Birdman starring Michael Keaton leads nominations for Oscars precursor Spirit Awards

Actor Michael Keaton, winner of the career achievement award, at the Hollywood Film Awardson Nov 14, 2014. In Birdman, he plays a washed-up actor as he embarks on a theatre comeback. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Actor Michael Keaton, winner of the career achievement award, at the Hollywood Film Awardson Nov 14, 2014. In Birdman, he plays a washed-up actor as he embarks on a theatre comeback. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (Reuters/AFP) - Surreal theatre drama Birdman starring Michael Keaton topped nominations for the Independent Spirit movie awards announced on Tuesday, with nods in six categories.

Three films came equal second with five nominations apiece: coming-of-age family portrait Boyhood, TV news thriller Nightcrawler and Martin Luther King drama Selma.

The Spirit awards, which aim to honour excellence in independent film, will be handed out on Feb 21, one day before the Oscars at the climax of Hollywood's awards season.

The award recipients are often an indicator of Academy Award winners, with slavery drama 12 Years A Slave taking top honours at both the Spirit Awards and Oscars this year.

Birdman, which follows the journey of a washed-up actor as he embarks on a theatre comeback, scored a Best Actor nod for Keaton, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Edward Norton and Emma Stone and Best Director for Alejandro G. Inarritu. It also garnered a nod for Best Cinematography.

Fox Searchlight's Birdman joined IFC Films' Boyhood, Paramount Pictures' Selma and Sony Pictures Classics films Whiplash and Love Is Strange, for the coveted top prize for Best Feature.

Jazz drumming drama Whiplash, which won the top honour at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and has garnered awards buzz, landed four nominations, including Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood, which follows a child's growth filmed over 11 years, also won nods for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Editing.

Ava DuVernay's Selma, a film about civil rights icon Martin Luther King co-starring Oprah Winfrey, also garnered nods for Best Director, Best Male Actor and Supporting Actress and Best Cinematography.

Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a freelance TV news journalist seeking out the most bloody traffic accidents in Los Angeles, also took nods for Best Supporting Actor, Screenplay, First Feature and Editing.

Keaton will be up against Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, Jimi: All Is By My Side singer-actor Andre Benjamin, John Lithgow in Love Is Strange and Selma actor David Oyelowo.

In the Best Actress race, The Immigrant star Marion Cotillard will face Julianne Moore for Still Alice, comedian Jenny Slate for Obvious Child, Tilda Swinton for Only Lovers Left Alive and Rinko Kikuchi for Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter.

Best Documentary nominees include Laura Poitras' Edward Snowden film Citizenfour; Congo environmental film Virunga; American Heartland narrative Stray Dog; 20,000 Days On Earth, about singer Nick Cave; and The Salt Of The Earth, about photographer Sebastiao Salgado.

Directors of Sweden's Force Majeure, Poland's Ida, Russian film Leviathan, Canada's Mommy, Philippines' Norte, The End Of History and Under The Skin from the United Kingdom will compete for Best International Film.

Foxcatcher, which has earned Oscar buzz for its stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo and director Bennett Miller, and Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice were not eligible for individual nominations, award organisers said.

They were ineligible for recognition due to their budget or nation of origin, said The Hollywood Reporter. Other films left out in the race were Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game, James Marsh's The Theory Of Everything, Mike Leigh's Mr Turner and Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.