Oscar Week: The Indie Awards

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If the Oscars are making you nuts with their Hollywood bias — though there's less glitz among this year's nominees than ever — you can detox with the Independent Spirit Awards. Taking place this Saturday, and broadcast on the Independent Film Channel (IFC), the 23rd Independent Spirit Awards celebrate what you can do with film talent, working fast and on the cheap. Hosted by Rainn Wilson, of The Office and Juno, the ceremony takes place in front of an audience that gathers inside a beachfront tent in Santa Monica. On the Red Carpet, the Spirits are to cargo pants what the Oscars are to Dolce and Gabbana. The crowd is low-key and by my own witness not adverse to maverick behavior and controlled substances. Mostly, though, it's a chance for the indies get a little cred. Here are a few of the nominees:

BEST FEATURE

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

I'm Not There

Juno

A Mighty Heart

Paranoid Park

Only Juno is also on Oscar's Best Picture list. But I think this award will go to Todd Haynes' I'm Not There or Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which both represent rule-busting experimentation pushed to the max. You can't say that about Juno.

Look for Haynes and Schnabel to duke it out for Best Director, though this indie crowd is too laidback to go in for backstabbing competition. Damn them. My personal pick would be I'm Not There, a Bob Dylan biopic that, even when it stumbles, re-imagines the form with real creative juice.

BEST FIRST FEATURE

2 Days In Paris

Director: Julie Delpy

Great World Of Sound

Director: Craig Zobel

The Lookout

Director: Scott Frank

Rocket Science

Director: Jeffrey Blitz

Vanaja

Director: Rajnesh Domalpalli

Love this category. At the very least awards for first-timers are damn encouraging. I've been saying YES YES YES to Craig Zobel's Great World of Sound since the DVD came out last week. But if Scott Frank's The Lookout wins instead, you'll hear no bitching from me. Though I will bitch that the film's gifted star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is not up for Best Actor.

BEST MALE LEAD

Pedro Castaneda

August Evening

Don Cheadle

Talk To Me

Philip Seymour Hoffman

The Savages

Frank Langella

Starting Out In The Evening

Tony Leung

Lust, Caution

Not an Oscar nominated performance in the bunch, another good reason for the Spirit awards as a rebuke to the Academy. I give special props to Don Cheadle and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but Frank Langella does career-topping work as an author who's lost faith in himself.

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Angelina Jolie

A Mighty Heart

Sienna Miller

Interview

Ellen Page

Juno

Parker Posey

Broken English

Tang Wei

Lust, Caution

Question Spirit people: Why no nod to Laura Linney for The Savages when her costar Philip Seymour Hoffman felt the Spirit hand? Of course, Linney won the Oscar nomination and Hoffman did not, but how do you see this movie and not see it as a dual victory? No matter. I think Ellen Page gets this one, giving Juno props in just the right category.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Talk To Me

Marcus Carl Franklin

I'm Not There

Kene Holliday

Great World Of Sound

Irrfan Khan

The Namesake

Steve Zahn

Rescue Dawn

Not to keep playing The Lookout card, but since the Spirits nominated that excellent drama as Best First Feature, did they not notice how good Jeff Daniels was as the deviously clever blind guy? Just asking. Who'll win? With all respect to Steve Zahn as a POW and Marcus Carl Franklin as a young, African-American Bob Dylan, Kene Holliday, as a con man posing as a record producer, just amazed me.

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Cate Blanchett

I'm Not There

Anna Kendrick

Rocket Science

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Margot At The Wedding

Tamara Podemski

Four Sheets To The Wind

Marisa Tomei

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

Cate Blanchett will probably lose her Oscar to Ruby Dee. But here she should win in a walk for her miraculous performance as an electric, androgynous Bob Dylan. And good on you Spirits, for putting a spotlight on Jennifer Jason Leigh when everyone else turned unfairly on her husband Noah Baumbach's tough-minded movie. And I like me some Marisa Tomei, who scored triumphantly and erotically in a crime drama that deserved a lot more love from the nominators. Talk about independent spirit — Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead had it in spades. But why carp when the Spirits get so much right? Peek in on Saturday — you might be pleasantly surprised.