Greetings from the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards, where the sky was blue, the mint-chocolate-chip ice cream delicious, and the antigay protester in the parking lot exhausting. Held the day before the Oscars, the ISAs provided a laid-back chance for Hollywood cool kids to mix and mingle. ''It's edgy,'' said Aaron Eckhart. ''It's young, it's fresh.'' No one embodied that more than host Sarah Silverman, who taught us that it's possible to say ''vagina'' repeatedly without forcing people from the room. Here's what else we learned on that lovely Santa Monica afternoon.
THEY'RE SO NOT INDEPENDENT. Something tells us that the Olsen twins weren't in da house to root on Werner Herzog. Heck, even the producers of big winner Brokeback Mountainjoked that their movie was a product of that famously antiestablishment company GE. Corporate logos from Pop Secret to Entertainment Weekly were more prevalent than George Clooney. Think Sundance in flip-flops.
OKAY, MAYBE THEY'RE A LITTLE INDEPENDENT. Best Supporting Female winner Amy Adams was a salve for the cynicism after all, her super-indie movie Junebug has benefited from the attention. ''For a smaller film it's been really helpful,'' she said. But even folks who weren't nominated got a shot of self-esteem. Where else would teeny Sex and the City vet Willie Garson get to chat up the imposing, cowboy-hatted Dwight Yoakam for a good 20 minutes?
NEVER GET BETWEEN CELEBRITIES AND THEIR SWAG. ''You're keeping me from my gift bag,'' Terrence Howard half-joked at one point; we say ''half'' because his attendant promised to get a second bag and put it in his car. Of course, even at the Spirits, that might count as restraint.
NEVER GET BETWEEN CELEBRITIES AND THEIR BOOZE. ''Obviously it's outside. It's got sparkly, drunken good energy,'' said presenter Josh Lucas on the red carpet. Post-show, one reporter's attempt to introduce herself to Mr. Lucas resulted in him grabbing her shoulders firmly, looking her dead in the eye, and joking, ''I need to find the bar.''
Additional reporting by Clarissa Cruz