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2006 Independent Spirit Awards


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'Squid' Leads Indie Film Contenders

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'The Squid and the Whale'

"The Squid and the Whale," a low-budget dramatic film about a family torn apart by divorce, led the list of contenders on Tuesday, November 29 for the Independent Spirit Awards, the American art-house world's version of the Oscars. The film scored six nominations, ahead of higher-profile entries.

Other entries were based on true stories such as the Truman Capote biopic "Capote" and director George Clooney's red-scare witch-hunt saga, "Good Night, and Good Luck." which picked up four each. Also landing four nods each were the gay-cowboy drama, "Brokeback Mountain" and director Tommy Lee Jones' "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada."

The Spirit Awards, now in their 21st year, honor low-budget films based on such criteria as original, provocative subject matter and the degree of independent financing. Winners will be unveiled on March 4, the day before the Academy Awards.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman in 'Capote'

There is usually some crossover among nominees for the two events, but little common ground among the winners. Last year, the comedy "Sideways" swept the Spirit Awards, winning all six categories in which it was nominated. The next day, it was vying for five Oscars, but won just the adapted screenplay prize.

"The Squid and the Whale" stars Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney as a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. Both received Spirit Award nominations, as did Noah Baumbach for his script and direction, and youngster Jesse Eisenberg for his supporting role.

Dawn Hudson, executive director of event organizer Film Independent, hailed the "complete authenticity" of the script. "We don't see an honest film about divorce from a kid's point of view," she said. The film will also compete for best feature against "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Good Night, and Good Luck." and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada."

Film Independent, formerly known as the Independent Film Project/West, helps promote independent filmmakers and their works.

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George Clooney Catches Indie Spirit

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George Clooney and David Strathairn in 'Good Night, and Good Luck.'

Making a black-and-white period drama about a principled journalist means never having to say you're sorry for "Batman & Robin." George Clooney, who cemented his movie-star status in the 1997 superhero extravaganza and codpiece show, was rewarded Tuesday, November 29 at the announcement of the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards.

Clooney was rewarded for thinking small, earning a Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Director for "Good Night, and Good Luck." the true story of CBS Newsman Edward R. Murrow's crusade against witch-hunting Senator Joe McCarthy. Felicity Huffman, Heath Ledger, Tommy Lee Jones and Matt Dillon were other Hollywood stars singled out by the Spirits.

The Spirit Awards honors work in films made with an "economy of means," not to mention a dearth of fancy catering trucks. Overall, "The Squid and the Whale," writer-director Noah Baumbach's tale of divorce, netted the most nominations (six), including ones for Best Feature, Best Male Lead (Jeff Daniels) and Best Female Lead (Laura Linney).

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Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Brokeback Mountain'

The Best Feature field was rounded about by "Good Night, and Good Luck." and "Brokeback Mountain," known universally, if unofficially, as the gay cowboy movie. Also, in the running is "Capote," a look at author Truman Capote during the writing and researching of his masterwork, "In Cold Blood." The final nomination went to the Jones-directed drama "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada." Each member of that quartet is up for a total of four nominations.

The Best Male Lead race arguably sports the most names likely to be heard again and again during award-show season. Jeff Daniels portrays the divorcing dad in "The Squid and The Whale" and Philip Seymour Hoffman is the pitch-perfect star of "Capote."

Other nominations went to Terrence Howard, the pimp with hip-hop dreams in "Hustle & Flow" and Heath Ledger, the closeted cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain." David Strathairn completes the category with his portrayal of the unyielding Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck."

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Terrence Howard in 'Hustle & Flow'

Howard's nomination was the lone one for "Hustle & Flow," the Sundance phenomenon that failed to wow in the real world (grossing $22.2 million, per BoxOfficeMojo.com), despite big buzz and heavy promotion on MTV. But at least Howard scored a ticket to the dance. Unlike Jake Gyllenhaal. Ledger's partner on the range in "Brokeback Mountain," Jake Gyllenhaal was the most notable snubee.

Gyllenhaal failed to lasso a nomination as either a lead or supporting actor for his acting efforts. Ledger's real-life partner, Michelle Williams, had better luck, drawing a Best Supporting Female nod for her work in the same film. And Gyllenhaal's sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, had better luck than her sibling, earning a Best Supporting Female nomination for the romantic roundelay, "Happy Endings."

Other familiar names caught up by the Spirits include "The West Wing's" Allison Janney, a Best Supporting Female hopeful for "Our Very Own," an ensemble piece about a Tennessee town in a tizzy over a rumored visit by hometown-girl-made-good Sondra Locke. Robin Wright Penn picked up a Best Supporting Female nod for the drama, "Nine Lives."

