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Image: Mickey Rourke, Laura Dern
Chris Pizzello  /  AP
Mickey Rourke, right, accepts the award for best male lead for his role in "The Wrestler" from presenter Laura Dern at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., on Saturday.
By The Scoop
msnbc.com
updated 2/21/2009 10:48:51 PM ET 2009-02-22T03:48:51

The Independent Spirit Awards got off to an auspicious start with host Steve Coogan opening the show with an explanation of how the Oscars differed from these awards.

“The Oscars are for beautiful people,” Coogan said, adding that the Spirit Awards are for people “who are beautiful on the inside.” At which point the camera cut straight to Mickey Rourke.

Touché.

Rourke and his film “The Wrestler” scored three awards Saturday, but judging by the enthusiasm for little-films-that-could in that room it’s clear, the movie industry as a whole came out a winner.

First of all, “Frozen River’s” Melissa Leo didn’t just win Best Actress, but based on the applause from the crowd, she was a clear fan favorite. Then, if you watched the broadcast live on IFC, you probably caught Rourke paying it forward during the speech he made after his Best Actor win. Rourke, inexplicably gesturing to Eric Roberts, said he “is the f-ing man and he deserves another chance.”

Alec Baldwin took to the stage to present right after Rourke's speech and he said he wanted “to second what Mickey said. Whatever Eric Roberts did 15 years ago, let it go.” (Note: no one in the vicinity of my table could recall what he did 15 years ago. Just saying.)

Not as apparent on the broadcast
All of that might have been evident during the broadcast. What might have been tougher to pick up? Well, Rourke had to be reprimanded by his manager to stop grabbing his crotch, Mary Kate Olsen was downright pleasant, newly engaged Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy slipped in quietly and adorably after the show started, but some more unlikely guests turned heads.

Video: Scaling back at the Oscars Michael Bolton (who happens to wear a very, very large diamond stud in his ear) was there for reasons still a little unclear. Mariah Carey was working the crowd too. When I caught up with her. “I’m here because of my new movie, ‘Push.’” she said. Any worries that it will be another “Glitter?” “No, this one is really good,” Carey said. “It did great at Sundance.”

Ms. Carey won’t be at the big dance Sunday night at the Kodak Theater, but she assured me, “I’ll be at every party.”

Final Spirit notes
Also, it’s nice to see actors being friendly with other actors when no one (and no cameras) are paying attention. Philip Seymour Hoffman was exhibit 1-A — he effusively greeted several actors (among them, John C. Reilly, Catherine Keener) this way.

Charlie McDermott of “Frozen River” told me that he was “having a great time” and recently filmed a pilot with Patricia Heaton. McDermott is a fantastic young actor — would be great to see this work out.

And speaking of television, “Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm was at the awards with his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt, who recently did several guest appearances on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Always effusive about Westfeldt, Hamm agreed that “she killed it,” and I did my best to see what would happen with his character’s romance with Liz Lemon on “30 Rock.” “All I can say is it works out hilariously,” Hamm said.

Courtney Hazlett is delivering the Scoop from the Academy Awards all weekend.

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