How the Film Independent Spirit Awards Winners Could Impact Oscar Voting

This year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards stayed ahead of the Oscar curve once more, announcing their winners on Saturday, March 4 in the usual chilly, white tent on the Santa Monica beach, with Oscar voting not over until March 7.

Back in the day, when the awards were presented on the Saturday before the Oscars, they had no impact on the Oscars at all. But this year, the big winner “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which took home seven Spirit awards, is heading straight into the last days of Oscar voting backed by recent key wins at the DGA, PGA, and SAG Awards. Ballots close at 5PM PT on March 7.

Host Hasan Minhaj made a point of IFC not renewing their contract to broadcast the awards show, which was live-streamed, like the SAG Awards, on YouTube. First presenter (and former host) Aubrey Plaza congratulated the Spirits for “finally ditching all that corporate commercial bullshit and finally becoming so indie that no one can even watch.”

See a list of all the 38th Indie Spirit Award winners here — all falling under Film Independent’s newly raised $30-million budget cap.

Ke Huy Quan at the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards

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This year, for the first time, Film Independent opted for non-gendered acting categories, with 10 competitors for Best Lead Performance. “We don’t care about pointless binaries like male and female,” said Minhaj. “We only care about important binaries like lead or supporting. For the first time, all the men know how the women feel when they find out they’re competing with Cate Blanchett.”

“TÁR” star Blanchett (who last won the Indie Spirit and Oscar for “Blue Jasmine”) and her Oscar rival Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) went head to head against the likes of fellow Best Actress nominee Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”) and Best Actor Oscar nominee Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”).

In the end, as expected, a weeping Yeoh took the big win heading into Oscar voting, where the Best Actress race is too close to call. She thanked A24 for believing “in the masterpiece from the Daniels,” she said, and Scheinert and Kwan “for writing such an incredible script that gave us the opportunity to be seen, to be heard.”

Neon CEO Tom Quinn at the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Anne Thompson

With seven total Spirit wins, A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won every category it could — Oscar-nominated Ke Huy Quan took home Best Supporting Performance, beating out nine men and women including his costar, SAG Supporting Actress winner, and Oscar nominee Jamie Lee Curtis.

Quan stressed the family nature of the “EEAAO” film set. “We never felt like we worked for anybody,” he said. The film also won Best Feature, Best Director (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Editing, and Screenplay, which Scheinert said “was especially scary to read.” Also picking up an expected award in the first-time Best Breakthrough Performance award category was Oscar-nominated Stephanie Hsu, her first individual award, she said.

Daniel Kwan exhorted the indie film community to look to the future. “This is an opportunity, when things are shaking, and it gets turbulent and the cracks form in the foundations,” he said, “that’s the best time to plant the seeds. It is our job not just to adapt to the future, but also to actively dream up what kind of future we want to rewrite and what kind of future we want to be working and living in. I just urge us all to think really big. What we do here is going to flow upstream to the rest of the industry. We have a very special power. It seems like a weakness because what we do is so small and scrappy. That makes us flexible. That makes us able to move in ways the rest of the industry cannot. And I urge you all to plant some seeds. Now. Today. Figure out how can we make a movie set more family-friendly and human centered? How can we make a movie set more eco-friendly? But let’s really dig. This is our time right now to do it. And the people in this room— producers, directors actors — you are the ones who want to dictate how these things are done. It’s not just the stories that we tell them, it’s how we do it. Let’s try to do it together.”

With seven Spirit nominations, “TÁR” (Focus Features) had to settle for Best Cinematography, accepted by writer-director Todd Field.

Claire Foy and Rooney Mara at the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Anne Thompson

Going in, Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” (UA Releasing) was the known winner of the Robert Altman Award for the ensemble cast, director, and casting director of a film, which made it ineligible for other acting awards. “Women ARE talking,” Polley quipped, referring to presenter Mark Wahlberg’s title gaffe at the SAG Awards. She thanked her late mother Diane Polley, who was a casting director and influenced her brother Johnny, who was the casting director on “Women Talking.”

“This group of people supported and held each other and worked as a collective,” she said of the ensemble. “They honestly changed my feeling about the world and about what we’re capable of as human beings. And I’m so proud that I get to stand up here with you.” As for the Oscars, Polley is most likely to have a shot at winning Best Adapted Screenplay.

On the Best International Film front, none of the Spirit nominees lined up with the Oscars, with the win going to Pakistan’s “Joyland,” which finally hits theaters in April. On the other hand, the Best Documentary win for Laura Poitras’ “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (Neon) solidified that film’s status as an Oscar frontrunner. Poitras thanked artist/activist Nan Goldin for “her collaboration and her trust,” and for showing her that “the role of the artist is to change society and how we understand the world we live in.”

“EO” director Jerzy Skolimowski at the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Anne Thompson

Among the Spirit winners who may factor in future Oscar races, “Emily the Criminal” writer-director John Patton Ford nabbed Best First Screenplay for his low-budget feature, thanking star Aubrey Plaza for agreeing to shoot the film “in 20 days in August for zero money,” he said.

As expected, Charlotte Wells’ “Aftersun,” whose star Mescal is up for the Best Actor Oscar, won Best First Feature. And when Nikyatu Jusu won the Someone to Watch Award for “Nanny,” she said, “I’m so glad that ‘Aftersun’ wasn’t nominated in this category. I’ve been getting my ass beat by it all season.”

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