency, and Jared Leto glad handing director Alexander Payne. Shailene Woodley and Lupita embraced, and Willie Garson was hanging out near the gelato before Patton Oswalt took the stage.

“We are living in a golden age of lesbian award show hosts and the role who look like them,” he said, referring to himself and Ellen DeGeneres, the Academy Awards show host.

“We lost the rain but that does not mean that God doesn’t love you,” Oswalt quipped. “Alec Baldwin is moving here.”

“Some of these movies premiered just on my iPhone,” Oswalt said, referring to the alternative methods of filmmaking. He did, however, give props to John Waters, who was sporting a red tie and a thin mustache. “You should always go too far,” he said referring to waters’ first film.

Oswalt evoked a mixed reception, evoking the first big applause by bowing to indie icon Waters, noting that his first movie, “Hag in a Black Leather Jacket,” debuted 50 years ago.

He got his first groans by saying Mia Farrow would present the Someone to Watch award and that Bruce Dern was in attendance “to see the ocean one last time.”

The awards were held under a big white tent on the beach in Santa Monica.

Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” led the field with seven nominations, followed by Alexander Payne’s six nods for “Nebraska.” In order to be nominated, each film has to have less than a $20 million production budget. To vote, one need only buy a $95 per year membership in Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Complete list of winners:

BEST FEATURE: “12 Years a Slave”

BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

BEST DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Morgan Neville, 20 “Feet From Stardom”

BEST SCREENPLAY: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD: “This is Martin Bonner”

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM: “Blue Is the Warmest Color”


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

FIRST FEATURE: Fruitvale Station

FIRST SCREENPLAY: Bob Nelson, Nebraska



BEST EDITING: Nat Sanders, Short Term 12

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).