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Spirit Awards favor sex, violence, death

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Jan. 9, 2002 at 5:37 PM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Sex, violence and the nature of existence itself are the dominant themes among this year's nominees for the top honors in the independent film world, the Independent Spirit Awards.

"L.I.E." earned six nominations, including one for best picture, and one for best male lead for veteran actor Brian Cox, as a pedophile who suppresses his urges and helps a 15-year-old boy in trouble. The picture was also nominated for best director (Michael Cuesta), first screenplay (Stephen M. Ryder, Michael Cuesta & Gerald Cuesta), debut performance (Paul Franklin Dano) and supporting male (Billy Kay).

"L.I.E." producers René Bastian and Linda Moran are also up for the Motorola Producers Award.

"Memento," writer-director Christopher Nolan's account of a man with short-term memory loss trying to solve the rape and murder of his wife, and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," a rock musical about coping with a botched sex-change operation, took five nominations each, including best picture.

The other best-picture nominees are "Things Behind the Sun," writer-director Alison Anders' semiautobiographical story about rape, and "Waking Life," in which writer-director Richard Linklater uses animation and live-action to tell the story about one man's search to discover the difference between dreams and reality.

In recent years, some critics have found fault with the Spirit Awards for sharing too much common ground with Hollywood studio productions. This year's list of nominees has very little in common with the roster of movies that have otherwise dominated the awards season.

Among the leading nominees, "In the Bedroom" -- starring Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson as a couple coping with the tragic loss of a child -- has scored the most awards and nominations from the critics groups and professional associations that have weighed in so far.

It finished second on the National Board of Review's list of the Top 10 movies of 2001, and was named best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated the movie for best movie drama, and the American Film Institute nominated it for best picture.

Spacek has won several best actress honors, including the AFI Award, and the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards. She is also nominated for a Golden Globe and is a favorite to pick up an Oscar nomination.

Spacek and Wilkinson are up for Spirit Awards for lead male and female. Rob Festinger and Todd Field are up for best screenplay, and Field -- who won directing honors from the NBR -- is up for best director.

"Memento" is also doing well among the more mainstream awards selectors, finishing fourth on the NBR Top 10 and winning best picture honors from the Las Vegas Critics Society -- which also named Guy Pearce best actor. Nolan has also won five major screenwriting awards, including the NBR and the AFI trophies, and is up for a Golden Globe for best screenplay.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" -- John Cameron Mitchell's film adaptation of his long-running Off-Broadway hit -- was recognized by the National Board of Review with an award for best directorial debut. Mitchell also copped a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a musical or comedy, and is up for male lead at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Given its subject matter -- pedophilia -- "L.I.E." is not likely to curry favor with Oscar voters, and was completely overlooked by the HPFA. Cox did win best actor -- in a tie with Denzel Washington ("Training Day") -- from the Boston Film Critics Association, and the NBR cited the movie for "special mention for excellence in filmmaking."

The other Spirit Award nominees for male lead are Ryan Gosling ("The Believer"), Jake Gyllenhaal ("Donnie Darko"). The other nominees for female lead are Kim Dickens ("Things Behind The Sun"), Molly Parker ("The Center of the World"), Tilda Swinton ("The Deep End") and Kerry Washington ("Lift").

The Independent Spirit Awards are presented each year by the west coast branch of the Independent Feature Project (IFP/West), a nonprofit group that supports filmmakers who work outside the Hollywood studio system.

The 17th annual Independent Spirit Awards will be handed out in Santa Monica, Calif., on March 23, in ceremonies hosted by writer-director John Waters, best known for the bad taste classics "Pink Flamingos" and "Polyester."

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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