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It used to be that the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Oscars didn’t have much in common, and while it’s true the former is still held in a tent on the Santa Monica Beach and the latter in a Hollywood theater, given the rise of indie films within critic circles and among mainstream moviegoers, this year’s nominees overlapped in all four acting categories and for best film.

Reese Witherspoon put it best when she said backstage, “All those rules that used to apply to things 15 years ago don’t apply anymore. The most exciting films these days are independent films. As an actor, it’s a great opportunity to actually act.”

This story first appeared in the March 3, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Longtime host John Waters this year passed the baton to Patton Oswalt, saying, “I’ve been around so long that people treat me like Bob Hope.” Oswalt spared no one in his monologue, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Bruce Dern, who flipped him the bird when he said that Dern came to the show “to see the ocean one last time.”

It was also a chance to see many Oscar nominees more at ease both mentally and sartorially. Jared Leto donned a grunge-inspired Balmain ensemble, and had fun running into overtime with his best supporting actor acceptance speech, thanking everyone from Pink Floyd to Ansel Adams and Mozart to River Phoenix. “I’d also like to thank my future ex-wife, Lupita Nyong’o, all the women I’ve been with, and all the women who think they’ve been with me. And just for a little social media trending, #mymindisblown, thank you Twitter.”

Best actress winner Cate Blanchett arrived in the backstage interview room as the best actor winner was being announced. Instead of muting the video feed to take questions, she asked the room, “Should we wait and see who wins?” then proceeded to watch Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech. When she finally stepped up to the interview platform, a huge gust of wind nearly blew the tent down. “It looks like there’s a storm coming. If we all die here, it’s been  nice to know you.”