The Weinstein Co.'s late season juggernaut took the awards for best feature, best director for Michel Hazanavicius, best male lead for Jean Dujardin and best cinematography for Guillaume Schiffman. Unfortunately, several of the cast and crew were delayed on their way to the States from France's Cesar Awards the night before, arriving just in time for Hazanavicius to accept his award.
"We arrived five minutes ago," the writer-director said once he reached the stage and took his prize from presenters Kirsten Dunst and Jonah Hill. "We came with a police escort. It was just like the movie 'Drive.'" (Nicolas Winding Refn's violent action thriller was up for four awards as well, including best director and best feature, but came away empty-handed.) "Artist" star Penelope Ann Miller accepted the first two awards for the film on behalf of her colleagues that were late.
The filmmakers behind "Margin Call" scored a number of honors, as well. The film won the Robert Altman Award, which celebrates the casting directors and cast of an ensemble film, plus best first feature for writer-director J.C. Chandor and his producers. After acknowledging how difficult the film was to make, Chandor said, "I'm just glad we made a good little movie."
Christopher Plummer classed up the celebration early after winning the best supporting male award for "Beginners" by thanking director Mike Mills for his "enchanting film" and complimenting his wife of 43 years for having "the wisdom of Solomon." Plummer also joked, "It took me the longest time to figure out that the Spirit Awards have nothing to do with booze! A pity that."
"50/50" writer Will Reiser won the best first screenplay award and finished up his thank yous with a "nod to cancer" for helping him achieve the honor. Not long afterward, "Descendants" actress Shailene Woodley was handed the award for best supporting female.
"I am inspired by all of you," the clearly overjoyed Woodley said to the crowd.
Interspersed among the awards were video segments on the best feature nominees and the winners of FIND sponsor grants, plus performances by My Morning Jacket, Garfunkel and Oates and K'naan, and an announcement of new fellowship winners by recently installed co-presidents of Film Independent, Josh Welsh and Sean McManus. Indie princess Patricia Clarkson presented a toast from the stage to the recently departed Bingham Ray, who passed away during this year's Sundance FIlm Festival, saying, "This man was an independent film. Thank you, Bingham. Wish you were here."
Ethan Hawke and Rashida Jones presented the award for best documentary to Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz for "The Interrupters." Alexander Payne and his co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash took the award for best screenplay for "The Descendants," with Payne thanking Fox Searchlight "for still making films like this." "A Separation" director Asghar Farhadi thanked distributor Sony Pictures Classics from the stage with the help of a translator after winning the prize for best international film for his Oscar-nominated Iranian effort.
"Pariah" was presented the John Cassavetes Award by "Cedar Rapids" co-stars Ed Helms and Anne Heche, who joked about how the nominees for the prize were fully supported by social conservatives because their dark indie films showed how alternative lifestyles lead to "despair, isolation and even suicide." Writer-director Dee Rees and her producer Nekisa Cooper accepted the award. "Any show where you can wear a sparkly hoodie and have two whiskeys before noon is pretty fucking awesome," said Rees with a smile and applause from the crowd.
After winning the award for best female lead in "My Week With Marilyn," Michelle Williams noted that she first came to the Spirits ten years before, back when she wore her own clothes and cut her own hair.
"In this room, unlike others, that was OK -- possibly even preferred," she said, appreciative of the indie film community's population of misfits, outcasts and mumblers. "Thank you for welcoming me. The only thing I'm wearing now that is my own is my dignity."
Presenters included Willem Dafoe and Olivia Wilde, Rosario Dawson and Anthony Mackie, Sir Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale and Colin Farrell, Giovanni Ribisi and Li Bing Bing, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elizabeth Banks, Laura Dern and Terrence Howard, Zac Efron, Chris Pine and Jessica Chastain (up for best supporting female in "Take Shelter"), Lucy Liu and John Hawkes (up for best supporting male in "Martha Marcy May Marlene"), William H. Macy, Zoe Saldana and Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Benjamin Bratt and Julia Ormond. Spirits poobah John Waters served as announcer.
Other guests and nominees included Disney marketing chief Ricky Strauss, Bryan Cranston, Illeana Douglas, Lauren Ambrose and Elizabeth Olsen.
Despite never having hosted a show before, Rogen seemed in his element, with a series of jokes about the major awards contenders and the funkiness of the Spirits' venue and stage decoration. He also flung the provocative zinger, "Without awards season, how would we know what a horrible bigot Brett Ratner is?" referencing how the director had to back out of producing the Oscars after uttering a derogatory word used for gays. Bringing up "Drive" and its villains, played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman, Rogen joked that, "That movie made Jews look so bad, I thought Mel Gibson directed it."
Of Olsen, Rogen said, "I learned there was a whole other Olsen! Where were they hiding her? She's the best one!" And he had particular fun with best male lead nominee Michael Shannon of "Take Shelter," lobbing several jokes his way, including a random announcement that the crowd could expect a surprise later: "Michael Shannon will murder someone here tonight," Rogen said.
– The Hollywood Reporter