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‘Rachel’ and ‘River’ Smell Like Independent Spirit

We've got Spirit, yes we do! We've got Spirit, how 'bout you?

Year in and year out, the Film Independent Spirit Awards serve as Oscar season's most genuinely confusing awards show. After all, over the course of the last ten years and change, the lines between truly independent film and studio-financed projects have not so much blurred as they have been erased. Still, the Indie Spirits soldier on with their oblique mission statement (their nominating process is driven by "uniqueness of vision, original, provocative subject matter, economy of means and percentage of financing from independent sources"), their sponsorship-friendly stance (including the Acura Someone to Watch award and the Lacoste Truer Than Fiction award), and their willingness to serve as the rehearsal dinner for the lavish wedding ceremony that is the Academy Awards. Leading the pack of 2009 Spirit honorees with six nominations apiece are Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married (which includes a Best Actress nod for Anne Hathaway), Sundance fave Frozen River, and Lance Hammer's low-budget look at life on the Mississippi Delta, Ballast. Other key story lines emerging from this morning's press release include what is sure to become a tightly contested Best Actor category (featuring heavyweights Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, and Javier Bardem) and the no-holds-barred death match between Rachel Getting Married co-stars Rosemarie DeWitt and comeback kid Debra Winger in the Best Supporting Actress category.

We wouldn't leave you without presenting to you the complete list of the 2009 Film Independent Spirit Award nominations:

BEST FEATURE
Rachel Getting Married
The Wrestler
Wendy and Lucy
Ballast
Frozen River

BEST DIRECTOR
Tom McCarthy, The Visitor
Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Ramin Bahrani, Chop Shop
Lance Hammer, Ballast

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Summer Bishil, Towelhead
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Tarra Riggs, Ballast
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy

BEST MALE LEAD
Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Sean Penn, Milk
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Rosie Perez, The Take
Misty Upham, Frozen River
Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
James Franco, Milk
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Charlie McDermott, Frozen River
JimMyron Ross, Ballast
Haaz Sleiman, The Visitor

BEST FIRST FEATURE
Afterschool
Medicine for Melancholy
Synecdoche, New York
Sleep Dealer
Sangre De Mi Sangre

BEST SCREENPLAY
Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Sugar
Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York
Howard A. Rodman, Savage Grace
Christopher Zalla, Sangre De Mi Sangre

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Lance Hammer, Ballast
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Jonathan Levine, The Wackness
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000)
Prince of Broadway
Take Out
The Signal
Turn the River
In Search of a Midnight Kiss

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler
Lol Crawley, Ballast
James Laxton, Medicine for Melancholy
Harris Savides, Milk
Michael Simmonds, Chop Shop

BEST DOCUMENTARY
The Order of Myths
Up the Yangtze
Encounters at the End of the World
The Betrayal
Man on Wire

BEST FOREIGN FILM
The Class
Gomorrah
Secret of the Grain
Hunger
Silent Light

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (Given to one film's director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
Charlie Kaufman (director), Jeanne McCarthy (casting director), Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Michelle Williams, Synecdoche, New York

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Heather Rae, Frozen River
Jason Orans, Goodbye Solo, Year of the Fish
Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy, Treeless Mountain, I'll Come Running

ACURA SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Lynn Shelton, My Effortless Brilliance
Nina Paley, Sita Sings the Blues
Barry Jenkins, Medicine for Melancholy

LACOSTE TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Darius Marder, Loot
Sacha Gervasi, Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Margaret Brown, The Order of Myths

Film Independent's 2009 Spirit Awards [Spirit Awards]

Photo: Photo: Courtesy of Sony Picture Classics