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    "Memento" Has the Spirit

    Won Memento.

    The as-told-backward noir thriller was named Best Feature en route to capturing a field-best four winged creatures (otherwise known as trophies) at the "indie Oscars," otherwise known as the 2002 IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards. As has become the custom, Saturday's low-key, no-tie affair was held in an intimate setting (otherwise known as a tent) in Santa Monica, California.

    Memento's Christopher Nolan, an Oscar nominee Sunday night for his (very) original script about a memory-challenged man, ensured he'll be a big winner this weekend no matter how things go down at the Kodak Theater. The 31-year-old Brit owned his categories, winning Spirit Awards for both Best Director and Best Screenplay.

    "A tremendous honor," Nolan declared on stage.

    In the Bedroom, the itty-bitty-sized character drama that finds itself in the thick of a heavyweight Best Picture Oscar race, took three Spirits--one each for its stars, Sissy Spacek (Best Female Lead) and Tom Wilkinson (Best Male Lead), and one for its director, Todd Field (Best First Feature).

    "I've worked in indie film since 1973," said Spacek, also an Oscar frontrunner, in an acceptance speech that was more a pep talk to non-Hollywood filmmakers than a scroll of thank yous, "so this was really like coming home."

    The event's other multiple winner was the quirky, comic-book-inspired comedy, Ghost World, which took awards for Best Supporting Male (Steve Buscemi) and Best First Screenplay (Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff).

    Clowes and Zwigoff, who was not present, will try to repeat at the Oscars (they're up for Best Adapted Screenplay); Buscemi can't. He wasn't nominated--yet. "I'm still hoping to get nominated for this one," the actor joked backstage, before upping his indie cred by dismissing his Oscar snub with: "It really doesn't matter."

    Carrie-Anne Moss put Memento over the top in the win column, claiming a trophy for Best Supporting Female for her role as a woman who may (or may not be) out to help head-case Guy Pearce. "It was heaven to make this film," Moss said backstage. "I've never had such a good time."

    Having a good time, by the way, is the unofficial theme of the Spirit Awards. With so many of the nominees and presenters preparing to walk the gauntlet (otherwise known as the red carpet) at the "other" awards show, nobody needs another pressure cooker.

    "I think it's much cooler today," said sandal-wearing, writer-director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, clutching the Best Foreign Film award for his Oscar-nominated Amélie. "Maybe I have huge pressure tomorrow, but today it's cool."

    Accordingly, the Spirit Awards play more like a wedding reception. For one thing, there's that tent (a few of them, actually.) There's also an open bar, a buffet and a deejay (Mixmaster Mike from the indie doc Scratch).

    About the only difference between your typical wedding reception and the Spirit Awards is that people dress better at your typical wedding reception (Best Debut Performance winner Paul Franklin Dano from L.I.E. apparently had his wardrobe--baggy pants, baggy shirt, T-shirt--designed by the 11th grade).

    Certainly, today's Spirit Awards boasted a tad more star power than Cousin Becky's shindig at the country club. Oscar nominees Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen were among the presenters, as were Hollywood denizens Dennis Quaid and Diane Lane.

    In fact, tapped to present the day's last award (Best Feature) were two names more commonly associated with glossy magazine covers than indie film: Kidman and Benjamin Bratt. (We're guessing they got a pass on account of they both recently became "independent" from their even-more-famous other halves.)

    Less you think the Spirits have gone (gasp!) Hollywood, host John Waters persuaded the audience otherwise. "[This is] the award show that seems to believe David Lynch is too commercial," the trash-cinema artiste cracked, referring to how the famously weird Lynch was nominated for the Best Director Oscar, but snubbed by Spirit voters, for Mulholland Drive.

    It could be argued, though, that this year's Spirit Awards, voted on by the 9,000 members of the Independent Spirit Feature Project, did lack a certain spirit of adventure. The two edgiest films among the top nominees were virtually shut out. L.I.E., described by Waters as "a movie about a child molester with a heart of gold," managed to make good on only one of its field-best six nominations. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the world's first rock musical about an East German transsexual, went 0-for-5.

    Was anyone upset? Outraged? What--with that lulling surf in the background?

    Here's a rundown of all the winners:

    Feature: Memento Female Lead: Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom Male Lead: Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom> Supporting Female: Carrie-Anne Moss, Memento Supporting Male: Steve Buscemi, Ghost World Debut Performance: Paul Franklin Dano, L.I.E. Director: Christopher Nolan, Memento Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Memento First Feature: Todd Field, In the Bedroom First Screenplay: Daniel Clowes & Terry Zwigoff, Ghost World John Cassavetes Award (best feature under $500,000): Jackpot Cinematography: Peter Deming, Mulholland Drive Foreign Film: Amélie Documentary: Dogtown and Z-Boys Motorola Producers Award: René Bastian and Linda Moran, Martin and Orloff and L.I.E. Turning Leaf Coastal Reserve Someone To Watch Award: Debra Eisenstadt, Daydream Believer DirecTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award (documentary filmmaker): Monteith McCollum, Hybrid


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