Laughter, celebration and diversity were well represented in Santa Monica on Jan. 8 for the 35th Film Independent Spirit Awards. Unlike the Oscars, the Spirit Awards specifically recognize the achievements of independent filmmakers and promote the finest independent films of the year.
Host Aubrey Plaza gave the Oscars a run for their money in terms of entertainment which was filled with a Judy Garland opening number and a musical ode to Laura Dern.
Many Tribe members attended the social celebration of film including Noah Baumbach, Benny and Josh Safdie, Adam Sandler, Beanie Feldstein, Idina Menzel, Scarlett Johansson, Joey King and Nick Kroll.
Feldstein was celebrating with her “Booksmart” family of fierce women including director Olivia Wilde and co-star Kaitlyn Dever. The comedy about two high school best friends took home best first feature.
In the press room, Wilde said she was inspired to create a modern-day female comedy about friendship because of trailblazer Nora Ephron and other female writers/directors.
“Hopefully this movie itself is a kind of role model. I hope there’s directors out there that say ‘you know what I’m gonna go for it’ because of this,” Wilde said. “I really admire all the directors that blazed the trail before me. You know this movie was really in the spirit of Amy Heckerling and Nora Ephron and so many other female directors. I hope we can continue their legacy and inspire more ladies to get out there and direct.”
“Uncut Gems” may have been snubbed from the Oscars but Adam Sandler and the Safdie Brothers were happy to be recognized for their work on the film which took home three awards.
Benny Safdie and Ronald Bronstein took home the award for best editing for creating an anxiety-driven rhythm for the film. Benny and his brother Josh then accepted the award for best director, their first win after receiving nine nominations, and Sandler took home best male lead.
The “Uncut Gems” team collectively won the unofficial Spirit Award for best speeches. The Safdie’s made the crowd erupt with laughter as they both gave two different speeches at the same time for Best Director.
“This is incredible,” Benny Safdie said. “Sandman we wouldn’t be here without you so thank you.”
Meanwhile, Sandler turned on his iconic Sandman voice to provide his two-page acceptance speech where he shared his gratitude to everyone who has stayed with him throughout his career while also taking a dig to the Oscars which snubbed him of an acting nomination.
“Tonight as I look around this room, I realize the Independent Spirit Awards are the best personality awards of Hollywood,” Sandler said. “Let all those feather-heads…get their Oscars tomorrow night. Their handsome good looks will fade with time. Our Independent personalities will shine on forever.”
After accepting his award, he noted that while he is a little heavier now compared to when he was on “Saturday Night Live,” he is still the same goofy guy.
The Safdie’s, who have been working on “Uncut Gems” for the past 10 years, said that Sandler was their pick to play Howard from the beginning.
“When you love Adam Sandler from the very beginning you know that he doesn’t do anything that isn’t great,” they said. “The dream was always Sandler.”
Jewish writer and director Noah Baumbach also took home the Spirit Awards for best screenplay and the Robert Altman Award for “Marriage Story.”
Starring Johansson, Dern and Adam Driver, Baumbach created a film focusing on love, family and divorce based from his own personal experiences.
Upon expressing gratitude to the other writers in the room and admitting that writing is “agony,” he also acknowledged his partner, Academy Award nominee and Film Independent Award winner Greta Gerwig who was nominated for several awards this year for “Little Women.”
“I want to say hi to Greta,” he said, “Even though she made a movie too expensive for the Spirit Awards, she is no less independent than anyone here. You’re amazing, and my inspiration, and everything. ”