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'Black Swan' wins four Spirit Awards, including best feature and best actress

Darren Aronofsky's dark ballet thriller also wins for best director and cinematography. James Franco is named best actor, 'The Kids Are All Right' wins best screenplay and 'The King's Speech' wins best foreign film.

February 27, 2011|By Susan King and Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times
  • "Black Swan's" Portman accepts her award at the 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
"Black Swan's" Portman accepts her award at the 2011 Film… (Rick Wilking / Reuters )

"Black Swan," director Darren Aronofsky's dark ballet thriller about a dancer descending into madness, won top honors at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, where it was named best feature. The movie, which collected four awards, is also in the running for the best picture Oscar at Sunday's 83rd annual Academy Awards.

"Black Swan" won prizes for best female lead for star Natalie Portman, who attended the ceremony in a sleeveless yellow dress, best director for Aronofsky and best cinematography for Matthew Libatique.

The famously relaxed indie precursor to the Academy Awards returned to its traditional Saturday afternoon home on a tent at the beach in Santa Monica — after organizers last year experimented with holding the ceremony downtown the Friday night before the Oscars. The weekend's unusually chilly weather cast a bit of a cloud over the proceedings early on, with strong winds buffeting the arriving stars as they walked the red carpet.

Other winners included James Franco, who was named best male lead for his performance as real-life canyon climber Aron Ralston in director Danny Boyle's "127 Hours." In addition to being nominated for the role at Sunday's Oscars, Franco will host the Academy Awards telecast with actress Anne Hathaway.

In his acceptance speech, Franco, wearing a sweater over his suit and tie, mentioned both Ralston and Boyle, and described independent film as "something that's a very big part of my life and is very important to me."

Dale Dickey won best supporting female for her role as the gatekeeper to an Ozark family patriarch in director Debra Granik's gritty drama, "Winter's Bone," while John Hawkes won best supporting male for his turn in the film, which was adapted from Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name.

Best screenplay went to "The Kids Are All Right," the story of what happens to a lesbian couple after their teenage children contact the women's sperm donor. The film's director and writer, Lisa Cholodenko, took the stage with a bottle of champagne in hand. Her writing partner, Stuart Blumberg, joked that seven years ago, when the pair initially began work on the script, "we were just a couple of lesbians with a hope and a dream."

Academy Awards frontrunner "The King's Speech," director Tom Hooper's drama about King George VI's attempts to overcome a debilitating stammer, won best foreign film, representing the United Kingdom. Hooper described the film, which is vying for 12 Oscars, as a "truly independent movie … a film made against the odds."

"Exit Through the Gift Shop," directed by street artist Banksy, won best documentary. In the film, Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant obsessed with street art, has the camera turned on him by the British bad-boy graffitist; he then becomes a street artist in his own right working under the pseudonym Mr. Brainwash. Guetta accepted the award Saturday.

Lena Dunham won best first screenplay for her film "Tiny Furniture," in which she stars as an aimless college graduate trying to find her way in New York. Aaron Schneider's "Get Low," starring Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek, was named best first feature.

Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give" received the fourth annual Robert Altman Award, given to one film's director, casting director and ensemble cast, while the John Cassavetes Award for best feature made for less than $500,0000 went to the Safdie brothers' New York-set film about a divorced father's relationship with his two young sons, "Daddy Longlegs."

Jeff Malmberg, the director of the documentary "Marwencol," an exploration of how photographer Mark Hogancamp used small dolls and props to reconstruct his lost memory after suffering a brutal beating, received the Aveeno Truer Than Fiction Award; the movie also won the Jameson Find Your Audience Award, which was established this year to help one Spirit Award-nominated film find a broader audience with a $50,000 grant to pay for marketing and distribution costs.

Mike Ott, director of "Littlerock," received the Acura Someone to Watch Award, while Anish Savjani, producer of the film "Meek's Cutoff," received the Piaget Producers Award.

Joel McHale, host of E!'s "The Soup" and star of the NBC sitcom "Community," emceed the ceremony. During his monologue, the comic joked that the attendees came from "communities as diverse as Eagle Rock, Los Feliz and Silver Lake."

susan.king@latimes.com

steven.zeitchik@latimes.com

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