L11_2546Birdman won the latest face-off with its main Oscar rival Boyhood – this time in the world America’s independent cinema.

Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s satire on the world of entertainment took the prizes for Best Feature, Best Actor for Michael Keaton and Best Cinematography at the Spirit Awards in Santa Monica. The director himself missed out to Richard Linklater, whose Boyhood also earned Patricia Arquette a Best Supporting Actress trophy.

The intense drama about a drumming protege, Whiplash, also took two awards, for JK Simmons as Best Supporting Actor and for editing. The other acting award saw Julianne Moore repeat her success, throughout awards season, in the Best Actress category for Still Alice.

Run by the Film Independent organisation, that supports film-makers earlier in their career, the Spirits also honour artists in this category. Writer Dan Gilroy won the Best First Feature award for his directorial debut, Nightcrawler. There was a lower profile in the Best First Screenplay contest, with Justin Simien winning for Dear White People.

In the more specialised categories, Citzenfour, about Edward Snowden, was voted the Best Documentary, while Pawel Pawlikowski first Polish film, Ida, took the Best Foreign Film prize – a category which includes English language films made outside the US, highlighting the parochial nature of so many of the smaller awards ceremonies.

The Spirits can’t particularly be seen as an indicator for Oscar success, since the cohort of voters is so different – here, it’s the aspirational and upcoming while the Academy is the already up-and-come – but with so much overlap in the nominations this year, they do at least give confirmation of the direction of travel of the awards juggernaut that started with last month’s Golden Globes, as it nears its grand finale.

The full list of Spirit Award winners:

Best Feature


Best First Feature


Best Director

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Female Lead

Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Best Male Lead

Michael Keaton for Birdman

Best Supporting Female

Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

Best Supporting Male

J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Best Screenplay

Nightcrawler: Dan Gilroy

Best First Screenplay

Dear White People: Justin Simien

Best Cinematography

Birdman: Emmanuel Lubezki

Best International Film

Ida: Pawel Pawlikowski

Best Documentary

Citizenfour: Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

John Cassavetes Award

Land Ho!

Truer Than Fiction Award

The Kill Team

Someone to Watch Award


Producers Award

Chris Ohlson

Robert Altman Award

Inherent Vice

Best Editing

Whiplash: Tom Cross

Special Distinction Award


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