A tale of two cowboys who fall in love, a biographical drama about Truman Capote, a historical look at TV journalist Edward R. Murrow, an intimate deconstruction of divorce and an offbeat western about a ranch hand determined to do right by his murdered friend received best feature nominations Tuesday for the 21st annual Film Independent's Independent Spirit Awards.
The best feature nominations for "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "The Squid and the Whale" and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" officially kicked off the 2006 movie awards season.
The Independent Spirit Awards, the indie film world's answer to the Oscars, has grown by leaps and bounds since it inception in the 1980s and attracts almost as many stars as the Academy Awards. The winners will be announced March 4, on the beach in Santa Monica, just one day before the Academy Awards are handed out.
The Independent Spirit Awards are considered a harbinger of sorts: Several winners have gone on to nab Oscars. Last year's big Independent Spirit winner, "Sideways," won the Academy Award for best screenplay adaptation, and its 2004 best actress winner, Charlize Theron for "Monster," also took home the Academy Award.
"The Squid and the Whale" scored the most nominations Tuesday morning with six -- including best film, screenplay, director, actor, actress and supporting actor. "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" followed, with four each.
In order to be eligible for consideration, the 200 films submitted had to have been shown at least one week at a commercial theater this year or have been played at one of six film festivals: the Los Angeles Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, New York, Sundance, Telluride or Toronto.
Among the 21-person narrative nominating committee were Film Independent Executive Director Dawn Hudson; actors Julie Delpy, Judah Friedlander, Eric Stoltz and Lili Taylor; The Times' film critic Kenneth Turan; and directors Sherman Alexie, Victor Nunez and Angela Robinson.
The ceremony will air live on the Independent Film Channel at 2 p.m. March 4 and will be edited for rebroadcast on AMC at 7 p.m.
Other nominees include:
Director: Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"; George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck"; Gregg Araki, "Mysterious Skin"; Rodrigo Garcia, "Nine Lives"; Noah Baumbach, "The Squid and the Whale."
Screenplay: Ayad Akhtar, Joseph Castelo, Tom Glynn, "The War Within"; Guillermo Arriaga, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"; Noah Baumbach, "The Squid and the Whale"; Dan Futterman, "Capote"; Rodrigo Garcia, "Nine Lives."
First feature: "Crash"; "Lackawanna Blues"; "Me and You and Everyone We Know"; "Thumbsucker"; "Transamerica."
First screenplay: Kenneth Hanes, "Fixing Frank"; Miranda July, "Me and You and Everyone We Know"; Angus MacLachlan, "Junebug"; Sabina Murray, "The Beautiful Country"; Duncan Tucker, "Transamerica."
John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for under $500,000): "Brice"; "Conventioneers"; "Jellysmoke"; "The Puffy Chair"; "Room."
Supporting male: Firdous Bamji, "The War Within"; Matt Dillon, "Crash"; Jesse Eisenberg, "The Squid and the Whale"; Barry Pepper, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"; Jeffrey Wright, "Broken Flowers."
Female lead: Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"; Dina Korzun, "Forty Shades of Blue"; Laura Linney, "The Squid and the Whale"; S. Epatha Merkerson, "Lackawanna Blues"; Cyndi Williams, "Room."
Male lead: Jeff Daniels, "The Squid and the Whale"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"; Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"; Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"; David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Cinematography: Robert Elswit, "Good Night, and Good Luck"; John Foster, "Keane"; Adam Kimmel, "Capote"; Chris Menges, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"; Harris Savides, "Last Days."
Foreign film: "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu"; "Duck Season"; "Head-On"; "Paradise Now"; "Tony Takitani."
Documentary: "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"; "Grizzly Man"; "La Sierra"; "Romantico"; "Sir! No Sir!"
IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award: Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana, directors of "Cavite"; Robinson Devor, director of "Police Beat"; Jay Duplass, director of "The Puffy Chair."
Truer Than Fiction Award: Rachel Boynton, "Our Brand Is Crisis"; Garrett Scott & Ian Olds, "Occupation: Dreamland"; Mark Becker, "Romantico"; Thomas Allen Harris, "Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela."
AMC/American Express Producers Award: Caroline Baron, producer of "Capote," "Monsoon Wedding"; Ram Bergman, producer of "Brick," "Conversations With Other Women"; Mike S. Ryan, "Junebug," "Palindromes."