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Day full of spirit and spirits

Indie insouciance still on display

HOLLYWOOD — Though the marine layer remained thick on the nearby Santa Monica Beach, the cloudy weather did nothing to dampen Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards.

Despite the awards becoming almost as limo-intensive as their Oscar brethren, a touch of indie insouciance is still on display: Last year’s winner Hilary Swank and husband Chad Lowe arrived via bicycle.

Not far away, Leonard Maltin — camera in hand — asked someone to take his picture with Kirsten Dunst. “I just saw ‘Get Over It’ and loved it,” he professed.

Double winner Ang Lee barely made it into the awards at 1:45, just before the belly dancers outfitted in feathers and abundant glitter danced throughout the tables.

Emcee John Waters set new standards for a kudocast by both launching the show on time (it was broadcast live at 2 p.m. on the Independent Film Channel) and by suggesting to non-winners: “Be a bad loser. Sob uncontrollably when your name isn’t called.”

Waters ended the show just before 4 p.m. with the injunction: “Get more out of life! Go see a cheap movie!”

Before going to a discount theater, most of the crowd wandered over to Shutters on the Beach where the IFC hosted a post-awards party; and Lions Gate celebrated at Michael’s Restaurant.

While the Spirit Awards were still being presented, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles was setting out the scones and clotted cream at their eighth annual mid-afternoon tea party at Century City’s St. Regis Hotel.

“In a sense, this is a post party for the BAFTA winners and a pre-party for the Academy nominees,” BAFTA/LA chairman Gary Dartnall said.

Among the Brit nominees was screenwriter Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”), who called his nom-to-the-Shrine odyssey “the gas” and said “the experience of getting into a stretch limo to go around the corner has been fantastic.”

As a first-time nominee, Hall would occupy the other end of the spectrum from makeup whiz Rick Baker, who has had 10 noms, five wins and was going for his sixth.

“Each time I get nominated I get more and more scared,” Baker said. “You’d think it would be the other way around.”

“Chocolat” screenwriter Robert Nelson Jones said all the Oscar attention he’s received made him feel “like it’s one big pitch meeting — except that they’re pitching you.”

Just as the sun was setting on the BAFTA/LA party, Miramax was launching its annual Oscars-eve affair at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, where topper Harvey Weinstein said this about his “Chocolat” chances: “Bet against us and win. We’re not going to get it.”

(On the other hand, he seemed pretty confident about Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” doing well next year.)

Weinstein’s was a star-heavy affair, with Barbra Streisand and James Brolin chatting with Talk mag’s Tina Brown; David Blaine repeating slight-of-hand card tricks for an awed Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt; and Julian Schanabel, Kevin Spacey, Clive Owen, Javier Bardem and Tatum O’Neal at one point all together at the bar.

The party’s culmination comes with a series of skits (which the attending press is not supposed to write about) based on the nominated movies that are described by Miramax L.A. prexy Mark Gill as “junior high, summer camp impromptu theater with the greatest actors in the world.”

Let’s just say that Geoffrey Rush as “Gladiator’s” Emperor Maximus complete with toga, sword and puffy pink slippers had the role of a lifetime.

The crowd dispersed around 8 p.m. with many of the guests going to four studios’ Oscar eve parties in nearby BevHills restaurants: USA Films at Chadwick; DreamWorks at Spago; Universal at El Cielo and Paramount at Mr. Chow.

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