Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards was one big wine-tasting, though no one had to drink any f---ing merlot. The grape-fueled comedy Sideways, which is up for five Academy Awards, swept the Spirits, winning all six prizes for which it was nominated, including Best Feature, Best Director (Alexander Payne), Best Screenplay (Payne and Jim Taylor), Best Male Lead (Paul Giamatti, who said he felt ''neither spirited nor independent''), Best Supporting Male (Thomas Haden Church), and Best Supporting Female (Virginia Madsen, who brought her 10-year-old son Jack to the podium with her to thank him for his moral support during her stretches of unemployment).
Winning two prizes each were Maria Full of Grace and The Motorcycle Diaries. Maria star Catalina Sandino Moreno, who's up for a Best Actress Oscar, won the corresponding prize at the Spirits, and her film won a Best First Screenplay award for writer-director Joshua Marston. Diaries' Rodrigo de la Serna won Best Debut Performance for his role as Che Guevara's sidekick, while the film's Eric Gautier won Best Cinematography. Best Foreign Film, however, went to Spain's The Sea Inside. Zach Braff won Best First Feature for directing Garden State. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster won Best Documentary, The John Cassavetes Award, given to the best feature made for under $500,000, went to Mean Creek.
The Independent Spirit Awards, now in its 20th year, likes to contrast itself with the Academy Awards by recognizing art-house fare, though there was plenty of overlap this year with the Oscar nominees. As always, the casual-dress ceremony was held the day before the Oscars in a tent on a beach in Santa Monica and shown live on the Independent Film Channel. Winners were chosen by the 9,000 members of the Independent Film Project. Hosting was Samuel L. Jackson, who jokingly referred to the Oscars as the ''Co-Dependent Spirit Awards.''