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The melancholy western "Brokeback Mountain" continued its domination of the awards season Saturday, receiving two Independent Spirit Awards: best picture and best director, for Ang Lee.

"Brokeback" is the clear front-runner leading into Sunday's Academy Awards. The film has won the lion's share of prizes from critics organizations, including the Golden Globes for best film and best director.

Although the Independent Spirit Awards prides itself on honoring films outside the mainstream, this year's show -- held in a tent at the beach near the Santa Monica Pier -- was like an R-rated warm-up for the Oscars because 11 of the winners are also in contention for the Academy Awards.

Comedian/actress Sarah Silverman served as this year's master of ceremonies, but her salty and sexual banter was easily upstaged by director Kevin Smith, who presented the best director honor with a wind-up laced with expletives -- many involving his own wife -- that drew groans and catcalls from the audience.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was chosen best actor for his performance as author Truman Capote in "Capote." Hoffman has already won nearly every major critics award, as well as the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.

"It's been ludicrous," Hoffman said of the accolades. "I've been given enough -- I wan to share this so bad (with the other nominees.)"

Best screenplay honors went to "Capote" writer Dan Futterman. Both Hoffman and Futterman are also nominated for Oscars.

Felicity Huffman was selected best actress for "Transamerica," in her role as a transgender man who discovers the week before his sex change operation that he's the father of an 18-year-old son. The "Desperate Housewives" actress, whose acceptance speech also included some colorful language that wouldn't make it past network censors, is also nominated for an Oscar. The film's director, Duncan Tucker, won the best first screenplay award.

Amy Adams was named best supporting actress for her comedic turn as the eternally optimistic pregnant wife of a slacker in the comedy-drama "Junebug." Adams is also nominated for an Oscar.

The gritty racial drama "Crash," considered the main competition for "Brokeback" for best picture Oscar honors, received the best first feature award for director Paul Haggis; Matt Dillon, who is also nominated for an Academy Award, was named best supporting actor for his role in the controversial drama as a bigoted Los Angeles cop.

The Independent Spirit Awards, which began 21 years ago as a small grass-roots event to honor films made by filmmakers who "embody independence and who dare to challenge the status quo," has become ne of the hottest tickets in Hollywood. The often-irreverent event -- song parodies are a mainstay -- attracts A-list celebrities and filmmakers who enjoy the fact that they can leave their designer gowns and tuxes at home and wear casual -- albeit trendy -- clothes.

While the overall mood of the show was casual and fun, there was one particularly poignant moment, when Ian Olds arrived on stage to collect the Truer Than Fiction Award for his documentary, "Occupation: Dreamland." Olds announced that his partner on the film, director Garrett Scott, had died two days earlier from a sudden heart attack. Olds said he had to will himself to attend the event: "I came for him, to honor the work we did together. I loved him like a brother and I miss him already."

The two-hour ceremony aired live on cable's Independent Film Channel; an edited rebroadcast aired later in the evening on AMC.

Other categories and winners:

-- John Cassavetes Award, for the best feature made for under $500,000: "Conventioneers."

-- Best cinematography: Robert Elswit, "Good Night, and Good Luck"; also nominated for an Academy Award.

-- Best foreign film: "Paradise Now," which is also nominated for an Oscar.

-- Best documentary: "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," also nominated for an Academy Award.

-- AMC/American Express Producers Award: Caroline Baron, "Capote."

-- IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award: Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana, directors of "Cavite."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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