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INDIES' DAY; AWARDS SHOW HAS THE SPIRIT.

Byline: Rob Lowman Daily News Entertainment Editor

``Gods and Monsters'' was the closest thing to a big winner at the '99 Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday afternoon. The Lion's Gate release on the life of filmmaker James Whale (``Frankenstein'') picked up statuettes for best picture, best actor - Ian McKellen - and best supporting actress - Lynn Redgrave.

The Spirit Awards are given out for independent films - or what qualifies these days as independent. ``Rushmore,'' which picked up two awards, was released by Touchstone Pictures, a division of Disney, and the first award of the afternoon, best debut performance, was given to Evan Adams in ``Smoke Signals,'' from the former darling of independents, Miramax, another division of Disney.

But where else would one see such a highly unusual mix of Hollywood glitz and slovenly chic in a tent on the beach under the bright Southern California sky? Or can you imagine the Oscars having Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura - dressed in an Indian-style fringed buckskin jacket, blue jeans and a work shirt - give out the documentary award known as the Truer Than Fiction Award.

``It's interesting that I'm giving out this award,'' noted the former pro wrestler and bodyguard. By the way, Barbara Sonneborn won it for ``Regret to Inform,'' a story about Vietnam War widows.

And in another un-Oscarlike moment, former Brat Packer Ally Sheedy, who won as best actress for her performance in ``High Art,'' took the televised awards ceremony hostage.

``I'm not going to be quick. I've never been nominated for anything before. I may never be nominated again,'' said the actress after receiving the award from her friend Rosanna Arquette. Sheedy then talked about her ``12 years of not being able to get an audition for a sitcom,'' and thanked the filmmakers for seeing her as being ``more than `The Breakfast Club,' '' a reference to one of her Brat Pack films. But the thanks didn't stop there. She went on to express her gratitude to a plethora of people, even asking those in the audience to stand up.

Though many critics felt she should have been nominated for an Oscar, Sheedy only had Saturday. McKellen has today. The debonair British actor bounded on stage to accept his award. Holding the statuette aloft, he said that winning it was ``worthwhile no matter what happens,'' referring to his Academy Award nomination. Among those he beat out was another Oscar nominee, Nick Nolte, who was also in attendance.

McKellen's co-star, veteran actress Lynn Redgrave, who is also up for an Oscar, was very emotional in her acceptance speech. ``You don't know how much it means to me,'' she said. Redgrave is going through a messy divorce that is making headlines in the tabloids.

The best supporting actor winner was Bill Murray for his role as a millionaire in Wes Anderson's comedy ``Rushmore.'' Anderson accepted the award for Murray, reading a tongue-in-cheek statement from the actor saying that he didn't attend because ``it would send the wrong message to the Academy of Motion Pictures, who I am still wooing.'' Murray was another critics' favorite who didn't get an Oscar nod. The statement went on to say that the Spirit Awards showed their independence by giving the award to a ``superstar'' like him. When Anderson later won for best director, he joked that he had Murray write his speech, too.

Keynote speaker filmmaker John Waters (``Pink Flamingos,'' ``Serial Mom''), who is known for his hilarious bad taste, kept the audience in stitches. ``Every generation needs a bad director to look up to,'' he said with a smirk on his face, ``and I hope I'm it for this generation.'' The director, who makes his films in Baltimore and attended the event with former porn star Traci Lords, also said that he loves L.A. because it's ``fashion anarchy'' and everybody walks around with ``a surprised look on their face.''

Other winners included: Darren Aronofsky (``Pi'') for best first screenplay; ``The Opposite of Sex'' for best first feature; Don Roos (``The Opposite of Sex'') for best screenplay; and ``The Celebration'' for best foreign film.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1) Ally Sheedy arrives at the Independent Spirit Awards, where she won best female lead for her role in the film ``High Art.''

(2) Britain's Sir Ian McKellen won an Independent Spirit Award for best male lead for his work in the film ``Gods and Monsters.''

Katie Callan/Associated Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 21, 1999
Words:732
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