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iS THE Spirit that Independent any more?

The Film Independent Spirit awards (as they are now known) traditionally give us a chance for some of the lesser known films on Hollywood's fringe to receive recognition they would otherwise not get. Problem is, after the last decade or so, with the expansion of the list of nominated films, and the increased scarcity of good parts for even the greatest of actors in Hollywood mainstream, with each passing years, the Spirit awards seem more and more like a dress rehearsal for the main event the next day.

One couldn't shake the impression for much of the night that this was the Spirits dancing a little too close to the flame. With 12 Years A Slave, Dallas Buyers Club and Nebraska leading the nominations, one wonders if we might be entering yet another redefinition of the term. 12 Years A Slave dominated the proceedings, winning Best Feature, Best Director for Steve McQueen, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong'O. The male roles, were as were the case at The Golden Globes and the SAG awards given to Matthew McConaughey (winning for the second consecutive year) and Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. Best Actress went to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, which hardly seems fair, considering she's won over a dozen of these prizes so far, and one couldn't help feeling sorry for Julie Delpy (nominated for acting and writing Before Midnight) and Greta Gerwig (ditto, for Frances Ha) considering that they have toiled for years in this field, and Blanchett just had the lead in Woody Allen's latest film. (Allen, despite being nominated for Best Screenplay and having received multiple awards from the Spirits in past years wasn't in the tent. Neither was Robert Redford, despite being nominated for Best Actor in All Is Lost.)

Increasingly, the Spirits are taking on more of a Hollywood feel, even though they're still half as long, have no time delay, and give fewer tributes. This years, however, they paid homage to three major talents who passed away in the last year--- Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won three Spirit Awards, James Gandolfini, nominated for Supporting Male for his pleasing comic performance in Enough Said, and Roger Ebert, who spent the better part of his career tirelessly promoting and celebrating independent films.

It's not that none of the winners didn't deserve their prizes, but what are the makers of films like Fruitvale Station and The Spectacular Now supposed to, being given limited recognition compared to Hollywood icons like McConaughey and Brad Pitt (co-producer of 12 Years A Slave)? Or is there genuine solace in the cliché "It's an honor just to be nominated?

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