Ben Kingsley presents the best feature award to Michel Hazanavicius, center,… (Vince Bucci, Associated…)
"The Artist," produced by Thomas Langmann, won best feature at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. The black-and-white homage to silent cinema, which is also nominated for 10 Oscars, is considered a best picture front-runner heading into Sunday's 84th Academy Awards ceremony.
The top prizes for the independent film community, the Spirit Awards trophies are handed out in 14 competitive categories. The afternoon affair is designed to be a more casual answer to the motion picture academy's lavish Oscar gala.
"The Artist's" Michel Hazanavicius was honored for best director, star Jean Dujardin won best male lead for his turn as a movie idol whose fame is on the wane and Guillaume Schiffman won the cinematography prize for the film.
Only Hazanavicius was on hand to claim his statuette, however; the other two men had not yet arrived from Paris, where "The Artist" collected even more accolades this weekend at France's Cesar Awards.
Other winners included Michelle Williams, who was named best actress for her portrayal of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn." Christopher Plummer was named best supporting actor for his role in "Beginners," in which he plays a widower who reveals he's gay.
The actor accepted the prize with a quip in keeping with the irreverent nature of the beach-side Santa Monica ceremony hosted this year by actor Seth Rogen.
"It's taken me the longest time to realize that the Spirit Awards have nothing to do with booze," said Plummer.
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who wrote the script for "The Descendants," won best screenplay for their film, which Payne also directed, about an indifferent father forced to reexamine his life. Shailene Woodley captured the supporting female award for her work in the drama.
Iran's "A Separation," directed by Asghar Farhadi, was honored as best international film. "The Interrupters," which follows people who work as "violence interrupters" to intervene in conflicts in their communities before they get out of hand, won best documentary.
Will Reiser won best first screenplay for "50/50," a cancer-themed comedy inspired by his experiences battling the disease. Director J.C. Chandor's "Margin Call" won for best first feature and also took home the Robert Altman Award, which recognizes a film's director, casting director and ensemble cast.
The John Cassavetes Award, which honors the best film made for less than $500,000, went to "Pariah" writer-director Dee Rees and producer Nekisa Cooper. The movie tells the story of a black teenager embracing her identity as a lesbian.
Heather Courtney, director of "Where Soldiers Come From," was presented with the Truer Than Fiction Award; Sophia Lin, producer of the drama "Take Shelter," earned the Piaget Producers Award; and Mark Jackson, director of "Without," won the Someone to Watch Award.
Benjamin Murray and Alysa Nahmias received the Jameson FIND Your Audience Award for their documentary "Unfinished Spaces," which tells the story of three architects invited back to Cuba after four decades in exile.