"Pulp Fiction" picked up four winged trophies at the 10th annual Independent Spirit Awards Saturday--for best feature, best male lead (Samuel L. Jackson), best director (Quentin Tarantino) and best screenplay (also Tarantino).
Multiple citations also went to David O. Russell's "Spanking the Monkey" (best first screenplay and best first feature), and "Bullets Over Broadway," which walked off with both supporting male and female acting prizes for Chazz Palmintieri and Dianne Wiest.
The Saturday event, sponsored by the Independent Features Project West, gathered more than 1,000 spirited individuals under a symbolic "big tent" on the beach at Santa Monica, embracing mostly non-studio-produced films, from the meagerly budgeted "Clean, Shaven" to the star-studded "Bullets" and "Pulp" (which were at least indirectly financed by the Walt Disney Company, which owns Miramax films).
The 29 films nominated were culled from a a record 120 submissions, the IFP reported. The ceremony was by turns charming, self-indulgent and long, running well over three hours. Presenters and winners ranged from the casually formal Tarantino in a beefsteak-tomato-colored sports jacket to the just-rolled-out-of-bed T-shirted Tim Roth.
The food differed from the usual bar mitzvah/wedding fare prevalent at awards banquets with presentation-perfect but somewhat precious gourmet picnic treats--Brie on a baguette, corn tortillas, etc. The program began promisingly with the rousing Hamilton High School Gospel Choir.
Then came speech after long-winded speech, all introduced by master of ceremonies Kevin Pollak, who intermittently got off a good one, including a rib about those who couldn't make the event because they were at their "CAA meeting."
And just when it seemed the afternoon would be washed away into the Pacific in a tide of sanctimoniousness, actor John Turturro delivered a hilarious and intelligent keynote speech, delighting the audience with spot-on impersonations of Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper.
Film critic Roger Ebert continued the assault on the academy's documentary committee in presenting the Special Distinction Award to the rousing documentary "Hoop Dreams," which the academy managed to overlook.
Samuel Goldwyn Jr. graciously accepted the Findie (short for "friend of independent film") award for his contributions to independent film.
Among the other awards were best cinematography to John Thomas for "Barcelona," best foreign film to "Red," best debut performance to Sean Nelson for "Fresh" and best female lead to Linda Fiorentino for "The Last Seduction."
Many of the acceptance speeches were of the "I-want-to-thank-God-my-parents-and-every-one-else-I've-ever-met" variety. But Jackson got in a little zing at Tarantino and "Pulp" producer Lawrence Bender for getting last-minute cold feet about casting him in the film. (Interestingly, Jackson was nominated as a lead by the IFP and as a supporting actor by the academy).
And Fiorentino, who professed she was happy her career was finally on the upswing, confessed that her love life unfortunately has not kept pace. She even flirted with the idea of swapping her award for a date with the swarthy Gabriel Byrne, one of the afternoon's presenters.
Afterward, one of the awards' underwriters, Swatch, threw a late-afternoon bash at an airplane hangar at Santa Monica airport featuring live-rock, billiards and sushi.