Oscars battle between Birdman and Boyhood heats up after Spirit Awards

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA (Reuters)- Dark showbiz satire Birdman, and coming-of-age tale Boyhood, took the top honours at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, a day before Hollywood's biggest night when both will face off in the top Oscars categories.

Birdman, nominated for nine Oscars which will be handed out in Los Angeles on Sunday, won three Spirit Awards, including the top prize of Best Feature.

"We're threatened as a species into extinction," Alejandro Inarritu, director of Birdman, said of independent film-makers in his acceptance speech.

"These kinds of awards are where we can celebrate the cinema that is being forgotten."

Birdman led the nominees with five nods along with jazz drama Whiplash, which won two accolades, and civil rights drama Selma, which left empty handed.

Boyhood, filmed over a span of 12 years and nominated for six Oscars, won the Best Director award for Richard Linklater and Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette.

All four acting categories were won by Oscar-nominated frontrunners, including Michael Keaton for Best Actor for Birdman. In his acceptance speech, he called the film "bold cinema," and a "game-changer."

Julianne Moore was named Best Actress for her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease in Still Alice.

"I was lucky enough to come in at the beginning of the independent film movement and its really shaped my life and career," she said in an emotional acceptance speech.

The 30th annual Spirit Awards, hosted by Film Independent, honours the best achievements across movies made under US$20 million (S$27.2 million) and are often an indicator of Academy Award winners, with drama 12 Years A Slave, taking top honours at both the Spirit Awards and Oscars last year.

Unlike the formal glitz of the Oscars, the Spirit Awards opts for a relaxed, boozy lunch in a Santa Monica tent on California's coast.

The show, hosted by Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen, was broadcast live for the first time on cable network IFC.

"Hollywood movies may be keeping the industry afloat, but the people in this room are keeping the industry alive," said Boyhood star Ethan Hawke as he presented the Best Supporting Actress award to Arquette.

J.K. Simmons won for Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash, and thanked his fellow nominees in the category.

Poland's Ida won for Best International Film, while CitizenFour, about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, won the Best Documentary prize. Both are nominated for Oscars.

Dan Gilroy, nominated for the Best Screenplay Oscar, won for Best Screenplay and First Feature for Nightcrawler. Reuters