Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk swept the Independent Spirit Awards, winning all three categories that it had nominations in, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Suspiria each won two awards in an afternoon awards program that served as a counter-balance to the Oscars. In recent years, the awards bestowed upon by Film Independent members had served as a precursor to Oscar glory, but this year, with more popular and high-earning, high-budget films getting favored at the Oscars, the Independent Spirit Awards served as a bit of a referendum on what Oscar left out – mainly, Jenkins’ magnificent follow-up to Moonlight (itself the Best Feature winner in 2016), Beale Street, which was shut out of Best Picture this year. The other two multiple award winners also did not receive Oscar nominations in Best Picture – and, indeed, Suspiria received no nominations from the Academy Awards at all.
We were in attendance at the award ceremony, held in a giant white tent at the base of the Santa Monica Pier, and the love for Beale Street was on everyone’s lips as we walked through the cocktail reception. This proved a clear path to victory in every category for which Beale Street was nominated, but it’s worth nothing that Film Independent likes to spread out the nominations. Indeed, the most nominated film of the evening — We the Animals — did not win an award, and their five nominations stood as the feather in their cap.
And such is the atmosphere of the event, hosted by Aubrey Plaza, a celebration of independent cinema in which a film like You Were Never Really Here, which won Best Film Editing, was cheered by the crowd at every mention, from Best Actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix to director Lynne Ramsay, whom Jenkins himself said he wished had won Best Director on this day in which 60% of the nominees were female – a stark contrast to how Hollywood’s film directing percentages actually work out.
Being represented was the most spirited occasion at the Indie Spirit Awards and as such, the love was spread wide, from Glenn Close to Ethan Hawke to Richard E. Grant and the aforementioned Suspiria. It was a bright, sunny day on the beach to celebrate a year of cinema that the Oscars mostly ignored. Inside the tent, Beale Street talked; Hollywood asked, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; and the awards answered, You Were Never Really Here. Drinks to that!