Back in 2006, the Independent Spirit Awards changed up their trophy system. Before 2006, winners at the awards show would receive an acrylic glass pyramid containing suspended shoestrings that symbolized the thin budget that independent movies would typically have to work with. They then changed it up to show a bird sitting atop of a pole with that the pole wrapped in shoestrings. So obviously the next logical step would be giving the winners a living, breathing bird. Right? Well that’s the plan at this year’s 29th annual awards. The host, Patton Oswald, was able to talk with me and other reporters at a press conference, to go over his avian stunt, comedic or not, as well as talk about what an honor it is to host this prestigious event.
Patton Oswalt is very familiar with the awards process. His first hosting duties were at the 39th annual Annie Awards where he was quick on his feet, especially when something went wrong, “I’m gonna be very, very aware if somebody reads the wrong cards. He read the wrong winner and I’ll try once again try to make a screw-up like that be delightful.” Even though he’s well known as a stand-up comedian, Patton has received recognition for his acting abilities throughout the years. Many people will remember him as the voice of Remy in “Ratatouille”, but his most recent portrayal as Matt Freehauf in “Young Adult,” landed him the New York Film Critics award for best supporting actor. So it’s understandable that Patton Oswalt would be ready to host the Independent Spirit Awards, but not a lot of hosts spend their time leading up to the awards preparing themselves for birds. but that’s what he’s been doing.
“I feel pretty ready. I’ve been down to the park a lot, chasing them around, yelling at them, so we’ll see,” Patton said jokingly. There should be no worries among animal activists or organizations. Patton says the birds will be well taken care of. The real challenge for him however, may actually be having to be around a bird, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I have a paralyzing fears of birds…I don’t think it’ll affect my performance.” Patton says he wasn’t sure what kind of birds they would have though. Or even if they would be different for each nomination. He was sure that the winners would actually be able to keep their feathered prize, “They can keep them, they can set them free. Trust me, I know actors, I know directors, there’s all kinds of things they could do with birds, some I would rather not go into.” Patton said the birds will be cage free and actually be handled by the presenters and winners. With fears extinguished, Patton returned to the jokes by reassuring everyone that if anyone’s award…I mean bird…died days, months, or years later, the contingency plan would be to give the winner a baby cougar as a replacement.
It’s not odd for a comedian to host the Independent Spirit Awards. Previous hosts have included, Sarah Silverman, Steve Coogan and Eddie Izzard. When putting the jokes aside and getting to the meat of the night, anyone would gladly tell you they really look at the Independent Spirit Awards as a venue to see some great future filmmakers and actors as well as those who are deserving of some praise. Patton was no different. He really divulged a deep passion and appreciation for the awards, “For me, being the kind of film buff I am, this award show digs pretty deep into trying to find movies that took risks and rolled the dice. It rewards people that are clearly emerging that are going to be doing great stuff with their careers. What I also love is that they keep an eye open for veterans like Robert Redford and Bruce Dern who continue to take risks and seek out challenging, different material.”
Patton further proved his love for movies by rattling off some of his favorites at this year’s awards and he was not short of praise, “The crop of films they sent me was pretty stunning. ‘The Spectacular Now’ I thought was fantastic. I hope ‘Enough Said’ wins everything it gets nominated for. The documentary ‘The Act of Killing,’ I thought it was crucial. Hard to watch, but crucial. I really hope that Bruce Dern wins for ‘Nebraska’ because I thought he was just amazing. That guy’s had awards coming for a long time in my opinion, so that would be great.” Patton says he’s spent plenty of time catching up on movies and says that he was able to catch other award nominees like “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” “Short Term 12,” and the documentary “Computer Chess.”
With millions of viewers still choosing to watch the Oscars this year, it only seemed fitting that the last question for Patton Oswalt would be if the Independent Spirit Awards is a good predictor for the Academy. He didn’t shy away from the question, “I think it goes beyond that. I think that the Independent Spirit Awards are an important predictor of who you’re going to be rooting for in the Oscars, like ten years down the road. That’s what makes it so exciting for me, that this is like giving an award to Martin Scorsese in 1971 for ‘Who’s Knocking On My Door.’ You’re seeing people at the beginning of their, I’m going to use the word journey, but it really is. These are the future masters that you’re watching when they’re young and it makes it that much more crucial and stressful for me. I really want to do well by these guys because these are the people that are going to be making movies down the road that we’re going to be fighting over at the Oscars.”
For those interested (and how can you not be?), you can catch the 29th Annual Independent Spirit Awards on IFC, Sunday, March 1st. The fun begins at 10 p.m. EST/PST.