"Black Swan" went into the 26th Film Independent Spirit Awards trailing both "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are All Right" in total nominations, but Darren Aronofsky's audacious ballet melodrama came out on top, winning the Best Feature award and also picking up honors for director Aronofsky, star Natalie Portman and cinematographer Matthew Libatique.
The Fox Searchlight production, which was made for less than $15 million after its director's decade-long struggle to get it off the ground, is also nominated for Best Picture at Sunday's Academy Awards. In that category, at least, it is liable to further bolster the old Indie Spirits/Oscar adage, "Win on Saturday, lose on Sunday."
James Franco, the only Oscar nominee in his race, won the lead male acting honor for "127 Hours."
"Winter's Bone," which led all films with seven nominations, picked up two awards, for supporting performances by John Hawkes and Dale Dickey. No other film won more than one award.
"The Kids Are All Right" co-authors Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg were given Best Screenplay honors, "Get Low" was named Best First Feature and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" took the award for Best Documentary. The last award was accepted by Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, the hapless artist and would-be filmmaker who was the subject of the film.
Four of the five Best Feature nominees — "Winter's Bone," "The Kids Are All Right," "127 Hours" and "Black Swan" — are also nominated for Oscars in the Best Picture category. A fifth Oscar nominee, "The King's Speech," won the Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film category but was ineligible for any other awards.
Spirit Awards eligibility is restricted to films that are made for less than $20 million, and are judged to be "independent" by one of the special juries that determine the nominations. Winners are chosen by all the members of Film Independent, which is open to filmmakers and movie fans who pay the annual membership fee.
The show was hosted by comic and actor Joel McHale (TV's "Community," "Talk Soup") and marked a return to the Indie Spirit Awards' traditional time and place, a tent on the beach at Santa Monica on the afternoon before the Oscar show.
Last year's awards, the 25th, was held at the LA Live complex in Downtown Los Angeles, and took place on the Friday night before the Oscars.
The return to the beach did not bring with it a beach-like climate, though. The sky was overcast and the wind cold, leading to such a chill inside the show's massive tent that presenter Rainn Wilson described it as "the coldest f***ing awards show ever," drawning a substantial round of applause.
McHale did not alienate the crowd the way that 2010 host Eddie Izzard did with his jokes about religion. But McHale did engage in some Ricky Gervais-style biting of the hand that hired him, calling the large Spirit Awards statue onstage "Rusto, the god of movies that nobody sees: 'Daddy Longlegs,' 'Jack Goes Boating' or whatever it's called … "
The show was filmed for primetime broadcast on IFC, though the cold temperatures and frequent breaks made the crowd notably inattentive.
Best Feature: "Black Swan"
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"
Best Screenplay: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, "The Kids Are All Right"
Best First Feature: "Get Low"
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, "Tiny Furniture"
John Cassavetes Award: "Daddy Longlegs"
Best Female Lead: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Best Male Lead: James Franco, "127 Hours"
Best Supporting Female: Dale Dickey, "Winter's Bone"
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, "Black Swan"
Best Documentary: "Exit Through the Gift Shop"
Best Foreign Film: "The King's Speech"
Robert Altman Award: "Please Give"
Acura Someone to Watch Award: Mike Ott, "Littlerock"
Piaget Producers Award: Anish Saviani, "Meek's Cutoff"
Aveeno Truer Than Fiction Award: Jeff Malmberg, "Marwencol"
Jameson FIND Your Audience Award: Jeff Malmberg, "Marwencol"