"Juno" delivers top prize at indie film awards

Sat Feb 23, 2008 8:48pm EST
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By Dean Goodman

SANTA MONICA, California (Reuters) - "Juno," a runaway hit comedy about a wisecracking pregnant teen, picked up the top prize at the Spirit Awards, the independent film community's version of the Oscars, on Saturday.

The movie was named best feature, while Canadian actress Ellen Page won the female lead award for her role as the titular heroine, and former stripper Cody Diablo won for first screenplay.

The only category "Juno" missed out on was best director, which went to Julian Schnabel, the pop artist who made the French-language drama "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

"Juno" and "I'm Not There," an innovative drama in which six actors depict the many sides of Bob Dylan, led the field with four nominations each. Australian actress Cate Blanchett won the supporting female statuette for playing the tireless troubadour during his amphetamine-fueled period in the mid-1960s.

The Spirit Awards, one of the liveliest events on the Hollywood awards calendar, were held in a marquee on Santa Monica Beach. Hollywood elite's donned casual duds and idled in the seaside atmosphere, a day before the black-tie Academy Awards take place in Hollywood.

It was one of the few occasions for boozy bonhomie in a season overshadowed by a three-month screenwriters strike. The walkout forced the cancellation of many glitzy parties because of uncertainty as to how it would affect Hollywood's biggest night.

The grim tone and modest earnings of leading Oscar contenders "No Country For Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" have not helped the mood.

The Spirit Awards, in their 23rd year, honor low-budget American films based on such criteria as original, provocative subject matter and degree of independent financing. The budget threshold is $20 million -- about one-third of the average cost for a big-studio film, according to data for 2006 compiled by the Motion Picture Association of America.   Continued...

<p>Actors Kate Beckinsale (L) and Matt Dillon (C) present actress Ellen Page the award for best female lead for the film "Juno" at the 2008 Film Independent's Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, February 23, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>