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A Letter to Momo

Even scenes that work, such as a climax on a rain-soaked bridge, feel like they could have been trimmed by a few hand-drawn frames. Maybe…

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Cannibal

Visually striking and confident but frustratingly hollow in terms of character and narrative.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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'Precious' wins as many Indie Spirits as it possibly can

LOS ANGELES -- I wonder what this might mean. "Precious" did about as well as it possibly could have Friday might at the Independent Spirit Awards. It won for best picture, best actress (Gabourey Sidibe), best supporting actress (Mo'Nique), best director (Lee Daniels) and best first screenplay (Geoffrey Fletcher). Supporting actor Lenny Kravitz was in the house, but couldn't win because he wasn't nominated.

The Indie Spirits aren't the same sort of Academy Awards bellwether as the Golden Globes, but the depth of support for "Precious" might suggest that the film will win more Oscars Sunday night than its one expected major winner, Mo'Nique. She and the popular winner Gabourey Sidibe gave the most heartfelt acceptance speeches; the film changed both their lives.

Another widely-predicted Oscar winner, best actor Jeff Bridges, won the Indie Spirit award in that category for "Crazy Heart," and later joined pal T Bone Burnett onstage to perform a country song from the movie, revealing he has a gift for that art form. Woody Harrelson won as best supporting actor for "The Messenger." Both Harrelson and Bridges have a gift for acceptance speeches that sound made up on the spot, yet are perfect without apparent effort.

The Spirits moved from their recent home in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica to another tent inside a huge parking garage in downtown Los Angeles, across from the Staples Center. The venue lacked the charm of the beach and seemed less like a semi-intimate get-together, but the evening had its moments.

Two of them involved Anvil, a heavy metal band from Toronto which was big briefly in the mid-1970s and has continued to tour and perform ever since, to diminishing success. "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," a documentary about their last five years, focused on their never-say-die spirit, and anyone who'd seen the film had to be moved when they performed on the show: At last, a high-profile gig in L.A.! That was topped when the film won as best documentary, and founding members Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner returned to the stage almost in disbelief.

"Crazy Heart" also won for best first feature. "Humpday," a film about two straight friends who decide to make a gay porn film on a bet, won the John Cassavetes award for a film costing less than $500K.

Best screenplay went to "(500) Days of Summer." The best foreign film was "An Education," from Britain. Best cinematographer was Roger Deakins, for "A Serious Man."

The Robert Altman Award, given to a director and its ensemble cast, went to "A Serious Man," by the Coen Brothers. The Piaget Producer's Award went to Karen Chien ("The Exploding Girl" & "Santa Mesa"), the Acura Someone to Watch Award to Kyle Patrick Alvarez ("Easier with Practice," and the Chaz and Roger Ebert Truer Than Fiction Award, a cash grant to a documentary filmmaker, went to Bill and Turner Ross, for "45365."

Seated at a table in the front of the house was John Waters, the popular emcee for many recent Spirit Awards. This year's emcee was Eddie Izzard, the British comedian, who opened by informing America that there is no God, and turned that into a running joke that failed time and again, along with an inexplicable joke about Werner von Braun.

Waters co-presented an award later, and was funnier in 30 seconds than Izzard was all night. Ben Stiller, presenting the best feature award, was his equal.

But the most memorable moment of the evening came when Lee Daniels accepted the award for "Precious," delivered a perfectly expected speech, and began to thank Mo'Nique. From the audience, her eyes met his, he stopped talking, they both teared up and nodded, cameras cut between them, the moment lengthened, and someday we may discover what powerful memory they were sharing.

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