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Spirit Awards tilt toward true independence

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Nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards were announced Tuesday with a mix of well-known, critically acclaimed films such as "In the Bedroom" and "Memento" joining edgier and more controversial films such as "L.I.E." and "The Believer" among the nominations.

The films in the running for best feature are "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," based on John Cameron Mitchell's popular cross-gender musical; "L.I.E.," a drama about a child molester; "Memento," a quirky thriller about memory loss; "Things Behind the Sun," Allison Anders' semiautobiographical story about rape; and Richard Linklater's animated philosophical feature "Waking Life."

Some in the independent film community were critical of the Spirit Awards in past years because many of the nominations included more mainstream, higher-budget films that were also nominated for Oscars and other honors. But this year the jury appears to have selected more independent fare, nominating some films that have not even been distributed -- if a film shows at a festival, it is eligible for a Spirit Award -- or that were released only for a limited time.

"This year's nominees especially represent the diversity and range of unique voices and artistic vision," said Dawn Hudson, executive director of Independent Feature Project West.

Nominations for best first feature are "The Anniversary Party," a satire about self-indulgent Hollywood types; "The Believer," about a Jewish man who becomes a neo-Nazi; "Donnie Darko," an offbeat family drama with supernatural elements; "Ghost World," a dark comedy about two disaffected teens; and the family drama "In the Bedroom."

For best female lead, Kim Dickens was nominated for her work in "Things Behind the Sun," Molly Parker for "The Center of the World," Sissy Spacek for "In the Bedroom," Tilda Swinton for "The Deep End" and Kerry Washington for "Lift."

In the best male lead category, Brian Cox was nominated for "L.I.E.," Ryan Gosling for "The Believer," Jake Gyllenhaal for "Donnie Darko," Mitchell for "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and Tom Wilkinson for "In the Bedroom."

Best supporting female actor nominees are Davenia McFadden for "Stranger Inside," Carrie-Anne Moss for "Memento," Summer Phoenix for "The Believer," Tamara Tunie for "The Caveman's Valentine" and Uma Thurman for "Tape."

For best supporting male actors, Steve Buscemi was nominated for "Ghost World," Don Cheadle for "Things Behind the Sun," Billy Kay for "L.I.E.," Garrett Morris for "Jackpot" and John C. Reilly for "The Anniversary Party."

The awards ceremony, to be held March 23, one day before the Academy Awards, is sponsored by IFP West, a nonprofit group that assists independent filmmakers.

Over the years, as the independent film world gained clout, so did the Spirit Awards. When it began 17 years ago, the ceremony was an intimate affair held at a restaurant for a few hundred guests.

Today it has exploded into a major media event, with several thousand people invited for a fancy lunch under a tent at a Santa Monica beach.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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