'Birdman' vs 'Boyhood' Oscar battle heats up after Spirit Awards

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 21, 2015 8:24 PM

By Piya Sinha-Roy

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (Reuters) - Dark showbiz satire "Birdman," and coming-of-age tale "Boyhood," took the top honors at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, a day before Hollywood's biggest night when both will face off in the top Oscars categories.

"Birdman," nominated for nine Oscars on Sunday, won three Spirit Awards, including the top prize of best feature.

"We're threatened as a species into extinction," Alejandro Iñárritu, director of "Birdman," said of independent filmmakers in his acceptance speech. "These kinds of awards are where we can celebrate the cinema that is being forgotten."

"Birdman" led the nominees with five nods along with jazz drama "Whiplash," which won two accolades, and civil rights drama "Selma," which left empty handed.

"Boyhood," filmed over a span of 12 years and nominated for six Oscars, won the best director award for Richard Linklater and best supporting actress for Patricia Arquette.

All four acting categories were won by Oscar-nominated frontrunners, including Michael Keaton for best actor for "Birdman." In his acceptance speech, he called the film "bold cinema," and a "game-changer."

Julianne Moore was named best actress for her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease in "Still Alice."

"I was lucky enough to come in at the beginning of the independent film movement and its really shaped my life and career," she said in an emotional acceptance speech.

The 30th annual Spirit Awards, hosted by Film Independent, honors the best achievements across movies made under $20 million and are often an indicator of Academy Award winners, with drama "12 Years a Slave," taking top honors at both the Spirit Awards and Oscars last year.

Unlike the formal glitz of the Oscars, the Spirit Awards opts for a relaxed, boozy lunch in a Santa Monica tent on California's coast. The show, hosted by Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen, was broadcast live for the first time on cable network IFC.

"Hollywood movies may be keeping the industry afloat, but the people in this room are keeping the industry alive," said "Boyhood" star Ethan Hawke as he presented the best supporting female award to Arquette.

J.K. Simmons won best supporting actor for "Whiplash," and thanked his fellow nominees in the category.

Poland's "Ida" won best international film, while "CitizenFour," about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, won best documentary. Both are nominated for Oscars.

Dan Gilroy, nominated for the best screenplay Oscar, won best screenplay and first feature for "Nightcrawler."

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by G Crosse)