For a lot of casual moviegoers, the Independent Spirit Awards are just the weird little awards show that takes place in a big tent the night before the Academy Awards. Maybe, as you’ll see in the opening monologue above, the comedy is a little raunchier and more NSFW than we expected. Maybe the audience seems a bit more drunk than we’re used to. But for those of us who only catch snippets or highlights of acceptance speeches on social media, it can be hard to understand its place in the overall award scene.

In truth, though, the Independent Spirit Awards actually serve a pretty important purpose within the film industry. Not only does the nominating committee use a film’s budget as one of its key factors  —  as noted on their FAQ page, any film with a budget higher than $20 million is excluded from competition  —  they also have a special award for even smaller films. The Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award is given to the best film of the year with a budget of less than $500,000, making this one of the few festivals that goes out of its way to highlight independent cinema.

And with that, here are the categories and winners from last night’s Independent Spirit Awards ceremony:


Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Molly Shannon, Other People

Ben Foster, Hell or High Water

Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

You can see the full of list of winners over at the Film Independent website, but it’s worth noting that the Independent Spirit Awards also issued awards to both Robert Eggers (The Witch) and Anna Rose Holmer (The Fits), both of whose films were critical favorites of 2016 but flew under the wire come award season. That makes these awards the ones for everyone out there who has ever said, “It’ll never happen, but wouldn’t it be nice if [FILM] were nominated for an Academy Award?” I say we go ahead and start writing Jordan Peele’s name down on some of these trophies for 2018.

Do the Independent Spirit Awards hint at Oscar gold for any of its winners? As Variety noted in their coverage, four of the last five films to win on Saturday night have also gone on to win Best Picture on Sunday as well, which Variety describes as “indicative of the Academy Awards’ slow evolution into something resembling the Spirits.” For now, fans of Moonlight will just have to settle for the joy of seeing the best movie of the year take one home last trophy, regardless of what happens this evening.

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