Hurricane Oscar continues to gather strength, trampling everything in its path until it makes landfall at the Kodak Theatre on Sunday night. One event that often gets overlooked by mainstream media, as it sits in the shadow of the storm of the year, is the Independent Spirit Awards, a scrappy low-key affair that kicks off tomorrow under a billowing white tent steps from the sand in Santa Monica. Now in its twenty-seventh year, the Spirits have changed very little over the decades, remaining true to the original mission to celebrate the year’s best personal, audacious, and idiosyncratic filmmaking.
At some point along the way, Film Independent, the organization behind the boozy brunch affair, added a red carpet as indie films became increasingly populated with bold-faced names. But since the winners aren’t announced until long after Academy voting has ended, there is no pressure on the Spirits to position itself as an Oscar bellwether, which is how it has maintained its integrity as a haven for overlooked films like "Synecdoche, New York" and "High Art" to get the recognition they deserve.
As an added bonus, more often than not, the Spirits award the top prizes – Best Feature and Best Director – to the counterculture Best Picture contender we spend the season rooting for but that inevitably loses out to an overdue A-List director or a crowd-pleasing work of historic import. (Last year, however, was the exception: “The Artist” came away the big winner at both events.) But in years past, films like “Black Swan,” “Precious,” “The Wrestler,” and “Juno” claimed the Best Feature Spirit Awards while remaining bridesmaids at the Oscars. In the end, we always come away from the Spirits feeling like the awards provide a creative checks and balances to the politics of the Oscars and that justice has been served.
This year, we’ve made no secret of our deep admiration for the emotional honesty that bleeds through every scene of “Silver Linings Playbook.” Now that “Argo” seems to have moved into the pole position in the Best Picture category with “Lincoln” close behind, the chances for "Silver Linings" to emerge victorious on Sunday night have diminished significantly. But as the below featurette makes clear (as does SIG’s Q&A with source material author Matthew Quick), the film embodies cinema’s highest ideals to move, entertain, and reflect a seldom-seen glimpse at the struggle all of us face to stay sane in an increasingly chaotic world. Or, as Bradley Cooper says at the end of the clip, it’s the rare film with the potential to change lives.
When you really think about it there are really two primary reasons why film has maintained its powerful hold over popular culture, continually compelling us to immerse ourselves in the medium: The desire to escape and the hope for a life-altering experience. Because the latter has become something of a freak occurrence that strikes with the frequency of a mid-summer snow, we’re offering up our list of top five films that changed our lives and we encourage you to do the same in the comments section below. Think of these films as Silver Linings moments on the silver screen.
“Harold and Maude”
Hal Ashby’s blackly comedic romance exalts in the value of breaking the rules, the redeeming power of love and uncaged individuality.
Richard Linklater’s first installment in his ongoing series delivers a dopamine hit of what it’s like to fuse souls with a perfect stranger in a strange land.
“Secrets and Lies”
Mike Leigh’s domestic masterpiece plays out with the tension of a thriller, heat mapping all the untruth and deception that keep family members at arm-s length from the connection and communion they seek.
Woody Allen’s ode to self-doubt and missed opportunity delivers a poignant portrait of a rogues' gallery of New York intellectuals trying and failing and trying some more to lead an authentic life.
“Wings of Desire”
A beautiful, elegiac meditation on the simple value of being alive from the point of view of frustrated, lovestruck angels. Director Wim Wenders infuses his best film with sadness, yearning and the transient gift of human consciousness.