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» 'Juno' scores at Spirit Awards

Page, Cody bask in their individual wins as the comedy takes the top prize.
by Susan King, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, published on February 22, 2008

The quirky coming-of-age comedy "Juno" cleaned up at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday afternoon as it continues its Cinderella season going into Sunday night's Academy Awards.

And Ellen Page and stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody are officially the belles of the ball.

"Juno" won for best feature film, best actress honors for Page and best first screenplay for Cody at the awards show held Saturday afternoon under a tent alongside the sand in Santa Monica. Page and Cody are also nominated for Oscars, along with director Jason Reitman.

The film about a teen who discovers she's pregnant has been this awards season's critical darling -- and standout -- as it also competes in the best picture category against darker fare such as "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood," "Michael Clayton" and "Atonement."

"This is so, so special," Page said in accepting her award. "This is pretty much Diablo Cody's fault," she joked.

Made on a shoe-string budget, "Juno" is the only best picture nominee to surpass the $100-million box office mark, which has buoyed supporters of independent film. That giddiness was in full swing Saturday -- it was the Independent Spirit Awards, after all -- but such levity gave way to several somber moments to remember the late Heath Ledger. One of his last films -- "I'm Not There" – won two honors.

Director Todd Haynes, accepting the Robert Altman Award for the film in which a Bob Dylan-esque character is played by several different performers, said the recognition was particularly bittersweet in the wake of Ledger's death.

"We all love him so dearly," Haynes said. "I treasure the time we spent together on this."

Earlier, actress Cate Blanchett dedicated her best supporting actress award to the late performer. The very-pregnant Blanchett, who won for playing a man in the film, said in accepting the award that Ledger "was probably one of the most beautiful independent spirits of all."

Other awards: best cinematography went to Janusz Kaminski for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"; best director went to Julian Schnabel, also for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"; best documentary went to filmmaker Dan Klores' "Crazy Love"; the Truer than Fiction award went to filmmaker Laurel Dunn for "The Unforeseen"; and the producers award went to Neil Kopp, for "Paranoid Park" and "Old Joy."

Philip Seymour Hoffman won best male lead for playing a son dealing with an aging father in "The Savages." He was expressing surprise at his win when he was interrupted by a fan in the crowd who shouted, "I love you!" He thanked the fan and then went on to call the film's screenplay by Tamara Jenkins "one of the best I've ever read."

Minutes later, Jenkins won for best screenplay.

The Someone to Watch Award went to filmmaker Ramin Bahrani for "Chop Shop." Best foreign film went to the Irish romance-with-music charmer, "Once." Chiwetel Ejiofor won for best supporting male for "Talk to Me," and "The Lookout" won for best first feature film. The John Cassavetes Award honoring filmmaking on a meager budget went to "August Evening."

Over the last two decades, the Spirit Awards has become one of Hollywood's hippest, hottest events. The town's biggest stars leave their tuxes, designer gowns and diamond jewelry at home and opt instead to wear jeans, leather jackets and off-the-hanger dresses to the über-casual event that takes place under a massive tent on the beach in Santa Monica.

As their name suggests, the Independent Spirit Awards celebrate independent and low-budget filmmaking. Eligible films must be at least 70 minutes in length; cost of the completed film, including post-production, has to be less than $20 million.

Rainn Wilson of "The Office" hosted the ceremony, which was telecast live and uncut on the Independent Film Channel. An edited version will air later in the evening on AMC.

Source: theenvelope.latimes.com

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