‘Precious’ dominates Spirit Awards with 5 prizes, wins acting honors for Sidibe, Mo’Nique

By David Germain, AP
Saturday, March 6, 2010

‘Precious’ dominates Spirit Awards with 5 prizes

LOS ANGELES — The Harlem drama “Precious” has won five prizes at the Spirit Awards honoring independent film, including best picture and trophies for stars Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique and director Lee Daniels.

Sidibe won best actress Friday for “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” playing an illiterate teen pulling herself out of an abyss of neglect and abuse. Mo’Nique earned the supporting-actress honor as the girl’s loathsome mother.

Jeff Bridges won best actor for the country-music tale “Crazy Heart” and Woody Harrelson won supporting actor for the war-on-terror drama “The Messenger.”

“Precious” swept every category for which it was nominated, including best screenplay by a first-time writer for Geoffrey Fletcher.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mo’Nique won the supporting-actress honor Friday at the Spirit Awards honoring independent film for the Harlem drama “Precious,” while Woody Harrelson earned the supporting-actor trophy for the war-on-terror story “The Messenger.”

Both are up for the same honors at Sunday’s Academy Awards, where Mo’Nique is the front-runner for her searing performance as the loathsome mother of an abused teenage girl, played by Gabourey Sidibe in her screen debut. Sidibe was nominated for best actress at the Spirit Awards and the Oscars.

“Gabby, you are truly a special gift to the universe, baby,” Mo’Nique said. “For people to get to know you and be in your presence, they are all honored.”

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” also won for best screenplay by a first-time writer for Geoffrey Fletcher. The film was tied for the lead at Spirit Awards with five nominations, including best picture, for which it also is competing at the Oscars.

Harrelson won for his role as a soldier breaking news to next of kin that a love one has died in action. He had kind words for the other nominees, who included fellow Oscar contender Christopher Plummer for the Leo Tolstoy drama “The Last Station.”

“You’re all better,” Harrelson told his competitors. “Actually, I don’t know how you distinguish one performance from another. It’s never felt right to me to declare a winner. We’re all just actors and lucky to be doing this. Of course, now it feels a little more right.”

The country-music drama “Crazy Heart” won for best debut film for first-time director Scott Cooper.

“He never directed a high school play before, but he did a great job,” said “Crazy Heart” co-star Robert Duvall, who joined Cooper on stage.

“Crazy Heart” star Jeff Bridges, the best-actor favorite at the Oscars for his role as a boozy country star trying to turn his life around, performed one of the tunes he sings in the film at the Spirit Awards.

Also up for best picture at the Spirit Awards are “The Last Station,” the romance “(500) Days of Summer,” and the immigrant stories “Amreeka” and “Sin Nombre.”

The Iraq War drama “The Hurt Locker,” tied with blockbuster “Avatar” for the Oscar lead with nine nominations each, is absent from this season’s Spirit Awards. “The Hurt Locker” premiered at film festivals in 2008 and was eligible for the Spirit Awards a year ago, when it earned nominations for actors Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.

The Spirit Awards normally are handed out at an afternoon ceremony along the beach in Santa Monica the day before the Oscars. With the event marking its 25th year, organizers made it a Friday night bash in downtown Los Angeles.

Presented by the cinema group Film Independent, the Spirit Awards honor movies that cost less than $20 million to make, with a significant part of their budget originating outside the Hollywood studio system. Other criteria for nominations include originality and provocative subject matter.

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