Spirit Awards: Cromwell, Hawkes on keeping the indie spirit alive
On the surface, the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards don't appear to share much in common. The former honors low-budget movies made outside the studio system from a makeshift tent near the beach in Santa Monica in a casual afternoon ceremony. The latter, meanwhile, is the pinnacle of Hollywood pomp and circumstance that often hands out prizes to films that cost millions of dollars to produce.
But with every year that passes, it seems that the two award shows become more similar, recognizing many of the same films. This year, two of the five best feature nominees at the Spirit Awards -- "The Artist" and "The Descendants" -- were among the nine films up for best picture at the Oscars.
Christopher Plummer and Jean Dujardin, the respective front-runners in the supporting and lead male acting categories at Sunday's 84th Academy Awards ceremony, took home the top prizes Saturday, and, of course,"The Artist" -- the likely best picture Oscar winner -- danced away with the best feature prize.
Despite these similarities, "The Artist's" James Cromwell said he thinks Hollywood is still largely driven by star power and money and that the Spirit Awards have tremendous merit.
"If you have a $250-million film -- or you have a film with George Clooney in it -- George Clooney is going to bring you a lot of bucks. But Jean Dujardin? Meh," the actor said Saturday. "With independent film, it's a little different, because they're doing something that has a greater risk, and they're putting their own money in it, and they care very deeply about it."
Mark Duplass, who along with brother Jay helped to establish the low-budget, minimalist film movement deemed mumblecore, said he has noticed that big movie stars increasingly want to become a part of his films. Ed Helms, who stars in the Duplass brothers' upcoming "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," added that he doesn't notice many differences between the two ways of filmmaking -- outside of the promotion.
"Obviously 'The Hangover' gets a massive international media blitz. And a lot of the movies here today -- independent films -- really struggle for that recognition," "The Office" star said.
Many of the films that do reach a larger audience do so through television, on stations such as the Sundance Channel or Independent Film Channel, which will air the Spirit Awards ceremony later Saturday night.
"I know that in small towns, like where I'm from, [those channels] bring films to people who wouldn't normally see them," said John Hawkes, who was nominated for best supporting male for his role in "Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene." "That's a really great thing. I only had one channel on my TV when I was growing up, and it wasn't the Sundance Channel. "
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: From left, Michel Hazanavicius, Penelope Ann Miller, Thomas Langmann and James Cromwell accept the best feature award for "The Artist" at the Film Independent Spirit Awards Credit: Vince Bucci / Associated Press