'The Farewell,' Adam Sandler triumph at Spirit Awards

Jennifer Lopez arrives at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Jennifer Lopez arrives at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – At a Film Independent Spirit Awards that often stood in stark contrast to Sunday's Academy Awards, Lulu Wang's family drama “The Farewell” took the top prize, while Adam Sandler and the Safdie brothers' “Uncut Gems” also landed awards.

The win Saturday for “The Farewell” was a surprise, but also a fitting finale to a Spirit Awards that exalted female filmmakers and put forth a far more diverse field of nominees than the film academy. Wang referenced the conversation around the dearth of female filmmaker nominated by the Academy Awards in her speech.

“You don’t have to encourage women. There are lots of women making films, in film school," said Wang. "What women need is just the job. Give them the freaking job!”

The Spirits, held in an ocean-side tent on the Santa Monica, California, beach the day before the Oscars, often diverges greatly in tone from the weekend’s other, more formally attired award show across town. But the winners — including “Moonlight,” “Spotlight" and “Birdman” — have often lined up.

Yet more so than in years, the Spirit Awards hardly overlapped with the Oscars this time around. “The Farewell” was shutout by the film academy, which instead heaped nominations on bigger-budget epics including “1917,” “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" and “The Irishman.” The Spirits, the premier awards ceremony for indie film, cap nominees at a budget of $22.5 million.

“The Farewell” also won best supporting performance by a female actor for Zhao Shuzhen, the grandmother ("Nai Nai") in the film. Many expected the award to go to Jennifer Lopez ("Hustlers"). Wang said Shuzhen, a Chinese actress, couldn't attend the show because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

The boutique studio A24 dominated the Spirits, winning trophies for “The Farewell,” “Uncut Gems” and “The Lighthouse.” “Uncut Gems” led all films with three awards, including best performance by a male actor for Sandler, best director for Josh and Ben Safdie, and best editing.

Sandler, who received a standing ovation, compared his Oscar “snub” to losing best looking in high school. But he did win best personality, an honor he compared to his Spirit Award.