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‘Brokeback’ wins Independent Spirit Award

Director Lee also honored; Hoffman, Huffman capture top acting prizes
/ Source: The Associated Press

The cowboy love story “Brokeback Mountain” won best picture and its creator Ang Lee was named best director Saturday at the Independent Spirit Awards, which played out as a potential prelude to the Academy Awards.

Honoring the best in lower-budgeted, edgy filmmaking, the Spirit Awards honored many key contenders for Sunday’s Oscars, where “Brokeback Mountain” is the best-picture favorite.

“In a year when the Oscars have such an independent spirit, I really treasure this encouragement,” Lee said.

Top Oscar nominees “Capote,” “Crash” and “Transamerica” also earned two honors at the Spirit Awards, and virtually every winner in the ceremony’s top 12 categories also is competing at the Oscars.

“Capote” took the best-actor award for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is the favorite to win the same prize at the Oscars for his role as author Truman Capote. The film also earned writer Dan Futterman the best-screenplay award.

Hoffman, who has won most other key best-actor honors this award season, cheered his fellow nominees: Jeff Daniels for “The Squid and the Whale,” Terrence Howard for “Hustle & Flow,” Heath Ledger for “Brokeback Mountain,” and David Strathairn for “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

“It’s ludicrous and I’ve been given enough,” Hoffman said. “And I want to share this so badly with all the nominees. I can’t tell you how fantastic these gentlemen are.”

Felicity Huffman, also an Oscar nominee, was named best actress for “Transamerica,” in which she delivers a gender-bending role as a man preparing for sex-change surgery. The film’s director, Duncan Tucker, received the award for best first screenplay.

The ensemble drama “Crash” won for best first feature by a director (Paul Haggis) and best supporting actor for Matt Dillon, who also has an Oscar nomination for his performance as a racist cop.

The supporting-actress prize went to Amy Adams for “Junebug,” who is nominated for an Oscar for her role as a sparkling Southern waif.

There usually is some overlap between the Oscars and Spirit Awards, such as last year’s “Sideways,” which dominated the independent prizes and was a contender in top Oscar categories.

But this year, the Oscar nominations mainly singled out the same dark, daring low-budgeted films that ruled the Spirit Awards.

“Brokeback Mountain” is the story of two sheepherders who carry on a torrid gay love affair that they conceal from their families for years.

It would be the first explicit gay theme film to win the best-picture Oscar.

“Mostly ’Brokeback Mountain’ is about sheep,” said one of the film’s producers, Diana Ossana.

“So we want to thank our shepherd, Ang Lee,” said the film’s other producer, James Schamus.

Along with “Brokeback Mountain,” “Crash” and “Capote” are nominated for best picture at the Oscars. A fourth best-picture Oscar nominee, the Edward R. Murrow tale “Good Night, and Good Luck,” earned the cinematography honor at the Spirit Awards for Robert Elswit, who also is nominated at the Oscars.

The Spirit Awards’ other top two prizes also went to Oscar nominees: The Palestinian terrorist tale “Paradise Now” was picked as best foreign film, while “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” was honored as best documentary.

Presented by the nonprofit group Film Independent, the Spirit Awards honor movies showcasing original, provocative subject matter shot on relatively modest budgets, with financing at least partly from outside the Hollywood studio system. Winners were chosen by the group’s 6,000 members, who include actors, directors, writers and other film professionals.