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Bev Cohn: Spirit Awards

the Film Independent's Spirit Awards logo on display at a video screen in Santa Monica Beach, February 2011
Photo: Beverly Cohn

On The Beach With Film Independent's Spirit Awards
By Beverly Cohn

"Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…
…When the wind comes right behind the rain…"

f course, these are lyrics from the wonderful musical "Oklahoma" and can easily be applied to the weather conditions greeting the 26th edition of Film Independent's Spirit Awards which set up in its familiar tents on Santa Monica Beach Saturday, February 26, 2011.

Despite being assaulted by fierce winds and the lingering dampness from the torrential downpour the night before, hundreds of folks in the film business, nominees, and friends alike, turned out for this most casual, relaxed awards ceremony to honor filmmakers who made their movies independent of studio financing, bringing their artistic vision to fruition, many times with great difficulty.

In what was a less than popular change of venue last year to a downtown Los Angeles location at L.A. Live, this year Film Independent's Spirit Awards, reverted back to its familiar Santa Monica location and the traditional afternoon awards luncheon format. Once again the event was a fun, relaxed gathering of the film community.

Red carpet arrivals began at 11:30 a.m., with the ceremony starting at 2:00 p.m. The program aired on IFC at 10:00 p.m. that evening. Fans who wanted to get a glimpse of some of their favorite movie stars were welcomed, cameras in hand, as viewing barriers were set up.

Now in its 26th year, this highly informal jeans-and-tees event was founded in 1984 and was originally called FINDIE Awards ("Friends of Independents"). It has steadily grown in popularity and as usual was a barometer of the Academy Awards held the next day.

Film Independent Executive Director Dawn Hudson put together a producing team including Audrey Morrissey of Live Animals as the new Executive Producer, who joined Barry Adelman of Dick Clark Productions, who returned for a second year as producer.

Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman with their awards at the Spirit Awards, Santa Monica Beach
Darren Aronofsky won Best Director for "Black Swan" and Natalie Portman garnered Best Female award for her outstanding performance in that film.
Photo: Jeff Vespa, WireImage, Courtesy of Film Independent.

This year's crop of nominations for Best Feature was an especially rich list, including "127 Hours," "Black Swan," "The Kids Are All Right," "Winter's Bone," and "Greenberg," with "Black Swan" taking the prize, along with garnering the Best Director award for Darren Aronofsky and Best Female going to Natalie Portman.

Especially gratifying was the award for Best First Feature, which went to Sony Pictures Classic's "Get Low." The riveting, compelling performance given by Robert Duvall could stand as a "how to" acting lesson for actors - whether aspiring or seasoned.

Best Male awardee James Franco at the Spirit Awards
James Franco scored the Best Male award for “127 Hours.” Photo: Beverly Cohn

Following scoring the Best Male award for his performance in "127 Hours," James Franco, who won the Best Supporting Male for his performance in "Milk" in 2009, participated in a brief Q & A in the very breezy press tent crammed with journalists from all over the world. For a change of pace, Franco talked about his recent appearance on "General Hospital" as well as a Yale University project in which he is involved.

Q: Is acting on a soap opera different from film acting?

Franco: Before I got on the set, I wondered if I had to act differently, but when I settled in, I realized that my job was to act realistically within the parameters of that world. While the technical aspects are different - the makeup, cameras, lighting, etc., the acting is the same whether you're on a soap or in a film.

Q: How involved do you get with the technical side of filmmaking?

Franco: When I first started acting I didn't want to know about the technical side. To me it was about living the emotions of the character. But, I do see that movies are a collaborative art form and you have to be aware of cameras, blocking and all those other considerations so instead of trying to ignore everything, I try to work with it.

Q: Can you talk about your Yale project?

Franco: I am interested in capturing young people in the theatre and I'm working on a project at Yale using a live stage play, but also digital technology.

Thank you very much. (Applause)

2011 Spirit Award Winners

Best First Screenplay awardee Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham won for Best First Screenplay - "Tiny Furniture."
Photo: Beverly Cohn
Best Supporting Female awardee Dale Dickey
Dale Dickey is Best Supporting Female for her performance in "Winter's Bone." Photo: Beverly Cohn
Best Supporting Male awardee John Hawkes
John Hawkes won Best Supporting Male for his work in "Winter's Bone."
Photo: Beverly Cohn
James Franco ansering questions at a Q&A with the press
James Franco answers questions during the brief Q & A with the press.
Photo: Beverly Cohn
director Tom Hooper accepting his award in the Best Foreign film category
In the Best Foreign Film category, director Tom Hooper won for "The King's Speech." Photo: Beverly Cohn
Best Cinematography winner Matthew Libatique accepting his award
Matthew Libatique won best Cinematography for the
"Black Swan." Photo: Beverly Cohn

actor Thierry Guetta accepting the award for director Banksy for best documentary
Actor Thierry Guetta accepted the award for best documentary - "Exit Through The Gift Shop" - on behalf of the elusive director, Banksy. Photo: Beverly Cohn
Other Winners

Best Screenplay:
The Kids Are All Right (Stuart Blumberg & Lisa Cholodenko)

Best First Feature:
Get Low (Director: Aaron Schneider)

John Cassavetes Award
(Daddy Longlegs)
(IFC feature made under $500,000)

Congratulations to all the winners and may next year bring another collection of outstanding independent films.

Related Articles:
Los Angeles Irish Film Festival, Robert Duvall, Jeff Bridges

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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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