Call it an act of justice or just plain old good taste.
"Election" finally got the kind of props it deserved.
After getting all but snubbed by Oscar voters, the critically acclaimed high school satire, starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick, was vindicated at today's IFP/West's 15th Annual Independent Spirit Awards, taking a field-best three mentions for best indie feature, best screenplay and best director.
The indie-minded types, who gathered here in a tent for the afternoon beachfront ceremony, also assured Oscar nominees Hilary Swank, Charlie Kaufman, Richard Farnsworth and Chloë Sevginy of glory -- regardless of whether Academy voters deign them worthy of gold statuettes Sunday.
Swank, who faces the daunting task of trying to defeat Mrs. Warren Beatty (aka Annette Bening) in the Oscar race, was tapped best lead actress in an indie film for the gender-bending "Boys Don't Cry." Her co-star, Chloë Sevigny, a Best Supporting Actress nominee at the Academy Awards (where she's expected to lose to Angelina Jolie), was named best supporting female.
Another big winner was Richard Farnsworth, named best actor for "The Straight Story." He's also up for an Oscar (and also expected to lose -- to either "American Beauty's" Kevin Spacey or "The Hurricane's" Denzel Washington.)
At the Oscars, writer/director Alexander Payne is up for one award (best original screenplay). But today, he personally took three in the "Election" sweep.
Though a bit shocked by the sudden attention, Payne was not a bit surprised that Spirit voters remembered the flick (released in April) -- even if Academy voters mostly didn't.
"Everybody always says that movies that come earlier [are forgotten because of audiences'] short memory," Payne told reporters backstage. "I don't know how much that actually applies. ... I don't know [how much that matters.]"
Kaufman, also a nominee in Sunday's best original screenplay competition for "Being John Malkovich," took the Spirit Award for best first screenplay. "Malkovich" also was tapped best first feature, among flicks with budgets larger than $500,000.
"Malkovich" and "Boys Don't Cry" were the afternoon's other multiple winners, winning two categories each.
While Kaufman and "Malkovich" director Spike Jonze remained relatively curt with their responses backstage, R.E.M. rocker Michael Stipe, one of the film's behind-the-sceners, was unabashed on why the film appealed to him as a producer.
"It's not like the usual Hollywood trash," stated Stipe flatly. "[The script takes] the narrative and changes its order. [It's] something's that not the cookie-cutter Hollywood feature."
Here's a complete look at the winners of the 15th Annual Independent Spirit Awards:
Best Feature: "Election" Best First Feature (Over $500,000): "Being John Malkovich" Best First Feature (Under $500,000): "The Blair Witch Project" Best Director: Alexander Payne ("Election") Best Female Lead: Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry") Best Male Lead: Richard Farnsworth ("The Straight Story") Best Supporting Female: Chloë Sevigny ("Boys Don't Cry") Best Supporting Male: Steve Zahn ("Happy, Texas") Best Debut Performance: Kimberly J. Brown ("Tumbleweeds") Best Screenplay: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor ("Election") Best First Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich") Best Cinematographer: Lisa Rinzler ("Three Seasons") Best Foreign Film: "Run Lola Run" (Germany)
Where were you at 5:30 a.m. PST on Tuesday? If you're an Academy Award nominee, you were hounded by media anxious to get a first-hand reaction.
Michael Clarke Duncan and Haley Joel Osment had camera crews sitting with them to watch the nominations. While the 11-year-old "Sixth Sense" star, the third youngest Best Supporting Actor nominee ever, gave his gentlemanly "it's an honor to be nominated" sound bite, "The Green Mile's" Duncan, 42, whooped, hollered and sobbed in one breath, so excited that he couldn't remember his mother's phone number and had to get his Rolodex.
"Yesss! I am in there!" the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Duncan yelled.
Other nominees were just as excited for their collaborators. Best Actor nominee Russell Crowe was first to call his "The Insider" director Michael Mann, congratulating him on his three nominations (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture).
"The Cider House Rules" sribe John Irving, who was in Manchester, Vt., was ecstatic over his adapted screenplay nod but shouted for joy when director Lasse Hallström received a nomination as well. And "American Beauty's" producers and writer Alan Ball assembled for a pre-dawn breakfast in Hollywood Hills, while director Sam Mendes nervously ate in a London restaurant before the announcements.
Nominees Michael Caine, Jude Law and Hilary Swank were all on location on their next project. Swank didn't have a television, so husband Chad Lowe held up a phone to their set at home so they could both listen to the announcements.
As for leading actor nominees Richard Farnsworth and Annette Bening, their post-Oscar plans will include a little bed rest: Farnsworth is awaiting hip-replacement surgery, and Bening is expecting her fourth child terribly soon after the ceremony. "It's either the hospital or the ceremony," Bening quipped. "I'll be wearing a tent."
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Oscar producers are planning the March 26 program right this second and are promising a really good show. But according to Variety's Army Archerd, telecast producer Richard Zanuck finds it "disturbing" that stars that are neither nominated nor presenting don't show up, particularly the younger generation. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, for instance, have already said they are "unavailable." That sound you hear is the gaggle of females backing out of seat-filling signups.
PUMPKIN PATCHED: Ex-Smashing Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy (full name: D'Arcy Wretzky) has agreed to take drug-prevention classes in exchange for the dismissal of cocaine possession charges. She appeared in a Chicago court Monday, accused of buying crack cocaine Jan. 25 at a building under surveillance for suspected drug sales. "I didn't do it," Wretzky said outside court. She agreed to attend four Saturday classes on drug awareness and prevention -- an option available to first-time offenders. The charges will be dropped if she completes the classes by May 19.
A REAL GOOD 'PIE': There's a new pop version of Don McLean's classic "American Pie" floating around the radio waves, sung by none other than Madonna for her upcoming film "The Next Best Thing." What does McLean think of the Material Girl's cover? "Her version ... is sensual and mystical. I hope it will cause people to ask what's happening to music in America," McLean said in a statement. But what we're wondering is, is that a good thing? Madonna's version "is a gift from a goddess," McLean continues. Oh. Question answered.
QUICK TAKES: Screen veteran Gregory Peck, 83, will reportedly make his final stage appearance Saturday with "A Conversation with Gregory Peck" in Salem, Ore. ...
... Elizabeth Taylor will be the third recipient of the Marian Anderson Award, which honors artists who work to benefit humanity. Taylor will accept the award June 25 and 26 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The award is named after the late opera singer and Philadelphia native who was the first black performer to sing at the White House ...
... Caroline Rhea ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch'') will host the 52nd annual Writers Guild of America Awards on March 5. Presenters at the event, which will take place simultaneously at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Plaza Hotel in New York City, will include Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Clarke Duncan and Dylan McDermott.