Tiger Takes 3 Spirit Awards

"I'm surprised we didn't get into the foreign film category," Ang Lee joked after winning both Best Feature and Best Director at Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards. The somewhat dazed Taiwanese director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon says he's stopped counting how many awards he's racked up for his crossover Chinese epic

At Saturday's beachside ceremony in Santa Monica, Calif., many of the winners, including Lee and actors Javier Bardem, Ellen Burstyn, and Willem Dafoe, were also some of those in contention for Oscars the next day, and each was asked to ponder how a win at the Spirit Awards translates to the Oscars — if at all.

Tiger's co-screenwriter and co-executive producer James Schamus could only answer, "We get sucked into this whole high school thing with [these awards] and the Oscars. [I told Ang], 'We don't know you won and we don't you lost, which is tough even for us adults [to bear]."

Lee, who stands to win Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Foreign Language Film Oscars, says he's been asked whether he describes himself as a Chinese, Hollywood, or independent filmmaker — to which he usually answers, "I"m a New York filmmaker, I think that covers it all." After pointing out that a foreign film at the Spirit Awards does have a precedent (his own Wedding Banquet received six nominations in 1993), he added that he will "always" continue to make film in China — although he plans to "rest" by making an American film next.

Bardem, Burstyn Take Top Acting Awards Last year the Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards concurred on Best Actress (Boys Don't Cry's Hilary Swank), and, however unlikely, could synch up again this year in three key categories: female lead, male lead, and supporting male actor.

Javier Bardem picked up a Best Male Lead Spirit Award for playing persecuted Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in the impressionistic biopic Before Night Falls, and Ellen Burstyn won the Female Lead category as a drug-addicted senior citizen in the visual but grim tour de force Requiem for a Dream. "What does it mean?" Bardem asked about his Spirit win? "This means happiness and a big party!" said the exuberant Spanish actor. As for a prediction for the Oscars, he philosophically answered, "Tomorrow I am not going to win, but I have this [Spirit Award]."

An emotional Burstyn admitted, "I can't tell you how much I wanted to win this," but demurred to talk about her Oscar chances against frontrunner Julia Roberts, whose mother she once played in 1991's Dying Young.

In the Supporting Male category, Willem Dafoe as a "real-life" bloodsucker in the silent film homage Shadow of the Vampire, beat out such rivals as Gary Oldman in The Contender and Giovanni Ribisi in The Gift. Dafoe is also nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

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