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Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon in 'Crash'

Matt Dillon is a Best Supporting Male contender for his turn as a Los Angeles cop in "Crash." "Desperate Housewives" Emmy winner Huffman is a Best Female Lead hopeful for her role as a transsexual with kid trouble in "Transamerica" and "Judging Amy" alum Dan Futterman puts his writing skills to the test with a Best Screenplay nominee for "Capote."

The Spirit Awards, as voted on by members of Film Independent and the Independent Feature Project, are to be presented in their traditional beach setting on March 4, 2006, the day before the Academy Awards, in Santa Monica, California. Cable's IFC will carry the live broadcast. Cable's Bravo often carries the repeat of the Indie award fest. No word yet on host or presenters.

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2006 Independent Spirit Awards Nominations
(winners will appear highlighted in red)

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Best Feature
"Brokeback Mountain"
"Capote"
"Good Night, and Good Luck."
"The Squid and the Whale"
"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"


Best Female Lead
Felicity Huffman ~ "Transamerica"
Dina Korzun ~ "Forty Shades of Blue"
Laura Linney ~ "The Squid and the Whale"
S. Epatha Merkerson ~ "Lackawanna Blues"
Cyndi Williams ~ "Room"


Best Male Lead
Jeff Daniels ~ "The Squid and the Whale"
Philip Seymour Hoffman ~ "Capote"
Terrence Howard ~ "Hustle & Flow"
Heath Ledger ~ "Brokeback Mountain"
David Strathairn ~ "Good Night, and Good Luck."


Best Supporting Female
Amy Adams ~ "Junebug"
Maggie Gyllenhaal ~ "Happy Endings"
Allison Janney ~ "Our Very Own"
Michelle Williams ~ "Brokeback Mountain"
Robin Wright Penn ~ "Nine Lives"


Best Supporting Male
Firdous Bamji ~ "The War Within"
Matt Dillon ~ "Crash"
Jesse Eisenberg ~ "The Squid and the Whale"
Barry Pepper ~ "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"
Jeffrey Wright ~ "Broken Flowers"


Best Director
Ang Lee ~ "Brokeback Mountain"
George Clooney ~ "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Gregg Araki ~ "Mysterious Skin"
Rodrigo Garcia ~ "Nine Lives"
Noah Baumbach ~ "The Squid and the Whale"


Best Screenplay
Film: "The War Within"
Screenwriter: Ayad Akhtar, Joseph Castelo, Tom Glynn

Film: "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"
Screenwriter: Guillermo Arriaga

Film: "The Squid and the Whale"
Screenwriter: Noah Baumbach


Film: "Capote"
Screenwriter: Dan Futterman


Film: "Nine Lives"
Screenwriter: Rodrigo Garcia


Best Cinematography
Film: "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Cinematographer: Robert Elswit


Film: "Keane"
Cinematographer: John Foster

Film: "Capote"
Cinematographer: Adam Kimmel

Film: "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"
Cinematographer: Chris Menges

Film: "Last Days"
Cinematographer: Harris Savides


Best Foreign Film
"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" ~ (Romania)
"Duck Season" ~ (Mexico)
"Head-On" ~ (Germany/Turkey)

"Paradise Now" ~ (Palestine/Netherlands/Germany/France)
"Tony Takitani" ~ (Japan)

Best Documentary
"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"
"Grizzly Man"
"La Sierra"
"Romantico"
"Sir! No Sir!"


Best First Feature
(award given to the director and producer)
Film: "Crash"
Director: Paul Haggis
Producers: Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco, Paul Haggis


Film: "Lackawanna Blues"
Director: George C. Wolfe
Producers: Ruben Santiago Hudson, Nellie Nugiel, Shelby Stone

Film: "Me and You and Everyone We Know"
Director: Miranda July
Producer: Gina Kwon

Film: "Thumbsucker"
Director: Mike Mills
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Bob Stephenson

Film: "Transamerica"
Director: Duncan Tucker
Producers: Sebastian Dungan, Linda Moran, Rene Bastian


Best First Screenplay
Film: "Fixing Frank"
Screenwriter: Kenneth Hanes

Film: "Me and You and Everyone We Know"
Screenwriter: Miranda July

Film: "Junebug"
Screenwriter: Angus MacLachlan

Film: "The Beautiful Country"
Screenwriter: Sabrina Murray


Film: "Transamerica"
Screenwriter: Duncan Tucker


John Cassavetes Award
(Best Feature Made for Under $500,000)
"Brick"
"Conventioneers"
"Jellysmoke"
"The Puffy Chair"
"Room"


IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award
(To Emerging Director)
Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana ~ "Cavite"
Robinson Devor ~ "Police Beat"
Jay Duplass ~ "The Puffy Chair"


Truer Than Fiction Award
(To Emerging Documentary Director)
Rachel Boynton ~ "Our Brand Is Crisis"
Garrett Scott and Ian Olds ~ "Occupation: Dreamland"
Mark Becker ~ "Romantico"
Thomas Allen Harris ~ "Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela"


AMC/American Express Producers Award
(To Emerging Producer)
Caroline Baron ~ "Capote" and "Monsoon Wedding"
Ram Bergman ~ "Brick" and "Conversations with Other Women"
Mike S. Ryan ~ "Junebug" and "Palindromes"
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The Film Independent Spirit Awards

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Film Independent Spirit Awards Tent in Santa Monica, California

The Film Independent Spirit Awards is a celebration of independent filmmakers who bring a unique vision and a spirit of independence to filmmaking. Keeping with its roots and L.A. location, the Spirit Awards takes place each year inside a beachfront tent in Santa Monica.

Along with being a great party, the Spirit Awards ceremony brings together the top talent from independent film and Hollywood. Trophies are presented for the year's best achievements in independent film, with statues awarded for Best First Feature and Best Feature made for under $500,000 (the John Cassavetes Award), among others.

The 2006 ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 4, 2006. The event is broadcast live on IFC and rebroadcast on AMC. The 2006 Red Carpet Arrivals Show will be broadcast on WE. As the first event to honor independent film exclusively, the Spirit Awards has made a name for itself as the premier awards event for the independent film community.

Founded in 1984, the awards started out as the FINDIE ("Friends of Independents") Awards. In 1986, the event was renamed the Independent Spirit Awards. The Spirit Awards celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2005. The awards were hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, and honored such films as "Sideways," "Garden State" and "Mean Creek."

This year, the Spirit Awards continues to reflect the ever-changing community of indie filmmakers and audiences with its new name, the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Join our host, Sarah Silverman to usher in this year's crop of filmmakers honoring the independent spirit.

Film Independent is a non-profit organization dedicated to independent film and independent filmmakers. It helps filmmakers get their movies made and then seen by audiences. Film Independent is also dedicated to increasing diversity in the film industry by helping filmmakers from underrepresented communities tell their stories.

Spirit Award winners are chosen by Film Independent members, with voting privileges extended to IFP members. Voters attend nominee screenings and view nominated films through Netflix before selecting the Spirit Award winners.

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'Brokeback' Top of the Independent 'Mountain'

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'Brokeback Mountain'\

The cowboy love story "Brokeback Mountain" won best picture and its creator Ang Lee was named best director Saturday, March 4, at the Independent Spirit Awards, which played out as a potential prelude to the Academy Awards.

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.

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.

"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.

In their acceptance speech, one of the film's producers, Diana Ossana said, "Mostly 'Brokeback Mountain' is about sheep." The film's other producer, James Schamus, said, "So we want to thank our shepherd, Ang Lee."

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.

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2006 Independent Spirit Awards Nominations

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And the winners are . . .

Best Feature
"Brokeback Mountain"

Best Director
Director: Ang Lee
Film: "Brokeback Mountain"


Best Screenplay
Film: "Capote"
Screenwriter: Dan Futterman


Best First Feature
(award given to the director and producer)
Film: "Crash"
Director: Paul Haggis
Producers: Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco, Paul Haggis


Best First Screenplay
Film: "Transamerica"
Screenwriter: Duncan Tucker


John Cassavetes Award
(Best Feature Made for Under $500,000)
"Conventioneers"

Best Supporting Female
Amy Adams
"Junebug"


Best Supporting Male
Matt Dillon
"Crash"


Best Female Lead
Felicity Huffman
"Transamerica"


Best Male Lead
Philip Seymour Hoffman
"Capote"


Best Cinematography
Film: "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Cinematographer: Robert Elswit


Best Foreign Film
"Paradise Now" ~ (Palestine/Netherlands/Germany/France)

Best Documentary
"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"

AMC/American Express Producers Award
(To Emerging Producer)
Caroline Baron
"Capote" and "Monsoon Wedding"


IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award
(To Emerging Director)
Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana
"Cavite"


Truer Than Fiction Award
(To Emerging Documentary Director)
Ian Olds and Garrett Scott
"Occupation: Dreamland"
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