Oscars frontrunner "12 Years a Slave" swept the 29th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards this afternoon, hosted for the first time by Patton Oswalt. Steve McQueen's period drama about a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery notched five Spirit Awards in total: Best Feature, Best Supporting Female (Lupita Nyong'o, who was also celebrating her birthday), Best Director (McQueen), Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.
With awards rivals "Gravity" and "American Hustle" ineligible due to their budgets (although it is interesting to note that last year "Hustle" director David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" was the event's big winner), this made for one of the most predictable Spirit Awards in recent memory. Still, today's big winner "Slave" has to be considered the favorite in the Best Picture race heading into tomorrow's Academy Awards.
On the Spirit Awards acting front, the year of the McConaissance continued. Matthew McConaughey won for Best Male Lead for "Dallas Buyers Club," and also shared the Robert Altman Award for "Mud" (which the actor described as "one of the favorite films he's ever made") with that film's cast and crew. In other "Dallas Buyers" news, McConaughey's co-star Jared Leto won for Best Supporting Male. Leto did a dead-on imitation of his co-star, saying "all right, all right, all right, baby," with a slick Texas twang during the afternoon's most memorable speech.
The unstoppable Cate Blanchett won Best Female Lead for "Blue Jasmine." She graciously called out Greta Gerwig, who was not nominated for "Frances Ha," a Best Feature nominee.
Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station," based on the shooting death of Oakland's Oscar Grant, won Best First Film. There was no surprise there: It was the highest grossing movie of that category and once expected to be this year's "The Beast of the Southern Wild." (Many believe that the omission of "Fruitvale Station" at the Academy Awards – and that of star Michael B. Jordan -- was as notable as the snub of Oprah Winfrey for "Lee Daniel's The Butler").
The Bruce Dern-Will Forte comedy "Nebraska" got its props with a Best First Screenplay win for writer Bob Nelson. The black-and-white movie's director, Alexander Payne, told Yahoo Movies before the awards that he was not anticipating a win. (He also told Yahoo Movies earlier this week that his chances of winning at the Oscars were "zero.")
Will the events of today foreshadow what we'll see at the Oscars? It's very possible that the four main acting categories tomorrow will echo today's results, with McConaughey, Blanchett, Leto and Nyong'o all favorites to win the big one.
And then of course there's "Slave," which with a victory tomorrow would be the rare film to win the top prize at both the Spirit Awards and the Oscars: "The Artist" pulled off that feat in 2011, but prior to that the last film to win those awards back-to-back was 1986's "Platoon."
Complete List of Winners:
BEST FEATURE "12 Years a Slave"
BEST DIRECTOR Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"
BEST FIRST FEATURE "Fruitvale Station"
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
BEST MALE LEAD
Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
John Ridley, "12 Years a Slave"
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Bob Nelson, "Nebraska"
BEST DOCUMENTARY "20 Feet From Stardom"
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
"Blue is the Warmest Color" (France)
"12 Years a Slave"
"Short Term 12"
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD -
"This is Martin Bonner"
19th ANNUAL STELLA ARTOIS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD Jason Osder, "Let the Fire Burn"