Independent Film Spirit Awards set scene for Oscars

Last year's acting Spirit winners all mirrored the following day's Oscar winners.

Michael Keaton. Reuters / Adrees Latif
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The Birdman was the big winner at the 30th Independent Film Spirit Awards, presented on the eve of the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Actor for Michael Keaton and Best Cinematography.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's film won over stiff competition from the 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood, though that film's director, Richard Linklater, did win Best Director.

As Hollywood has increasingly devoted itself to blockbusters, the Spirit Awards – once a casual indie appetiser to the Oscars – feels more and more like the centre of the industry.

“We are threatened to become a species in extinction,” said Iñárritu, the Mexican filmmaker, accepting the Best Feature Award.

But the boundary between the Spirit Awards, which were broadcast live on TV for the first time this year, and the Oscars is increasingly blurred.

Last year’s acting Spirit winners all mirrored the following day’s Oscar winners.

This year, in addition to Keaton, Oscar front-runners Julianne Moore (Still Alice), J K Simmons (Whiplash) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) all won Spirit Awards. Notably absent, however, was Eddie Redmayne from The Theory of Everything, a movie that wasn't eligible for the Spirits.

Nightcrawler, the dark Los Angeles noir about TV news, won two Spirit Awards: Best First Feature for Dan Gilroy, and Best Screenplay.

Gilroy, who recalled years of writing bigger-budget films that never got made, applauded those in attendance as “holdouts of a tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry. We have survived. We have thrived.”

Paul Thomas Anderson shared the Spirits' Robert Altman Award with the ensemble cast of his Inherent Vice while Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher won the Special Distinction Award for its uniqueness of vision. Justin Simien won Best First Screenplay for Dear White People, a satirical comedy about black students at an Ivy League college.

The Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour was named Best Documentary, and the black-and-white Polish drama Ida took Best Foreign film. The awards are staged by Film Independent, a group of filmmakers, industry professionals and movie buffs.