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'Lost in Translation' finds success at Independent Spirit

Monday, March 01, 2004

By Kim Crow, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SANTA MONICA -- "Lost in Translation" was understood very well at the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica on Saturday afternoon, with wins in four big categories: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead and Best Screenplay.

On this cool, windy afternoon, dozens of stars crowded tents on the beach in sun-drenched Santa Monica to celebrate the small-budgeted films and independent filmmakers who challenge the status quo. The Independent Spirit Awards are traditionally held on the Saturday before the Oscars, and in these days of the blurring lines between independent and studio films, both shows offer many of the same names on their ballots.

Chris Pizzello, Associated Press
Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo accepts the award for Best Supporting Female for her role in "House of Sand and Fog" at the Independent Spirit Awards. "My message to my people," said the actress who is banned from going back to her country, "is to not give up, there is always hope and always a better future."
Click photo for larger image.

All four of the Independent Spirit acting winners are nominated for Academy Awards: Bill Murray, Best Male Lead; Charlize Theron, Best Female Lead; Shohreh Aghdashloo, Best Supporting Female, and Djimon Hounsou, Best Supporting Male; Theron and Aghdashloo being heavily favored to win their Oscar bids as well.

"I can't think about that right now," said Theron, dressed casually in low-riding jeans, a red tank top and fitted Gucci blazer, at glamorous odds with her dead-on portrayal of a prostitute serial killer in "Monster." When asked about Hollywood's love affair with beautiful women who transform themselves to play unattractive prostitutes and murders, she said: "It's easy to look at a lot of similarities in a lot of categories, but I like to believe it's the work that impresses."

Critic's darling "The Station Agent" won in three categories: Best First Screenplay, the Producer Award and the John Cassevetes Award, which goes to the best feature made for under $500,000. The filmmakers and cast joked about their bare-bones budget backstage, saying they couldn't even afford portable toilets for the 20-day shoot. "But luckily, we were out in the middle of the woods," joked screenwriter Thomas McCarthy.

Sofia Coppola, rumpled chic in a shrunken white blazer and wide-legged trousers, was visibly shaken and surprised by her win for Best Screenplay. "Writing comes so hard to me, it's especially gratifying to win this," said the multi-hyphenate (producer-writer-director) filmmaker, who was accompanied by her father, Francis. "I'm proud of our movie, I like our movie, I just never expected it would get anywhere near this amount of attention."

A lot of that attention is due to Murray's role as a lonely, wry, has-been actor adrift in Tokyo. His win was enthusiastically applauded, foreshadowing a possible Oscar upset over front-runner Sean Penn ("Mystic River").

 
 

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT
AWARDS

Complete list of winners for the
2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards

Best Feature:
"Lost in Translation"

Best Director:
Sofia Coppola, "Lost in Translation"

Best Screenplay:
Sofia Coppola, "Lost in Translation"

Best First Feature:
"Monster"

Best First Screenplay:
Thomas McCarthy, "The Station Agent"

John Cassevetes Award
(for the Best Feature made for under $500,000):
"The Station Agent"

Best Debut Performance:
Nikki Reed, "Thirteen"

Best Supporting Female:
Shohreh Aghdashloo, "House of Sand and Fog"

Best Supporting Male:
Djimon Hounsou, "In America"

Best Female Lead:
Charlize Theron, "Monster"

Best Male Lead:
Bill Murray, "Lost in Translation"

Best Cinematography:
Declan Quinn, "In America"

Best Foreign Film:
"Whale Rider"

Best Documentary:
"Fog of War"

Producer's Award:
Mary Jane Skalski
("The Station Agent" and
"The Jimmy Show")

Turning Leaf Someone to Watch Award:
Andrew Bujalski ("Funny Ha Ha")

DIRECTV/IFC Truer than Fiction Award: Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk ("Lost Boys of Sudan")

Special Distinction Award: "21 Grams"

   
 
 

"There's a place for false modesty and I'll dig that out now," he said, deadpan and joking with reporters backstage. "[Coppola] wrote the movie, she directed it, I just showed up and did my part. And it was a blast."

The same sentiment could be applied to the awards ceremony itself. Much looser and relaxed than the stately, somewhat self-important Academy Awards ceremony, the Independent Spirits breezed through all categories in a little more than two hours and even featured hilarious Best Feature Film Sing-Alongs, complete with instructions to follow the bouncing ball. Erika Christensen and Michael McKeon sang a tune about "Lost in Translation" set to the beat of "I Am 16, Going on 17" and Juliette Lewis impressively belted out a ditty about "Raising Victor Vargas" set to the melody of "Bad Case of Loving You."

Presenter Mike White teased Jennifer Aniston about his win last year for "The Good Girl" for which the "Friends" star was nominated for her Female Lead role, but lost. "Remember how I thought you were going to totally win and then you totally lost? And remember how I sat across from you all night with my award, but you didn't have one? I felt really bad." He promised to write her an award-wining role in his next film as a "lesbian pedophile hooked on smack." Aniston took the gibes good-naturedly, but remember, she is a talented actress.

Best Cinematography winner Declan Quinn wasn't in the audience, so his "In America" director Jim Sheridan accepted on his behalf. "I'm sure Declan would want me to thank his wife," he said. "But I know she wouldn't thank me for keeping him working 16 hours a day." Sheridan then turned the crowd's attention to Sarah Bolger, one of the young stars in his Best Feature-nominated film, who celebrated her birthday Saturday. He led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to the girl, who was also a nominee for Best Supporting Female.

Bolger's co-star, Djimon Hounsou, gave a warm shout-out to both his young co-stars in "In America" to their obvious delight, and again praised them backstage. "The movie wouldn't have been possible without them, they were wonderful." Hounsou, from Benin, spoke only a few words in English when he arrived in this country. "This movie meant so much to me because it's my story, too; I came to America to live out a dream."

Best Supporting Female Shohreh Aghdashloo also praised the freedom she has found in America. The Iranian-born actress has been a vocal human rights activist and is thus unable to return to her homeland. Her dignified, intellectual beauty was shown to glamorous effect in a close-fitting cashmere sweater and cream-colored trousers, a marked change from her role as the quiet, desperate housewife to Sir Ben Kingsley in "House of Sand and Fog."

"My message to my people, to the younger generation is to not give up, there is always hope and always a better future," she said. "All I want for them is peace and understanding between nations."

Aghdashloo also announced her next project, a series for ABC called "The Service," in which she plays the head of the Secret Service.

The precocious Nikki Reed, co-writer of "Thirteen" and winner of the Best Debut Performance award for that movie, was alternately graceful and giggly backstage. Dressed in a sparkly halter top and blue jeans, she thanked her parents repeatedly for their support, and joked that reading her racy script "sent my dad into hibernation for a week." Like a pro, she shrugged off questions about how closely the film mirrored her own life. "Everyone has problems with their parents. Yeah, this is based somewhat loosely on my own life, but then it could probably apply to 20 women in this room."

Reed admitted to some exhaustion after the swirl of parties and awards shows the past several weeks here in Los Angeles and suddenly sounded less like a seasoned Hollywood player and more like the 15-year-old girl she is.

"I'm not going to the Oscars, I'm not going to any parties, I'm just going to stay home and eat pizza."


Kim Crow can be reached at kcrow@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.

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